If you are wondering how to become a herbalist, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers in this area of alternative therapy, as well as job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    Medical herbalists aim to treat disease through the of use plant remedies. They believe that certain plants have an affinity with particular organs or systems in the body. They look for underlying physical problems in their clients and identify which plant can offer the most healing potential.

    As a herbalist you would begin a consultation by gathering detailed information on your patient’s medical history including their lifestyle, past health problems, current illness and diet. You may also carry out a physical examination, before prescribing herbal remedies and giving advice on diet, lifestyle. A variety of treatments can be recommended, including tinctures, fluid extracts, capsules and creams.

    Herbal medicine (known as phytotherapy) can be used to treat a wide range of acute and chronic conditions, such as skin, digestive, heart, circulation and gynaecological disorders.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of herbalists include:

    be able to build up a rapport with patients
    have good communication skills
    be able to empathise with clients
    be logical in your approach to problem solving, diagnosis and treatment
    have a genuine desire to help people
    be able to recognise when to refer a patient to a conventional medical doctor
    have an interest and ability in science, particularly biology and chemistry
    have commercial skills to help you run a business.

    How to become a chiropractor
    To practice as a medical herbalist you need to complete a degree in Herbal Medicine or Phytotherapy. Trained medical practitioners can study for a postgraduate diploma. Courses should be approved by the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH), the professional body for herbal medicine in the UK.

    Courses can last between three and five years and can be studied on a full time, part time or distance learning basis. You will need to attend a combination of lectures, workshops and practical placements. Approved courses normally include at least 500 hours of clinical training.

    Core subjects include:

    anatomy and physiology
    pharmacology and pharmacognosy
    communication skills
    nutritional and herbal therapeutics.
    Entry requirements for a degree course are usually at least five GCSEs (A-C), including at least one science related subject, plus two A levels, preferably in science subjects. Experience, and the ability to relate well to other people, is taken into consideration when you apply for a course.

    An Access to Higher Education qualification may also be accepted for entry to certain courses. You may need to arrange some work shadowing with a practicing herbalist before you begin studying.

    Training and Development
    As a qualified practitioner you will be able to gain NIMH membership. Members must follow a code of conduct and will be given the opportunity to attend events and get involved in research projects. The NIMH also runs a series of seminars to enable all members to further their skills and knowledge.

    New members may be able to join their postgraduate training scheme. This is a three year programme involving mentoring, self-evaluation and professional development, overseen by the Post Graduate Training Board. A formalised post graduate development scheme for established members is currently being put into practice.

    You may also be eligible to join the British Register of Complementary Therapists, administered by the Institute of Complementary Medicine (ICM). They register trained practitioners from different areas of complementary health.

    The Pay (a rough guide)
    Herbalists usually charge an hourly rate of between £40 and £60. An additional charge may be made for any herbal preparations dispensed.

    Practitioners can earn £15,000 to £20,000, which can further increase when a practice becomes established.

    Job Prospects
    Herbal medicine is a growth area. Most medical herbalists are self-employed and work out of independent private clinics or natural health centres.

    As a self-employed medical herbalist you could expand your business by training in related fields, such as homeopathy, Bach Flower Remedies or massage. You may also choose to create, market and sell your own products.

    Useful therapies resources:
    National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH)
    Elm House
    54 Mary Arches Street
    EX4 3BA
    Tel: 01392 426022

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