Professional Course

This online course offers an in-depth education in Herbal Medicine accredited by the National Institute of Medical Herbalists and consisting of approximately 3,600 hours of taught and directed study, divided into 12 modules. It is rooted in the understanding that an authentic herbal medicine course must transcend the biomedical model, and support the growing body of knowledge of the healing power of plants.

The course is designed for students who are able to devote between 21 and 30 hours per week (21 hours being a minimum level and 30 hours reflecting the amount of study required during intensive phases of the training). Clinical training, in years 2 - 4, is an additional time commitment, over and above the regular study hours, so there is flexibility built in to allow completion of clinical training hours after the completion of the academic modules of the course. Students who complete the clinical training hours during their fourth academic year will be able to complete the entire course in a little under 4 years. Students who complete their clinical training later will normally expect to finish in around 4.5 years.

Course description

This 4-year online course offers an in-depth education in Herbal Medicine accredited by the National Institute of Medical Herbalists and consisting of approximately 3,600 hours of taught and directed study over 4 years, divided into 12 modules.

Year 1 is a pre-clinical year, focusing on providing foundational knowledge in anatomy and physiology, traditions and philosophy of medicinal plant use, plant chemistry, herbal pharmacy, ecology and biophilia, as well as how to find and evaluate knowledge sources relevant to herbal medicine.

With this behind you, you can progress to the first year of your clinical training (year 2), where you will learn about diseases and disease processes as well as how to take cases and think clinically using the Western medical model as a framework. You will also study the therapeutic relationship, differential diagnosis and red flags as well as continuing your studies in medicinal plant knowledge. During this year, you will start to attend herbal medicine clinics.

Year 3 of your studies will deepen your clinical experience with patients as well as further expanding your knowledge of herbal medicines and their therapeutic applications. Importantly, you will also develop skills in physical examination of patients and patient-centred nutrition. You will integrate your learning from across all modules using case-based learning.

Your final year of studies will be focused on preparing you for your future as a clinical practitioner. To this end, its focus is on the therapeutic application of herbal medicines as well as continuing with clinical training and case-based learning, while also providing you with the business and practice management skills to develop successful practices.

Please note that this programme may be subject to change.

To obtain a certificate recognised by the National Institute of Medical Herbalists, students are required to complete a 500-hour Heartwood Clinical Training Scheme during Years 2-4* of their studies on the Professional Course, in addition to their online studies.


Study Methods and Course Schedule

The delivery of this course takes place through a VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) called Moodle.

A range of learning and teaching activities take place via this online delivery platform including -

  • Substantial weekly lessons embedded into the delivery platform, featuring filmed tuition by expert practitioners from around the world, underpinned by text, graphics, and additional learning resources
  • Signpost sessions comprising film and text guidance on the learning journey, including progression through the course and assessment tasks and methods
  • Regular one-to-one tutorial guidance on all matters relating to the course (including student welfare)
  • Exclusive masterclasses comprising bespoke filmed interviews supporting the learning aims of the course
  • Online conferencing, real-time events, group tasks and discussions
  • Online training clinics, for up to half of the clinical training hours, with case analysis and discussion

All video materials are accompanied by slide presentations, detailed notes and other break-out materials, as well as carefully targeted external links to photos, public domain audio, and relevant video snippets.

The course modules are divided into 3 terms per year to allow for summer, Christmas and spring breaks.

Year & Module Course Title Course Content
Year 1 PC101 The Herbal Tradition 1 Herbal medicine philosophy and materia medica
Year 1 PC102 Plant science Plant chemistry
Year 1 PC103 Anatomy and Physiology Anatomy, biochemistry, physiology
Year 1 PC104 Practitioner development 1 Research methods
Year 2 PC202 Clinical Methods 1 Case taking; differential diagnosis; medical tests; counselling
Year 2 PC203 Pathology and pathophysiology Disease processes, signs and symptoms
Year 2 PC204 Practitioner development 2 Ecology and its consequences for health and herbal practice
Years 2-3 PC201 The Herbal Tradition 2 Materia medica and herbal pharmacy
Year 3 PC301 Integration 1 Case-based learning, with a focus on herbal medicine
Year 3 PC302 Biophilia Therapeutic application of our relationship with nature
Year 3 PC303 Nutrition in Clinical Practice Principles of patient-centred dietary guidance
Year 3 PC304 Clinical Methods 2 Clinical examination techniques; safeguarding and ethics
Year 4 PC401 Practitioner development 3 Business skills; practice management and development
Year 4 PC402 Integration 2 Case-based learning, with a focus on herbal medicine
Year 4 PC403 The Herbal Tradition 3 Plants in practice; toxicology and safety
Year 4 PC404 Clinical Methods 3 Clinical examination techniques and final examination preparation

Professional Course – Practical Information

Aspect Detail
Start date: September each year
Duration: 4 years
Entry Criteria: Successful completion of the Heartwood Foundation Course (or equivalent), plus 4 GCSEs at grades A-C / grade 4 or above (including English, Maths and a Science); or BTEC Level 2/First Diploma (in a relevant subject with merit or distinction); or NVQ Level 2; or equivalent Level 2 qualification.
Those without GCSE English at grade C / grade 4 or above need to offer proof of proficiency in English, for example:
  • Cambridge Advanced Certificate (CAE) / Cambridge C1 Advanced - 185 overall with a minimum of 176 in each skill
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) / Cambridge C2 Proficiency - 185 overall with a minimum of 176 in each skill
  • IELTS (Academic) - 7.0 overall with a minimum of 6.5 in each skill
  • Pearson Test of English (Academic) - 69 overall with a minimum of 62 in each communicative skill
  • TOEFL iBT Institution code: 0394 - 100 overall with a minimum of 25 in writing and 23 in each of the other skills
  • Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English (ISE) - Level III (ISEIII) with merit in each skill
Applications from those over 21 with an existing qualification and/or experience in another therapeutic discipline will be considered for course entry on a case-by-case basis.
Enrolment: To enrol, please visit:
Total study hours: 3,600 hours plus 500 clinical training hours
Assessment methods:
  • Regular formative quizzes and tasks in each Module component
  • Summative quizzes test understanding of Module components.
  • Module component projects and assignments (formative and summative)
  • Reflective logs
  • Final Clinical Exam (long case, short cases, dispensary assessment and viva voce)
Completion criteria:
  • Formative Quizzes: 80% average across all quizzes (10 attempts allowed, highest score logged)
  • On-line activities logged by ‘check box’: 80% of check boxes achieved in each module
  • Summative quizzes: Pass grade obtained
  • Summative written assessments: Pass grade obtained
  • Webinars – participation logged in all webinars for each module
  • Reflective logs: Completed
  • Final Clinical Exam: pass in all elements
Prices: The fee for the course starting in September 2022 will be £3060 per year. You will be required to have paid the first term’s fees (£1,020) by Monday 8th August 2022. You may then pay for the year in full (£3,060), or as monthly instalments of £255. Your fees should always remain a term in advance. If you withdraw at any time you will forfeit these fees.
Deposit: There is a non-returnable enrolment fee of £100 for all applicants (payable on confirmation of acceptance onto the course).
Awards: Diploma in Herbal Medicine (DipHM), conferring eligibility to apply for membership of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH). More information about NIMH – Britain’s leading (and longest established) professional body representing herbal practitioners, can be found here:
Opportunities for further study: All graduates of the Heartwood Professional Course have 2 years free, unlimited access to all Heartwood CPD courses and presentations, and thereafter will be able to buy all CPD presentations at a substantial discount.



What is the difference between the diploma and a BSc?

Those who successfully complete the Professional Course are awarded a Diploma in Herbal Medicine, which confers eligibility to apply for membership of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists, the largest and oldest professional body of herbal practitioners in the UK. 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. 

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

The Professional Course is at the level of an undergraduate honours degree (encompassing levels 4, 5 and 6) and is designed to educate students in the clinical practice of Western herbal medicine. An MSc in Herbal Medicine is a post-graduate qualification (level 7) and is not usually seen as sufficient, on its own, to meet the requirements to practice that are placed on individuals by professional bodies of practitioners, such as the National Institute of Medical Herbalists.

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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 factor is recognition of the qualification by a professional body of practitioners. We are one of only three educational institutions that are currently training students that are recognized as conferring eligibility to apply to become members of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists.  

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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 is 21-30 hours per week depending on the demands of the course at the particular time and relevant prior learning.

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 3 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.

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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.

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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.

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

The professional course is a training course for herbal practitioners, and the clinical element is an integral part of that training.

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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.

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

Yes. The 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, and in particular, there is time to complete some of your clinical training after the main academic modules are complete.

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Can the course be completed in a shorter time period than 4 years?

The training Is already very concentrated and it would not be realistic to complete it in a shorter time than 4 years (strictly speaking, 3 years and 10 months if you complete your final clinical examination in July of Year 4).

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

Our Professional Course involves around 3,600 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.

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Do you offer recognition of prior learning?

We have agreements with a limited number of herbal medicine training institutions that allows their students to be given recognition of prior learning. However, we strongly feel that all others should undertake the whole of the training as it is integrated in a way that resists separation. 

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Will the course curriculum change during my studies?

Heartwood is constantly involved in a process of review and improvement to benefit our students and to remain faithful to the spirit of the accreditation process with the National Institute of Medical Herbalists. As part of the process of improvement, we may make some changes to module content or the order in which modules are taught, but the curriculum outline given here will not change dramatically. We notify students of any changes as they occur, usually via announcements on the online learning management system used to host all Heartwood courses.

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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 the 4 Year Course pathway is completed within 6 years. Students are able to switch between pathways at appropriate points if their circumstances change. 

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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: 

  • Herbal Medicine Study Library at Emerson College
  • a personal tutor scheme
  • a vibrant student forum
  • weekly live webinars with Module tutors

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The cost of the course substantially less than that 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.

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Completion of modules

A new lesson in each module component is posted each week, but learners always have access to all previous lessons for the entire year of study in which they are engaged so that they can adapt their study routine to their personal timetable. However, the end of term and end of year summative assessments must be completed according to terms set out in the relevant assessment briefs.

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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.

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Do you have international recognition?

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

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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. Many practitioners 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.

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Successful completion of the on-line course and clinical training scheme leads to the award of a Diploma in Herbal Medicine which confers eligibility to apply for membership of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists, thus enabling graduates to practice as professional consulting medical herbalists.

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Visit our online clinic

Heartwood Professional Course in Herbal Medicine

Online Student Clinic

Originally conceived to provide quality clinical training for our final year students during the Covid-19 restrictions, Heartwood Education are now able to offer appointments in our online student clinic to all.

Consultations are taken by final year students, but each session and all treatment is overseen throughout by an experienced qualified herbalist.

Consultations take place via a secure video call (rather like Zoom or Skype), and access to the consultation is restricted to Heartwood students, Heartwood herbalists and you. You will only see the supervising herbalist and the student practitioner involved in taking your case, and it is very helpful if you also use your webcam so that they can see you too.

To book, or find out more, visit

Accessing your online clinic sessions

On the day of your appointment, you will be emailed a secure private link to the online session 10-15 minutes before your appointment time to enable you to access the online Clinic room. We find that Chrome or Firefox web browsers work best - Safari and Internet Explorer don’t seem to work very well, and sometimes not at all.

The consultation part of your appointment takes up to an hour and a half, and you will be asked to return to the clinic session again - approximately two hours after the end of your appointment - for the clinical student and the supervising herbalist to explain your treatment plan, and to organise how you will receive your herbal medicines.

If you live outside of the UK, the supervising herbalist will explain how you can obtain the required herbal medicines locally.


The initial consultation fee is £30 and follow up appointments are £15. Any medicines prescribed are dispensed by the professional herbalist overseeing your consultation. The cost of medicines is usually between £5 and £25 per week, with an average of about £12 per week (excluding postage and packing). A course of treatment usually lasts between 6 and 12 weeks. The practitioner will always seek to reduce the cost of medicines in cases of financial hardship. Medicines will be posted to you directly, and payments can be made online.