How to Become an AHG Registered Herbalist
How do you become an herbalist or even a Registered Herbalist? As the CSO and a Professor at ACHS, I get a lot of questions about how to become a Registered Herbalist with the American Herbalists Guild (AHG).
First, you should know that membership in the AHG is not required to be an herbalist in the U.S. You can practice herbalism as an extension of your protected free speech in many states without being an AHG member or a Registered Herbalist (RH) (keep an eye out for my on-demand CE course on legal issues for herbalists coming soon). However, I consider the AHG to be the preeminent organization for herbalists, and recommend that you join as a student and start working towards your clinical hour requirement that you’ll need, along with your academic training, to eventually become a Registered Herbalist.
Some Background on the Registered Herbalist Credential
Becoming a Registered Herbalist is a status that you achieve after several years of study and experience; it is not an entry-level requirement for an herbalist. In fact, you have to practice for several years in order to complete the requirements for the Registered Herbalist (RH) credential.
However, thinking ahead about this end goal can help you achieve the RH credential in the most direct and efficient way–especially since you can use some of your hours of your studies towards your clinical hours—through your case study work for example—as long as you document it thoroughly.
The current American Herbalist Guild (AHG) mentorship and hours are set out here: http://www.americanherbalistsguild.com/sites/default/files/criteria_and_instructions_for_ahg_application.pdf
Note that these requirements are subject to change and the content of this article is based on information accessed February 12, 2017. Joining as a student member and staying up to date will help ensure you’re informed of any changes to the requirements. I know that AHG works hard to involve stakeholders in changes, so by attending things like the AHG Symposium, you can also share your voice in possible changes.
Applicants should have approximately two years of comprehensive academic training in botanical medicine, through formal education, independent study or a combination of both.
In addition, two years of clinical experience obtained through independent practice, formal mentorship, supervised clinical training as part of an academic program, or a combination thereof, totaling approximately 400 hours are advised.
Our herbal curriculum from several programs meets the AHG educational requirements. This includes the AAS with an Herbal Medicine major and the Diploma in Holistic Health Practice (Dip HHP). The Dip HHP is a shorter program and would be a less expensive pathway if AHG is what you are specifically looking for.
Next, you have to have clinical hours to gain clinical experience. There are a number of ways you can meet those requirements (as set out in the AHG page above):
- Independent practice (start up your own herbal practice).
- Formal mentorship. Find a local mentor herbalist who will let you shadow them. They may do this for free, a fee, or you even perhaps could barter with them – helping them with something else like social media marketing. Use someone off the list that AHG provides; note that most of these herbalists charge you for mentoring.
- Complete supervised clinical training as part of an academic program.
- Or a combination thereof, totaling approximately 400 hours with at least 80 unique individuals.
The AHG requirements account for group work in class:
- Activities where you are not the primary practitioner can only count for a maximum of 100 of your 400 hours. Examples of activities that can be used to document the 100 hours can include roundtable discussions of a case, a formula for a class case history, or a teacher instructing a group of students on a specific case.
- A clinical hour is defined as an actual clock hour spent with a client.
- The initial intake/consult and research can be counted as three hours and follow-up visits count as one hour. Round-table discussion of cases, investigation or reading related to cases, case histories discussed in class, time with mentor, and any education that support the cases can be counted as one hour.
Using this formula, if you had two NEW clients (who may or may not pay you) a week, this would be six hours, and each follow-up visit for a returning client would be one hour. So, say you have your two new clients, and two returning clients a week, this would be eight hours a week.
You might then also participate in an hour roundtable discussion of cases for that week and an hour of investigation or reading related to cases. Then you could record these additional hours per week toward your credentials.
As part of your herbal classes at ACHS, particularly more advanced classes, you’ll work on various case histories. According to AHG, “Examples of activities that can be used to document the 100 hours can include roundtable discussions of a case, a formula for a class case history, or a teacher instructing a group of students on a specific case.” We strongly encourage students to keep detailed documentation of these as they work through their programs so that they can use these case studies towards up to 100 hours of the 400 hours required. ACHS students can use the ePortfolio tool in Canvas to save these from each course to make it easier to access.
Remember, AHG Professional Membership eligibility requires completion of a minimum of two years of botanical academics AND a minimum of two years of clinical training and experience (through practice, mentorship, or clinical supervision) totaling at least 400 hours, with at least 80-100 different clients.
For example, in HERB 302, students work on research analysis assignments that prepare them with the critical skills they will need for case study assignments in HERB 303 and other advanced courses. If your research analyzes specific cases, your detailed notes on the case history, analysis, and faculty-supervised discussion may be eligible to count toward your clinical experience requirements. [Remember, ACHS student can save case studies, case-related discussions (faculty or expert supervision required), and research analysis in their Canvas ePortfolio.]
So, in total, the AHG specifies that you see approximately 80-100 individual clients during a two-year period. Note that they acknowledge that, “Each application will be assessed individually for regional or socio-economic considerations, which might affect total clinical numbers.” If you live in a rural, poor, or isolated area, for example, you might have to offer consultations via phone or online or to fewer people. According to AHG,
Clinical work must encompass more than just casual consultations with family and friends, and must include full client history intake, assessment, and follow-up care. Working in a health food store in the herb department, even if you are dispensing herbal information on a regular basis, does not count as clinical work unless it includes full intake, evaluation, and formal follow-up. It is also understood that while consulting on common wellness issues and other simple problems is part of herbal care, it is expected that those applying for professional membership will have more broad and comprehensive experience than this. It is important that you can demonstrate your clinical work through carefully kept client records.
As an ACHS student, we can work with you to get on the path to complete the AHG’s requirements. The Diploma in Holistic Health Practice, the Associate of Applied Science in Complementary Alternative Medicine with a major in Herbal Medicine, and the Master of Science in Herbal Medicine all meet the two-year education requirement.
ACHS can provide one or more of the letters of recommendation, but usually the AHG will count only one from the institution, and you’ll need to form those relationships with at least two other herbalists to get two additional recommendations. I would recommend attending the AHG Symposium to help build those connections. The AHG Symposium is a very rewarding experience and is held in a different state each year.
I also strongly recommend that you find local herbal groups, symposia, etc., and start building your network. When you take an online program, you can be located anywhere and get access to an excellent curriculum, qualified faculty, and funding options, but sometimes that means you have to start a grassroots movement to build those local connections since they are not built into your school experience. Find your tribe.
Given the small number of state-approved and accredited institutions teaching herbal medicine, many students, particularly those in rural areas, find themselves in the same boat. While you can network with your fellow ACHS students and alumni online, at some point you have to get your feet on the ground and get out and meet people in your area. I know this can be scary, but it is part of venturing into a new profession, and just about every professional— accountants, lawyers, doctors—has to start building new professional networks as they head toward the end of their education and start heading into the practicum, residency, clinical training, or whatever specialized in-person, face-to-face practicing is required of that profession. As a newly qualified lawyer, seeing clients was terrifying, and I felt very poorly prepared! I had some amazing clients, some horrible clients, and some that made me cry. We all go through it, and the only way to get through it is to just do it. The only way to finish is to start.
Breathe deep, and remember you are qualified to educate your clients, and your help and advice might change their life and help them stick to lifestyle changes that mean they are around to meet their grandchildren. You are powerful and have a lot to offer.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I am the CSO of American College of Healthcare Sciences, the Institution that publishes this blog. However, all opinions are our own. If this blog contains affiliate links, they will be marked with an asterisk. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine.