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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. General Information
  1. Choosing a School

What is herbal medicine?

Herbal medicine is the use of plants for their therapeutic effects upon the body. Herbal medicine employs many different types of plants ranging in strength from tonic herbs which can be taken with relative safety, to plants which may have toxicity and must be used only by trained professionals. In the U.S. herbal medicine usually refers to the use of plants that are indigenous to Europe and Northern America. There are however many different disciplines of herbal medicine including Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) which uses plants native to China or Asia; Ayurvedic herbal medicine which uses plants native to India, as well as other disciplines. Herbalism is a holistic approach which looks at the total person rather than just the symptoms of a disease.  Top

What is the history of herbal medicine?

Herbal Medicine is the oldest known form of medicine. Every culture utilized some form of herbal medicine. In fact, medical doctors in the United States were trained in herbal medicine up until the early 1900's. Top

What about herbal certification?

In the United States, there is no national or state system of licensing or certification for herbalists. Many schools, including Herbal Bear, offer a certificate to document the student's completion of an herbal program. These certificates are useful when applying to professional groups such as The American Herbalist Guild. Top

Are there Colleges that offer Studies in Herbal Medicine?

All of the instructors at The Herbal Bear are college graduates with science degrees. Many of our instructors are currently college professors. We are pleased to offer quality adult education. However, the Herbal Bear School is not a full four year college. If you are interested in receiving a degree there are a number of colleges that offer Bachelor and Master Programs.

If you are interested in receiving a degree from a NYS accredited institution please consider the following schools:

Can an herbalist practice medicine?

The practice of medicine is legally restricted to those individuals who have a license to practice from the state in which they are providing service. Generally speaking the practice of medicine is defined as diagnosis and prescription, with a focus on the treatment of disease (please check with your local state to see the exact legal definition). Many professionals who already possess a license to treat patients, such as medical doctors, naturopathic doctors, physician's assistants, and acupuncturist have now incorporated herbal medicine into their practice.

Today licensed practitioners who wish to include herbal medicine in their practice often employ an herbalist. Many herbalists who want to practice medicine do so under the supervision of a licensed professional.

There are no restrictions regarding using herbal medicine for your own use, teaching other about herbal uses, and manufacturing herbal products (teas, tinctures, ointments etc.) Top

Can I bring someone with me to class?

We often get questions regarding whether a spouse, friend, children, can attend a class with the participant. Only registered students may attend class. We are an adult learning center. Participants must be at least 17 years old. Top

Can I bring my toddler or infant with me to class?

Our classes are open to adults only. Top

Can I enroll my child in one of your classes?

Our classes are structured for adult learning. All participants must be at least 17 years old. If you are interested in having your child learn about herbal studies – I would recommend that you contact Steve Brill. Steve is a naturalist who runs numerous children’s programs. His instruction is informative, fun and easily accessible to children. Click here for Steve’s website. Top

How do you pick an Herbal school?

The first question you want to consider is "Why am I taking an herbal class?" Are you taking the class for your own benefit? Are you taking the class for career training? Answering these questions will be the first step in deciding what type of herbal school is best for you.

Next take a look at the instructor(s). What type of background and training do they have? Since herbalism is not a regulated profession, there are no standards for how much instruction a person must have before they begin to teach others. Take a look at the instructors and don't be afraid to ask what training the instructor has had.

What type of learning environment do you want? Do you prefer a formal classroom structure or are you interested in a program which involves field work? Some programs are completely classroom lecture and offer little or no field work or hands-on learning. Other stress field work, and hands-on activities such as plant identification, harvesting, etc.

How large are the classes? Obviously smaller classes offer the student more individualized attention. Class sizes can vary in schools from year to year. Ask the school what the average size of the class is and if there is any class size limit.

What can you financially afford? Most herbal programs offer no financial aid. It makes no sense to stress yourself financially in order to take an herbal course. Make sure you can comfortably afford the program you pick. Top

What is the Herbal Bear School like?

Herbal Bear offers a variety of classes and learning environments. Some classes are formal classroom instruction, others are field orientated classes. The principal instructor for Herbal Bear is Ursula Basch. Ursula has been a practicing herbalist since 1988. Herbal Bear has several instructors, all have years of experience both in their field of study and in teaching. Many of our classes are taught at Herbal Bear, Grand Gorge location in the Northern Catskills. Learning takes place on a 30 acre private property where abundant varieties of wild and cultivated medicinal plants are growing. Herbal Bear is not a full time school. Classes range in length from a two hour workshop to a full 6 month herbal apprenticeship program (one weekend a month for 6 months). Top

What is the Botanical Medicine Program?

The Botanical Medicine Program is our entry level apprenticeship class. Botanical Medicine Program is offered for those who desire an in-depth herbal program. It is a beginning level program which assumes the students has had little or no formal study of herbs. The program is held one weekend a month for six months. It combines didactic study with practical hands-on learning. This program offers a unique opportunity to totally immerse yourself in the world of wild plants and herbs.

Over the course of study you will learn about many herbal topics including:
Herb Identification; Wild Food Gathering; Herbal Harvesting, Drying and Storage; Making Herbal Vinegars, Teas and Tinctures; Herbs for the Digestive, Nervous, Immune and Circulatory Systems; Herbs for Women's Health; Herbal Energetics and Herbal Formulations; Herbal Case Studies; Field Identification of Mushrooms; Mushroom Propagation; Field Orienteering; Exploring Energy Healing Modalities and many other topics.

As a participant you will learn the gentle cycles and rhythms of the plants as they develop and change through the seasons. Together with the plants, we will discover our own rhythms and connection to Mother Earth.

For a full description of our current program please click here. Top

How is the Botanical Medicine Program different from other programs?

The Botanical Medicine Program is different from many other herbal programs in a number of ways. The program was designed by Ursula Basch, a practicing herbalist and an environmental engineer. The approach is towards a more holistic education. The program is taught in the Northern Catskills with an emphasis on field work. The Botanical Medicine Program meets one weekend a month for 6 months. Students learn about the medicinal plants, the wildlife that is around us and other healing modalities that promote health. The program is not limited to one teacher. There a several instructors who teach, each providing a level of expertise in their field. Classes are not oversized. The Apprenticeship program is limited to no more than 15 students to provide individual attention. Students are not required to provide their own meals. All meals are provided during the weekend. The facility is not uncomfortably rustic. There are a number of amenities available to students such as: a swimming pool, hot tub, and individual reiki and reflexology sessions which a student can schedule after class. In general, the program provides a comfortable environment to learn in. Top


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