Who is a Medical Herbalist (Dr. MH), and what does he or she do?

A Medical Herbalist (M.H) is a well-trained and licensed healthcare professional who has the ability to arrive at a patient medical diagnosis based on the history of the patient, physical examination, and presenting condition, analyzing them through syndrome differentiation, clinical investigations, and making a treatment plan based on validated herbal medicines.

The Medical Herbalist as a member of the medical team cooperates with other healthcare professionals to manage the patient in order to restore health and evaluate its outcomes. A medical herbalist is simply a qualified and licensed healthcare professional who maintains or restores human health through the practice of herbal medicine.

Scope of Practice

The job summary or main duties of Medical Herbalists is very wide and diverse. The level at which Medical herbalists give care to patients is similar to that of primary contact Medical or Physician Assistants. They are however not being trained in surgery, medical specialties, and surgical procedures such as entering a vein and suturing.

On a typical day, the roles and responsibilities of an M.H include:

  • Providing primary healthcare under supervision to patients/clients and community with natural and herbal medicines and monitoring and evaluating their health outcomes.
  • Promoting and actively participating in the formulation, and extemporaneous preparation based on approved standard formularies.
  • Participating in the provision of inpatient care and services in herbal medicine practice as required.
  • Undertaking promotion and education on the rational use of herbal medicines to the public and traditional medicine practitioners.
  • Monitoring and reporting adverse drug events related to the use of herbal medicines and products.
  • Ensuring proper storage of natural and herbal medicines and maintaining standards in own work area of supervision
  • Preparing and submitting routine and other reports to the unit/district head as required (this includes case studies, personal observations, pharmacovigilance and disease surveillance in the community and of hospital-reported cases, immunization coverage, etc.
  • Providing counseling services and referrals as may be required.
  • Providing advice on natural and regenerative health and nutrition (RHNP and CAM).

While Medical Herbalists work in collaboration with a physician, this does not mean they work under the direct supervision of a physician. They work independently, operating under a set scope of practice determined by state law.
Each country has regulations regarding which types of medication a Medical Herbalist can prescribe. Anything outside of that list requires additional consulting and deliberations with a trained physician.

Senior Medical Herbalists

  • Supervise junior staff, interns, and students on attachment.
  • Coordinate work plans, work schedules, and performance improvement programs.
  • Participate in the development of related policies, guidelines, and protocols.

Work Environment

Medical Herbalists are commonly employed at hospitals, physicians’ offices, outpatient centers, and nursing homes. They spend the majority of their time on their feet making rounds and working with patients. They are also responsible for administrative duties such as updating patient records, taking notes, and communicating with patients.

The typical Medical Herbalist works half day, 8 am to 2 pm, 35 hours every week. Their shifts vary, and they may be required to work afternoon shifts, weekends, or holidays. This role also usually requires one to be on call occasionally.

In Summary,

  1. Work under supervision as a member of the medical team to provide healthcare, monitor, and evaluate patient care.
  2. Collaborate with other disciplines and health care staff to ensure optimum care for clients/patients
  3. At high levels of progression, the responsibility of supervising clinical staff, and contributing to the management of physical and financial resources and policies would increase.

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