Family Herbalist & Clinical Herbalist – Year 1 – 336 hours

This program is geared for intermediate students who are interested in moving beyond self-care in order to serve their friends and families with their knowledge. Participation in the Herbal Roots apprenticeship or a similar foundational program is a prerequisite for joining this program. Building on the foundation of the Herbal Roots apprenticeship, the Family Herbalist delves more deeply into the sciences and arts of herbal medicine to better understand world energetic systems, botany, plant chemistry and human physiology. Students also spend time outdoors, visiting diverse Vermont ecosystems, working in the woods and gardens, and preparing herbal products to be used in VCIH’s clinic. By the end of the year, students will have a solid foundation in traditional herbalism, both theoretical and practical, while being prepared to confidently address common conditions of friends and family responsibly and safely.

Students completing this program receive a certificate of completion as a Family Herbalist and can choose to apply to continue with the second and third years of the Clinical Herbalist program if they desire.

Core faculty: Betzy Bancroft, Larken Bunce; adjunct faculty: Kristen Henningsen, Heather Irvine, Guido Masé, Julie Mitchell, Ilana Sobo; Guest teachers: Amy Goodman

Advanced Herbal Actions and Basic Phytochemistry
20 Hours
Progressing beyond basic actions such as expectorant and vulnerary, we will cover more complex actions that describe more detailed physiologic effects of plants. Many of these include cell-level actions that have become evident as our understanding of phytochemistry has evolved and we will also focus on the plant constituent classes that are involved. Learn about sympathomimetics, how immunomodulants that affect innate immunity differ from those that modulate helper T cell function, and many other subtleties of herbal activity. Confidently identify plants that fit each action. Discover the chemistry that is involved, and how it works.
Energetic Systems
38 Hours
An overview of traditional energetic approaches to healing, pathology and constitutional types from around the world. There will be a specific focus on gaining a deep understanding of the elements (earth, water, air and fire), their inherent qualities (hot, cold, moist and dry), the doctrine of Vitalism and other concepts central to traditional energetic systems.
Exploring the Medicinal Landscape/Field Trip
24 Hours
Offers a chance to spend extended time interacting with plants in their own environments–including woodland, field, wetland, and bog–throughout the growing season. Each class will consist of a field trip to a local area rich in plant diversity where students can practice botany skills and become familiar with plants in the context of their ecological communities.
Food as Medicine
20 Hours
An exploration of whole-food nutrition as our first medicine. Students will learn to see foods in terms of their energetic qualities, constituents/phytonutrients, and the role of specific foods in our materia medica. This class will also discuss the major components of a balanced and healing diet.
Herbal Skills Practicum
62 Hours
A chance for students practice and hone herbal identification, harvesting, and processing skills, as well as to explore various ways of relating to and gathering knowledge about plants. Students will build on previous experience through direct connection with Vermont botanicals in the forest and field; learn more advanced techniques of herbal preparation such as hydrosols, herbal spirits, spagyric extracts, mushroom double-extracts, homeopathic preps, and multi-phase tea formulas; and focus on detailed record-keeping for extraction in line with current good manufacturing practices. Students will also be introduced to participatory, heuristic and intuitive research methods, developing deeply embodied and personal knowledge of the plants. Conducted during the warmer months, this practicum will leave the student confident in every step involved in the production of high-quality dried and extracted medicinal herbs, and provide an opportunity to make products to supply our community clinics.
Herbal Therapeutics I
45 Hours
An overview of practical strategies for addressing pathologies in the human system using herbal preparations, nutritional approaches, and lifestyle suggestions. The class will help students develop critical thinking skills, review generally accepted standards of herbal practice for specific conditions, and explain how to tailor herbal formulas to individual constitutions, assess dosage and formulation requirements. Focus will be on preventing and providing relief for common, often self-limiting conditions throughout multiple organ systems (while we study those organ systems in Holistic Physiology), and on comprehensive first aid skills. We will examine pathology with an eye to warning signs that might signal the need for outside help, to help the student identify a clear scope of practice within which to work confidently.
Holistic Physiology
40 Hours
Specific analysis of the body systems, down to the tissue, cellular, and sub-cellular levels and including histology, coupled with an ongoing attention to integrating body systems into broader patterns of function (e.g. mechanisms for homeostasis; fluid and electrolyte regulation; exercise and the stress response; endocrine regulation). There will be a focus on nutrient and herbal metabolic pathways as the relevant systems are described. Students will engage with these topics alongside Herbal Therapeutics I, so that pathology is learned in the context of physiology and the two are explored side-by-side.
Materia Medica
44 Hours
In-depth review of forty core botanical medicines, including: botany, harvesting, identification, preparation, dosage, indications and contraindications, phytopharmacology, energetics, historic and modern use, sustainable use, and relevant research. Students will research and prepare personal monographs.
Natural Science for Herbalists
28 Hours
A foundational course in the basic sciences necessary to understand cell biology, concepts such as diffusion and osmosis, and the nature of molecules and ions. We begin with fundamental concepts such as entropy and reaction dynamics, progress through basic chemistry exploring the mechanics of solubility and reactions, outline basic organic chemical classes including macronutrients and secondary plant metabolites, and end by overviewing cell biology. We’ll collaborate on practical experiments throughout the class to ground our theoretical knowledge, and continuously revisit the interconnection of macrocosm and microcosm that is so evident and beautiful in this field of study.
Practical Botany for the Herbalist
15 Hours
An introductory primer on the basics of field botany and plant physiology. Students will learn the key system of plant ID and to apply the knowledge of plant families to herbal practice.

Year 1 Reading List (pdf) 

“Three dedicated teachers, who are wells of wisdom and dedication, are the sources of a terrific program. You can take your training as deeply as you are willing to go, both for family/community herbalism and clinical herbalism. I am grateful to them for this wonderful experience!”
– Barb Alpert, Clinical Herbalist student