Herbalists are becoming more sought after as people today are embracing the idea of natural remedies as opposed to the taking of drugs which can sometimes reap nasty side effects. Herbal medicine is used to treat disease using plant remedies and the written record of herbal remedies actually dates back as far as 5,000 years. It is thought that various plants and herbs have a close affinity with specific organs or systems of the body, and consequently a herbalist should understand and know which plants to use to cure any specific ailment.
Herbalists Job description
A trained practitioner should be able to assess the underlying physical problems of a patient and identify which herb has the potential to offer the best healing power. They would begin a consultation by getting detailed information on the patient’s medical background, including family history, lifestyle, current diet, past health problems and current illness. They may also carry out a medical examination before offering advice on diet and lifestyle as well as prescribing herbal remedies. These come in many different forms and include capsules, creams, tinctures and fluid extracts.
Herbal medicine is widely used to treat a variety of conditions which a person might normally visit their family doctor for. These include such things as respiratory problems (e.g. asthma, hay fever or colds); Skin problems such as acne, or eczema; Digestive problems ( e.g. irritable bowel syndrome or an ulcer); Hormonal problems and gynaecological disorders; Psychological and emotional problems (such as stress, depression and insomnia); and finally, circulatory problems such as varicose veins, angina and high blood pressure.
good communication skills
a desire to help people
sympathetic and understanding
logical approach in being able to solve, diagnose and treat problems
an interest in the sciences, especially biology and chemistry
business acumen so as to be able to run their own practice
have the ability to recognise when a patient needs to be referred to a conventional doctor
A degree in Herbal Medicine or Physiotherapy is needed before a person can begin practicing as a medical herbalist. If you’re already a qualified medical practitioner, you can study for a post graduate course. Courses last between three and five years and can be studied full time, part time or with distance learning. They include a mixture of workshops, lectures and practical placements. An approved course would generally include a minimum of 500 hours of clinical training.
The main subjects studied include anatomy and physiology, botany, diagnosis, nutritional and herbal therapeutics, pharmacology and communication skills. Entry requirements for a degree course is a minimum of 5 GCSE’s (A-C) which includes at least 1 science subject, and 2 A levels, preferably in science subjects. Before beginning your studies, you may find it helpful to organise some work shadowing with a practicing herbalist.
The majority of medical herbalists work for private clinics or natural health clinics on a self employed basis. In addition they can train and branch out into other areas such as homeopathy, massage, and Bach Flower Remedies which were developed in the 1930’s well ahead of the interest in ‘alternative health’. You could also create and market your own products.
Training and development
Once you become a qualified practitioner you will be eligible for NIMH membership which will give you the chance of attending events and becoming involved in research projects. The NIMH also run a series of seminars which help improve skills and knowledge. New members may also apply to join their postgraduate training course. Finally, you may be eligible to join the British Register Of Complementary Therapists.
What will I earn?
Herbalists generally charge between £35-£60 per hour with an additional cost for any herbal remedies which may be dispensed. A practitioner can earn between £15,000 to £20,000 per annum which will increase as their practice becomes established.