Training programs in Chinese herbal medicine are usually combined with mainstream Western medical practices, as well as other traditional Chinese healing modalities such as acupuncture, nutrition, and massage. Students learn to treat patient symptoms by nourishing the body with blends of specially prepared plants, herbal extracts, animal extracts, and minerals.
Programs are most commonly found at the master's level and can take between two and five years to complete. Prerequisites often include two years of study at an accredited school, preferably in health or natural sciences, a personal essay and letter(s) of recommendation. Graduates will find continuing education available in the form of seminars, workshops, and post-graduate certificate programs.
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Training in Chinese Herbal Medicine
In the master's degree program, students learn the herbal materia medica, a catalog of some 375 herbal substances, along with their Chinese names and Latin prefixes for the corresponding plants and anatomical structures. A study of herbs and herbal formulas trains students to prepare medicinal treatments in the form of tinctures, teas, syrups, pills, and plasters. There is also an in-depth exploration of the selection, cultivation, harvesting, and storage of plants.
Students thoroughly learn the specific uses of each herbal or mineral substance, including the taste, temperature, and contraindications. Many institutions maintain an herb garden on campus to observe cultivation and preparation from beginning to end. Most programs last 2-5 years, depending on the schedule of the individual student. Some examples of courses encountered in this program are:
- Basic first aid
- Human anatomy and physiology
- The Chinese herbal materia medica
- Microbiology of infectious diseases
- Survey of Chinese classic medical texts
- Etiology and pathology of disease
According to a 2010 report by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, 44.1% of U.S. adults aged 40-49 who took part in the survey reported having used some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the previous 12 months. This was the highest percentage of any age group; the lowest percent was among respondents aged 85 years or older, of whom 24.2% reported using CAM in the previous year (www.nih.gov).
Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) did not report job growth and salary data specific to Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, and Oriental medicine (AOM) or CAM practitioners, the BLS did project 17% job growth from 2014-2024 for health diagnosing and treating practitioners in general. This projected growth was much faster than the average for all occupations. As of May 2015, the BLS reported, health diagnosing and treating practitioners in general earned a median annual salary of $74,710.
Graduates will find continuing education seminars and workshops in Chinese herbal medicine that feature topics common to alternative medicine in general. Many of these workshops qualify for college credits.
Post-graduate certificate programs in Chinese herbal medicine feature plant pharmacopoeia, formulas, and internal medicine. They are primarily available for medical practitioners working in areas such as acupuncture or sports medicine, but who are not yet certified in or familiar with Chinese herbal medicine. A certificate program can be completed in 19-31 months, depending on prior course credits.
Training in Chinese herbal medicine is available to students in the form of a master's level program. After taking key courses such as human anatomy and physiology, students may wish to continue education within the field.