Alternative Health Careers

Alternative health practitioners use herbal remedies to treat patients.

The field of alternative health covers a wide array of treatments and preventive health modalities such as herbal remedies, vitamins and dietary supplements. Alternative health practitioners use treatments such as acupuncture, massage and mind-body practices such as yoga and hypnotherapy. Depending on their area of specialty, some alternative health practitioners must fulfill state licensing requirements. In the United States, numerous schools and colleges prepare candidates for careers in alternative health professions such as homeopathy, acupuncture, herbal medicine and Ayurveda.


Homeopaths believe in the innate healing power of the body. They use natural remedies and herbs that are based on an individual’s constitution to treat health problems such as anxiety, sleeping disorders, fatigue and physical complaints. Individuals who wish to enter the field must complete three to four years of training after which students receive a homeopathic doctor designation. Students also have the option of taking short-term diploma or certificate courses. The Council on Homeopathic Education accredits homeopathic schools in the United States and advises students to attend an accredited institution.


Acupuncture is a medical practice that originated in China and is the practice of inserting needles into specific regions of the body to improve a patient’s health. In the United States, numerous schools provide four-year, master’s and doctoral training in acupuncture. In addition, acupuncturists can specialize in fields such as gynecology and pain management. In the United States, acupuncturists must be licensed before starting their practice. The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine certifies practitioners. Acupuncturists work privately or alongside chiropractors and other alternative health-care providers.

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Herbalists use plants for medicinal purposes; they work in private practice and at alternative medicine facilities. Most herbalists study other healing systems such as Chinese medicine, nutrition, Ayurveda and massage therapy. Herbalists counsel their patients on proper diet and nutrition and recommend personalized herbal supplements and therapies. Unlike most alternative health practitioners, herbalists do not have to comply with state licensing or certification requirements. In addition to treating patients, herbalists can manufacture, grow and sell herbs. They can also work in the teaching profession or specialize in folk remedy.


Yoga is an ancient Sanskrit term from India and involves a system of exercises that are designed to promote health and well-being by training the mind and body. Yoga offers numerous health benefits by promoting relaxation and relieving chronic stress-related symptoms and weight loss. Yoga practitioners complete between 200 to 500 hours of training in order to become certified; they work in gyms, yoga studios, private practice or at health facilities. Yoga practitioners specialize in a variety of techniques such as Iyengar, Hatha and Ashtanga.