Herbalist: job description
Herbalists treat patients using plant-based remedies and other treatments. Responsibilities of the job typically include:
- undertaking patient consultations to diagnose illnesses and conditions, and to select appropriate remedies
- gaining information from patients about previous physical/medical history and symptoms
- making physical assessments
- planning and explaining treatment requirements
- liaising with and making referrals to specialists or other health care practitioners
- providing advice about diet, exercise and lifestyle
- keeping accurate and confidential patient records
- keeping up-to-date with new research and developments in the profession
- managing stock levels
- marketing and promoting the business
- growing and producing herbal remedies
Most herbalists are self-employed, working full or part-time from home or from their own practice. Many work as part of a team of alternative health practitioners for private practices such as specialist and complementary health care clinics and herbal dispensaries. Membership with the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH) allows you to list your services on the website.
A very limited amount of contract work may be advertised via the internet. Herbalists may go into teaching or research with experience.
To qualify as a medical herbalist it is necessary to obtain membership of the NIMH or another organisation represented by the European Herbal and Traditional Medicine Practitioners’ Association. In order to register, successful completion of an accredited course is usually required; however, NIMH is currently developing a system that considers applicants who have not completed an accredited course but have relevant experience.
Undergraduate herbalist courses take three to four years of full-time study to complete. When applying for postgraduate study, undergraduate qualifications in pharmacy, physiology, anatomy, biology, pharmacology, medicine and botany are of benefit.
Pre-entry experience gained working in a clinic or dispensary is helpful, as is job shadowing local herbalists.
It is necessary to have a good understanding of anatomy and physiology, in addition to detailed knowledge of herbs and their preparation. Excellent interpersonal, listening and communication skills are essential when dealing with patients. As herbalists are often self-employed, strong business skills and organisational ability are of benefit. Herbalists also need to possess a mature, confident, sensitive and resilient temperament.