Friday, February 8, 2008

There Is NO OFFICIAL CERTIFICATION for "herbalist" in the US

OK, I guess this is somewhat of a rant. I still get this question so often off and on from friends, list members, students, I felt the need to write about it.

There is no official certification or license for you to become an herbalist in the USA!
There are many educational programs that may give you a "certificate of completion" all this means is that you completed a program from whatever school you attended. They may claim to be "accredited", what does that mean? Well it means if you have a another license, such as LMT, or Naturopath, you may be able to qualify for Continuing Ed credits (CEU's), and that the school has met certain standards by whatever accrediting agency it belongs to, this does not mean the credits transfer to any college for credit hours!! If you think that going to a school that is accredited equals a better education, this is not necessarily true.

Someone said "But I want to have an accredited education so I will be respected in the allopathic world"
Hate to tell you, but most Doctors either are warmed up to the idea of herbal medicine or they are not. Saying you have a certificate from so and so school that you paid a pretty penny for really will not sway them, because for the most part they have no idea about these schools and have little time to listen to what you have to say. Some Doctors think that Chiropractors are quacks, and they have a DO degree, spend tons of $$$ and time on their education. The "licensed" practitioners clash in the medical world all the time.

I have said this before and I will say it again, some of the best herbalists I know are self taught. They do not hold a certificate from one of the major "accredited" schools. Most of the pioneers in herbalism, Juliette Levy, Rosemary Gladstar ,Susun Weed, for example paved their own road- learned from the people & the plants, they did not need a certificate to start learning. A few in my generation (and 2 of my favorite) are jim mcdonald (read his bio here) & kiva rose (she explains what she does well here) ......and many others.

There are tons of resources and it can be very overwhelming. Starting with one of the many programs will give you a good foundation, but you will find this is a lifetime passion, and you will learn new things daily, you may later decide to expand your education, or focus on your own niche. I still have classes I want to take, books I want to read, plants I want to meet. I think if you have the opportunity to learn from the herbalists themselves this is a great start. Research the herbalist you are going to work with, do you like their teaching style & the type of herbalism they practice? this can make a big difference in what you retain and learn. Join some of the online forums like herbwifery, Susun Weed ,take hands on classes in your local area, read books ( I think The Herbalist's Way by Nancy and Michael Phillips gives an excellent overview of what an herbalist does, profiles different herbalists and their teaching styles, talks about different events and programs, even teaches you a few things to get started as a community herbalist yourself!- if you can buy it directly from them, they are such nice people!) join herbal email lists like medicinal herb list, the herbstudent yahoo group, medicine woman mom's, tribe, go to Henriette's site, she has tons of free information that will keep you busy for days, visit jim mcdonald's article index for other great resources, and of course visit all of the wonderful blogs (check out my links on the side bar). A great new website Herb Mentor launching March 20 2008.

Before you jump into a major program and spend tons of your hard earned cash, I would really do some soul searching and research the both the instructor and the style of herbalism they practice, start with immersing yourself with recourses, books, websites, et ask around how did others like the class? Make some teas, get out in nature, practice at your level of experience, then the right instructor and class will become apparent to you.

7 comments:

Kiva Rose said...

Nice post, Angie! And too true, I get the same idea/question all the time as well.

rachelbalanceboost said...

Hi Angie,

Great post and very informative!

Rachel
Balance Boost

Herbs~Art~Family~Love said...

Indeed Angie, we get asked this too. Blessings

Alchemille said...

In France, where I come from, there's no herbalist degree (there used to be herbal school but I believe except for 1 or 2, they're all closed).

There was once an interview of the owner of one of the most famous herbal shops (herboristerie) in Paris and he admited that he never had a degree. He learned his craft from a teacher.

I am self-taught myself and don't believe in degrees. If you wish to learn, you can do it on your own. My passion and love for this craft is what draws me to go further and keep on learning, experimenting...etc.

Karada said...

It's all very well not to believe in degrees (I, myself, come from a trade) but the modern landscape which is peppered with guidelines, lawsuits and liability demands that we do.

I am self taught but did marry what I learned with a naturopathy qualification. This enabled me to gain a licence and insurance which protects me in practice. In addition, professional quals allow one to be a bit more discerning about what programs one enrols in. I mean, Herb Mentor is fine but you don't really know what you're getting until you pay your money to sign up... I'm not suggesting they're shonky but a landscape without formal pathways does encourage shonky people to breed and profit.

Additionally, lack of formal education leaves you wide open for prosecution and I've watched a few go down that path. It's not fun to watch.

Angie Goodloe LMT, Herbalist said...

There is nothing wrong with degrees in any subject, there is just not a degree for herbalism in the US that enables you to get a license as an herbalist. Any program that claims this in the US is false advertising. ND's are great! There are 2 places you can receive a ND (Naturopathic Doctor) Here in Portland Oregon- National College of Naturopathic Medicine and Bayster in Washington state. An herbalist is not a Doctor (ND, MD, or DC), they do not treat or diagnose disease. If you want to practice as a Doctor in the US you must first receive your ND, DC or MD, if you do not have this and you are practicing as a doctor, you are open for prosecution period, it does not matter what other "formal" education you have received as an herbalist. There are some other programs out there (other than the official colleges mentioned) that claim to give you a naturopath degree, you can study Naturopathy, but if you do not have the ND after your name you cannot practice as a Doctor- no correspondence school can offer a ND, you must go to one of the 2 colleges listed above. Unless you have passed the board exam by the NABNE get the letters ND after your name you are not recognized by the U.S. Government to practice as a doctor, no matter what professional organization you belong to or what formal education you receive.Herbalists are not Doctors or ND's just want to make this clear- I need to do a post about what herbalism is, there is a lot of misconception out there.

excalibur said...

Hello,

I'm interested in adding herbalism to my massage practice and have begun exploring the options.

It looks like a nutritionist or dietician license (in the state of Washington where I am) is the most direct way of becoming certified to give advice about use of herbs (and perhaps minerals also.)

From the legal standpoint, setting up a Limited Liability Company and having clients sign waivers looks like two key ways to somewhat protect oneself from lawsuits and damages. However, personally, I believe that the people most likely to sue will ignore any protections, licenses and waivers in place anyway, and can bankrupt a business simply through legal fees - so certification, competence and adherence to scope of practice will only offer partial protection.

In my experience avoiding the hard sell - and engaging people who may have some doubts about a particular natural modality to begin with - is a good way to screen out some of the possible problem clients. Not promising too much is part of that. So far, the biggest problems I've had myself (and have seen in offices where I worked) came from people who are emotionally detached - this is just a generalization for sake of this posting - but a clear common denominator.

In contrast I have seen a number of patients who were victims of accidents and mistakes - and who would actually have a good reason to sue - who took the incident in stride and with understanding and were open to simple recourses like refunds or extra care.

While I am just exploring this, it seems to me that the places where we are most likely vulnerable is in situations where a particular practice is licensed and there is a regulatory agency for the particular service, which can initiate an investigation in response to a complaint - where the client would have to do little beyond writing a letter. An example I heard recently involved a client asking simply why something wasn't covered by insurance and inadvertently triggering an 'investigation' by a state agency which found nothing but still cost the acupuncturist involved, $20,000. Scary to consider, but ultimately I don't really want my choices limited by fear of the worst possible scenario.

Personally I am not supportive of exclusivity of licensing and believe there could be developed a general methodology for providing services that allows for both licensed and unlicensed or unregulated practitioners. A good example here is the recent 'life coach' phenomenon - where qualifications varied wildly, there was no state or federal licensing involved and still people managed to do this as a business.

What I see evolving in my practice (which relies heavily on intuitive perceptions) is something similar to what I've read about Edgar Cayce - the information I intuitively receive in the course of working with my clients involves bodywork, food, herbs, minerals and vitamins, mental and emotional patterns, events and experiences and feng-shui. What I rely on is an understanding with my clients of what is my scope of practice and what is information they need to follow up on their own or through another professional. Typically I advise my clients to take small (reversible) steps and make note of any progress before following any particular idea that resonates with them.

I think this kind of process is something that we in the natural health field should evolve and maybe even eventually formalize. Until then we can always classify ourselves as 'entertainment' ;)