How to become

How To Become A Certified Herbalist

How To Become A Certified Herbalist

Herbs are widely used in every culture on the planet. More than 80% of the world’s population still depends on herbal use to maintain good health and well-being. Take an in-depth look at the characteristics, origins, nutritional qualities, and applications of herbs from all over the world.

Herbology: Occupation and Practice

Herbalism is the use of plants for therapeutic purposes to treat and prevent disease and promote health. Although today there are dedicated herbalism schools to train would-be herbalists, the practice of using plants as remedies is traditional in many cultures.

An herbalist is someone who studies herbs and uses a variety of plants to foster health and healing. Many qualified herbalists are also licensed practitioners of other disciplines, such as acupuncture, naturopathy, or traditional Chinese medicine. Most are self-employed and must spend considerable time seeking new clients. You may wonder if becoming an herbalist is worth it, and the answer is any herbalist may find great reward in the act of helping others.

Whole medical systems such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine rely on herbal therapy for many of their treatments.

Often, herbal medicines in the United States are derived from European or North American plants, but herbal practitioners may use medicinal plants from all over the world.

What Is A Herbalist?

People have used herbs for thousands of years, relying on powdered supplements, teas, tinctures, and skin creams to help treat everything from skin rashes to mild depression. Herbal supplements, also known as botanicals, are made from the leaves, flowers, roots, and bark of plants.

An herbalist is someone who uses plants for healing. These practitioners are not medical doctors, though some practitioners are also referred to as medical herbalists.

A certified herbalist is a trained professional that deals with age-old traditional herbal methods for the purpose of treating health problems and illnesses. This role may also involve producing and selling raw herbs for medical use.


An herbalist performs important functions that are highlighted below:

  • Keep track of the latest trends and different medicinal research in the industry, to promote best practices involving plants and herbs, in particular their healing properties.
  • Make time for regular meetings with patients to assess their medical conditions, and narrow down on the necessary treatment plan as per patients’ preference.
  • Teach courses on alternative medicine at institutions such as medicine schools, research centers, colleges, etc., and help people with guidance on using herbs.

A Day In The Life Of A Herbalist

In your role as an herbalist, you will regularly use various flowers, seeds, plant stems, roots and leaves to concoct herbal medicines and local remedies. In most cases, you will be self-employed and running an independent practice – more so, since many states do not legally recognize herbal medicine as a practice. You might also choose to work with other naturopathic physicians or medical care providers to evaluate patients and support their healing process.

While some herbalists choose to spend their day on the upkeep of plants, gathering plants or parts of plants from the wild, others may choose to directly purchase the required herbs from botanical shops. For effective remedies, herbalists use a mixed approach, joining other types of treatment with herbal solutions, such as massage therapy, physiotherapy and acupuncture. Depending on where you are working, you may choose to become a specialist knowledgeable on a specific type of herbal medicine, like Western botanical medicine, Chinese traditions and Ayurveda.

Work Schedule

Most herbalists typically work at standard physician’s offices, such as a room in a medical clinic or a larger center, in close proximity to patients’ rooms. You would meet with patients at an office or meeting area. Offices consist of a waiting area, a reception desk and individual examination rooms. Working hours vary based on where you are working – e.g. you may work overtime when conducting research on plants or traditional remedies at a laboratory alongside scientists in the industry.

What Does an Herbalist Do?

Herbalists attempt to find the root cause of illness. Practitioners will choose herbs based on the symptoms or ailments a patient describes during the consultation. They will also perform a clinical exam, inspecting certain areas of the body and create a personalized prescription. Patients may use just one herbal treatment or a combination of herbal supplements.

Common forms of treatment include:

  • Teas
  • Capsules containing liquids or powdered herbs
  • Bath salts
  • Oils
  • Skin creams and ointments

Reasons to See an Herbalist

An herbalist shouldn’t replace a doctor or mental health professional, but may be a source of complementary treatment. Some people visit an herbalist for: want to visit an herbalist:

  • Non-medication treatments 
  • Advice on lifestyle habits to reduce pain or stress
  • Trouble sleeping

How To Become A Herbalist

There are no clear educational qualifications required for becoming an herbalist. Prospective herbalists are able to select from a wide range of different training programs. For instance, some schools tend to offer non-degree programs, training courses, and workshops in herbology. If you intend to advise clients and assess their medical issues, you must take precautions as herbalists must not directly diagnose any conditions, if they are in an advisory position.

The American Herbalists Guild recommends that you enroll at a program that offers a minimum of 1600 hours of training and specialized study, which involves 400 hours of clinical practice. To be a Naturopathic physician, you must have completed at least a bachelor’s degree and then a 4-year Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (ND) program.

In the process, you will familiarize yourself with relevant subjects such as herbal sciences, human anatomy, medical terminology, pharmacology and nutrition. To give supplemental treatment like massages and acupressure, many states require you to become certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. To become a fully certified herbalist, you need to complete a formal education program in addition to getting a passable grade in an exam.

How to Become an Herbalist: Essential Info

So, how do you become an herbalist and how long does it take to become an herbalist? The following table summarizes the key education, credentialing, and skills requirements for becoming an herbalist.

Degree LevelGraduate or professional degree for licensed health practitioners
Degree FieldHerbology, naturopathy, or traditional Chinese medicine
Licensure and CertificationLicensure is required in some states
Key SkillsActive listening, critical thinking, judgment, decision making, problem solving, and computer skills; a service-oriented attitude
Hourly Wage (February 2020)$15.69 an hour

Steps To Becoming An Herbalist

Now let’s look at the steps involved in becoming an herbalist:

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Prerequisites for graduate and professional schools typically include a bachelor’s degree program. Aspiring herbalists may want to consider a major in botany, biology, or a related science for their herbology degree.

Step 2: Pursue Herbology Training

Prospective herbalists can choose from among a variety of different training programs on how to be an herbalist. For example, some schools offer non-degree programs, self-study courses, and workshops in herbology. For those strictly interested in advising clients, great care must be taken, as an herbalist cannot diagnose conditions or prescribe treatment when acting in an advisory role.

If a career practicing herbal medicine is the ultimate goal, one in which the herbalist can diagnose and prescribe herbs, then students must undergo more intensive training. Graduate schools offer master’s and doctoral degree programs in traditional Chinese medicine that may include an introduction to botany and herbology, herbal treatment used to treat dermatological diseases, and integrated East/West medicine. Students interested in becoming naturopathic doctors must complete a 4-year training program that includes courses in botanical medicine, homeopathy, and pharmacology. Allopathic physicians, who go to medical school to study traditional Western medicine, may seek board certification in complementary medicine, including herbology, through the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine. Further research into how to become a certified herbalist, how to become a medical herbalist, how to become an herbalist doctor, or even herbology for home study may be necessary when choosing your career path.

Step 3: Qualify as a Licensed Herbalist

In order to practice, an herbalist may need to be licensed in a particular healthcare field. State licensing requirements for practitioners of naturopathy and traditional Chinese medicine can vary but often include a passing score on a national or state exam. All allopathic and osteopathic physicians in the U.S. must pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination. Some states do not include Chinese herbology as part of the scope of practice for traditional Chinese medicine. To prescribe herbs, practitioners must take a separate test.

Step 4: Earn an Herbalist Certification

Voluntary certification may be available to herbalists who specialize in certain types of herbal medicine. In some cases, earning voluntary certification can open the door to new job opportunities. The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) offers the Diplomate of Oriental Medicine (Dipl.O.M.) and Diplomate of Chinese Herbology (Dipl.C.H.) designations to candidates who complete formal education requirements and pass an exam. Certification through the NCCAOM is a prerequisite for licensure as a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine in some states.

The American Herbalists Guild (AHG) offers the Registered Herbalist (RH) designation to its members. Professional-level AHG membership is given to herbalists who provide three case studies and meet the requirements, which include four years of educational and clinical experience.

Let’s review. What is the study of herbs called? Herbology. Herbalists who prescribe herbs will need to complete a graduate program in allopathic, naturopathic, or traditional Chinese medicine and meet state licensing requirements, depending on where they live. As of February 2020, an herbalist certification can earn you a national hourly wage of $15.69.

Herbalist Training Programs and Requirements

An herbalist is a type of alternative healer who uses natural plant materials and herbs to promote healing. A bachelor’s degree may be required, but is not always necessary. Some states mandate professional licensing, and requirements vary.

Essential Information

An herbalist is an alternative health practitioner trained in the therapeutic uses of herbs and other medicinal plants. Individuals can receive herb training through both degree and certificate programs. Students can focus on Western herbalism, Eastern herbalism or both. Currently, there are no training standards specifically for herbalists, although some states require herbalists to be licensed medical practitioners in related fields.

Required EducationBachelor’s and graduate degrees are available, but there is no traditional education route for herbalists.
Other RequirementsRelated healthcare experience; licensing required in some states
Projected Growth (2019-2029)*15% (for healthcare practitioners and technical occupations classified as ‘therapists’, all other)
Median Salary (May 2019)*$52,650 (for healthcare practitioners and technical occupations classified as ‘therapists’, all other)

Herbalist Training Programs

Degree Programs

Individuals can obtain herb training through completing degree programs in majors such as herbal sciences, holistic health or Chinese medicine. Many programs only focus on one school of herbal medicine, such as Eastern or Western, but students can choose to specialize in one or both methodologies. Herbal science degree programs cover courses in organic chemistry, anatomy physiology, herbal treatments, botany and homeopathic remedies. Some degree programs may also require students to participate in externships where they assist professional herbalists in the field.

Certificate Programs

For individuals who already have undergraduate and graduate degrees related to health sciences, certificate programs in herbalism provide additional herbal medicine training. Several certificate programs are graduate level programs and require students to have already earned an undergraduate degree in a related field, and many certificate programs also have other prerequisite requirements. Some certificate programs may also require students to be licensed medical practitioners. Certificate programs related to herbal medicine include coursework such as herbology and nutrition, herbal pharmaceuticals, herbal benefits and herbal formulas.

Herbalist Job Requirements


In some states, herbalists cannot become licensed or registered to practice until they gain enough work experience. Most degree programs provide students with opportunities to gain experience in the field, including externships with local herbalists or on-site clinical experience at research medical facilities. Some certificate programs require an extensive amount of hours spent practicing herbal science training on real patients, but not all certificate programs provide such in-depth experience. While in school, students may choose to gain additional experience by approaching professional herbalists about apprenticeship opportunities.


According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), each state has different licensing procedures for herbal medicine practitioners. For instance, some states, such as Maine, may not grant herbalists licenses unless the herbalists are also licensed alternative medicine practitioners, such as acupuncturists or naturopathic physicians. Other states may have licensing protocols for herbalists specifically, and some states may not even require any form of licensing or registration for this career. The NCCAM explains that of the states that do require herbalists to be licensed, most states have minimum education and experience requirements that must be met prior to applicants taking licensing examinations.

Herbalist Certificate Program Info

Essential Information

There are program options in herbal studies for non-professionals as well as for alternative and traditional healthcare practitioners who want to broaden their scope of treatment. Programs can be found at the undergraduate and post-baccalaureate levels. Licensing regulations for herbalists vary by state.

Undergraduate Herbalist Certificate

In undergraduate herbal studies, students learn how herbs affect the body and how combinations of herbal treatments are used in different alternative healing systems, such as Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, and Native American medicine. Students also practice handling and preparing herbs. There are usually no specific admissions prerequisites for entering a program, but applicants are advised to have some prior knowledge of herbs. An herbalist certificate program introduces students to historical uses of herbs and the relationship of herbs to traditional medicine practices. A program may cover topics that include:

  • Phytotherapy
  • Herbal classification
  • Herb dosage
  • Herb preparation
  • Body systems
  • Pediatric and geriatric use of herbs

Graduate Herbalist Certificate

Post-baccalaureate certificate programs may be called medical herbalism or Chinese herbology. Some programs are designed for individuals already working as acupuncture professionals, allowing them to legally use herbs in their practice without having to complete a full oriental medicine program. Other programs are open to traditional healthcare practitioners who wish to expand their repertoire of treatment options. Program topics cover commonly used herbal medicines, including possible interactions with prescription or over-the-counter medications. Students also learn about herbal evaluation and clinical trial procedures. Hands-on herbal identification, harvesting, and preparation may occur within campus herb gardens and labs.

Introductory courses cover herbal properties in relation to health and illness. Curricula may also include clinical practice in creating herbal preparations and safely administering herbs as treatment. Other topics covered in a course may include:

  • Herbal formulas
  • Commercial herbal medicines
  • Herbal usage safety practices
  • Herbal medicine history
  • Herbal product evaluation

Continuing Education Information

Not all states regulate the use of herbology, but in some states, acupuncturists practicing herbology must be appropriately licensed. Students who complete a herbology certificate program may qualify for certification through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). The NCCAOM offers the Diplomate of Chinese Herbology designation, which may meet licensing requirements for some states (

Undergraduate and graduate herbalist certificates can be earned by nonprofessionals as well as healthcare practitioners. Students in the undergraduate program will complete classes like herbal classification, herb dosage, and herb preparation, while graduate students may see courses in herbal usage safety practices and herbal medicine history.

Herbalist Degree Program Information

Essential Information

Herbalists use plants and natural products to create medicinal remedies.

Degrees in herbalism are available at the associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s levels. Students can choose from concentrations in herbalism, herbal sciences, or herbal medicine. Undergraduate programs require a high school diploma or GED, while a master’s program requires a bachelor’s degree and possible undergraduate coursework in science. Online programs are available at all degree levels.

Associate of Science Degree in Herbalism

Herbalist associate degree programs provide an introduction to herbalism, natural healing and holistic nutrition. Students gain training that can be used in a personal or professional setting as a family herbalist, retailer, writer, lecturer or consultant. Typical coursework for an associate degree may include:

  • Western herbalism
  • Remedies in homeopathy
  • Physiology
  • Biosciences and herbalism
  • Introduction to botany
  • Plant identification

Bachelor’s Degree in Herbal Sciences

A bachelor’s degree program in herbal sciences offers a comprehensive overview of botanical science and herbal products. Students work with master herbalists and learn about various aspects of herbalism, from plant cultivation and the preparation of herbal remedies to business operations, such as sales and herbal manufacturing. Programs also include hands-on training, laboratory work and internships. Some commonly required coursework may include:

  • Herbal sciences research methods
  • Biochemistry
  • Ethnobotany
  • Pharmacognosy
  • Interaction between herbs and drugs
  • Preparing herbal treatments

Master of Science Degree in Herbal Medicine

Master’s degree programs in herbal medicine focus on expanding knowledge gained in undergraduate herbalist programs. Students learn about the effects of natural medicine and its relationship to pharmacology, science and physiology. Graduate-level herbalist programs typically include a strong clinical study component, while continuing to focus on health and wellness theory and practice. Students gain practical knowledge by working with herbs that were grown on campus farms, and they learn from experienced herbalists when participating in internships. Students also learn how to work in patient-care environments with licensed medical professionals. Typical graduate-level coursework includes:

  • Case assessment and management
  • Preparation of herbal remedies
  • Culture and medicinal plants
  • Herbal pharmacology
  • Phytochemistry and herbs
  • Biomedicine in herbal therapies

List of Herbalist Schools, Colleges and Universities

Students who wish to study herbal medicine can find both certificate and full degree programs in the field. These programs are most commonly provided by private schools dedicated to alternative health education.

Schools with an Herbalist Program

These schools have accredited programs for herbalists at the undergraduate and graduate levels, including herbology and herbal medicine programs.

College/UniversityLocationInstitution TypeDegrees OfferedCosts 2015-2016*
Southwest Institute of Healing ArtsTempe, AZ2-year, PrivateDiploma, Associate’s$17,880 (annual tuition and fees)
Bastyr UniversityKenmore, WA4-year, PrivateBachelor’s$24,275 (annual tuition and fees)
Northwestern Health Sciences UniversityBloomington, MN4-year, PrivateCertificate$11,636 (annual tuition and fees)
Maryland University of Integrative HealthLaurel, MD4-year, PrivateMaster’s, Doctoral$18,605 (annual tuition and fees)
Emperor’s College of Traditional Oriental MedicineSanta Monica, CA4-year, PrivateMaster’s, Doctoral$15,858 (annual tuition and fees)
American College of Traditional Chinese MedicineSan Francisco, CA4-year, PrivateMaster’s, Doctoral$16,393 (annual tuition and fees)
Southwest Acupuncture College – BoulderBoulder, CO4-year, PrivateMaster’s$69,891 (total program cost)
Midwest College of Oriental MedicineRacine, WI, Chicago, IL4-year, PrivateMaster’s$71,611 (total program cost)
Colorado School of Traditional Chinese MedicineDenver, CO4-year, PrivateMaster’s$49,875 (total program cost)

School Selection Criteria

There are several important considerations to keep in mind when choosing an herbal medicine school:

  • Students should verify that the school is accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education and local accreditation commissions.
  • Students may want to find out if the school offers an herb garden in which they can learn to cultivate and identify different herbs.
  • For students who want to specialize their studies, it can be helpful to find out whether the school offers focused programs or concentration options in areas such as herbal retail management or botanical safety.
  • Students should verify that they meet the minimum educational requirements for admission to a program; for instance, some certificate programs require students to be licensed health professionals. Master’s degree programs only accept students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree.

Herbalism Career Outlook

Practitioners with herbalism training can expect their skills to be in increasing demand. With more and more herbal medicines proven beneficial through scientific research—the development of the heart medicine digitalis from the foxglove plant being just one example—interest in herbal therapy is growing throughout the world.

The World Health Organization reports that herbal medicines generate billions of dollars in revenue.

At this point in time, most herbalists or herbalists are self-employed. Here are a few herbal therapy career options:

  • Run small manufacturing companies making herbal products
  • Grow herbs for sale to manufacturers
  • Own retail stores
  • Counsel others about herbal products

There are also a few teaching positions available through the alternative medicine colleges. Some herbalists do go to work for other herbalists at the type of businesses listed above.

To find these jobs, the most effective way is to network by attending the conferences of the various professional groups or by getting to know herbalists in your area. Very few of these positions are advertised through the standard means, such as through the Classifieds or the Web.

Frequently Asked Questions About Herbalist Certificates

  1. What Are the Requirements for an Herbalist Certificate?
  • Register for AHG membership.
  • Finish 800 hours of herbal education.
  • Take courses that include basic human sciences, nutrition and medical terminology, materia medica, pharmacy and pharmacognosy, and botany and botanical research.
  • Complete 400 hours of clinical experience.
  • Submit letters of recommendation.
  • Take the AHG written exam.
  1. What Skills Will I Learn With an Herbalist Certificate?
  • Learn about plant properties used to treat and prevent illnesses.
  • Understand the history of plants and herbs, including the legislation that impacts them.
  • Gain hands-on skills by making and sampling herbal remedies.
  • Learn organic gardening techniques such as mulching, pruning, fertilizing, and planting.
  • Create a business plan and analyze case studies.
  • Gain sales knowledge about herbal retailers and farmers markets.
  1. Is an Herbalist Certificate Worth It?

Herbalists do not need a license or certification to work. Becoming a registered herbalist through the AHG — a nonprofit founded in 1989 representing herbalists — can help these workers gain professional recognition. Registered herbalists have a certain level of expertise in the use of medicinal plants and herbs since they must meet educational and clinical practice hours set by the AHG.

Gaining a professional credential can help herbalists advance in their practices and gain the respect of clients and peers. Becoming a registered herbalist can afford professionals the credibility they need to assess and dispense herbal remedies.

Registered herbalists can also work in teaching, counseling, or other naturopathic medicine positions reserved for more experienced natural medicine practitioners.

  1. What Jobs Can I Get With an Herbalist Certificate?
  • Small manufacturing companies: Herbalists work for companies that manufacture herbal and food products. These companies hire herbalists for sales manager, quality manager, and production supervisor positions. Manufacturing companies also need herbalists to work on their research and lab teams.
  • Growers: Herbalist growers work outside in the soil, harvesting and caring for plants. Unlike traditional fruit and vegetable farmers, commercial medicinal herb farms remain rare in the U.S. They grow medicinal herbs for the commercial market, including manufacturing companies, product lines, natural foods stores, and farmers markets.
  • Retail store owners: Herbalists can become business owners who own and operate apothecary shops. Store owners may sell their own product lines or stock their shelves with different brands of tinctures, teas, and herbs.
  • Consultants: Herbalist consultants work in acupuncture clinics, pharmacies, and retail stores. They understand how to prepare herbs and provide consultation to customers and companies about products.
  1. How Much Money Can I Make With an Herbalist Certificate?

Herbalists have the opportunity for advancement with additional education, credentials, and experience. Pay for herbalists differs by field, position, and location. Herbalists made an average annual salary of $71,930 as of April 2022, according to ZipRecruiter. Like most other professionals, herbalists with more experience tend to make more money.

ZipRecruiter reports that those just entering the field earned about $28,500 a year. Experienced herbalists earned an annual average of $60,000.

Careers for herbalists include herbalists technicians who work in herbal pharmacies, business entrepreneurs, and organic farmers. Herbalists’ salaries vary considerably depending on the industry they work in and their specific job.

  1. What qualifications do you need to become an herbalist?

No singular educational pathway leads to a career as an herbalist. Practicing herbal therapy does not require a certification or license. The industry also does not have universal educational or clinical requirements. Medicinal herb practitioners may have a high school education or a bachelor’s degree in herbology. Many colleges also offer graduate degrees in integrative health that incorporate alternative medicines.

An educational program in herbalism teaches students about pharmacology, botany, nutrition, business, and biochemistry. Programs also require hands-on clinical experience. Getting registration through the AHG remains voluntary, but it can increase your credibility as an herbalist.

Regardless of an herbalist’s educational background, most natural practitioners enjoy working with plants to create natural remedies.

  1. How long does it take to become a certified herbalist?

Because the natural medicine industry remains unregulated, educational programs vary significantly. It could take 12 weeks or two years to become an herbalist. Some online programs may promise an herbalist education in days. The time commitment depends on the educational program. A certificate in herbalism usually takes about 12 months. An associate degree or diploma could take up to two years to complete. Becoming a registered herbalist requires at least 400 hours of clinical experience and 800 hours of classroom experience.

  1. Can you be a self-taught herbalist?

Yes. Herbalists do not need a certain level of education or credential to practice. Through research and hands-on experimentation, a self-taught herbalist can learn how to cultivate plants for healing purposes. However, herbal remedies can be toxic if plants are inaccurately identified or prepared. Therefore, self-taught herbalists should thoroughly study their trade.

Self-taught herbalists can use peer-reviewed medical journals, videos, and mentors to learn medicinal remedies. International and national herbalist medicine conferences also offer the opportunity for self-taught herbalists to learn from others and keep up-to-date with industry practices.