My first herb teacher (10 years ago) was a native woman. I learned SO much from her! Though she also taught with a host of other folks and was constantly introducing us to other teachers. My best advice is to find someone who does medicinal plant walks in your area to start. Or my (first) teacher also taught at the community college as well as through her own private school. That was how I initially found her!
I just started 2 courses this month through www.swsbm.com
and so glad I did! They will take me until December to complete. It is very VERY good program. I have waited over 10 years to take it actually! My first teacher was a student of the late Michael Moore's too so I feel a strong connection in these courses to the way I initialy learned about medicinal plants and how I am continuing my path. Really it has come full circle for me and opening up a whole next chapter in my learning which is pretty amazing to me!
This May I will also be starting an intense 3 year community herbalist program (and will get a chance to study in Italy as well each spring)! I am sooooooo beyond excited!!!!!!!!!
Sure you don't need
a degree but you WILL want training from something or someone other than books. Field work and clinical time is VERY important if you plan to become a practicing herbalist. I think it really comes down to what you plan to do with your training. Teach? Write? Practice?
I disagree fully that herbal degrees are not worth anything. Now for one you don't even need a degree to become a practicing herbalist. This fact alone makes an herbal degree to ME even more valuable. It says alot about a person willing to do it IMHO! (and not always that they just might have the money to blow on it) I also don't mean that negatively for someone who doesn't have the $$ to study at a fancy school. Fancy schools aren't necessary but not everyone has access to the same studies as there are really not a TON of herb schools. But I do think you will only get out what you get in. One can only learn so much from books too.. Maybe the herbal degrees are not worthwhile in academia circles but really that is not why herbalists pursue degrees/classes/certificates/certifications IMHO. If you are a body worker these course do count as CEC's though!
Rosemary Gladstar is retired from what I understand just an FYI as she is in my area (I know her school is running still but she is not the one teaching it though I's sure she wrote the curriculum).
There are many different schools and people to apprentice under so look carefully!
I am also a shiatsu practitioner so I would like to eventually study more about Chinese herbs (I studied TCM for 2 years) so I am also taking Michael Tierra's "East West" course next year as well as another course through www.naimh.com
(and a few others believe it or not)in between so my plate is full up! and I absolutely love it! My goal is to learn from as many different herbalists as possible and NEVER stop studying.
herbmentor.com! The podcasts alone are worth the $10 per month! I also like the Herbwifery board too though it isn't really super active.. www.herbwifery.org