The processes of choosing an herb expert should take into consideration their qualifications, experience and education. Many types of alternative healthcare providers utilize herbs in their practice and it is important to find a practitioner who will work in partnership with you.
An herbalist is simply an individual who has extensive knowledge and specialized training on the medicinal qualities and applications of plants. Often, an herb expert is also a certified professional in an alternative tradition such as:
- Medical Herbalist
- Traditional Herbalist
- Naturopathic Physicians
In addition, some medical doctors employ the use of herbs utilizing botanical guides as the source of their information. This is done in conjunction with traditional treatments and some herbal remedies are handed down from generation to generation within families.
A qualified herbalist will work to help prevent and treat the cause of disease, relieve symptoms and maximize your potential for health.
What to Look For
Qualities to look for in an herb expert include:
- Diploma from an accredited school in his//her specialty.
- Certification from the American Herbalists Guild (AHG).
- Training in clinical setting or apprenticeship.
- Number of years in practice.
- Experience with your disease/disorder or symptoms.
- Knowledge of traditional medicine.
- Access to literature regarding possible herb/drug interactions.
- Knowledge of physiology and disease/disorder.
- Do they grow or prepare organic herbs?
- Are herbs FTC or FDA regulated?
- Where will you get herbal preparations?
Do not be afraid to interview potential herbalists about their experience.
When you arrive at your first appointment, look around the office:
- Is the space clean, comfortable and inviting?
- Does it maintain privacy?
- Do you see diplomas or certifications on the wall?
- Do they have a wealth of literature including books, journals and reference material?
You may also see herbs in oil, capsule, tincture or tea form or be presented with brochures or pamphlets – literature to provide you with additional information.
As one of your healthcare providers, herbalists should be a partner in your health. They should not judge, if you want to incorporate traditional treatments. In addition, an herb expert should never promise cures, withhold medical information or degrade you for what you think is right for your body.
Your first consultation should begin a process of getting to know you and your lifestyle, beliefs and goals. Together, you should construct a holistic and integrated health plan, including an herbal regime that addresses your health condition, symptoms and goals.
Be wary of self-taught individuals, especially those who claim themselves herbalists from merely reading a book or two and experimenting with remedies on themself.
Considerations regarding self-taught herbal experts:
- Individuals who feel disenfranchised from traditional medicine may withhold medical options, not allowing clients to choose whether the medical, allopathic or combination of treatments is right for them.
- Many lack an adequate understanding of anatomy and physiology. This lack of training can result in poor and missed diagnoses as well as substandard treatment.
- Many lack access to professional relationships such as mentors.
- No clinical experience.
- Access to resources such as professional journals, peer-reviewed literature, current research data and diagnostic tools may be limited. A lack of up-to-date information, especially regarding interactions and precautions such as herb/herb, herb/drug and herb/disease contradictions can result in minor side effects, changes in herb/drug efficacy or life threatening combinations.
- Most do not have malpractice or liability insurance.
Although not applicable to all self-taught herbalists, some of who are model professionals that possess required knowledge and know the limits of his/her practice, careful consideration should be taken if choosing a self-taught herbalist.
You may not have access to an herb expert, and using books and herbal websites like Herbal Remedies Info are teaching yourself. If that’s the case, here are a few herbal use categories that may prove helpful:
- Herbs for Infusion – red clover, nettle, comfrey leaf and oat straw, as well as bergamont and mint.
- Edible & Nourishing Herbs – comfrey leaves, burdock roots, chickweed herb, red clover blossoms, elder blossoms and berries, nettle, oat straw, plantain, seaweeds and mushrooms.
- Herbs for Tonifying – chasteberry, echinacea, ginseng, dandelion, hawthorn berries, motherwort, horsetail and yellow dock.
- Stimulating/Sedating Herbs – mint, catnip, lemon balm, lavender, valerian root, and skullcap, as well as kava kava root, ginger root, cinnamon bark, licorice root, coffee beans and uva ursi.
When searching for an herb expert, don’t be afraid to ask questions. The right healthcare partner will have credentials, experience, access to literature as well as knowledge of the body and disease, traditional treatments and herb/herb, herb/drug contraindications. Your herbalist will take the time to develop an herbal regime that will address you and your condition(s) in a holistic manner.