Shadowing a Doctor

June 16, 2014

Becoming A Medical Herbalist Part Two: Qualifications And Training 

A student assisting with patients during ward rounds, Tanzania. To prepare for work as a medical herbalist, you will have to complete a degree in herbal medicine approved by the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH) or one of the other organisations represented by the EHTPA or European Herbal and Traditional Medicine Practitioners’ Association. 

To get an approved degree, you will typically need at least five GCSEs (A-C) and two A-levels, including biology. Alternative qualifications may be accepted depending on the circumstances and your life experience may also count towards entry. These would be at the discretion of the course provider. Exact entry requirements can be discussed with different course providers. Arranging some work experience shadowing with a practising herbalist before you begin to study can give you a first-hand look at this profession and can also be very useful for gaining admission.

The course duration for most full time degrees is three years and part time degrees are typically five to six years.

Course Curriculum

The medical herbalism course curriculum will include the study of anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, botany and nutrition as well as the basics of conventional medical treatments. Courses also include at least 500 hours of supervised clinical practice with patients.

If you are a qualified medical practitioner, you could choose to complete your postgraduate diploma or MSc degree in herbal medicine.

Training And Development

After you have completed a course that is recognised by the NIMH, you will be eligible to become a member with the institute. Members of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists can register for their three-year postgraduate training scheme, which gives you access to more advanced training courses along with mentoring. The National Institute of Medical Herbalists also offers seminars and research opportunities for its members, which can be a great way to further your career.

Maintaining your skills and knowledge throughout your career helps you stay in touch with latest developments and breakthroughs. You can do this by enrolling in short courses, attending conferences and keeping up to date with new research. To widen your scope of practice, it is a good idea to also develop skills in a related therapy such as homeopathy.

Voluntary Self-Regulation

Several organisations from different areas of complementary therapies, have worked to create a single regulatory body, known as the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). This is a voluntary body. The aim of the CNHC is to protect the public by setting standards for safe practice and registering practitioners so patients have somewhere to complain if things go wrong.

The Department of Health is considering putting in place statutory regulation for medical herbalists, which is likely to be implemented sometime in 2015. If you are planning on studying medical herbalism, you should check out the implications as this may have an impact on your education and training.