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What Are the Education Requirements to Be a Herbalist?

Herbalists are important, modern purveyors of tradition methods of healing, requiring formal education. Keep reading if you would like to find out what the education requirements are for herbalists.

Introduction to Herbalism

Herbal medicine can be traced back to the dawn of civilization, when certain plants were used to treat wounds, heal diseases, and promote good health. From the ritual medical ceremonies of the Native Americans to the traditional Chinese medicine system, the use of plants and herbs has gained new popularity in Western culture.

Important Facts About Herbalists

Median Salary (2018) $39,305 (for herbalists)*
Job Growth (2016-2026) 13% (for health diagnosing and treating practitioners, all other)**
Key Skills Listening, communication with patients, adequate sense of smell and taste
Work Environment Requires physical dexterity and stamina, patient interaction and hygienic practices
Similar Careers Practitioner, production manager, research assistant
Continuing Education Webinars and mentorships are available through the American Herbalists Guild

Sources: *PayScale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Licensing and Certification

According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Chinese herbology is regulated under laws concerning massage therapists, who must be licensed in 45 states and the District of Columbia, as of 2019 (www.nih.gov); however, the training requirements vary greatly by state. The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine offers voluntary certification in Chinese herbology (www.nccaom.org). To become certified, you must complete an accredited graduate program in herbology or Oriental medicine and pass three examinations. Profiled below are examples of herbology education.

Master's Degree: Oriental Medicine

If you plan to pursue a master's degree in Oriental medicine, you must first have a minimum of 90 credits from a college or university. This includes coursework in human anatomy, biology, physiology, chemistry, and physics with a grade point average of 2.5 or higher. In such a master's program, you will learn how to count, recognize signage, and use medical terminology in the Chinese language. You will also learn the practice of tai ji, which teaches how basic movements can help balance your life force and work better with patients.

Introductory courses in botany and herbs will show you how plants are classified in Western medicine and how they are used in Oriental medicine. In particular, you will learn to identify toxic and non-toxic herbs, as well as the basic rules regarding pharmaceutical use. You will also study how herbs can be combined to create formulas for disease prevention. Advanced courses will teach you how to diagnose and treat patients, as well as the basics of how to maintain an herbal pharmacy.

Certificate Programs: Acupuncture

Licensed acupuncturists can acquire new skills by studying for a certificate in Chinese herbology. These programs are often two to three years in length and consist of instructional and clinical classes. Didactic courses focus on various herbs and plants, herbal formulas, and application techniques. These studies are followed by many hours of clinical training in which you'll learn through supervised practice.

Other Education Options

Independent herbal medicine schools offer certificate programs in herbalism and holistic medicine. A clinical herbalist certificate program integrates studies in anatomy, biology, biochemistry, physiology, and therapeutic herbalism. You might learn how to make medicines, maintain an apothecary, or grow and harvest herbs. The program may also cover nutrition.