AHG Suggested Education Guidelines

AHG Education Guidelines

UPDATED February 5, 2021

The AHG Education Guidelines are suggested areas of study for establishing a solid herbal education. We hope they will help students plan their herbal education, whether through an in-depth herbal training program, self-study, or any combination of educational experiences. Suggestions for study include herbal educational topics that represent core competencies needed to safely and effectively work within the field of herbal medicine. We have also included further clinical study for students who want to become herbal practitioners. 

If you are planning a clinical path for yourself, and would like to apply for membership as an AHG Registered Herbalist, keep in mind that you are required to have approximately 800 hours of herbal education, along with 400 hours of clinical experience. See the Criteria for Applying for Registered Herbalist Membership

There are several herbal schools and training programs offering a comprehensive education in some or all of the topics listed. Attending a school or in-house or distance-learning program are just a few paths to study herbalism. Depending on where you live, your resources, and the amount of time you have to devote to herbal studies, it may be that your herbal education is comprised of a variety of educational experiences. These may include formal study with various teachers and schools, extensive reading and self-study, attending webinars, workshops, conferences, distance learning, clinical mentorship or supervision, or an apprenticeship. All these options can lead to a greater proficiency.

To learn more about both on-site and distance-based herbal studies, start your search by exploring conferences, classes, and workshops in your area as well as herb-focus groups and the Directory of Herbal Education. In addition to a solid education in herbalism, you will also want to apply your knowledge and begin clinical training by working with clients. To support you as you build your clinical practice skills, AHG offers a number of Mentorship Resources and Clinical Templates. 

The Mentor Directory is a list of AHG Registered Herbalists who are available to mentor student practitioners in person, via phone or online, with optional video conferencing. The directory includes descriptions of each mentor’s background, availability, fee structures, and specialty areas. Everyone listed in the directory shares a desire to support other practicing herbalists, so feel free to contact them directly to find out more.  

For further guidance access the Herbal Education FAQs 

Herbal Education Recommended Areas of Study: 

The topics listed here are considered important for any well-rounded, comprehensive herbal education. The number of hours indicated for each subject area are approximate based on our definition of an educational hour, as outlined below. The following topics should be considered when seeking a comprehensive herbal education:

Basic Human Sciences (150 hours): Anatomy, physiology, pathology, and biochemistry. This can be accomplished by self-study and in person or online webinars and courses. You do not need an accredited course in anatomy, physiology, pathology, and biochemistry, but if you have one, that would be accepted.

Nutrition and Medical terminology (80 hours): This can be accomplished through self study and in person or online webinars and courses. You do not necessarily need an accredited course in nutrition, but if you have one, that would be accepted.

Materia Medica (260 hours): Botanical names, plant families, phytoconstituents, plant parts used, therapeutic actions and applications, indications, contraindications, medicinal preparations, recommended dosing, herb-drug interactions, toxicology and side effects, general review of the literature, historic uses, harvesting and sustainability status, and use with specific populations (e.g. infants, children, the elderly, pregnant or lactating persons).

History , Philosophy  and Therapeutic Paradigms and  Applications  (Including Energetics) of Various Systems of Herbal Medicine (120 hours): The philosophy of Western herbalism, American herbalism, and other forms of global herbalism, such as African, Ayurvedic, Chinese, and First Nation; interpreting historical and scientific data and understanding what constitutes “evidence-based medicine.” Basic understanding of energetics for many traditions with a focus on deeper understanding and practice of the energetics in your chosen tradition.

Pharmacy, Pharmacognosy, and Dispensing (80 hours): Basic principles of medicine making, plant chemistry and pharmacology, herbal formulation, modes of administration and delivery, maintaining a dispensary, raw material identification, laws regarding labeling and dispensing, and dispensing strategies.

Botany and Plant Science (60 hours): Basic botany and field identification, recognition of common herbs and related toxic species.

Current Evidence Based Botanical Research (20 hours): Familiarity with the evaluation of research into medicinal plants and their clinical use including research methods, data interpretation, searching databases and sources of current research about botanical medicine.

Practice Management and Ethics (30 hours): Ethics, record keeping, professional networking, scope of practice, legal issues (national, state, and local), confidentiality, small business management, and herbal practice promotion and marketing.

AHG Clinical Skills Guidelines

The following guidelines outline the training and skills needed for those pursuing clinical skill development and the designation Registered Herbalist with the American Herbalists Guild. 

Clinical Practice and Practitioner Skills Development (400 hours):                                                                     
Client intake skills, physical and differential assessment, constitutional analysis, basic laboratory test interpretation, application of herbal energetics, dosing strategies, client record keeping, HIPAA, coaching techniques for general wellness, diet, nutrition and emotional well-being, diversity awareness, professionalism, scope of practice and ethics, use of informed consent and full disclosure.

A professional case review is expected to demonstrate the above skill sets in practice.

A minimum of approximately 400 hours of clinical practice and practitioner skills development is required before applying for Registered Herbalist membership in the Guild. Clinical hours are accrued through the combination of supervised clinical practice in a formal clinic setting, training programs, and/or mentorship (100 hours) in conjunction with independent practice (300 hours). Please see the Registered Herbalist Membership Criteria

Definition of An Education Hour

For all educational paths, an education hour is defined as one hour (60 minutes) of study or training gained through at least one of the following methods:

• Herbal classes, programs or workshops (in person or distance learning)
• Formal mentorship with a clinical herbalist (in person or distance learning)
• Herbal apprenticeship
• Webinars and audio recordings about herbal practice topics
• Self-study including reading or research required as part of an herb class
• Self-directed herbal research

To apply for AHG Registered Herbalist membership, all education hours must be documented to include the following information:

• Name of the instructor
• Dates of instruction
• Title and content of the training, workshop, or apprenticeship
• Focus of the study hours *see ‘Herbal Education Topics’
• Total number of study hours represented
• The title and author of all books &/or online learning materials