Educational Guidelines

Introduction to the Education Guidelines

The most common questions the AHG office receives are “How do I train to be an herbalist?” and “How do I recognize a well-trained and competent herbalist?” In response to these questions, as well in response to the growing popularity of herbal medicine and the need to maintain and promote the vocation of herbalism in the United States, the AHG has established a core curriculum to serve as a common guideline applicable to herbal education and training programs throughout the US.

The aim of the AHG is to honor, preserve, and encourage the many diverse traditions of herbal medicine. The Guild is also concerned with the competency of its professional members. The intent of the core curriculum is to foster excellence in herbal medicine and in the training of herbal practitioners. The Guild does not intend these standards to be used to advance or impose any degree of licensure or regulation of the practice of herbal medicine. The core curriculum is a work-in-progress, therefore subject to revision. It is not intended as a definitive statement but rather a suggestion of minimal competencies that should be achieved by students wishing to become professional practitioners of herbal medicine. Educational institutions and organizations are encouraged to go beyond the minimum content guidelines specified here in the detailed delivery of the programs and courses they offer.

The AHG recognizes that there are many valid models for study, ranging from individual apprenticeship to attendance at formal academic and clinical training programs. The Guild also recognizes that there are many aspects of herbal medicine that contribute to a well-rounded education and practice with a deep understanding of both scientific and traditional wisdom. The core curriculum represents a synthesis of the shared elements of herbal practice by diverse members of the education committee, including council members, professional members, and general members.

The Guild acknowledges that each school will have its own unique identity, with special emphases in coursework, including specific herbal traditions. The AHG encourages educational institutions and organizations to develop their courses and programs within the core curriculum framework, and to justify their approach against its requirements.

The core curriculum necessarily takes into consideration the growing need for modern herbalists to be knowledgeable of scientific gains in the field of herbal medicine, the medical considerations of herbal clients, and the increasing potential for working collaboratively with other health care professionals.

The Guild expects that applicants for professional membership will possess a basic level of competency in the areas described by the core curriculum. Admission as a professional member of the AHG additionally requires that the applicant’s training be deemed acceptable by the admissions review board.

The current status of herbal education in the US means that opportunities for study vary and may for some be limited. The AHG Education Guidelines provide some direction for herbal students and schools. The Guild also recognizes the difficulty for students in finding clinical apprenticeships, internships, or preceptorship situations for the clinical hours requirements. Therefore the Guild will make every effort to assist students in identifying mentors, and has developed a formal mentorship program for this purpose.

Herbal Education Guidelines Core Curriculum 7 Modules

Recommended Hours of Training
Total Hours of Study for Seven Modules 1200

Additional Clinical Hours Requirement 400

Total Hours                       1600

This equates to approximately 40 weeks of full-time work. This education should be accomplished within ten (10) years of applying for professional membership. However, students may petition the Admissions Review Board for exceptions.


If you are planning a course of self-study, it is essential that you thoroughly document and keep records of all your work.

Core Curriculum – 7 Recommended Modules


These hours can be obtained through correspondence, self—study, herbal training institutions, and university courses.

Basic Human Sciences                   Total Hours 200 (16%)

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Pathology
  • Biochemistry
  • Medical Terminology
  • Nutrition

2.Botany and Plant Identification      Total Hours 60 (5%)

  • Plant Identification
  • Ethical Wildcrafting and Sustainability
  •  Harvesting
  •  Field Identification Procedures and Safety

3. Materia Medica/Therapeutic Herbalism     Total Hours 400 (33%)

The student should have core knowledge of 150 plants. Study should include the following for each plant:

  • Dosages and Dosage Forms
  • Historical Uses
  • Botanical Name
  • Major Plant Constituents
  • Parts Used
  • Therapeutic Actions and Applications
  • Indications /Contraindications /Cautions
  • Toxicology/Potential Adverse Effects
  • Review of the Literature
  •  Harvestable Status
  • Plant Families
  • Specific Life Cycles (i.e., pregnancy, elderly)

4. Pharmacy, pharmacognosy and dispensing   Total Hours 80 (7%)

  •  Plant Chemistry and Pharmacology
  •  Herbal Formulation
  • Basic Principles of Medicine Making
  • Modes of Administration/Delivery
  • Maintaining a Dispensary
  • Raw Material Identification
  • Laws Regarding Labeling and Dispensing
  • Dispensing Strategies
  • Herb-Drug Interactions

5. Clinical Skills                     Total Hours 400 (33%)

  •  Counseling Skills
  •  Personal Development and Professionalism
  •  Physical Assessment Skills/Constitutional Analysis
  •  Laboratory Findings Assessment
  •  Dosing Strategies
  •  Interview and Case Taking Skills
  •  Record Keeping for the Clinical Herbalist
  •  History Assessment
  •  Lifestyle/Wellness Counseling
  •  Nutritional and Dietary Counseling
  •  Informed Consent and Disclosure

6. Career Preparation/Practice Development/Ethics    Total Hours 20 (2%)

  •  Understanding AHG Ethics
  •  Maintaining Records
  •  Professional Networking & Referral
  •  Scope of Practice (still being developed)
  •  Confidentiality, Legal and Legislative Issues
  •  Basic Small Business Management
  •  Promoting and Marketing and Herbal Practice

7. History & Philosophy/Introduction to Research Total Hours 40 (4%)

  •  Philosophy of Western Herbalism
  •  History of American Herbalism
  •  World Models of Herbal Medicine

Additional Clinical Hours Requirement: 400

Some Suggestions for Achieving Educational Guidelines for the Guild:

• Keep an updated resume~. Document every class or workshop you take. Include the following information: title of course, number of in-class hours (breaks not counted), topics learned, instructor name, address, phone number, email address.

• Keep a scrapbook that includes certificates of completion of workshops and courses.

• Get letters of recommendation from teachers or herbalists or clinicians who know you well.

• To get teachers to know you, work with them, engage them in conversation at symposiums, contact them for assistance.

• Attend symposiums, weekend workshops and take college courses, but make sure they count towards the hours you need.

• Follow the AHG Code of Ethics.

• Achieve these hours within 7 years time.

• Write up and use a full disclosure/informed consent form with all clients.



Some Ways to Achieve the 1200 Coursework Hours:


• Correspondence course on herbal medicine. Check to see which ones qualify.

• Residential course on herbal medicine. Check to see which ones qualify.

• Short herb workshops, either correspondence or on-site.

• College or community college courses, seminars or workshops.

• Herb symposiums and conferences. (Number of credit hours attained is limited.)

• Tapes from herb symposiums and conferences. (Number of credit hours attained is limited.)



Some Ways to Achieve the 400 Clinical Work Hours:


• Use the ARG Mentorship Program.

• Attend clinical training intensives.

• Volunteer your clinical skills at herb clinics. (Client contact or case discussion counts only.)

• Sit in on cases with an herbal practitioner.

• Keep thorough case records of all client contact.

• Be sure to document everything carefully and make sure the experience is counted towards the 400 hours.




Mentorship Program


The goal of the AHG mentorship program is to assist students in meeting their requirements for clinical training, supervision, and guidance so they can smoothly make the transition from being herbal students to being independent clinical practitioners. This program also assists students in meeting the clinical practice requirements for AHG professional membership.



Mentorship, much like apprenticeship or the journeyman experience, is one of society’s oldest forms of education. In many cultures, herbal training occurs almost exclusively through apprenticeship. Due to the growing need for clinical training for western herbal students, and the relative lack of availability of clinical herbal training programs, the AHG is offering the mentorship as a way for senior herbal students to make the transition to clinical herbalist. This is not a direct referral system, nor is the AHG directly involved in individual mentorship relationships, but the AHG does offer suggested guidelines for both the mentor and the student.


Benefits of the Program

The primary benefit of this program is to the student. The feedback, advice, and encouragement of a professional mentor who is a clinical

practitioner can significantly enhance the student’s skills as an herbalist. The program also allows both the student and the mentor to remain in their own communities, enabling them to maintain jobs and family responsibilities. This system favors the wide distribution of herbalists across the country, rather than enclaves of herbalists in communities that have an herbal training center.


Successful students of the mentorship program who progress to herbal practice ensure a strong and stable membership for the AHG. The mentorship program increases interactive networking among members. And finally, it establishes a consistent and established entrance route for our members who come from a variety of schools and courses of study.


Structure of the Program

The mentorship combines aspects of the adult distance-learning model with on-site requirements in order to best serve students who live in geographic areas underserved by professional herbalists.


Students are expected to provide all clients with an informed consent and full disclosure form explaining their student status. They will also provide a waiver of confidentiality; the waiver should inform clients that all charts will be shown to a mentor with their name and other identifying information omitted. The waiver should also make it clear that the student will keep a list of clients seen, their addresses and phone numbers, and the dates they were seen, all of which will be part of the student’s application for professional membership in the AHG; however, this list will be kept separate from clients’ records, again to respect confidentiality. Finally, clients must be informed that the student’s records (in anonymous form) may be subject to a random audit and that the client may at some point be contacted by the mentor or the AHG to verify that the client did in fact see the student for herbal consultation. The informed consent and full disclosure forms, along with the waiver of confidentiality, must be signed by clients retained for the duration of the mentorship.


Students will obtain a health history and all other pertinent information from the client, recording this information on the health history forms provided in the handbook or on charts of their own. Copies of this information will be provided to the mentor (via e-mail, facsimile, or mail) who will then review each case with the student, including the student’s assessment and recommendations. It is preferable that the student reviews all recommendations with the mentor prior to presenting them to clients; therefore review sessions will need to be ongoing and regular. All follow—up visits with each client will follow this same format.


Frequency of contact between the student and the mentor, as well as duration of the mentorship relationship will depend upon the case load of the student and the student’s level of experience upon beginning the mentorship program. All or part of the 400 hours of clinical training required for AHG professional membership may be accomplished by completing a mentorship.



The Mentorship Handbook provides a comprehensive framework for developing a program with a mentor. It defines criteria for using the mentorship as the foundation for the clinical training required to become an AHG Professional Member, and provides forms for documenting the mentorship.