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Herbal Medicine Certification

By Ashley Boyce, an allied health world staff writer

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Although there are no state or federal licensing bodies that govern the practice of herbalism or the dispensing of herbs, there are organizations that accredit herbalist training programs and certify herbal practitioners on a purely voluntary basis. Allied Health World has explored the requirements of professional and educational organizations that offer this elective accreditation and certification:

What is the American Herbalist Guild?

The American Herbalist Guild (AHG) is an educational and professional organization specific to the practice and education of herbalism in the United States. The goal of AHG is to promote the highest level of professionalism and education in therapeutic herbalism. The AHG provides accreditation to herbology schools offering programs that meet their educational and clinical traininherbalist licensureg standards and certifies herbal practitioners who elect to become AHG members. Program accreditation for schools and certification for practitioners is done on a purely voluntary basis, as there are no state or federal licensure or certification requirements for the practice of herbalism.

What is the National Institute of Medical Herbalists?

The National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH) is the largest and longest running professional organization specific to the practice of medical herbalism in the western world. Because the NIMH requires members to complete accredited training programs, pass an exam that tests competency, and maintain the highest standards of ethics and treatment in practice, many seek membership as a way to distinguish themselves among other practitioners.

Prospective clients of professional herbalists may be inclined to refer to the NIMH member registry to choose their herbal practitioner because the NIMH requires all members to carry professional indemnity and malpractice insurance.

What is required to become certified through the American Herbalist Guild?

The criteria for NIMH certification is reasonable, requiring applicants and existing members to demonstrate their competency in the following areas:

  • Materia Medica: Applicants and members must demonstrate knowledge of the applied use of 150 plants. This would include traditional and historical uses, therapeutic actions, dosing, of administration, contraindications, possible herb-drug interactions, and basic phytochemistry relevant to therapeutics.
  • Therapeutics: Applicants and members must demonstrate their ability to develop treatment programs appropriate for a given condition. This would involve demonstrating the ability to assess the condition of an incoming client or patient and develop or apply the treatment protocol most appropriate.
  • Practice Management and Ethics: Applicants and members must demonstrate their ability to recognize the limitations of the scope of their practice and seek consultation as needed or refer patients or clients to other healthcare professionals. This component also involves demonstrating a commitment to continuing education in botanical medicine.
  • Basic Sciences: Applicants and members must demonstrate a relevant and practical understanding of anatomy, physiology, plant chemistry, and pathophysiology.
  • Academic and Clinical Experience: Applicants must have at least four years of academic training and clinical experience to be considered for membership. Education and training may be provided through either a formal program, or may be gained independently.

What is the cost associated with AHG membership?

Membership with the AHG must be renewed once yearly at a cost of $120 for United States based practitioners and $130 for practitioners based outside of the US.

Are there other certifying organizations for herbal practitioners?

Other organizations like the American Association of Drugless Practitioners (AADP) and the American Alternative Medical Association (AAMA) offer similar accreditation of herbalist training programs and voluntary certification for professional herbalists.

The American Herbalist Guild (AHG) is the largest and best-recognized professional organization for herbal practitioners. The AHG is at the forefront of the push to require standardization in the education of professional herbalists and is an advocate of licensing and certification requirements for those who enter the field of herbalism as professional practitioners.

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