Bachelor of Health Science (Western Herbal Medicine)


Western Herbal Medicine has been practiced by many cultures for thousands of years and is derived from European and Anglo-American traditions. A contemporary Western Herbal Medicine (WHM) practitioner understands the history and philosophy of herbal practice and is trained to formulate individualised herbal prescriptions using medicinal plants from around the world. An evidence-based practice approach is taken to incorporate biomedical science, traditional and research evidence in prescribing decisions.

Western Herbal Medicine Practitioners use a holistic approach to healthcare. During your studies, you will gain an understanding of health science, clinical assessment, pharmacology, herbal synergy, quality and safety issues affecting prescribing decisions. As a part of your practice, you will also learn how to provide basic dietary and lifestyle advice to your clients. You will also gain hands-on experience at The Practice Wellbeing Centre consulting with members of the public under the guidance of experienced Western Herbal Medicine practitioners. This will prepare you to confidently start practice in the community.

Clinical Practice

Work Integrated Learning and Clinical Practicum Experience are embedded throughout the course and are incorporated into theory subjects. Students complete most clinic requirements in our custom-built University Student-led Clinic – The Practice Wellbeing Centre. You will gain hands on experience by consulting with members of the public under the guidance of experienced practitioners. This will prepare you to confidently practice in the community.


What you'll learn:

Course Delivery

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Workload and Assessment

Typical assessment includes:

In each subject you will complete an average of three assessments. Assessments are designed to meet the learning outcomes of the subject and may include quizzes, written assessments, oral or video presentations, journals, clinical case analysis, literature review, practical and written exams.

Subject Information

Botany & Herbal Manufacturing provides students with foundational botany and plant identification skills. In this context students will be familarised with different forms of herbal preparations exploring the definition, herbs used, manufacturing techniques and application. Students are also introduced to the regulatory environment of commercial production and extemporaneous dispensing in Australia.

Human Nutrition 2 (NUTR2002) provides a detailed and in-depth study of the micronutrients and how these relate to human metabolism. This subject provides students with underpinning knowledge about the correlation that exists between micronutrients and human physiology. Each micronutrient’s structure, biological function, dietary sources, recommended daily intake and therapeutic dose is studied. This subject also covers the factors contributing to, and symptoms associated with, states of excess, insufficiency and deficiency found in individuals and populations. The role of nutrition and lifestyle factors in the development of chronic disease is examined. Furthermore, students will be introduced to the concepts of genetically engineered food. They will discover how food-borne illnesses can be prevented and identify environmental contaminants in the food supply. This subject also explores the current scientific literature, enabling students to determine the appropriate use of dietary supplementation.

Human Nutrition 1 (NUTR2001) provides a detailed and in-depth study of the macronutrients, protein, carbohydrates and lipids, as well as the water soluble vitamins and how these relate to human metabolism. Each individual macronutrient and water soluble vitamin is studied in regards to their composition, biological function, dietary sources, recommended daily intake, factors contributing to excess states, and states of insufficiency and deficiency; and signs and symptoms associated with nutrient imbalances found in individuals and populations. Students will investigate how the management of these nutrients contribute to the public health agenda.

Complementary Medicine Foundations introduces the historical and conceptual emergence of Naturopathy and Western Herbal Medicine and how this underpins contemporary clinical practice in Australia and globally. It specifically focuses on professional practice: introducing the therapeutic model, the underlying theoretical and philosophical concepts, and discusses the differences between various approaches to the health-disease-healing process. Students will be introduced to the local regulatory environment of the complementary medicine professions within the context of their career outcome and best practice. This subject introduces key concepts regarding ethics and communication in therapeutic relationships.

Human Structure & Physiology 2 will further develop knowledge of the structure and physiology of the human body with special attention given to the integration of human systems and beginning to explore the impact of disturbances in Homeostasis and disruption of normal function. The structure and function of the lymphatic, immune, digestive, nervous, endocrine, urinary, reproductive systems and the special senses are covered in detail including the homoeostatic control mechanisms of each system and the integration of the systems in the body. This subject builds on the knowledge and understandings of human structure and physiology, provides the foundation to look at disease, disorders and syndromes and their pathophysiology, in later subjects.

Evidence-based practice is an essential component of the exercise of clinical judgement in the delivery of quality healthcare. Students will also gain an understanding of how research evidence is translated into practice. This subject provides students with an introduction to health informatics, research and digital literacy, critical thinking and evidence-based practice. Students are guided through the skills necessary to locate, critique and interpret a research article for application to their practice. They will become familiar with quantitative and qualitative evidence, research methodology, basic descriptive and inferential statistics and the foundational skills to be able to evaluate and appraise evidence in healthcare research.

Human Structure & Physiology 1 introduces the basic concepts and terminologies required to study and understand the structure and function of the human body. This subject will build on the biological foundations by exploring the interaction and organisation of cells, tissues and organs which forms a basis to study the physiological integration of key body systems. The maintenance and regulation of the internal environment by homeostasis at a system level will be key to students understanding disruption and disease in later subjects. Key physiological and functional processes such as movement, metabolism, oxygenation and protection will be discussed, with body systems including the integumentary, musculoskeletal, respiratory and cardiovascular system the focus of this subject. This subject will provide the first part of an evidence based foundational knowledge of human physiology to guide health practice.

Biological Foundations explores the biological building blocks which make up the human body from the chemical level up to the cellular level. These essential chemistry concepts will assist with building relevant links to the study of human physiology in later subjects. The subject then explores the foundational studies in biochemistry which includes the structure and function of carbohydrates, proteins, enzymes, lipids, DNA and RNA. The concepts of gene expression and regulation are discussed in addition to the cellular membrane structure and transport through the membrane. The study of the biology of the human cell concludes this subject and upon completion equips students to commence study at the tissue level of structure and physiology subjects.

Herbal Therapeutics 1 builds on herbal medicine concepts introduced in foundational herbal medicine subjects. Students will now explore herbal medicine therapeutic protocols relating to health conditions within various body systems. They will explore herbal prescribing strategies to effectively construct herbal formulas for individualised client-centred treatments. Students will learn to prescribe across various lifestages in a safe and ethical manner. An evidence based practice approach will be employed to justify treatment decisions. Collaborative problem-solving and case-based workshops provide an active learning environment for this important subject.

Herbal Pharmacology builds on herbal medicine concepts introduced in Herbal Materia Medica 1 and 2. It introduces the student to herbal phytochemistry and pharmacology. Herbal concepts are explored including discussion of chemical complexity, synergy of medicinal plants and factors influencing the quality of herbal medicines. Students will explore the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics related to herbal medicines mechanism of action, and extend their knowledge of safety issues and interactions in relation to medicinal plants.

Herbal Materia Medica 2 builds on knowledge developed in Herbal Materia Medica 1. In this subject the student continues to explore herbal materia medica relating to the musculoskeletal, urinary, integumentary, nervous, endocrine and reproductive systems by learning the origin of the plant, identification, active constituents, qualities, part used, actions, mechanisms of action, indications, preparation, dose and safety considerations. An evidence based practice approach is taken to incorporate both traditional knowledge and research-based evidence in the understanding of the contemporary use of herbal medicines. Students will explore the similarities and differences between herbs and demonstrate an understanding of basic prescribing.

Herbal Materia Medica 1 introduces students to the characteristics of herbal medicines and basic herbal categorisation. Students will learn the language and terminology of herbal medicine and explore materia medica relating to the digestive, hepatic, immune, respiratory and cardiovascular and circulatory systems. In depth understanding of the origin of the plant, correct identification, active constituents, qualities, part used, actions, mechanisms of action, indications, preparation, dose and safety considerations of each herb is explored. An evidence based practice approach is taken to incorporate both traditional knowledge and research-based evidence in the understanding of the contemporary use of herbal medicines. Students will explore the similarities and differences between herbs and demonstrate an understanding of basic prescribing.

Pre-Clinical Studies 1 (PCS207) is the first of the two part series of Pre-Clinical subjects in which students observe clinical practice, learn effective communication and counselling skills and professional ethical practices. This subject reinforces evidence based practices and the principles and philosophies of natural medicine, which sets the basis for guiding students to progress and evolve through the development of critical thinking, case history taking skills and communicating holistic understanding, and the therapeutic plan in a workshop setting.
Students will complete a minimum of 25 hours of external observation over the trimester. Students will familiarise themselves with the day-to-day operation of clinical practice. They will observe practitioners and clients in consultation, undertake a range of administrative tasks and observe dispensaries in action. This provides an opportunity for the student to develop an awareness of the application of professional skills in a clinical setting. These skills are not only to do with the practice of complementary medicine but also clinical skills such as interpersonal relations, scope of practice, duty of care and ethical compliance business acumen and an appreciation of the Australian health care system.

Human Systems & Pathophysiology 2 builds upon the concepts explored in Human Systems & Pathophysiology 1 and continues to expand student’s skills and knowledge in pathophysiology and the human disease process, in relation to individual, community and public health. The pathophysiology and symptomatology will be covered for various disease states of the musculoskeletal, integumentary, hematologic, pulmonary, endocrine, renal and reproductive systems. Conditions specific to gerontology and aging will also be considered.
– General diagnostic approaches will be introduced and the commonly used laboratory tests and interpretation of such findings for the associated disorders and conditions will continue to be developed.

Human Biochemistry explains the processes of macromolecule metabolism, energy production and storage in the body. Included in this subject are the metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids and amino acids; the role of ATP and acetyl CoA in metabolism; oxidative phosphorylation, the electron transport chain, biosignaling and chemical communication. The concept of gene expression and regulation is also explored. Human Biochemistry provides healthcare practitioners a vital foundation on the basic macromolecules and genetic understandings essential for life. This knowledge will be built upon and expanded further in later subjects.

Human Systems & Pathophysiology 1 is the first of two subjects that builds upon the foundational studies in Human Structure & Physiology and then expands student’s skills and knowledge into the area of pathophysiology and human disease process. Understanding the pathogenic process and the disruption of homeostasis in relation to disease will be important concepts, in the context of individual, community and population health.

This subject will cover:
– Basic pathological processes in response to injury and growth abnormalities.
– Immunology, toxicology, microbiology, and their characteristic diseases.
– Pathophysiology, symptomatology and clinical manifestations for diseases of the gastrointestinal, neurological and cardiovascular systems.
– Introduction to commonly used laboratory tests and interpretation of findings.

Entrepreneurship, Professionalism & Business Skills in Health will introduce students to the concepts of small business management, entrepreneurship and how to identify the professional requirements of their healthcare discipline. This subject will explore the topics necessary to establish and run a successful healthcare practice and maintain their professional status in the healthcare sector. Students will also explore their professional identity to support the understanding of the ethical conduct, liability, legal and regulatory requirements that are pertinent to their specific modality.

This subject will initiate the development of a Business plan using entrepreneurial practices and innovative design thinking. This will include exploring business strategies such as operating policy and procedures, marketing and branding, networking strategies, leadership, administration and financial issues necessary for the operation and management of a contemporary healthcare practice.

Integrated Pharmacology comprises a study of basic principles of pharmacology, the pharmacokinetics of drugs commonly used in medical practice and common interactions between drugs and natural remedies. Drugs for pain, inflammation, infection, mental health, cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, reproductive and endocrine systems are discussed. Drug actions, uses, contraindications, adverse effects and interactions with natural remedies are discussed, together with implications for naturopathic, nutritional and western herbal medicine prescribing. This subject is crucial for the modern healthcare practitioner to understand common medications that patients may be taking and common interactions between these medications and natural remedies. This subject also emphasises the need for clear lines of communication and common language between doctors and complementary healthcare practitioners in order to obtain the best health outcomes for clients.

As our number of relationships expands, so too does the potential for conflict. This subject looks at the nature of interpersonal conflict, and explores strategies for resolution such as mediation, conferencing and restorative justice. It begins by considering the nature of conflict, theories about its causes, and how conflict manifests in relationships, groups, communities and internationally. It then introduces students to key conflict management strategies and gives steps as to how we might reduce unhealthy forms of conflict and arrive at positive, healthy relationships based on empathy and understanding. The subject also considers anger management strategies in addressing entrenched, high conflict situations.

In Flower Essences (FLE405) students are introduced to Bach and Australian Bush Flower Essences and how to appropriately prescribe these in the context of a naturopathic consultation. Students learn about the presenting emotions of the client as they relate to the flower essence therapy and learn to formulate individualised prescriptions based on client assessment. Referrals to appropriate health care professionals is explored in regards to safe prescribing.

Iridology (IRD302) introduces the basic concepts of iridology, types of iris signs and application to the concentric zones of the iris, as well as the study of individual organ signs in the iris. Variations of structure, colour and proportion in the iris are observed, analysed and interpreted in terms of an individual’s health status, and will be used as a tool to assist in the formulation of a naturopathic treatment plan.

Critical Literature Review (CLR308) provides an opportunity to critically examine the current literature to answer a chosen research question to inform clinical decision-making. The literature review is a scholarly paper that appraises the current knowledge base highlighting strengths, weaknesses and omissions in the literature. The subject builds on established knowledge of literature search methods and critical appraisal skills to culminate in a review that conforms to publication standards.

Advanced Herbal Therapeutics builds on herbal medicine therapeutic subjects and will explore advanced herbal medicine therapeutic strategies for advanced, multi-factorial health conditions. An evidence based practice approach will be taken when formulating and prescribing for these complex and emerging conditions. Students will be challenged to consider the importance of collaborative client care and clinical risk management of these conditions. Problem based learning workshops will apply this information to theoretical case studies.

Following on from Pre-Clinical Studies 1 (PCS207), students will apply their theoretical and practical knowledge of case taking, holistic, biomedical and therapeutics to conduct critical case analysis and management through the use of holistic evidence based principles, clinical examination skills, and techniques to implement appropriate therapeutic strategies and prescriptions in a simulated clinic environment.
Students will refine interpersonal skills including patient counselling and develop their capacity to give and receive constructive feedback. Throughout the subject, students will reflect and develop their practitioner persona for future clinical practice. Students will also build on their understanding of clinical practice by undertaking 25 hours of clinical observation in the Student Clinic.

This subject has compulsory attendance requirements.

Herbal Therapeutics 2 builds on herbal medicine concepts introduced in Herbal Therapeutics 1. Students will continue to explore herbal medicine therapeutic protocols relating to various health conditions and body systems. They will explore herbal prescribing strategies to effectively construct herbal formulas for individualised client-centred treatments. Students will learn to prescribe across various lifestages in a safe and ethical manner. An evidence based practice approach will be employed to justify treatment decisions. Collaborative problem-solving and case-based workshops provide an active learning environment for this important subject.

Clinical Assessment builds on the theory of the Human Systems & Pathophysiology subjects and develops practical skills for clinical assessment and examination of the client. Skills for history taking, gathering clinical information, observing clinical manifestations, critically analyse signs and symptoms, identifying red flags, interpreting medical reports, pathology tests and diagnostic imaging are developed. Students will explore a range physical examination techniques using appropriate equipment to reach primary and differential diagnoses. Students will develop and practice skills in effective communication, respecting clients’ privacy, work health and safety concerns as well as the need for referral to other health care practitioners in a professional manner.

Food as Medicine (FAM203) introduces students to the concept that food can be used as a form of medicine to promote health and wellbeing and treat and prevent disease. This subject provides an overview of farming practices, food preparation, cooking and storage methods, as well as food manufacturing and processing techniques and their impacts on the nutritional value of foods. Students will investigate nutritional food-based science including the health effects of food additives, food safety and phytochemical toxicity. An in depth study of food evolution, historical, cultural and modern uses of food as medicine and the medicinal properties of food is also examined. The benefits and disadvantages of new dietary models are also explored. Students will explore the potential therapeutic function of food, the relationship of phytochemical constituents and disease, and their physiological effects on humans. Students will learn how to apply evidence based nutrition knowledge to illustrate the use of food as a therapeutic tool and provide food-based recommendations in health and disease

Prior Learning

If you have already completed a qualification you may be able to credit this against your degree with us, even if it’s from another institution. Please see the course credit page for more information.