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Becoming a Herbal Medicine Practitioner

Last Updated Dec 14, 2022

Becoming a Herbal Medicine Practitioner

Herbalism has been around for centuries and is deeply rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic medicine. This type of complementary medicine can be used alone or in conjunction with conventional medicines to treat various health conditions, including:

  • Headaches and migraines
  • Common cold and flu
  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Eczema, psoriasis and other skin problems
  • Cancer
  • Kidney disease
  • Asthma and other allergies
  • Gout
  • Arthritis
  • Liver disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Depression
  • ADHD
  • Parkinson's disease

Are you interested in studying this modality and starting your own herbal practice? Continue reading as we go over the educational requirements for the majority of Australian herbal schools and discuss complementary therapies that can be used in tandem with herbal therapy.

As a bonus, you get to watch a video interview by ntpagesTV reporter Mel with Leah Hechtman, NHAA vice president and herbalist, to learn more about the duration of the program and how to find the best herbal schools.

What does a herbalist do?

A herbalist, also known as a clinical herbalist, has acquired considerable training in the use of herbs, specifically their active ingredients, to aid the body's natural healing mechanism. They are skilled at creating natural products that may be ingested or used topically, such as:

  • Pills containing powdered or liquid herbs
  • Tea
  • Tinctures
  • Salves
  • Elixirs
  • Creams
  • Lotions

Herbalists may not have attended medical school, but they collaborate closely with medical practitioners, allied health professionals, and other natural therapists to ensure their clients have excellent health outcomes.

What are the benefits of studying herbal medicine?

Although herbal medicine may be used as a stand-alone treatment, combining it with other natural therapies, such as acupuncture or acupressure, generates more effective and lasting results.

Taking a course in herbalism will pave the way for a fulfilling career that allows you to help people improve their health by utilising herbs. As a herbalist, you must not only be prepared with the necessary equipment and expertise, but you must also follow the ethical practices in your area.

As a herbalist, you can work in a variety of settings, such as:

  • Integrative health clinics
  • Herbal dispensaries
  • Community health centres
  • Acupuncture clinic
  • Universities
  • Research
  • Plant nursery
  • Retreat centres
  • Private Practice

What are the qualifications of a clinical herbalist?

In Australia, a Bachelor of Health Science in Western Herbal Medicine is required to practise as a professional herbalist. It's a three-year program when studied full-time, which covers a wide range of subjects, including:

  • The history of herbal medicine
  • The building blocks of the human body
  • Foundations of natural therapies
  • Herbal medicine concepts
  • Research methodologies

To get into this course, you must have finished Year 12 or equivalent and satisfied the other entry requirements of the university where you wish to study. If you're not prepared to give this course your all, a short herbal certification course is a fantastic place to start.

After receiving your degree, you must get professional indemnity insurance, register with the Australian Register of Naturopaths and Herbalists (ARONAH), the national organisation that upholds the highest ethical and educational standards for practitioners of herbal medicine, and renew your registration annually. Your membership with ARONAH must be updated regularly by completing the mandatory Continuing Professional Education (CPE).

Where can you study herbalism?

Australia has a range of prestigious colleges and universities that cater to both domestic and international students who are seeking to become qualified herbal medicine practitioners. These institutions offer a variety of programs to match the goals and financial needs of each student. It is important to choose a school and course that are compatible with your goals for studying herbalism.

If the idea of using herbs to make ingredients for health products you may take or apply to yourself appeals to you, a short training class will suffice. If, on the other hand, you want to become a clinical herbalist who can prescribe herbal medications, a degree program is the way to go.

How are the courses delivered?

Herbal medicine courses are available on a variety of platforms, including face-to-face, online and blended learning. Herbal educators not only teach students the necessary skills for success in their chosen field, but they also create an environment in which students can practise the following:

  • Effective communication
  • Empathy
  • Observational skills

These and other soft skills are critical for their development and success in a constantly evolving profession.

Learn more from NHAA's Leah Hechtman

In this video interview with Leah Hechtman from the NHAA, learn more about the many learning pathways that you may take to become a qualified herbal medicine practitioner. It covers the following points to help you pick the best institution to enrol in as you begin your journey to being a professional herbalist in Australia or anywhere else:

  • How do I find a herbal medicine course to study?
  • Do herbal medicine courses differ from state to state?
  • How do I know a course is recognised by herbal medicine associations?
  • How many years is herbal medicine training?
  • Should I study herbal medicine through a private college or a university?

Video Transcript

Melanie Alexander: So for all those people out there who are interested in becoming a practitioner, what would they need to do?

Leah Hechtman: The interest is there, you've basically done 50% of it. Then they should really start to look around where they live and what their options are. So in different states in Australia, you'll have different opportunities for education. It's probably a good idea to speak to one of the main associations, because they'll be able to tell you which courses are qualified and which they will actually recognize. So there's no point doing a course that at the end of it, you won't be able to get membership within an association.

MA: And how many years is it, the training?

LH: Training will take at least three years, sometimes it will take four, depending on how far advanced they go with it. There's all sorts of qualifications that you can get now so you could get a diploma level, advanced diploma, or you could certainly go and get bachelor's degrees and master's and all that sort of stuff as well. So it's important that you get appropriate training and when you do get a full list of which educational institutions are appropriate and accepted, you can then decide if you want to go through a private college environment, a private university environment, a government university environment, et cetera, and work out exactly what's the best for you.


Interested in finding out more? View the other videos in this series: What is Herbal Medicine & What Happens in a Herbal Medicine Consultation?

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Originally published on Sep 12, 2011

FAQs About Studying Herbal Medicine

How much do herbalists earn in Australia?

An entry-level herbalist in Australia earns, on average, $46 per hour or $68K annually.

How do I become an herbalist in Australia?

In order to become a certified herbalist, you need to study herbal medicine and how to use it to treat ailments and improve the quality of health. You can do this by enrolling in an accredited course in Australia. To boost your credentials, join the Australian Register of Naturopaths and Herbalists (ARONAH) after earning your degree.

How much do master herbalists make?

A person who has graduated with a master herbalist degree is qualified to provide herbal remedies to treat various health conditions. Some master herbalists work in health food stores while the majority of them provide consultations in their own private practice. A master herbalist earns, on average, $73,960 per year.

What is the best online herbalist course?

The best herbalism course is recognised nationally, covers a wide range of topics relating to herbology, and provides students with the ability to learn online. The Bachelor of Health Science (Western Herbal Medicine) is widely accepted in Australia. Earning this degree makes you eligible to join the Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA), which is the largest professional body of natural therapists.

Do you need a licence to be a clinical herbalist?

In Australia, you can practise herbal medicine professionally without having to obtain a licence. However, you must complete an accredited course, register with the main organisation for naturopaths and herbalists, and renew your membership every year by meeting the association's CPE criteria.

Can I be a self-taught herbalist?

Indeed! Many herbalists learn what they know by reading books and conducting online research. Some of them enrol in short workshops or online courses to study the fundamentals of herbal therapy. You may teach yourself about the therapeutic properties of plants through self-study. However, you must enrol at an accredited institution if you plan to practise the modality professionally.

What is the difference between a herbalist and a naturopath?

Herbalists are healthcare professionals with training in medicinal plants. They formulate, prescribe and dispense herbal remedies based on the results of their assessment of a patient. They are not authorised to take blood samples from patients or do laboratory tests. This is a naturopathic doctor's job because they have undergone similar training as a medical doctor, in addition to their training in various complementary therapies. They can diagnose and treat health conditions, and herbalism is only one of the many instruments at their disposal.

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ntpagesTV,  Studying Natural Therapies,  A Career in Natural Therapies,  Herbal Medicine

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