Jul 19, 2018 9:33:00 AM | Learn the Power of Herbal Medicine for Natural Healing and Wellness (updated May 2024)

Learn herbalism’s legacy and professional pathways for trained herbalists, from herbal product creators to clinical herbalists, educators, and researchers.

What is Herbal Medicine?

Herbal medicine, also known as herbalism or herbal studies, encompasses the use of botanicals for health and wellness. Pharmacognosy is the study, or knowledge, of “medicinal substances of biological origin and especially medicinal substances obtained from plants.” Herbalism may also be called traditional medicine as compared to modern medicine and is the basis of many pharmaceutical drugs we use today. The World Health Organization states, "Around 40% of pharmaceutical products today draw from nature and traditional knowledge, including landmark drugs: aspirin, artemisinin, and childhood cancer treatments. A closer look at these drugs reveals that the scientists behind them built off traditional knowledge to achieve their breakthrough discoveries." 

History of Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine has been actively used worldwide for at least 3,000 years. According to Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects, up to 90% of the population in Africa and over 50% of the population in India still rely on the accumulated knowledge of herbal medicine to meet their primary healthcare needs. In China, traditional medicine accounts for around 40% of healthcare.

Historically, herbalists follow a philosophy of wellness that considers a person's holistic needs–spiritual, emotional, and physical–in addition to their personal levels of stress and other external factors.

Community influences can also impact health. Examples of community influences include environmental issues that result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies, local pollutants, and socioeconomic factors. Understanding the impact of these factors and the way they interact with an individual’s needs informs an herbalist’s approach to client care.


Getting Started with Herbal Medicine

On Your Own

If you’d like to learn more about herbal medicine, you can get started today! ACHS eBooks, blogs, and local resources can provide a great self-directed introduction to natural herbal products and herbal studies.

For the herbal hobbyist, ACHS offers an introduction to herbal medicine for the home herbalist with its self-paced, online micro-credential, Master the Basics of Herbal Preparations. Start building or expand on your foundation and learn to grow, identify, and harvest herbs for therapeutic use.


With An Accredited Program

Those who want to incorporate herbal studies into their holistic health and wellness practice, begin a consulting or writing practice, or formulate their own herbal natural products can learn and develop advanced herbal skills through an accredited program, such as ACHS’s Diploma in Herbal Studies, Graduate Certificate in Herbal Medicine, or Master of Science in Herbal Medicine. These programs guide students through everything they need to know about herbal medicine's history and current use, the body's structure and healthy functioning, and principles of synergistic action between different herbs.

ACHS specializes in online distance learning and has provided accredited programs since 2003.  The knowledge you can gain and the network you develop in a structured, quality program prepare you both in herbal medicine knowledge and professional pathways for the future. You’ll also learn about and connect with important professional organizations like the American Herbalists Guild and what they can do for your career and certification.

Studying herbal medicine is a lifelong journey, and master herbalists often take continuing education courses, expanding their knowledge of phytochemical structures, herbal monographs, analytical methods, and the latest developments in the field. ACHS offers a range of continuing education courses to supplement your degree or certification.


Herbal Medicine Professional Pathways

In the U.S., herbal practitioners often use herbs to supplement their integrative health and wellness practices, such as chiropractic work, midwifery, and acupuncture. Healthcare industry assistants and aromatherapy product manufacturers also benefit from an extensive knowledge of herbs and their uses.

Herbalists may work as herbal educators, herbal consultants, herbal writers, and Certified Aromatherapists when choosing aromatherapy as a specialization within botanical studies. Master herbalists may develop and market their own herbal products–such as fresh or dried herbs, teas, and tinctures–for wholesale use or client practice.

Consider these Herbal Industry Professional Pathways for aspiring herbalists:

  • Wellness Retail: Supplement companies, health food stores, natural beauty products, and spas all seek herbal consultants to aid in developing natural products with relaxing and beneficial effects.
  • Natural Product Development: Companies that focus entirely on natural products need herbalists to create, develop, and research new products and herbal combinations. They also need herbalists who understand the principles of herbal medicine to market those products effectively.
  • Education: Herbalists can share information in various ways, including via publications, social media, and community classes. If you’re passionate about teaching people about herbal medicine, this might be the avenue for you!
  • Public Policy: Federal, state, and local organizations need to consult with people who have expertise in herb growth patterns and benefits to develop laws, public health programs, and agricultural studies.

Launch Your Future in Herbal Medicine with ACHS

Are you ready to use plant power in your holistic health educational journey? ACHS’s Herbal Medicine department has a full list of the available degrees and certifications you can pursue to expand your herbal knowledge.

You can learn more about the career paths available in Herbal Medicine in our recent webinar, “Employment Opportunities in the Herbal Medicine Field.”

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This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine.

American College of Healthcare Sciences

Written By: American College of Healthcare Sciences

ACHS's mission is to lead the advancement of evidence-based, integrative health and wellness education through experiential online learning and sustainable practices. This includes sharing helpful, informative, holistic healthcare articles on the ACHS Health and Wellness Blog.