How Do I Become an Herbalist?

A question I'm frequently asked, "How did you get started in herbal healing? How can I become an herbalist"

Before we get started let me clarify that currently in the US there is no recognized standard or qualification to practice as herbalist. You do not have to go through any specific school or training course to call yourself and herbalist. That means even if you take a one-day workshop or go to Bastyr University graduating with masters degree in herbal medicine both person's can call themselves an herbalist. Therefore, it is really important as a consumer that you need to know how to select and choose a qualified herbalist to meet your needs. We will discuss how to hire herbalist in the future.

There are several organizations like the American Herbalist Guild, that have created a standard of high professional quality one can belong to as a student or professional member.

Prior to deciding your educational path I think it's really important to examine what you plan to do with formal herbal education and what kind of herbalist you aspire to be. Here are some questions to consider.

Do you want to become a family herbalist for your own family and to help friends? 

Do you plan to create herbal products? 

Do you plan to open a practice to treat clinically, and if so, would you specialize? 

Do you want to grow and harvest herbs for your community and colleagues?

Honor your strengths and weaknesses. If you don't have a green thumb and don't want to grow herbs - don't. Outsource it to another herbalist or company that is skilled at it. If you don't want to create your own products for clients and the community, don't. There are plenty of excellent companies you can select to become an authorized distributor for. You don't have to do it all to excel as an herbalist.

In addition to numerous ways to practice as an herbalist, there are also many kinds of herbalists. Clinical herbalist, community herbalist, wise-woman herbalist, folkloric herbalist, etc. There are also many types of herbal medicine one can study; Western herbalism, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic, Phytotherapy, etc.

Fortunately today there are many avenues available to learn about the art of herbal healing. Traditionally people apprenticed with a master herbalist for an average of 7 years. The apprenticeship model has gone by the wayside in modern society in American culture, though some professional herbalists still offer this amazing opportunity. Now there are quite a few colleges available specifically for herbal medicine with on-site campuses in a distant to distance-learning. There are various correspondence courses that you can take, suited for the kind of herbalist you want to be and how in-depth you desire to study. In Delaware, there are not many clinical herbalists practicing, nor I didn't have the means in my schedule to do a formal apprenticeship with small children. So choosing a correspondence course worked well for me and my family lifestyle. I have the freedom to work on the course as I have time without pressure of trying to schedule my life around apprenticing at a practice. While I do wish I had the opportunity to practice with a mentor, because I think it be a rich experience to allow someone who is seasoned to pour themselves into a novice to soak up all that they have to offer.

Some herbalists may treat clients clinically and recommended various herbal therapies and remedies to them, yet do not manufacture these remedies themselves. Instead they may distribute professional products created by a larger company to their clients. For example, when a physician recommends pharmaceutical medication they don't make that medication but they may recommend a brand or specific medication. Some herbalists do craft herbal remedies but it's not necessary to practice herbalist in a professional capacity.

Herbal Revolution

My Path

My personal path to herbal education simply started with wanting to learn about herbal healing for myself and my own family. I then started reading books, as my knowledge grew and I became very passionate about it I would freely share what little information I had learned with others. I started having friends asking me more about various herbal healing remedies. Later I experimented in creating products for myself, my family and friends referring the various texts and references I had. Then as a doula I started to integrate it into my own business assisting my clients with basic herbal information. I desired some formal structure of education so I enrolled in a correspondence course to become a certified herbalist with Heart of Herbs. I have since completed the Certified Herbalist program with Heart of Herbs, I have enrolled with Herbal Medicine for Women with Aviva Romm to further my education on woman's health. I love that learning about herbalism is a life long process. 

My vision

My vision for my own herbal business has changed quite a bit and it is ever evolving. In the beginning, studying herbalism was merely for me personally and to better assist my doula clients. When I started studying herbal medicine I never envisioned developing a product-based business nor did I ever anticipate how much it would have grown. It has grown so much that I had to hire an assistant to help me with filling and processing orders. When I started creating and offering products, it was initially only available to my doula clients. The more I created products, the more I desired to improve my formulas, my packaging and entertained other ways I could offer my products to more people. I have really fallen in love with the whole concept of product creation and launch. While I don't know what the future holds for me, currently vision for my business is to grow my product line through e-commerce and limited wholesale to small natural parenting stores plus independent practitioners, in addition to offering herbal consultations locally in via online in the future in 2015.

For those of you that are looking to get started in learning about herbal healing, here is a list of books I highly recommend. I think you will enjoy them!

Herbal Healing for Women by Rosemary Gladstar

WiseWoman Herbal for the Childbearing Year by Susun Weed

Natural Pregnancy Book by Aviva Romm

Herbal Healing for Children by Demetria Clark

The Herbalist's Way By Nancy Phillips

The Herbal Medicine-Maker's Handbook by James Green

Medicinal Herbs by Rosemary Gladstar

Are you considering becoming an herbalist? If you are an herbalist, what path did you take to learn?

You can find a directory list here of schools and courses to study herbalism below
AHG Directory
Mountain Rose Herb Directory

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