Tips for Finding a Qualified Herbalist
In my posts I sometimes recommend working with a ‘qualified herbalist’. But what does that mean? How do you find one? In today’s post I want to provide some guidance in finding and choosing a qualified herbalist.
Registration with a professional organization
A simple way to know if an herbalist is qualified is if they are registered with the professional association in their country. These organizations have rigorous application processes, and high standards for education and experience, and a code of ethics that professional members are required to abide by. Registering bodies for herbalists include:
National Ayurvedic Medical Association
National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncturists and Oriental Medicine
College of Practitioners of Phytotherapy
National Institute of Medical Herbalists;
National Herbalists Association of Australia
If an herbalist is not registered with one of these organizations, it does not necessarily mean that they are not qualified. There are many reasons that an herbalist might choose to forgo registration and The American Herbalists Guild recognizes this as a valid choice.
In the absence of registration with a professional association There are some things that you can evaluate in order to assess an herbalist’s qualifications.
Education and Training
There are many different kinds of herbalists, from folk herbalist to clinical herbalist and those who study under specific cultural traditions; and there are many valid ways to get an herbal education, including apprenticeship, self-directed learning, and formal education programs. One path isn’t any better than the others and you may find that one resonates with you more than the others.
Whichever educational path an herbalist chooses it should include physiology, biochemistry and pathology, nutrition, materia medica, botany, herbal pharmacy, evidence-based research, herbal therapeutic systems, clinical skills, and more. Clinical training should include working with clients under the supervision of a clinical supervisor or mentor.
You can find a detailed description of The American Herbalist’s Guild recommended educational guidelines here.
Long years of experience has its advantages but are not necessarily required for an herbalist to be able to help you. I, and many of my colleagues were able to help a lot of clients when we were student trainees and newly independent herbalists. What is important is that a beginning herbalist has the support of an experienced mentor or clinical supervisor, and herbal community. Our learning is a lifelong journey and even the most experienced herbalists rely on the support of colleagues and community.
Philosophy of Practice
An herbalist should have a theoretical framework that guides assessment and therapeutics. Some herbalists put a strong emphasis on science and evidence based care, others emphasize traditional Wisdom, and yet others balance both of these approaches. Traditional systems from around the world all have constitutional, energetic, and elemental aspects to them, yet the details of traditional philosophy and practice can be quite different, and you should make sure that your comfortable with your herbalists’ philosophy of practice.
Some of this information can often be found in an herbalist bio. Many herbalists write regularly in blogs and newsletters and some have podcasts where you can become familiar with their philosophy, their background, and how they work. Many herbalists offer short, free consultations, the purpose of which is to give you a chance to get to know them and for the two of you to figure out if you are a good fit. If you’re considering an herbalist and can’t locate the above resources just send them an email or other type of message, I’m sure they’ll be happy to chat with you.
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