There are program options in herbal studies for non-professionals as well as for alternative and traditional healthcare practitioners who want to broaden their scope of treatment. Programs can be found at the undergraduate and post-baccalaureate levels. Licensing regulations for herbalists vary by state.
Undergraduate Herbalist Certificate
In undergraduate herbal studies, students learn how herbs affect the body and how combinations of herbal treatments are used in different alternative healing systems, such as Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, and Native American medicine. Students also practice handling and preparing herbs. There are usually no specific admissions prerequisites for entering a program, but applicants are advised to have some prior knowledge of herbs. An herbalist certificate program introduces students to historical uses of herbs and the relationship of herbs to traditional medicine practices. A program may cover topics that include:
- Herbal classification
- Herb dosage
- Herb preparation
- Body systems
- Pediatric and geriatric use of herbs
Graduate Herbalist Certificate
Post-baccalaureate certificate programs may be called medical herbalism or Chinese herbology. Some programs are designed for individuals already working as acupuncture professionals, allowing them to legally use herbs in their practice without having to complete a full oriental medicine program. Other programs are open to traditional healthcare practitioners who wish to expand their repertoire of treatment options. Program topics cover commonly used herbal medicines, including possible interactions with prescription or over-the-counter medications. Students also learn about herbal evaluation and clinical trial procedures. Hands-on herbal identification, harvesting, and preparation may occur within campus herb gardens and labs.
Introductory courses cover herbal properties in relation to health and illness. Curricula may also include clinical practice in creating herbal preparations and safely administering herbs as treatment. Other topics covered in a course may include:
- Herbal formulas
- Commercial herbal medicines
- Herbal usage safety practices
- Herbal medicine history
- Herbal product evaluation
Continuing Education Information
Not all states regulate the use of herbology, but in some states, acupuncturists practicing herbology must be appropriately licensed. Students who complete a herbology certificate program may qualify for certification through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). The NCCAOM offers the Diplomate of Chinese Herbology designation, which may meet licensing requirements for some states (www.nccaom.org).
Undergraduate and graduate herbalist certificates can be earned by nonprofessionals as well as healthcare practitioners. Students in the undergraduate program will complete classes like herbal classification, herb dosage, and herb preparation, while graduate students may see courses in herbal usage safety practices and herbal medicine history.