Making Decisions About Herbal Therapies: Herbal Practitioners
Part of A Practical Guide to Herbal Therapies for People Living With HIV
Several different types of practitioners are trained in the use of herbal therapies. The following section outlines the qualifications of each type. Although these qualifications are important, it's equally important to find a practitioner that you trust. We urge you to ask questions about a practitioner's experience treating HIV and to look for practitioners who are knowledgeable about your condition. If you don't know where to find an experienced practitioner in your area, call your local AIDS service organization or one of the organizations listed in this guide.
Practitioners who specialize in herbal treatments are often called herbalists. Herbalists practise according to many different traditions. There is no standardized training in Canada, but a number of provincial organizations set standards for membership.
Several different terms are used to describe the training an herbal practitioner has received. These terms may overlap, but here are some of the most common designations:
Consultant herbalist is a loosely used term describing people who have one or two years of formal training. Practitioners with this level of training often serve as consultants in health food stores.
Chartered herbalists usually have a diploma from an herbalist college and have completed at least two years of formal training.
The term clinical herbalist may be used to identify a graduate of a full-time three- or four-year program at an herbalist college.
Master herbalist is a term that generally reflects a high level of experience, although the exact definition varies from organization to organization. This designation usually describes someone with the formal training of a chartered or clinical herbalist as well as a specified amount of practical experience.
NIMH - These letters stand for National Institute of Medical Herbalists. This British designation is the highest level an herbalist can reach in the English-speaking world. It's estimated that there are only about half a dozen of these highly trained herbalists in Canada.
Sessions with a qualified herbalist cost between $40 and $75.
Naturopathic Doctors are trained to use natural substances to promote the healing power of the human body. These practitioners use herbal therapies extensively. They take several courses on biochemistry and botanical medicine as part of the four-year training necessary to become a naturopathic doctor. Naturopaths must be registered with their provincial association to practise in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan. A system of provincial registration is currently being developed in Nova Scotia and Alberta. An introductory session with a naturopath usually costs between $90 and $250. Follow-up visits generally cost $40 to $100, although many practitioners offer cheaper rates for those with low incomes. The services of a naturopath are covered by some private health plans.
Many non-European medical traditions use herbal medicines extensively. Most prominent in Canada are traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda and the traditional healing methods of Canada's Aboriginal Peoples. Specific herbal therapies used in each of these traditions have been discussed in this guide.
Finally, a variety of folk traditions make use of herbal remedies. Folk traditions rely on word of mouth to pass information from one generation to the next. Folk traditions rarely offer any sort of formal training. Instead, practitioners learn through informal apprenticeships with experienced healers. This is the way that healers are trained in most Aboriginal cultures throughout the world. It is also the method used in the "wise woman" traditions of Europe.
This article was provided by The Body's "Ask the Experts" Forums.