License to practice?

Group considers regulating herbalists, while others fear tradition will be lost

| March/April 1999

People who want to use medicinal herbs may turn to an herbalist for advice. But what they can’t tell by the term “herbalist” is how qualified the herbalist actually is.

While some herbalists have years of education and experience behind them, ­others may have taken only a two-day course via the Internet. And the discrepancies in qualifications and experience don’t end there.

As diverse as the tradition of herbalism itself are the people who practice it. Anyone, from traditional healers to herb growers to grandmothers, can call themselves herbalists—and they do.

“Herbalists fight bitterly among themselves about who an herbalist is or isn’t because there are so many different kinds,” says Amanda McQuade Crawford, president of the National College of Phyto­therapy in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She also is a founder of the American Herbalists Guild (AHG), a national organization formed in 1989.

Seeking continuity

AHG members want to set themselves apart from other herbalists by specifying a title that would guarantee a certain level of competency gained through both education and experience.

By regulating their profession and defining their scope of practice, members say, they will be able to participate more freely in the American health-care system.

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