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Q: State licensing for herbalists in the USA ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: State licensing for herbalists in the USA
Category: Health > Medicine
Asked by: sadgrove-ga
List Price: $100.00
Posted: 19 Apr 2004 06:14 PDT
Expires: 19 May 2004 06:14 PDT
Question ID: 332515
If I want to offer my services as a herbalist in the USA, do I need to
be licensed? Does licensing prevent people from offering their
services as a herbalist? We need a state-by-state listing, or
directions to such a list, if appropriate. We're a UK-based training
organisation, and we offer a home-study course in herbal medicine (at
Subject: Re: State licensing for herbalists in the USA
Answered By: clouseau-ga on 19 Apr 2004 10:15 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello sadgrove,

Thank you for your question.

Since we will be broaching on the legal and medical opinions of others
in answering this question, I feel it is important to point you to the
disclaimer at the bottom of this page:

"Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers
are general information, and are not intended to substitute for
informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal,
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endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product,
manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or
any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully
the Google Answers Terms of Service..."

I am not a lawyer or physician. But as a researcher I shall attempt to
uncover valuable information to help answer your question.

Natural Healers speaks briefly to state requirements for herbalists:

"...How do states regulate the practice of herbal medicine?

In general, the "practice of medicine" is regulated according to the
state?s licensing laws. The "scope" of the license dictates how you
can use herbal medicine. For example, a licensed midwife may be
allowed to use herbs in her practice, but only as they relate to a
woman?s health, pregnancy or childbirth.

Herbalists generally fall under the state regulations governing a
small business owner rather than under the laws concerned with the
practice of medicine. If an herbalist is growing herbs for other
people?s use, or manufacturing a product from raw herbs, regulations
pertaining to the safe production of foods or food supplements may
apply. Some states do restrict the sale of certain herbs considered
potentially harmful, such as ephedra (ma huang). Professional
organizations such as the American Herbal Products Association help
members conform with these types of regulation..."

They also mention:

"...Can an herbalist practice medicine?

Legally, in the United States, the practice of medicine is restricted
to those professionals who have a license. Practice is generally
defined as both diagnosis and prescription, with a focus on the
treatment of disease (the laws vary from state to state). There are no
restrictions, however, on teaching people how to take better care of
themselves. Most herbalists define themselves as teachers, healers or
counselors rather than as medical practitioners.

Several natural medicine professions are licensed and do use herbal
medicine as part of their practice. So herbalists who want to practice
medicine generally choose to do so under the license of another
profession such as acupuncturist or naturopathic doctor..."

There is a wealth of good information on their pages and the following
also seems to be pertinent to your question:

"...How can a student become certified or recognized as a professional herbalist?

The American Herbalists Guild (AHG) offers a professional membership.
The list of professional members is available through their web site.
The AHG grants a professional membership following a peer-review by
the admissions committee. Applicants must submit a personal and
professional biography outlining their experience and training, have
at least three to four years experience in herbal medicine, provide
three letters of reference from other professional herbalists,
complete an AHG questionnaire, and pay an application fee. Licensed
practitioners are granted membership upon submitting proof of their
training and license as well as a short personal and professional
biography and curriculum vitae.

Many highly respected herbalists in this country have no professional
certification or licensing. Their reputations come through the quality
of their work -- whether as teachers, manufacturers of products, or
writers. This is a profession where the ability to carve your own
niche can be the most important factor in professional success..."

Rocky Mountain Herbal Institute also addresses licensing for herbalist practice:

"...What are the legal issues I need to consider?

In the U.S., herbalists generally do not need licenses to practice as
long as they follow certain guidelines established by the courts. Read
the following articles for details:

Strategies for defending your rights as an herbalist.

Many alternative health practitioners are vaguely aware of the
desirability of avoiding claiming to treat or cure disease, in order
to avoid being accused of practicing of medicine without a license.
Here is the low-down, complete with U.S. and state Supreme Court case
citations, that explicitly outlines the boundaries that herbalists and
other alternative practitioners must not cross. Know your rights and
obligations so that you can practice lawfully and ethically. Note: a
state health-care practice license (massage, chiropractic,
acupuncture, etc) does not necessarily protect you from the need to
know this information.

Checklist for protecting your rights as an herbalist.

Conclusions and guidelines are derived from the preceding articles to
help herbalists defend their right to assist and educate the

You will note they make a similar disclaimer and suggest one is
professionally appraised of their legal rights. But there is valuable
information in both of these articles.

For example:

"...The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects freedom of
speech, including that of an educational nature. You do not need a
license to exercise such rights, as long as you are not practicing
medicine, which includes diagnosing medical illnesses or prescribing
treatment for such conditions. Most courts consider use of the words
"diagnose", "treatment", or "prescribe" in your office brochures or in
talking to clients to be prima facie evidence (evidence sufficient to
establish a fact unless rebutted) of practicing medicine. Even if you
use other words, but your intent can be shown to be the practice of
medicine (diagnosing and prescribing treatment or remedies), you are
still in jeopardy. ..

...Do not use the professional title "Dr." in conjunction with claims
to treat illness. Even if you have a valid Ph.D. in a health-related
field, it is recommended that you not use the term "Dr." to prevent
your clients from thinking, mistakenly, that you might be a medical
doctor. In addition, if a potential client calls you on the phone and
refers to you as "Dr." So-and-So, you must correct them immediately by
informing them that you are not a medical doctor, or you could become
guilty of passive fraud..."

Do read the entire article. Very informative! And read the Strategies
as well, which opens as follows:

"The right to practice herbology, legal history and basis 

American herbalists' realpolitik, essay #3. How to avoid the sin of
"practicing medicine" without a license is systematically explored
from a historical and legal perspective, stripping it of its mystery.
Herbalists helping people regain health are not practicing medicine if
they follow specific guidelines.

By Roger Wicke, Ph.D. (who is not a "doctor", but merely a harmless herbalist) ..."

You might wish to visit the American Herbalist's Guild, mentioned above:

This link, in particular, may be of interest to you:

"California Passes A Health Freedom Bill!

California has passed landmark health freedom legislation - Senate
Bill 577. In fact, the bill passed the legislature without a single
"no" vote.

On September 23, 2002, Senate Bill 577 was signed into law by Governor
Davis. As he said when he signed the bill, SB 577 "will ease access to
alternative and complementary health care options for all
Californians." He also stated that "the bill provides adequate
safeguards for California consumers and enables them to make an
informed choice regarding their personal health care."

SB 577, authored by Senate Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco),
provides that a person is not in violation of certain provisions of
the Medical Practice Act (that prohibit the practice of medicine to
anyone who is not a licensed physician) as long as that person does
not engage in certain specified medical acts. It also requires
specified disclosures to each client about practitioner training and
method of treatment. Client receipt of disclosure materials must be
acknowledged in writing.

The California Health Freedom Coalition (CHFC), sponsor of the Bill,
expects that SB 577 will change and improve the culture of health care
in California by enhancing access to alternative forms of health care.
Since the law also requires unlicensed alternative and complementary
health care practitioners to provide basic information to consumers
about themselves, their training, and their work, it also serves to
enhance consumer safety.

SB577 will become effective January 1, 2003.

In this California joins Wisconsin and Rhode island as the third state
in the country to pass such sweeping legislation liberalizing and
decriminalizing alternative and complementary medicine..."

There is also an excellent page of links to be found here:

You will find useful information at the New York, New Jersey Medical
Library Association as well:

"...The Training and Certification of Herbalists

by Patricia A. Tomasulo, MLS, AHIP
Coordinator of Information Resources
New York University School of Medicine

...Unlike in Europe, and specifically in Great Britain, there is no
standard training and certification program for herbalists in the US.
As would be expected, this makes finding a competent herbalist
somewhat problematic for the client. Currently, to attain status as an
American Herbalists Guild professional member, the herbalist must
successfully undergo an admissions review process by a group of peers
to assure that a relatively high level of competency, education, and
experience has been attained. American Herbalists Guild members have
specific continuing education requirements and follow a code of
ethics. To be certified, an herbalist must prove a minimum of four
years of clinical experience, and submit three letters of reference
from professional herbalists. Professional American Herbalists Guild
members can be identified by the term "Herbalist AHG" after their name
(some herbalists simply use "AHG" after their name). The AHG is
planning to develop a National Certification Examination in Botanical
Medicine in conjunction with the Botanical Medicine Academy, and
change the professional member category to "registered herbalist" and
"certified clinical herbalist."... also speaks to herbalist requirements in the US:

"...Herbalists - No specific degree or license is required to advise
about herbs. Currently the American Herbalists Guild is the only
association of medical herbalists in the United States whose
professional members are determined by an admissions review process to
assure that a relatively high level of competency, education, and
experience has been attained. American Herbalists Guild members have
specific continuing education requirements and follow a code of
ethics. Professional American Herbalists Guild members can be
identified by the term ?Herbalist AHG? after their name (some
herbalists simply use ?AHG? after their name). To find an herbalist in
your area, contact the American Herbalists Guild:

American Herbalists Guild 
P.O. Box 70, Rosevelt, UT 84066 
Phone: (435) 722-8434 - Fax: (435) 722-8452 

A thread at PandaMedicine also confirms that herbalists are not (yet
as of 2002) licensed in the US:

"...The government doesn't license herbalists in the US. I'm under the
impression that so long as an herb is an OTC product anyone can
recommend it.

The rub is that you cannot diagnose a medical condition or treat it
unless you are a licensed physician (naturopathic, osteopathic or
allopathic), PA, nurse practitioner, or chiropractor. Therefore, you
can recommend an herbal product for general health maintenance but,
cannot prescribe for a specific health condition.

Hope this clears things up. 


This is a reoccurring thread as you have seen above. Following the
guidelines to avoid "practicing medicine" should allow one to be a
practicing herbalist in the US.

Additional links of interest to your question:

Herbalist Sunrise Public Hearing
October 16, 2000 

"...American Herbalist Guild is working on National Standards.  Want
to work together as partners with other providers.

Some housekeeping changes made in bill but not available to DOH yet. 

Certification (voluntary) brings people who certify under UDA, and
guarantee to public that what they do say is true.

Q:  How does it work in other states.

A:  There are no other states that have anything like this. 
Everything, including national standards is in formative stages..."


"...A visit to an herbalist can cost about $60 dollars or so, however
the herbalist CANNOT diagnose (due to federal law) what is wrong with
anyone, nor can they prescribe medication. What's the point then?
Well, by interviewing someone about their lifestyle and eating habits,
an herbalist may be able to see bad eating habits or certain
situations that are adversely affecting someone's health and then can
recommend that that person change his/her eating habits, or do
relaxation techniques to reduce stress, or try certain herbs to
supplement his/her diet. The herbalist's goal is to help a person
become and stay healthy, body, mind and soul..."

Institute of Chinese Herbology

"...Concerning State Licensing for Herbalists

At this time, no state has authorized separate licensing for
practicing herbalists. In many states, only a licensed Acupuncturist
or Naturopath can legally prescribe herbs using a western diagnosis.
However, that does not prevent you from seeing patients and suggesting
formulas for them in accordance with Chinese Medical theory.

So it is not using herbs that is at issue but diagnosing a western
named disease and suggesting a treatment, without having a medical
license issued from the state you practice in..."

(Note: This page was updated in March of 2004)

Naturopathy in the State of California 
by Robert J. Thiel, Ph.D., N.D. 
President, Center for Natural Health Research

"...The State of California passed legislation that specifically
mentioned naturopathy in 1909--this allowed the board of medical
examiners to endorse a properly validated certificate issued by the
"Association of Naturopaths of California". To receive the
certificate, the Association of Naturopaths of California examined
each applicant and upon passing a naturopathic examination was issued
a diploma conferring the degree of Naturopathic Doctor. From 1909 to
1913, 103 certificates were endorsed under this legislation. In 1957,
about eight were still in practice. Since 1914, all future naturopaths
have practiced in California without any endorsed certificate. They,
like all Californians, are allowed to provide advice concerning food,
food ingredients, and the use of dietary supplements under California
B&P Code 2068 as well as it appears, herbs and waters as per the
herbalist charter. Other naturopathic modalities have continued to be
practiced in California, which were not specifically mentioned in the
preceding documents in accordance with the 9th amendment to the U.S.

These practices are also consistent with the only known California
legal precedent. In 1923, the Court of Second Appellate District,
Division One, in ruling on Millsap vs. Alderson et al. found that
although the terms naturopathy and naturopath were not defined in
legislation, the 1909 law allowing for the practice of naturopaths
certified by the Association of Naturopaths of California did
officially recognize the definition provided by that association. That
definition included no invasive therapies or other allopathic
modalities the Association's founder wrote, "The materia medica of the
Naturopath consists of Light, Air, Water, Clay, Heat, besides
Exercise, Rest, non stimulating diet, Electricity, Magnetism, Massage,
Physical and Mental Culture, etc." (Schultz, Carl Dr. The Association
of Naturopaths of California. The Naturopath, August 1904, p.203). The
court further stated "From these definitions of a physician and
surgeon and that of a naturopath it must be evident that the calling
of profession of one differs materially from the calling or profession
of the other; that the system of healing employed by the naturopath
has little in common with that employed by the physician and surgeon,
and that, while the physician and surgeon is authorized to treat the
sick and afflicted by any and all methods and means, the naturopath is
limited in his treatment to his particular system"...

"..."California Acupuncturists are the only licensed health care
professionals who are required to be trained and tested for competency
in the prescription of herbal medicine?.  ?In recent years, herbs have
become very popular. They?re available in health food stores,
supermarkets, and on the Internet. While herbs are promoted as safe,
gentle, inexpensive, ?natural? alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs,
many health care professionals have concerns about safety,
effectiveness, and potential misuse of herbal products, especially
when self-prescribed. There are also questions of purity, strength,
and standardization of herbs, and considerations of side effects when
taken in combination with other drugs. Chinese herbal medicine has
been practiced safely and effectively for centuries and has the
greatest potential for beneficial results when prescribed by a trained
professional who recognizes the benefits and risks..."

"...OUR "FREEDOM OF Access/Freedom of Practice" complementary and
alternative medicine (CAM) bill (house file #537) suffered a setback,
but not a death, on March 18 before the House Civil Law Committee. It
was tabled for nine months (which means it will be "studied" and
brought up again next year). I felt that the bill was not understood
and was prematurely torpedoed. It is clear that we need to continue to
educate people. This is not a licensure bill and it is not being
pushed to protect any given profession, but to allow widespread
freedom of access and practice for all kinds of CAM, from herbs to
collostrum milk to homeopathy to massage. This bill is designed to
protect the rights of the public to receive any kind of safe
alternative, or to originate and practice any kind of CAM

National Institute of Health
Environmental Health Perspectives

Environmental Health Perspectives  
Volume 104, Number 9 
September 1996 
Herbal Medicine at a Crossroads

"...In the United States, regulation of herbal medicine-type products
changed in 1994 with the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and
Education Act (DSHEA). This law reclassified herbal products, along
with vitamins and minerals, as dietary supplements--a category
somewhere between food and over-the-counter drugs. Under the DSHEA
law, a manufacturer may make structure-function claims for a product
on its label, provided these claims are supported by scientific
evidence. This places the burden of proof on the FDA to show that a
product poses danger before it can restrict sales.

In January 1996, following a schedule set forth in the new law, the
FDA proposed new labeling rules for dietary supplements, including
herbal medicinal products. The standards would follow the same basic
format as for processed foods regarding nutritional information, but
would permit product labels to list "nonessential dietary ingredients,
such as herbs." The rules are expected to be finalized and in effect
by early 1997..."

And from Chinese American Health

Traditional Chinese Medicine in Chinese-American Communities

Fall 1996
Conrad Wang, Cornell University

"...Although traditional Chinese medicine is enjoying growing
popularity in the United States, there are a number of legal and
professional issues that need to be resolved. The main one being the
need to license and regulate those who practice traditional Chinese
medicine. Currently, only acupuncture is licensed and regulated by the

...The advent of regulation -- from a national board examination to
state licensing -- often means greater legitimacy for a given
profession. This is what is sorely needed in the area of herbal
medicine, which is gaining popularity in the U.S Even though herbal
medicine plays a greater role in traditional Chinese medicine than
acupuncture and is utilized more often by patients, there is no
licensing or regulation of herbalists in the United States. In most
states, herbal medicine is not recognized as a legitimate medical
procedure. Currently, some states allow herbal treatments to be
administered by a certified acupuncturist. The U.S. Food and Drugs
Administration does not regulate most herbal medicines as long as they
do not claim to cure illnesses..."

Search Strategy:

herbalist +license OR requirements
herbalist +state OR federal +license OR requirement OR law
herbalist +state OR federal +regulation

I trust my research has provided you with a useful answer to your
question. If a link above should fail to work or anything require
further explanation or research, please do post a Request for
Clarification prior to rating the answer and closing the question and
I will be pleased to assist further.


sadgrove-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Thanks for the very thorough answer. It was just what we were looking for.

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