An herbalist is someone who uses different plants to foster healing and health. Many herbalists are also licensed practitioners of other disciplines, such as traditional Chinese medicine, naturopathy, or acupuncture. There are a few different steps to becoming an herbalist and the first starts with getting an herbology degree.
Step 1: Getting a Degree
You need a graduate or professional degree of licensed health practitioners. Prerequisites for professional or graduate schools will typically include the completion of a Bachelor’s degree program. If you want to be an herbalist, you may want to consider a botany, biology, or herbology degree. You can also consider a degree in a related science field.
Step 2: Get Training
Prospective herbalists are able to choose from different training programs. The training you do will depend on your ultimate goal of what you want to practice. Some schools offer a non-degree program, workshops, or self study courses. For those who are interested in being able to advise new clients, you need to know that an herbalist is not able to diagnose conditions or prescribe any treatment. They are only acting in just an advisory role. If you want to practice herbal medicine as the ultimate goal and want to diagnose and prescribe herbs, then you will need much more intensive training. Graduate schools offer doctorate degree programs or masters options in traditional Chinese medicine and can also include herbology and botany. Students that are interested in being a naturopathic doctor will also need to complete a training program that includes courses in pharmacology, homeopathy, and botanical medicine. There is also the route of allopathic physician. These physicians go to medical school and study traditional Western medicine and can also get board certified in complementary medicine, including herbology.
Step 3: Get Licensed
If you want to practice, then you need to be licensed in a particular healthcare field. The state licensing requirements for traditional Chinese medicine or naturopathy can vary but you will usually need to pass a national or state exam. All physicians in the U.S. also need to pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination. Some states don’t include Chinese herbology as part of the scope to practice traditional Chinese medicine. In order to actually prescribe herbs, you may need to take a separate test.
Step 4: Get Certified
There are voluntary certifications available to herbalists who specialize in certain types. In some cases, if you get a voluntary certification then it can open you up to new job opportunities. For example, the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine will offer you different designations if you complete the formal education requirements and then pass an exam. Certification through this commission is a prerequisite for being licensed to practice traditional Chinese medicine in some states.