IRCH Professional Practioner Herbalist Course

The IRCH Register and distance learning herbalist course was originally established in 1960 and has been successfully producing qualified practitioners of herbal medicine ever since.

The IRCH Professional Practioner Herbalist course has the flexibility to maintain a traditional, holistic course that is relevant to modern practitioners of Western Herbal Medicine. The learning outcomes of the IRCH diploma are benchmarked at LEVEL 6 (equivalent to a degree with or without honours) against the OFQUAL level descriptors. This demonstrates the depth of study that is required for the successful completion of the IRCH Diploma in Western Herbal Medicine (DBTh) This has traditionally been known as the Diploma in Botano-Therapy and the IRCH continues to use the letters DBTh. Following satisfactory completion of the whole course (marked coursework, seminar attendance, clinical training) students will graduate enabling them to access insurance to practice as qualified herbalists. The IRCH is working towards recognised accreditation.

The standard of excellence of our course in Western Herbal Medicine has met the entry criteria for continuation onto a master’s degree course. While maintaining the rigorous standards of which we are justly proud, the policy of the IRCH has always been to teach traditional knowledge in a manner accessible to as wide a range of students as possible.

The IRCH is a blended learning course, which is carefully structured to enable students to fit study in and around the everyday pressures of living. It is, however, a course that demands commitment and a desire to reach the high standards set by the school staff. Students should aim to complete the course within six years but this can be extended to accommodate student’s individual needs.

The course contains fourteen units of study arranged over five modules. The lessons are supplemented by seminars at the Annual Conference and Summer School. The Annual Conference is an opportunity to meet students from all modules, practising herbalists and to take part in lively lectures and discussions. There is also a monthly on-line tutorial that forms an important part of the student’s study.

The IRCH course is much more than theory. Clinical skills seminars give students the opportunity to learn about herbal medicine first-hand from our experienced practitioners including case taking, examination techniques and diagnostic methods. A recognised amount of clinical observation and practise must be undertaken at our training clinics. This is on a supervised one to one basis, giving the student confidence to develop their own clinical practice.

Throughout the course, students are continually assessed, and examinations are taken with the on-going support of tutors. All the IRCH tutors are fully qualified as medical herbalists as well as experts in their particular field. External tutors are used for specialised areas of training.

The IRCH also offers the option to undertake the course in a lay capacity. This removes the requirement for examinations, seminar & conference attendance and also clinical training.

The IRCH Course outline

The framework below shows the outline of the course with the expected hours of study and university equivalent credits.

Module Unit Level GL Hrs IL Hrs Total Hrs Credits Assessment Method
Anatomy & Physiology   
AP4 4 32 418 450 45 Assignments/Exam
APT4 4 10 40 50 5 Attendance Report
Naturopathic Practice
NP4 4 32 368 400 40 Assignments/Exam
NPT4 4 10 40 50 5 Attendance Report
Materia Medica   
MMF4 4 50(M1 & M2;
pre-requisite to MM5)
100 150 15 Portfolio/Assignments/ Presentation/Attendance Report
MM5 5 32 518 550 55 Assignments/Exam
MMT5 5 10 90 100 10 Attendance Report
Herbal Medicine 
CO5 5 100(M1, M2,M3; pre-requisite to HM6) 50 150 15 Portfolio
HM6 6 64 636 700 70 Assignments/Practical/



HMT6 6 20 180 200 20 Assignments/Adv Cases
LC6 6 20 180 200 20 Assignments
DI6 6 10 390 400 40 Viva/ Presentation
CP6 6 100 100 200 20 Portfolio/Attendance Reports
Practice Management
PM5 5 8 142 150 15 Assignments
Totals 3600 360

Key: GL Hrs Guided Learning Hours (face to face, attended), IL Hrs Independent Learning Hours (lessons etc)

Unit codes:  AP = Anatomy & Physiology, NP = Naturopathic Practice, AP/NP/MM/HM +T = (online)Module Tutorials, MM = Materia Medica, PM = Practice Management, CO = Clinical Observation, MMF = Materia Medica Foundation, HM = Herbal Medicine, LC = Live Cases, DI = Dissertation, CP = Clinical Practice.  The number following each unit refers to the credit level which is equivalent to university qualifications (Ofqual).


The IRCH Diploma in Western Herbal Medicine (DBTh) contains fourteen units of study arranged withing five modules. Students are expected to return lessons monthly (M1-3) and six-weekly (M4,5)

Module One   Anatomy & Physiology 12 Lessons
Module Two   Naturopathic Practice 10 Lessons
Module Three Materia Medica 13 Lessons, Materia Medica Foundation (starting upon enrolment)
Module Four   Herbal Medicine 16 Lessons, Case studies, Dissertation, Clinical observation (starting upon enrolment) & practice at approved clinics.
Module five   Practice Management 9 Lessons

Module 1 – Anatomy and Physiology

The knowledge of the human body and its functions is essential to understanding of any branch of medicine, together with pathology and diagnosis. This Module, therefore, covers the basic sciences and carefully graduated lessons, together with the use of selective textbooks. Assignments and Projects follow each lesson for tutorial assessment. A proficiency certificate is awarded after satisfactory completion of this Module and the examination. Attendance of summer schools/seminars and the AGM is required in addition to the monthly on-line tutorials.

Module 2 – Naturopathic Practice

This module introduces students to the basic principles of Naturopathy and explains how these differ from conventional medicine. After gaining an understanding of the chemistry of food, its application to improving health is coupled together with other lifestyle changes that can help restore good health. Each of the lessons is followed by assignments and projects that are assessed by a tutor. A proficiency certificate is awarded after satisfactory completion of this module and the examination. Attendance of summer schools/seminars and the AGM is required in addition to the monthly on-line tutorials.

Module 3 – Materia Medica

When starting module 1, students also begin the Materia Medica Foundation unit MMF4. This gives a good grounding in Botany and Herbs including their use and creation of medicines. Specific seminars are included as well as a site visit to a herbal manufacturing establishment.

The module begins with an explanation of the history and philosophy of Herbal Medicine and a definitive guide to medical terms and offers a comprehensive Materia Medica before giving a description of the methods by which herbal remedies are prepared. Each lesson is carefully planned and specially arranged so that the knowledge gained by the student may be put into practical use.

The Module offers a grounding in various classes of medicinal herbs.  The chemistry and a broad application of each herb is discussed. At the end of each lesson there are several assignments and projects which are submitted for tutor assessment. A Proficiency Certificate is awarded upon successful completion of the Module and the examination. Attendance of summer schools/seminars and the AGM is required in addition to the monthly on-line tutorials.

Module 4 – Herbal Medicine

This module deals with the clinical aspects of herbal medicine and includes case taking, diagnosis and prescription creation.

When starting module 1 and through modules 2 & 3, the student will be expected to attend a range of clinics in an observational role as preparation for the Clinical Training in this module.

This is very much a case-based module utilising actual cases offering students many different scenarios. Knowledge previously assimilated is synthesised and broadened, enabling its application in various clinical cases. The Module works with various body systems, discussing some detailed pathological conditions that may be encountered in the practice of a trained Herbalist.

By the end of the Module, the student will be expected to submit 10 live case histories and produce a work in the form of a Dissertation. Clinical Training at recognised clinics is also required. Attendance of summer schools/seminars and the AGM is required in addition to the monthly on-line tutorials.

Module 5 – Practice Management

This module is designed to guide the soon to be graduated student in the setting up of their own practice. The purpose of this Module is two-fold. It not only aims to prepare the student of the ethical and practical aspects of running a Clinic but to deal with legal and financial matters, premises, planning permission and publicity.


The success of the IRCH depends on its future and that future is within students. The Education Board aims to educate practitioners to their highest ability and is committed to their success

If you are interested in taking the course please contact the office for a prospectus or to arrange a discussion with the IRCH Director of Studies.

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The IRCH also offers a range of Professional Development Courses for practicing therapists.

CPD Course information