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Herbal Medicine Certification

Herbalism is not a new field. According to the American Herbalists Guild, people have used herbalism to promote health and fight disease for thousands of years. That means we have compiled centuries upon centuries of information about which plants are a safe, effective way to treat which ailments. For new practitioners, this is a lot of ground to make up. While herbal science degree or diploma programs are an excellent way to establish this knowledge base, some clients prefer to consult certified herbalists -- those who have taken extra steps to certify their herb savvy with a third-party organization. Certification also serves as a means of specializing your training. For instance, you might become certified in therapeutic Western herbalism, traditional Chinese medicine or Ayurvedic medicine. Here is a brief look at how herbalist certifications work, and why they matter.

Herbalist education requirements

Unlike many modern health care jobs, herbalists do not necessarily need to be certified to practice, so programs enabling students to become an herbalist -- including their length, intensity and educational requirements -- can vary tremendously. Some herbalist certifications are offered through schools or professional organizations, like the Institute of Traditional Medicine and the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine; others are offered by less official groups and practitioners that may or may not have broad industry recognition. Some programs are designed for dedicated herbalists; others are meant to supplement the training other professionals have received in their own fields, such as those designed for nurses or massage therapists.

This variability makes each program decidedly unique in terms of both scope and recognition, so it pays to do your research before applying. At ITM, for instance, students are expected to complete at least 2000 hours of study, including 400 hours of clinical internship, before earning a clinical herbalism diploma. The organization's therapeutic herbalist certification program requires the same type of training minus the clinical component. In other words, this certification program can serve as a stepping stone to a higher degree. This is not the case with the NCCAOM, which requires candidates to meet more stringent educational guidelines and have experience in both Chinese herbology and biomedicine before they can even apply. The NCCAOM permits students to complete this training either through a recognized herbal science program, an apprenticeship, or both.

Benefits of herbalist certification

Not all herbalists need to become certified to practice, but some states might require professionals who use herbalism -- like acupuncturists and naturopathic physicians or nurses -- to be certified. Herbalists who want to align themselves with larger practices may find that many employers prefer to hire candidates with herbalist certifications. Even when not required, however, certification is valuable because it offers a means of verifying that you have invested in some degree of training, and that your skills meet the requirements established by whichever organization awards the credential. For many clients -- especially those who are unfamiliar with herbalism or wary of traditional medicine -- lack of certification can be a deal-breaker. That means that in some cases, certification can attract more clients, and, in turn, more money and more referrals. In programs that require candidates to complete continuing education courses to renew their credentials, certifications offer the additional benefit of keeping you on the cutting edge of changes or innovations affecting the field.

Candidates can often learn more about about various herbalist certifications and their requirements by contacting programs directly, or through organizations like the AHG.

Sources:

"Eligibility Requirements," National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, http://www.nccaom.org/applicants/eligibility-requirements

"Herbal Medicine Fundamentals," American Herbalists Guild, http://www.americanherbalistsguild.com/herbal-medicine-fundamentals

"Therapeutic Western Herbalism," Institute of Traditional Medicine, http://www.itmworld.org/programs/therapeutic-western-herbalism

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