In order to qualify, Medical Herbalists are required to gain an honours degree in herbal medicine, which is coupled to more than 500 hours of supervised clinical practice in a suitable training establishment.
Herbal medicine degrees include modules on anatomy, physiology, pathology, patient care, consultation skills, biochemistry, botany, business skills, clinical examination, cultivation & growing of herbs, materia medica, herbal therapeutics, pharmacology, phytochemistry, counselling skills, nutrition & dietetics, the making of herbal medicines as well as professional and personal development. To fit all of this in, the academic year was extended to 43 weeks each year. In all, the course included a total of more than 2,000 hours of lectures and tutorials, in additions to self directed study, assignments, field trips etc.
Each student must also complete a minimum of 500 hours of supervised clinical practice. In my case, some of this took place in an NHS training hospital, also in GP surgeries. However, most was in the university’s own training clinic.
The final clinical examination is a viva voce in front of a panel of three examiners, one of whom is an experienced GP. The candidate must take a medical history from an unknown patient, then perform appropriate clinical examinations, before making a differential diagnosis, and writing out an herbal prescription. The candidate must then justify his/her diagnosis and prescriptions, before answering questions from the panel on any subject, but including questions on the schedule 3 herbs.
Once the academic requirements have been completed, the candidate must submit to a CRB check and supply personal and academic references before he or she can apply for membership of one of the professional bodies.
New members are provided with mentors, who advise on professional development during the first year of practice, and sit in on some consultations. The new herbalist must then complete a portfolio for submission to the professional body, before gaining admission as a full member.
Training is on going throughout the herbalist’s career. Each year, each herbalist must complete a minimum amount of continuing professional development, to keep his or her skills up to date.