Herbal medicine and naturopathy are still relatively new to the medical field. When looking for an education program, there are not many schools offering degrees specific to herbal medicine, although certificate programs and bachelor's degree programs do exist. An herbal health technician should have training in herbs and gather hands-on experience with a practitioner before setting out on their own.
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'Herbal health technician' is not a job title commonly used or recognized in the mainstream medical community. They can also be titled herbalists. Those with an interest in herbalism may work as herbal consultants or medicine makers. Individuals trained in health care fields such as traditional Chinese medicine or naturopathy may incorporate herbal health care into their practices.
|Educational Requirements||Some postsecondary training usually required|
|Other Requirements||Clinical experience with a health care practitioner|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||12%* (Health diagnosing and treating practitioners, all other)|
|Salary Range (2016)||$20,000-120,000**|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **American Herbalists Guild
Herbal health technicians practice complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) using medicinal plants, or herbs, to treat and prevent health issues. Herbal health technicians differ from conventional health technicians because they don't simply treat the client's condition. Instead herbal health technicians take into account a client's entire way of life and suggest lifestyle and nutritional improvements.
Herbal health technicians collect information regarding a client's health history, living habits, daily nutrition and any other information that may affect a client's health. Using this information, they look for signs of imbalance that could or have caused health problems. Herbal health technicians use their extensive knowledge of medicinal plants to recommend which herbs will benefit the client.
Some herbal health technicians make their own medicines, while others receive them through herbal medicine makers or dispensaries. Because all herbs don't work the same for each person, herbal health technicians sometimes make adjustments to find the best herbs for a client.
Herbal health technicians instruct clients how to take the herbs to ensure they are used safely and effectively. Some herbal remedies are effective immediately while more chronic conditions can take longer to resolve. If health conditions are beyond herbal health technicians' caring capabilities, they refer clients to more appropriate specialists.
Formal education specifically in herbalism from a college or university recognized by the U.S. Department of Education is rare. Herbal health technicians may find certificate or bachelor's degree programs in herbal sciences, though these programs are unusual.
The American Herbal Guild (AHG) suggests educational guidelines for herbal educational programs (www.americanherbalistsguild.com). AHG suggests that curriculum include anatomy, physiology, pathology, biochemistry, medical terminology, nutrition, botany, healing herbs, pharmacology, ethics and herbal research. AHG also suggests students receive practical clinical experience under the supervision of an herbal health practitioner. Some herbalist programs teach students to grow herbs as well as formulate herbal remedies.
A few colleges offer herbalist certificate programs that teach students about botany, taxonomy and the herbal materia medica. Hands-on learning in an herb garden is sometimes part of the curriculum, as well as learning how to make herbal preparations, measure proper dosages and cultivate herbs. Upon graduation, the AHG reports that herbal health technicians can make between $20,000 and $120,000. While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not report job growth statistics specifically for herbal health technicians, it is reported that the category health diagnosing and treating practitioners, all others, will see a 12% increase in between 2014 and 2024.
Alternative Job Options
Naturopathic medicine combines the traditional practice of medicine with the use of herbal remedies to promote healing of the body. Individuals who wish to enhance their knowledge of herbal medicine and have the ability to practice in a medical environment can become naturopathic doctors.
Naturopathic doctors are primary care providers of naturopathic medicine, which uses CAM, including herbs. Students are required to earn a bachelor's degree and complete a graduate program in naturopathic medicine. Although students don't need a specific undergraduate degree to be accepted into a naturopathic medicine program, certain courses are recommended or required. These classes may include general and organic chemistry, math, biology and botany.
Naturopathic graduate programs typically take four years of full-time coursework to complete and include the same basic sciences as an allopathic (M.D.) or osteopathic (D.O.) medicine degree program, in addition to CAM classes. In addition to classroom instruction, naturopathic medicine students also participate in clinical education, during which they work under the guidance of a licensed physician.
According to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), 16 states, Puerto Rico, Washington D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands allow the practice of naturopathic medicine (www.naturopathic.org). Naturopathic doctors in states without naturopathic licensing laws may work under a different medical license, such as M.D. or Doctor of Chiropractic. In January 2016, Payscale.com reported a median salary of $73,412 for naturopathic doctors.
Herbal technicians use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to treat their patients' ailments. For those who wish to continue their careers, becoming a naturopathic doctor is an option, but naturopathic medicine is not allowed as a practice in every state. For those states that do not recognize naturopathic medicine, doctors can treat clients under a different medical license.