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Herbal Information Specialist Certification Now Available to Retailers


Employees in retail settings where dietary supplements are sold often find themselves in an awkward situation. Customers approach them with questions that they have no answers for or that they are unsure about how to answer. Questions can include which herb is appropriate to take for a particular condition, safety of a given herb, or possible interactions with drugs the consumer may be taking. Frequently, retail employees are unaware that there are guidelines for conversations with customers regarding the responsible use of herbs.

To address this situation, the American Botanical Council (ABC) and the National Training Institute (NTI), a division of Virgo Publishing, are launching an online continuing education program for dietary supplement retailers. The course will provide retailers with a background on herbal supplements, specific information on 29 of the most popular herbs in the U.S. market, and will provide guidance on how to converse with customers about herbs. Candidates who successfully complete the course will be certified as an Herbal Information Specialist (HIS) for one year. Each HIS can renew his or her certification yearly by viewing updated materials and taking another post-test. The initial year’s program is based on the recently published The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs, ABC’s new reference book which is accredited for the major healthcare professions.

The course is divided into two parts. The first provides an overview of key issues and concepts in the field of herbal medicine. Topics covered include the following subjects: a brief history of medicinal herbs in North America, recent market and consumer use information, herb safety, standardization, legal and regulatory status of herbs and phytomedicines in the U.S., guidelines for communicating with customers, interpreting product labels, the basis for selection of the herbs in this program, and description of herb chapters in the second part.

The second part will cover information on 29 common herbs. An important focus of this section will be the clinical studies that have been conducted on each herb and the results of those studies. Familiarity with the herbs in this section will help the retailer to guide the customer in making purchasing decisions and to help base their choices on information from published literature and clinical studies.

A post-test after each part assesses the degree to which objectives of each section are met. Achieving these objectives will demonstrate knowledge of the material and result in the candidate receiving the Herbal Information Specialist (HIS) certificate.

The online course will be available at <> and will be administered by NTI, a leading provider of web-based correspondence and face-to-face training and certification solutions designed to accelerate learning in various trades and professions. NTI originally approached ABC about partnering to provide the retailer certification course.

The regular cost to individuals is $99.95 for the course and certification. However, the introductory special is $69.95 (a 30% savings). Discounts are available for companies wanting to train multiple employees. For more information, contact ABC at 800/373-7105, <> or NTI at 800/529-1101, <>.

–Gayle Engels