Professional Course: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between the diploma and a BSc?

The programme award is a Diploma in Herbal Medicine combined with Membership of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists which, taken together, confer the right to practice independently as a professional herbalist. The course involves study up to Level 6 (i.e. BSc level) but we have intentionally chosen a diploma award in order to retain the academic freedom to offer a fully comprehensive training and broad-based clinical apprenticeship encompassing all aspects of western herbal medicine.

How does the professional course compare to an MSc in Herbalism?

The course is at the level of an undergraduate honours degree (encompassing levels 4, 5 and 6) whilst in principle an MSc is at Level 7 (post-graduate), but in practical terms (i.e. in terms of learning the material necessary to practise as a professional medical herbalist) there is little difference.

Is there a difference between achieving a Diploma or a BA in terms of acceptance to the profession and the reality of practising professionally upon completion?

No. The key thing for acceptance is membership of a recognised professional body. We are one of only 3 educations currently available that confers membership of NIMH which ensures professional practice status. Both our diploma and a BA are Level 6 qualifications and thus equivalent professionally.

Approximately how many hours of study is the course a week?

A professional training course demands a serious investment of time.

The recommended study time for the 3-year course is 21-30 hours per week depending on the demands of the course at the particular time.

For the 5-year course, the recommended study time is 14-20 hours per week depending on the demands of the course at the particular time.

Of these hours, 30-50% would typically be computer based (watching videos and completing online tasks, attending webinars, and completing quizzes and short tests). The remainder comprises directed or self-directed background reading, research and project work, tutorials, residential gatherings and herb garden projects. Students are expected to engage in their studies for at least 40 weeks of the year.

There are 4 main modules in each year of study. Each module is divided into three terms to allow for summer, winter and spring breaks.

During each year, students will complete original projects which, in addition to online assessments, contribute to each student’s overall grade.

The clinical training hours amount to an extra half or whole day per week, in addition to the study hours listed above.

I haven’t completed your Foundation Course, am I able to enrol directly on to the Professional Course?

Students do not normally enrol on the Professional Course without having completed a suitable Foundation Course (such as the Heartwood Foundation Course), except in cases where previous educational or professional experience qualifies them to register. We can supply a list of suitable Foundation courses on request.

Where are the clinics based and how are the clinic hours organised?

The clinical training is managed and overseen by Heartwood and involves each student “rotating” through a number of different clinics during their clinical years.

We have a network of training clinics around the country so that students can complete the clinical elements of their course as near to home as possible. Please email us at for an up-to-date list.

Is it possible to complete the Professional Course without the clinical element?

Yes this is possible, but you would not then be able to apply for registration to practice independently.

The course is designed as a training course primarily, whose focus in Years 2 and 3 is increasingly to integrate academic learning with clinical experience, so it is very much designed with professional practice in mind, but not exclusively so,

I live overseas, am I still able to enrol onto the Course?

For overseas students, we work on a case-by-case basis to establish training clinics in all relevant territories for those who cannot travel to the UK. Such clinics already exist in North America and Canada.

I work full time, am I able to enrol on this Course?

Yes. The 5-year course has been designed specifically for students who have other demands on their time, to ensure that they do not feel that they have to make compromises either in the training or in their other commitments.

We will also consider arranging clinical training in blocks to fit around your work commitments.

Can the course be completed in a shorter time period than 3 years?

No. The training Is already very concentrated and it would not be realistic to complete it in a shorter time.

Why is the Heartwood Professional Course more demanding than some other courses?

Our Professional Course involves around 2,000 hours of study and 500 hours of clinical training. It is certainly a big commitment. But it is a training course for practitioners who will face a wide range of situations in which the depth and type of knowledge covered in many of the teaching units are absolutely essential. The study required in some other courses is equivalent to our Foundation Course, which we consider to be in no way suitable as training for a professional medical herbalist, and which we generally ask people to undertake before engaging on the Professional Course.

Without exception, the teaching staff have encountered patients facing difficult medical choices, sometimes life-threatening ones. It is important in those situations to understand in proper depth what is going on, how one can help and where the limits to herbal treatment lie. A professional practitioner should understand properly the patient’s medical history, operations they may have had or may be considering, how medications that they are taking might be safely reduced and which to treat with great care and so on.

It is also important to be able to correspond with other health professionals on a basis of shared understanding and mutual respect. A practitioner should, when reading a doctor’s report, for example, fully understand not only the medical terminology used but also the clinical reasoning. Not to do so makes meaningful exchange and potential collaboration impossible, and that is very much not in the patient’s best interest.

This type of communication with other health professionals is also invaluable in establishing a thriving practice. Many doctors are frustrated by seeing patients with long-term problems that are hard to treat safely with pharmaceutical drugs and would like to be able to do more. It helps greatly if they can refer such patients to a practitioner whose treatment is gentle, safe and effective, and in whose professionalism they can be fully confident.

And lastly, there is the need for self-evaluation, research and communication that enable the profession to grow and to be taken seriously by the wider world. This is what being in a profession really means.

We do not claim to be the only course to offer such thorough training, and we are only too happy for there to be a choice. But we are very firmly committed to offering the standards we would like the public to be able to expect in all herbal practitioners.

Do you offer recognition of prior learning?

Yes, on a case-by-case basis and subject to review of academic transcripts and other supporting evidence.

What if my personal circumstances change and I need to take a year out from my studies?

Yes this Is possible. The stipulation is that you finish the course within a 6 year period.

Since all of the study is online, if a student is having an issue or struggling with a topic how would this be best resolved – i.e. what support is there to overcome these types of situations?

Since all of the study is online, if a student is having an issue or struggling with a topic how would this be best resolved – i.e. what support is there to overcome these types of situations?
In addition to the online studies, you have access to the following opportunities throughout the Course: 

  • the Heartwood Herb Garden and Herbal Medicine Study Library
  • Materia Medica study weekends
  • a personal tutor scheme
  • a vibrant student forum
  • Student Gatherings
  • weekly live webinars with Module tutors


The cost of the course is under a third of the price of a degree course and allows students the flexibility to complete their studies around work, family commitments. As a matter of policy, the Charity aims to promote professional education at minimum cost to help avoid students incurring debt.

Completion of modules

The course is designed so that module tasks in any given academic year can be completed anytime before the start of the subsequent academic year, however the end of year and end of term summative assessments must be completed according to the terms set out in the relevant assessment briefs. A new lesson in each module is posted each week, but learners always have access to all previous lessons so that they can adapt their study routine to their personal timetable.

Do I need to attend all the webinars?

Heartwood webinars are live events, but they are always recorded and archived so that they are available for all learners to view at any time. When you view a recorded webinar, the fact that you have watched it is logged on the Learning Management System, and counts as attendance for assessment purposes.

Moreover, you are still able to post questions to the webinar leader after you have viewed a recording, so missing a live webinar session because of family, work or other prior commitments will neither detract from your learning nor adversely affect your fulfilment of assessment criteria.

Do you have international recognition?

No UK trainings in Herbal Medicine have formal international recognition, but membership of the NIMH is respected world wide.

Career opportunities

The majority of graduates go on to set up in private practice as professional medical herbalists, and on the Professional Course we cover the process of setting up, developing and managing a practice in great detail. We also offer free CPD so that practitioners can keep abreast of current developments. Many practitioners also develop networks with local GPs and other practitioners, and again we offer guidance about this process. After some time in practice, opportunities may arise for teaching in the field of medical herbalism, and for some practitioners this is an important part of their work portfolio. Some herbalists choose to move into product manufacturing and herbal supply, and also into growing and herbal horticulture. Whatever path is chosen, there is a network of support offered.

What next?

Successful completion of the on-line course and clinical training scheme leads to the award of a Diploma in Herbal Medicine, and Membership of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists which enables graduates to practice independently as professional consulting medical herbalists

All graduates have continuing access to free online Continuing Professional Development seminars.