Herbalism and the Law

Tami Dickerson, M.H.

Although I do have formal education in various holistic methods I majored as a Master Herbalist. As of this writing nowhere in the United States of America is herbalism recognized as a licensed, stand-alone practice. This means that even though herbalists, homeopaths, and Ayurvedic medicine practitioners may continue to legally practice, we must operate as unlicensed practitioners if we are not already licensed in some other medical field. By law, unlicensed practitioners are not allowed to practice medicine - which means we are not legally allowed to diagnose, treat or claim to cure health conditions, interpret diagnostic tests, perform physical examinations or replace a patient's current medical care. We cannot call ourselves "doctors," we cannot refer to our clients as "patients," and we cannot "prescribe" any substances. To do any of these would be viewed as practicing medicine without a license, potentially incurring a hefty fine and a prison sentence.

What we can legally do, however, is educate you, the client, on the best ways to support your physician-prescribed treatements and your body's natural ability to heal. We can give you a wellness assessment. We can educate you on which holistic methods are proven to be useful for your health concerns. We can teach you how to prepare herbs and supplements, how to store them, and how to use them. And I must add: A good practitioner will educate you in ways that work with your physician-prescribed therapies and treatments.

Because the various forms of herbalism are legally viewed as unlicensed practices, health insurance companies will not reimburse us for our services if we are not already licensed in another medical discipline. This is why insurance coverage is not available for stand-alone herbal practices.


What about Naturopathic Doctors?

Naturopathic doctors often use herbal preparations as a part of their practice. As of this writing only seventeen states in the union, as well as the District of Columbia and the territories of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands, license Naturopathic Doctors (N.D.'s). If an N.D. chooses to practice outside of these locations they are viewed as unlicensed, regardless of their credentials, and are bound by the same limitations as the herbalists listed above.


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