How long should you be exploring herbs on your own or at the suggestion of friends before you should be heading to work with a professional herbalist? This is a question that a lot of people never even ask themselves because they are unaware that professional herbalists even exist.
For the sake of this article, a professional herbalist will be described as an herbalist that has completed a clinical program that is generally 3+ years of full time study, equivalent of a Masters or PHD program. This is not the same as a ‘Master Herbalist’ which tend to not be clinical programs and may be as short as a 10 hour weekend program. Some good ways to know you are working with a professional herbalist is if they are a ‘Registered Herbalist’ through the American Herbalist Guild (RH) or if they have a Master of Science Degree in Herbal Medicine, Herbal Therapeutics, or Clinical Herbalism (MS HM). Other clinical programs do exist and there are also professional herbalists that have not had traditional clinical training. The best way to ensure you are working with a professional is to be suspect and ask them details about their training. It is unfortunate there are a lot of non qualified herbalists out there claiming they have more experience than they do.
At what point should you seek out these herbalists to work with rather than doing it on your own?
- You want to use herbs that may be potentially dangerous, have side effects, dosage restrictions, may interact with medications, etcera.
- You have a diagnosed condition from a doctor.
- You have had the condition for an extended period of time.
- You are on any pharmaceuticals or a doctor wants to prescribe you pharmaceuticals for a condition.
- You are unsure what herbs to use and you do not know what doses to use.
- You are pregnant or lactating.
There are many herbs that can be potentially dangerous to us in the wrong dosages and many herbs can interact with pharmaceuticals. It would be irresponsible as an herbalist to describe these to you here because my exact point is that you need to be careful regardless of what herbs you are using if you are taking pharmaceuticals. Herbs can both increase and decrease the effectiveness of these drugs, either of which could cause problems and be a safety concern. Professional herbalists are able to look at each herb, its mode of action, and compare it to your pharmaceuticals to determine if an interaction is likely. If an interaction does happen that was unexpected they are trained to make the changes that are needed. If at any time you experience an effect you are not expecting, immediately reach out to your herbalist and physician. Always call a hospital in the case of an emergency.
While having a diagnosis itself is not a reason to work with an herbalist, I personally take this as a note that the situation has gotten serious enough that you have reached out for help and it is best to begin to have a team of professionals working together. Generally when you have a diagnosis or the condition has been around for a while you have probably tried a number of things already and it is time for a fresh eye. Most professional herbalists are trained in differential diagnosis, similar to physicians but are not legally able to offer you a diagnosis in the United States. They are however able to work with your diagnosis your physician has provided for you to support both you and your doctor in having the best information on the herbs that will support your current state.
When using a new herb it is often difficult to find what dosage is appropriate. I often find that people drastically underdose or overdose on herbs. Even among professionals there is a wide range of acceptable dosages for each herb. Professionals use their experience to determine what dosages are going to be most effective for you and your current state. They will also be able to recommend herbs that are more designed for you and your challenges rather than a ‘one size fits all’ herb. For example, turmeric is not the best antiinflammatory for every person.
When it comes to pregnancy and lactation the main concern when using herbs is how they will effect baby. While I am not a specialist in this area, there are many herbalists that work with women who are pregnant and lactating and they should be sought out if you are looking to use herbs during this time of your life for any reason.
There is a lot of potentially dangerous information out there on the internet. Having a professional herbalist work with you can help you sift through the material to find what is safe, effective, and will support you, not person X, Y, and Z. Find out how an herbalist at The Dancing Herbalist can support you with a free mini-consultation today.
Jillian Carnrick, founder and manager of The Dancing Herbalist, has a Masters of Science Degree in Herbal Medicine, practices as a nutritionist, and is a Certified Personal Trainer and Exercise Is Medicine Professional through the American College of Sports Medicine. The Dancing Herbalist posts on this blog every Thursday. For more of our posts, join us on Patreon. Jillian also presents regular live classes in The Dancing Herbalist’s home herbalist courses online. For more learning opportunities or work one-on-one with Jillian with her wellness and herbal consultations visit The Dancing Herbalist.com where you can also sign up for a free mini-consultation to learn how an herbalist can best support your current state.