“Herbalist”. What does that even mean?
This is an excellent question-we’re so glad you asked! You may find yourself here interested in dabbling a little with medicinal plants, growing herbs, or creating a few simple folk remedies. Or perhaps you’re goal is to dive deep into the study and practice of being an Herbalist, and you aspire to open a general herbal practice and work with clients, assisting people with physical and or mental health conditions.
And so that brings us to the question: what does it really mean to be or identify as an herbalist?
“Herbalists are people that work in the tradition of using Plant Medicine.”
Plant Medicine is a rather wide definition: one where we work with plants and their relationship to shifting the chemistry and functions of the body, mind, emotions, and spirit. And within that wide definition of folks that work with plant medicine, there are many kinds of herbalists that wear many different cloaks. Within the realm of herbalism we may have people that work or practice in many ways that overlap (and then again, sometimes not at all).
This can be confusing to a herbal student, aspiring herbalist, or someone looking for a knowledgeable person in the profession to guide them with a health challenge, or growing herbs, or home medicine making. Who do we ask? Will one person be skilled in all of those things?
The answer may be yes or no, depending on the Herbalist and their level of education. There is no one-size-fits-all-herbalists, so to speak.
Let’s explore some career options for those that define themselves as Herbalists.
As I said, a herbalist is a person who chooses to work with medicinal plants & plant medicine. There are many different ways this can look from person to person. Some herbalists:
- work in clinical practice one-on-one creating wellness protocols for clients (general practice or specialize in certain conditions)
- craft and create herbal remedies that they sell to clients or dispense for other herbalists or practitioners
- craft and create herbal remedies but do not work with clients
- some craft & sell personal care products or perfumes, but do not work with clients
- consult and create herbal formulations for herb and supplement companies
- research and educate for larger herb or supplement companies
- grow and sell herbs (wholesale or retail)
- some include aromatherapy in their branch of plant medicine
- study TCM, and become licensed as Acupuncturists
…and on and on. There’s many different paths to “being” a herbalist, and that may be another post for another time!
It’s important to note that Herbalists are not currently licensed practitioners in Canada, which can be one reason we see such a range in skill sets amongst folks who are formally educated as herbalists, or who have acquired their knowledge through a less formal apprenticeship model. We rely on registration with a Herbalist Governing body to prove our level of education, a set number of supervised clinical hours, as well as completing a certain amount of continuing education annually to prove our merit to claim the title of “Herbalist”. See the Canadian Council for Herbalists Association to find the Regional Association near you, as well as a list of their registered herbalists.
“My journey as an herbalist has shifted my roles every few years. That is an exciting part of my profession-I have a lot of skills that can be applied in many ways, and so do you.”
-Dionne Jennings, Community Herbalist
As an Herbalist here’s some of the hats I currently wear:
- Herbal Marketing Manager with Wild Rose College
- Herbal educator (teaching workshops or webinars on plant medicine, herb gardening, self study, and marketing)
- A writer & obsessive plant photographer
- A researcher on traditional uses of plants within my own Ukrainian cultural tradition
- Herb gardener
- Plant medicine maker
- Occasional Clinical consultant-creating herbal protocols for folks
Herbalism Is An Eclectic Profession
Some herbalists work more in the “folk” tradition of kitchen herbalism, some within a certain cultural tradition or context, some more from a physio-medical model, and some a combination of them. Some follow the path of studying Ayurveda or Traditional Chines Medicine & use herbs from those traditions only, & some adapt western herbs to that system of medicine.
Some are poets, publishers, survivalists, story-tellers, & fibre or fabric artists.
Some herbalists are what people love to call “hippies” but most are just regular folks like me who love plants, who love working in the lineage of a hundreds of year old tradition of healing, believe in freedom to choose our own mode of health care, and have low tolerance for things that just don’t work health wise–or leave us in servitude of our own poor health.
I find herbalists to be unique, deeply interesting, intelligent, often quirky lovers of plants & the planet who dedicate their lives to the study of plants and their traditional uses so that they can support their communities at large in whatever way they feel is a fit for them.
Connect With Herbalists Near You
When I first met fellow herb lovers, I truly felt that I had found my tribe, so to speak. I love the diversity within the community and yet the strong commonality of love for the plants and our fellow people. I would love for you to meet one too, so join us here at the Wild Rose College Community to stay up to date with Wild Rose Events & Workshops, as well as other herb world happenings near and far.
Or join us in the Wild Rose Herbal Village, and connect with a vibrant and supportive herbal community, with monthly herbal educational offerings for everyone.
Dionne Jennings, Community Herbalist
Marketing & Outreach Coordinator, Wild Rose College