When people ask me what I do, and I say that I’m an herbalist, most people automatically express how cool they think that is, but after a pause, they follow it up with a big questioning look on their faces—“…So, what exactly is an herbalist?” or “What do herbalists do”?

More often than not, I am given the impression that people are curious and want to know more. So to all of you question-mark faces—this post is for you!

An herbalist is…

I love when people ask the question, “What is an herbalist?”, as although my world is steeped in all things herbal, I’m very aware that most people don’t really know what an herbalist is, and I’m always really happy to answer this question!

An herbalist is your local herb expert!

The term herbalist is often used to refer to general herb enthusiasts, or to herbal practitioners like myself who have trained to consult with clients on a clinical basis. An herbalist may work as a grower or wild-harvester of medicinal herbs, may create herbal products, focus on research and writing, or consult with clients in a clinic setting. Regardless of their area of focus, herbalists specialize in working with medicinal herbs.

Local plant medicine

Most herbalists in the “Western world” are rooted in what is often referred to as Western Herbal Medicine. In this discipline, herbalists specialize in using medicinal herbs that grow wild in our local regions, or can be grown easily here. While more and more there is a global focus to all that we do, there is also a growing and dynamic resurgence to living locally. Many herbalists incorporate approaches and herbs from other herbal traditions like Ayurveda or Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), but generally specialize in using local plant medicines.

Whole plant medicine

Herbalists use what we call whole plant medicine. The medicine we make or recommend is made using the whole plant, or part of the whole plant (root, leaf, flower) rather than isolated constituents as found in many over-the-counter herbal products or supplements. We can compare using whole plant medicine to eating a whole foods diet. The benefit of using whole plant medicine is that it’s generally more effective, with fewer incidences of side effects. To learn more about this, check out my blog What Is Whole Plant Medicine?

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Self-empowerment

Herbalists are big on self-empowerment and many are natural leaders who work to empower people to take an active role in their own health and wellness.

Many practicing herbalists are quite grass roots with their approach, often focusing their work on teaching their clients or students ways to take their health into their own hands, and how to create their own strategy for health, wellness and vitality. Many simple herbs can have profound effects in the body.

Complementary practitioners

Herbalists are complementary practitioners, not someone you need to see instead of your MD or other healthcare practitioners. They are herbal experts you can see alongside other professionals.

When you seek advice on using medicinal herbs, ask your local herbalist—your local herb expert!

1:1 Herbal Support

In the clinic, herbalists use whole plant medicine to help support the whole person. They look for the underlying, root causes of your concerns, and how herbal, dietary and lifestyle adaptations can improve your whole health and wellness picture. Herbalists can provide support with acute and chronic conditions, and aim to help you get to the bottom of these concerns, rather than temporarily treating the symptoms.

Community Builders

Many herbalists, through their deep love of their work, play important roles in their local and/or global herbal communities. I hope that I’ve helped answer some questions for you, but if you are still feeling inspired to know more, I bet you now know what you need to do next; get out there and connect with your local herbalist!


 

Do you have an herbal question for me? Send me a note through my contact page. I’m always looking for questions that I can answer in my blog—Herbal Q&A!

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