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The Role of a Clinical Herbalist

Updated: Dec 3, 2022

How popular is herbal medicine? What is the role of a clinical herbalist? Why work with an herbalist? What education herbalists have? These are some of the questions we will cover to shed some light on this profession.

It is estimated that 80% of the world’s population rely on herbal medicine as part of their healthcare (1). In the United States alone, 20% of the population use herbal products (2) and this percentage is expected to increase as the interest in complementary medicine for disease prevention increases. Herbal medicine has existed since the beginning of time with written records dated over 5,000 years old. In fact, it was the only medicine available for the longest time. Even not that long ago in 1890, 59% of the US Pharmacopeia’s listings were herbal remedies, and it is estimated that one-third to one-half of the current pharmaceuticals derive originally from herbs (2).

What is a clinical herbalist? Clinical herbalists work with medicinal herbs and apply traditional practices and evidenced based research to support well-being (3). In an ideal world, a clinical herbalist would be part of your wellness team. However, in my experience, most doctors are not open to the benefits of herbs because herbal medicine is not included in their education; so they cannot recommend something they don’t understand. Herbalists, on the other hand, belief in a people-centered approach where herbal medicine is complementary to allopathic medicine for the most benefit to the client.

In the United States, herbalists by law cannot diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. There is no license for herbalists and we cannot make health claims in anything we do so there is a fine line to what we can offer to our clients.

The American Herbalist Guild is the only peer-review organization in the United States for professional herbalists specializing in the medicinal use of plants (3). It was created to try to fill that regulatory gap and protect these professionals by providing standards of education and experience and offering a “Registered” status to those herbalists who pass a comprehensive examination. Although, in my experience there are many great herbalists out there that do not have a “Registered” status or are not seeking one. And, I don’t debate some grandmas are amazing herbalists as well!

All herbalists are not trained the same but most bring specific traditions to their practice such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, Western Herbalism, and many other wonderful folkloric and indigenous traditions. Training varies from schools, apprenticeships to self-study. Education includes the traditional use of herbs, anatomy and physiology, nutrition, botany, and determining the herbs to support each individual client (3). So, finding the right herbalist for you is a matter of preference and identifying who you believe offers what you are looking for.

Herbalist don’t have the tools doctors have to order technologically advanced tests and imaging; and doctors are pretty darn good at saving lives with innovative procedures. I wish we could collaborate more with doctors to have access to specific tests to help us see what the naked eye can’t see. However, herbalists have other tools that conventional medicine does not offer. We work to bring the body back to balance by considering the body’s constitution, employing the correct herbs’ energetics and chemical compounds, and incorporating other natural modalities as necessary such as magnets, ear seeding, Korean hand therapy, moxa, breathing exercises, compresses and poultices to name a few. These are gentle yet effective techniques that effect a beneficial change in well-being.

Furthermore, herbalists are not meant to be confused or replace the role and service of nutritionists, dietitians, mental health counselors, psychologists, physicians and any other medical professional. In the contrary, the offering of herbalists is by nature holistic, encompassing body, mind, and spirit. Reason we usually recommend lifestyle changes and food (not diet) recommendations from an energetics point of view, that we believe will create a significant impact in the lives of our clients. We believe that we are what we eat as Hippocrates said: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”, and that habits and emotions that we often experience can influence dis-ease.

Are you interested in working with a clinical herbalist? I offer free 15 minutes consultations to see if I am the right fit for you.

Phone: 239-688-4585 (Call/Text)


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