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What is an herbalist?
In the United States, an herbalist is a self-defined professional. There is no national or state system of licensure or certification for herbalists. Professional groups may grant certification to members that have reached a certain level of training as an herbalist. Some herbalists concentrate on growing or wild crafting (picking) herbs. Others manufacture herbal products. Still others teach or counsel people about the use of herbs as medicine.
One branch of anthropology, called ethno botany, studies the use of plants in other cultures, particularly their use as medicine. Ethno botanists, who receive their training through the standard university system, have classified a number of medicinal herbs. Their work helps preserve the traditional folk medicine of indigenous people around the world. The American Botanical Council web site lists some current ethno botanical expeditions.
What is herbal medicine?
Many different types of natural medicine use herbs as part of their practice. In the United States, herbal medicine generally refers to a system of medicine that uses European or North American plants. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) uses plants native to China or Asia, while Ayurvedic herbal medicine uses plants native to India. Modern herbalists often use plants from many different regions of the world, and they do not restrict their practice only to those plants classified as an herb (a seed plant whose stem withers away annually). Instead, in medicine, an herb can be a root, a piece of tree bark, a mushroom, or anything else which grows naturally and falls into the plant kingdom.
Phytopharmaceutical literally means “plant medicine” and has become a popular term for some types of herbal medicine, especially those practices that treat the herb or the herbal extract as a drug.