Shadowing a DoctorJune 16, 2014
Becoming A Medical Herbalist
Part One: Job Description And Job Opportunities
Medical herbalists are skilled in using the healing power of plants to treat a wide range of medical conditions, from allergies and skin problems to arthritis and stress-related conditions.
Also known as Phytotherapy, herbal medicine combines knowledge of traditional plant remedies with modern medical science. While there are many conventional medicines that are partially composed of chemicals found in plants, herbalists use whole parts of the plant, such as leaves, root or berries, as they believe this makes a more balanced and more effective natural remedy. Within medical herbalism, you could specialise in western herbal medicine, or in Indian or Chinese herbal traditions.
If you are interested in helping people using natural medicine, then this could be an excellent career choice. As a medical herbalist, you would treat patients by factoring in not just their physical symptoms but also their diet, lifestyle and emotional issues.
To qualify as a medical herbalist, you need to do a three-year degree in herbal medicine and register with one of the professional bodies for herbal medicine in the UK.
As a medical herbalist, your work would involve:
– Carrying out a physical assessment and appropriate tests
– Taking a detailed history of the patient’s symptoms and lifestyle
– Making a diagnosis and prescribing a relevant herbal remedy
– Advising on wider health and lifestyle issues
– Keeping detailed patient notes especially on lifestyle, symptoms and prescribed herbal remedy
– Seeing patients for follow-up appointments
Some medical herbalists also grow and prepare herbs in various forms, including extracts, infusions, capsules and ointments.
Work Opportunities As A Medical Herbalist
Medical herbalists are usually self-employed. This means that you could choose your own working hours, although you may often find yourself working evenings and sometimes even over the weekend to meet the needs of your patients. It also means your success would depend on your reputation and the amount of time and effort you are prepared to put in to build your list of clients and market your business.
As a medical herbalist you would usually work from a consulting and treatment room. This may be set up at your own home or you could be employed at a natural health clinic, an alternative therapy centre or GP’s surgery. You may also visit patients at their own homes. Networking and training in other therapies may help to broaden the scope of your practice and increase the number of clients that you see. With experience you could move into teaching, become involved in research or you could also choose to create and sell your own herbal remedies.
Skills And Qualities Required
To be a medical herbalist you should have good listening and communication skills along with the ability to build trust and rapport with your patients. You need to be understanding and sensitive to their issues whilst having a non-judgmental attitude. Knowledge of biology, chemistry and conventional medical treatments, the ability to remain calm under pressure and analytical thinking to help you diagnose and choose remedies are also all necessary qualities to have as a herbalist.