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There are various steps that can be taken to become a phytotherapist. In general, a person would take classes specializing in phytotherapy, the use of plants and herbs in medicine. Some countries offer specific university degrees in phytotherapy, while others do not. Likewise, some require licensing and registration before a person is legally able to practice, while other countries do not.
There are a few universities that provide their students with the opportunity to receive a bachelor’s degree that specializes in phytotherapy. This is a good starting place for someone who wants to become a phytotherapist. In some South African universities, for example, students can complete a five-year degree in phytotherapy. They take general science classes, such as chemistry and biology, but they also take classes focused on the study of medicinal plants, such as herbal pharmacology and natural healing principles. They will typically do this in a university setting, complete with research projects and clinical work.
In the alternative, some countries, such as Australia, focus more on distance learning or correspondence programs that specialize in phytotherapy for students both locally and abroad. This is a good way to become a phytotherapist if a hands-on education is not available. Students mainly learn through the use of DVDs, CD, and textbooks, but some programs include the ability to ask direct questions from an Internet instructor. Typically, these programs can take anywhere from a single year to several years to complete, depending on whether a student is full-time or part-time.
In the United States, there are herbal or naturopathic programs similar to those taken by someone wanting to become a phytotherapist, but they are typically more like lengthy workshops. Some workshops may take hundreds of hours to complete, while others are completed in a few days. Many of these workshops cover other forms of alternative medicine as well, such as acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Depending on the place of residence, some people who obtain certificates or degrees in natural medicine may need to register with their state governments, as is the case in Washington and California, for instance.
While phytotherapy is not recognized in the United States, some countries require their phytotherapists to be licensed. For example, someone wanting to become a phytotherapist in South Africa will need to register with the Allied Health Professional Council before they can actually practice. The registration process requires a professional to fill out an application and prove that she completed her bachelor's degree, including three years’ worth of courses in general medical science and two years’ worth of courses in classes focusing specifically on phytotherapy.
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