Researching medicinal uses of plants, natural oils and herbs is an exciting journey for the new herbalist. Depending on what you want to do, there are different degree options that can help you along the way. If you just enjoy learning about herbs, an online course or weekend course could be the right choice. If you plan on being a practicing herbalist or researching medicinal uses of plants, then the degree that you get will be different.
I’m Interested in Researching Medicinal Uses of Plants. What’s the Right Major?
The right program really depends on what you want to do. There is no technical certification for becoming an herbalist in the United States. If you want to diagnose and treat patients, then you have to get a degree and certification in other fields. Often, herbalists will have degrees in naturopathy, acupuncture or traditional Chinese medicine. For licensed health practitioners, this typically means a graduate or professional degree.
If your goal is to research natural oils and how plants work on the human body, a degree in botany, chemistry or biology might be the right fit. You can get a job at research centers with a bachelor’s degree, although many laboratories and research centers require a higher degree level.
Do You Have to Have a Degree to Be an Herbalist?
Yes and no. If you are teaching herbalism courses or workshops, then you do not have to have a specific college degree. You only need a degree and certification to treat patients. Some herbalists get around this rule by providing tutoring or consultation sessions with clients. For example, a client could ask which herbs can help with chronic fatigue syndrome or depression. The tutoring session would cover the different herbs, how to prepare them and how to use them safely. There is a fine line between doing this and treating someone though, so it is probably not worth the risk.
If you are just helping family and friends, then you may not need any college degree or certification. In this case, the biggest goal is to just learn about the field and find a way to start researching medicinal use uses of plants. Our favorite program (who we loved enough to make an affiliate) is the Herbal Academy. They offer introductory and advanced courses as well as fun, shorter courses like the Botany & Wildcrafting Course. Once you finish your course of studies or beforehand, the Herbarium at their site is a great way to learn new information and access the best herbalism features.
Since this field is not regulated yet, it is important to do your research before picking any online or in-person course. Look for programs that have a longer track record and experienced teachers. The price is also important. While some courses offer fair, reasonable fees like the Herbal Academy, we have also seen other courses that charge thousands and thousands of dollars for the same basic information. If you are uncertain about where to begin, buy some books, try out the Herbarium or take a short course to see if this field is the right one for you.