Herbalists are also known as Phytotherapists. Herbalists use remedies made from plants to stimulate a patient's own bodily defences to produce relief of, or to cure ailments and diseases.

Herbalists treat a variety of physical conditions, illnesses and allergies by exploiting the human body's self-healing capacities through the holistic use of plants in conjunction with medical knowledge.

First herbalists diagnose patients by having them explain their symptoms and provide detailed medical and dietary histories dating back to their childhood. Once a diagnosis has been made the herbalist gives the patient a remedy made from certain plants, which are specifically blended to deal with the patient’s particular condition.

Some herbalists use modern diagnostic methods such as blood-pressure tests, biochemical tests or X-rays. Their approach to medicine is essentially holistic, so they advise patients about diet, exercise, breathing, and other lifestyle factors which could have an impact on their health. Some herbalists sell ready-made remedies to pharmacies and health shops.

Responsibilities of the job typically include undertaking patient consultations to diagnose illnesses/conditions and to select appropriate remedies, gaining information from patients about previous physical/medical history and symptoms, making physical assessments, planning and explaining treatment requirements, liaising with and making referrals to specialists or other health care practitioners, providing advice about diet, exercise and lifestyle, keeping accurate confidential patient records and keeping up-to-date with new research and developments in the profession.  They also need to manage stock levels, market and promote the business and to grow and produce herbal remedies.

Herbalists need to have a good understanding of anatomy and physiology, in addition to detailed knowledge of herbs and their preparation. Excellent interpersonal, listening and communication skills are essential when dealing with patients. As herbalists are often self-employed, strong business skills and organisations are important. Herbalists also need to possess a mature, confident, sensitive and resilient temperament.

Personal Requirements

  • interest in the healing properties of plants
  • desire to cure sick people
  • dedicated and responsible
  • empathetic, but firm
  • interest in medicine and diseases
  • integrity

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects
Can be practiced without a formal qualification or a matric
However can be studied as a degree - see requirements below
Recommended: Life Sciences 

What to Study

The University of the Western Cape offers a Bachelors Degree in Phytotherapy. This consists of a B.Sc Complementary Health Science,  which is followed by the Bachelor of Complementary Medicine degree specializing in Phytotherapy.

In order to practice legally it is mandatory to register with the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa (AHPCSA) as a Phytotherapist.




  • partnership with established Phytotherapists
  • self-employment, with own practice

Further Information

SA Association of Herbal Practitioners
P O Box 12167
Die Boord
Tel: (021) 976-5200

The Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa (AHPCSA)
Castelli Suite
Il Villaggio
5 de Havilland Crescent South
Persequor Tecknopark
Tel: (012) 349-2331

Getting Started

  • develop an interest in plants and their medicinal values
  • speak to a herbalist about this type of career

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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