Currently in the United States, there are no licensing or certification requirements for herbalists. Because of this, many people are confused by terms different herbalist use to define the scope of their practice. I consider myself a clinical herbalist and would like to answer the question, “What is a clinical herbalist?”
Clinical Herbalists Work with Clients
Clinical herbalists work with clients, one on one, to help them gain the knowledge they need to accomplish their health goals. They are educators, primarily of plant medicine and all the vastness the Creator has provided within the world of herbs for our well-being. Their efforts to educate will often include other modes of health and healing as they are applicable including nutrition, stress management, and lifestyle choices. As a Believer, the goal of my work is to see people gain the wisdom, knowledge and ability to live lives of abundant health and well-being, as our Lord desires.
Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.
3 John 1:2
Clinical Herbalists Have Advanced Education
A clinical herbalist will have an advanced education and skill level to offer their clients. This can take much time and expense and usually includes various avenues of learning:
- studying under an established and accomplished herbalist–watching, listening, practicing, and perfecting
- partaking in course work within a more formal setting, including in-person classroom and distance learning
- never finished learning, always advancing, taking opportunity of every possible learning avenue that presents itself
This assures that as you work with them, you are tapping into the deepest pool of accurate information while avoiding fads and dangerous, casual health information.
Clinical Herbalist Do Not Practice Medicine
A clinical herbalist is not a practitioner of medicine. In other words, they do not practice medicine in that they never diagnose or treat patients or prescribe medications. Often times those modes of healing are desired and understandably necessary. Modern medicine can be very successfully blended with the work of a clinical herbalist. Many of us have established relationships with practitioners of allopathic medicine and work together with them for the benefit of our clients.
Clinical Herbalist Look at the Whole Person
Clinical herbalists should be very complete and detailed in their work. You will spend many hours working with them as they gain an understanding of your exact needs and guide you along your path. This usually begins with a very detailed intake form where you will give a complete picture of your physical health history, family health history, and present health condition (to the best of your knowledge) to include any information you have been provided by the medical community.
Clinical herbalists ask questions that may seem to have nothing to do with your health needs, but provide details that will prove very helpful such as, “Do you prefer cold or hot drinks?” You will be asked to keep a complete health diary for a period of time, usually one to two weeks. In this diary you will be sharing your day to day living, such as your exact diet, sleeping patterns, social interactions, fluid intake, herbs, medications and any other supplements that you are using.
While the amount of effort put into this paperwork may seem steep, it is a big key to the success you will have while working with an herbalist. This is where the work of an herbalist often takes a departure from other forms of health care. We’re not in a hurry and we won’t be seeing 35 other folks in the same day. Herbalism is a science, as well as an art, and every single client is a unique individual with a very specific and unique picture. Even small differences from one another can make a big difference in the course of action necessary. We will study this paperwork for many hours until it we see the whole picture.
Clinical Herbalists are Your Partner
Clinical herbalists are your partners, friends, and confidants on this journey. We will sit with you and listen for as long as it takes to understand what your needs are. We will take all of this information back to our desks and spend multiple hours learning from what you have shared. Once we have a grasp of your situation we will begin to apply our knowledge of herbal medicine to your unique needs. Something to note here–working in person is always ideal but with all the options for distance meetings via technology, you can work with a clinical herbalist anywhere!
This is where the real benefit of a clinical herbalist comes into play. With all the minute details about you, there are equally as many about the herbs. A skilled herbalist will be able to discern which herbs fit you best. In addition, there may be specific ways to apply those herbs into your life which will maximize their benefit to you. There are some herbs that are compatible with medications you may already be taking but others may present a real danger. There is a vast amount of considerations to be looked at and a skilled herbalist will know just how to do that.
At this point a detailed, written protocol will be presented to you. The herbalist will go over it in great detail making sure you understand everything shared. Next, you will be asked to review the information, institute the plan and record anything helpful for future discussion. Usually another meeting is planned for about 2 weeks to one month in the future. At this meeting you can share anything and everything about how the protocol is going and how you are feeling. Any adjustments will be noted and additional information will be brought into consideration. If changes need to be made, this will be the point to do so.
Because building back health is a lengthy and consecutive process, there could be many additional meetings required. Most often a complete protocol is not embarked on right from the beginning, but rather steps that build on all previous work should be taken, which is more successful. Evaluation and adjustments can be made as needed, again taking into account all the uniqueness of your situation. Your normal expectation, depending on the depth of your needs, is to work with a clinical herbalist for 6 months to one year.
I hope I have been able to present a good picture of what it looks like to work with a clinical herbalist. I find my work in this capacity to be deeply satisfying because I am able to see the blessings of the Lord for both myself and my clients as I work to bring back health and wellness to them. It enables me to really understand how fearfully and wonderfully we are all made, as well as how unique each of us are by His design. His unsurpassing care is built into the world He created to nurture and sustain us. As a clinical herbalist, my life’s work is to bring that full picture to all my clients.