I am a fifty five year old woman with normal aging concerns and feel that it would be beneficial to use herbs instead of pharmaceuticals for my few muscular aches and pains, occasionally hot flash, low energy and inability to sleep through the night, and gradual weight gain. I read what I can about herbs but feel uncertain about what would be best when I got to the store and am overwhelmed by too much information. I already have a shelf full of herbs and supplements but have forgotten why I bought them in the first place.

It is very reasonable for you to consider going to an herbalist because you health concerns fit nicely with the botanical therapies that herbs can offer. You are not alone in your desire to integrate the healing benefits of herbs into your life nor are you the only one who has tried your darndest to do this for yourself only to be left confused and as you say overwhelmed. When we are sick, we think of going to the doctor so when we need or want herbs, consider going to an herbalist. An herbalist is a person knowledgeable of the therapeutic uses of plants. It can be an elder, traditional indigenous healer, naturopath, curandera, midwife, or trained clinical herbalist, such as myself. Since all such teaching and information must be learned or handed down, it is important to know what sort of education, background, and qualifications in botanical medicine the practitioner has to make sure it suites your needs.

The more complicated the case, the greater the expertise required. Many people could name a few herbs to ease certain conditions. A practitioner offers the opportunity to treat the whole person, not just the symptoms, with a comprehensive approach.

The three main types of herbalism are traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Ayurvedic, from India and Nepal, and western. I chose to be trained as a western herbalist because having been raised in this culture I was most comfortable with its methods of assessment and also the plants I use, many of which can be found in our own country. The other two types of herbalism are very effective and ancient. They use diagnostic techniques such as tongue and pulse analysis to determine the needs of the client. The way the herbs are processed for use in the eastern traditions is fascinating and can be complicated as some need to be cured, soaked in honey, etc.

Some indigenous healers may only use three or ten herbs to do all their healing work. They have such an intimate understanding of the plants and their multiple uses that so few are sufficient. Some herbalists never see live plants and order their herbs already prepared for consumption in capsules, extracts, etc. Others gather or wild craft the useful herbs in their bioregion to use along with the standard herbs or commerce, as I do.

Once you decide to visit an herbalist, a consultation will be scheduled. I tell clients to allow an hour and a half for the initial consultation in which we discuss all aspects of health, history, diet, lifestyle and issues pertaining to your concerns. This is probably the most time you will spend at one time with the practitioner because follow up check-ins require less time. Once the interview and assessment part is complete, the herbalist needs time to blend formulas, make teas and choose the appropriate preparations for the client.

"An herbalist cannot diagnose, treat or cure illness." Because herbalists are not doctors, this is the disclaimer that I must make clear to all my clients. So if herbs and herbalists are not government regulated, how does one choose a qualified practitioner? To answer that question for myself, I turned to the American Herbalist Guild which grants "Professional Membership" to those who meet their high standards. "Professional members undergo a rigorous admissions review process to assure they have attained high level of competency, education, and experience." A person can apply for professional membership only after that have been in practice at least five years. Professional membership in the American Herbalist Guild allows use of the designation RH (AHG) which stands for "Registered Herbalist, American Herbalist Guild."
American Herbalist Guild Primary Goals

• Honor diversity in herbal medicine, ranging from traditional indigenous models of herbalism to modern clinical phytotherapy.
• Establish AHG professional membership as a recognizable standard of competency in botanical medicine.
• Encourage the development of high standards of education that promote well-trained professional practitioners who offer high quality herbal care.
• Promote ecological health and increase awareness of issues surrounding plant sustainability.
• Strengthen the network of support and communication between practitioners nationally and internationally.
• Foster high standards of ethics and integrity in the education and the practice of therapeutic herbalism.
• Promote cooperation between practitioners and other health care providers, integrating herbalism into community health care.
• Serve as a liaison to other professional associations and regulatory agencies.
• Promote research in herbal medicine.

About Author / Additional Info:
Millcreek Herbs, LLC, is owned by Merry Lycett Harrison, a trained clinical herbalist and a professional member of the American Herbalists Guild. For more information go to: http://www.millcreekherbs.com/aboutUs.htm