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— updated 2017-01-10

FAQ — Chinese herbal sciences at RMHI

Frequently asked questions and answers about RMHI's prerequisites for admission, how to get started, and how to prepare yourself to practice as a clinical herbalist.

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How do I enroll in an RMHI course?

The following questions and answers will explain things that you should know before applying for admission to RMHI's program in traditional Chinese herbal sciences.

What educational programs does RMHI offer in clinical Chinese herbology? What are current course schedules and tuition fees?

For a quick comparison of the features and requirements of the different levels of professional education we offer, see

What are the prerequisites for applying for admission and enrolling in RMHI's Chinese herbal sciences programs (Levels 1, 2, or 3) and how do I get started?

For additional information about RMHI's unique admissions requirements, and why we have designed them that way:

May I try out the interactive-learning software (HerbalThink-TCM) before I buy it or pay any tuition?

Yes. You may download and use a limited free trial Test version-option of HerbalThink-TCM, which includes introductory contents (the first 15% of the Level-1 course) plus samples of the advanced reference data and interactive games. In fact, trying out the software, completing Lessons A-00 through A-05, and submitting a Progress File (see Lesson A-00b) are part of the admissions requirements.

The introductory material of Level 1, which anyone can sample in the free trial version of HerbalThink-TCM, presents the most challenging aspects of Chinese herbology right up front so that you can determine for yourself whether you have the ability to master this material. Correctly choosing herbs and formulas for individual cases absolutely depends on a thorough understanding of these principles.

How selective is RMHI's admissions policy?

Even many physicians have commented that learning TCM herbology is in many ways more complex to learn than western medicine. While western medicine is replete with detail, the final medical diagnosis of disease is based on relatively simplistic reasoning — often, too simplistic. Chinese herbology, on the other hand, evolved as a low-tech method for making effective decisions solely from the patterns of symptoms and clinical signs that can be directly observed by either the individual or the practitioner; the rules and protocols for correctly evaluating these patterns require that students exercise high levels of cognitive skill. Consequently, RMHI's admissions policy is highly selective.

  • We estimate that about 10% or less of the population has the combination of ability, persistence, and motivation to learn the reasoning skills required to perform clinical TCM herbology at a level essential to handling the complex health problems typical of people in industrialized nations. This estimate of 10% is based on the observation that about 10% of the people expressing serious interest in our herbal program actually follow through to the point of successfully passing our admissions exam. As Dr. C.S. Cheung has frequently reminded me, TCM master herbalists throughout history have commented on the difficulty of becoming skilled at TCM herbology and have noted that accuracy in assessing a client's patterns of disharmony is the root skill upon which clinical success or failure depends. The problem is that until recently, we had no way to adequately measure aptitude for these skills among potential applicants. Now we do, and the good news is that potential applicants can pre-screen themselves by taking a self-administered aptitude test.

Is enrolling in RMHI's online courses right for me?

Levels 1 and 2 are offered via online and computer-interactive instruction. Online education works best if you:

  • Are self-disciplined and self-motivated
  • Are comfortable using PC's, the Internet, and email
  • Have set aside the required time (10-15 hours per week) to devote to study and course work
  • Are comfortable following written instructions to learn new procedures and methods
  • Are able to participate in online group activities like email discussion groups

Based on voluntary submission by students of Myers-Briggs personality evaluations (we do not require nor do we ask for this information in the admissions application), the vast majority of our successful graduates fall into one of the four Introvert-Intuitive types: INTP, INTJ, INFP, INFJ. See free online self-test here: http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes2.asp . We have speculated several possible reasons for this: (1) Introverts, in contrast to extroverts, tend to look within themselves for answers to problems, which in any distance-learning course is a distinct advantage; extroverts may require more in-person interaction with other students. Additionally, challenging the destructive and deadly medical-industrial complex requires a certain degree of courage and inner-directedness, and extroverts, who rely more on social networks for self-identity and decision-making may find it more disruptive to challenge the status quo. (2) TCM herbology requires a great deal of abstract reasoning and symbolic thinking, which is the preferred mode for Intuitives, in contrast to Sensing-dominant individuals who prefer relying on concrete facts and immediate sensation to guide their actions. Intuitive types are especially good at detecting patterns in data over time and at formulating and evaluating hypotheses to explain these observed patterns. For example, many scientists are of the INTJ type — Introvert-Intuitive-Thinking-Judging.

What is RMHI's educational philosophy?

Discover whether RMHI's educational philosophy will be appropriate for you.

The following articles explain how and why our courses have evolved differently from the rote-memorization curriculum at many TCM colleges and how individual students can regain control over their own education:

What are current course schedules and tuition fees?

For a summary of details about the three levels of professional education we offer, including schedule and fees, see

How do RMHI's admissions policies and tuition fees compare with those at most TCM colleges?

Tuition fees for our Level-1 course are far less than tuition at most TCM colleges, because we have automated much of the material in the form of interactive software. However, if you are seeking a quick and easy way to become certified, RMHI is not the right choice for you. Our admissions requirements are more stringent than at most TCM colleges, because we wish to ensure that admitted students have the self-discipline and ability to do the work. RMHI graduates who have previously attended TCM colleges commonly report that RMHI's curriculum is significantly more demanding. Our aspiring herbalists' aptitude test, described in "Getting started; applying for admission; guidelines for Level-1 students", is designed to test applicants' skills in complex pattern recognition, something that is not measured by conventional educational achievement exams.

What type of certification does RMHI offer?

  • Each type of certificate of completion that RMHI awards is a statement of fact regarding the courses completed and the estimated number of hours involved, and represents achievement of a standard of quality recognized by TCM professionals and herbalists. (Please note that RMHI is not a college and does not award academic degrees.)
  • We also provide complete transcripts and documentation on request. Previous graduates have applied our courses toward college degree credit, continuing medical education requirements, and professional certification in Chinese herbology.

Is RMHI accredited?

In short, no, not by the NCCAOM nor by anyone else. RMHI's educational philosophy differs radically from that of most other TCM colleges and the accreditation system that has been created for their benefit. American education, including that for TCM, has been a disaster, and part of the blame lies directly with the school accreditation system.

Our educational philosophy is very similar to that of John Taylor Gatto (The Underground History of American Education: http://www.johntaylorgatto.com) and Ron Paul (the Ron Paul Curriculum website for homeschoolers: http://www.ronpaulcurriculum.com). Here is the Ron Paul Curriculum's response to the issue of accreditation:

The Ron Paul curriculum is not accredited by any government agency. As a favor to the state we are willing to allow public schools to adopt our curriculum, as long as they pay the full tuition. We do not discriminate against handicapped people. The educrats are conceptually challenged. We fully understand. They need help. They need a decent curriculum. We have just what they need.
We say this about every accreditation system. They must apply to us for accreditation. We will not apply to them.

The preceding is also our philosophy.

At RMHI we have focused all our efforts on continually improving our curriculum, not our bureaucracy. We are not a college and do not award degrees.

  • Many health professionals, including doctors, have used our courses to satisfy CEU requirements and credit toward university degree programs.
  • Several foreign physicians have taken our courses under sponsorship by their governments.
  • Among our students are graduates of TCM colleges who recognize the quality of our curriculum and desire to fill in gaps in their knowledge and understanding.
  • Although many Chinese herb distributors state on their websites that they sell only to licensed health practitioners, the vast majority make an exception for our graduates. One wholesaler has stated that RMHI is the only school for which he makes that exception.

Read what other students, TCM professionals, physicians, and educators have said about our software-based distance learning courses.

You may refer your professional or educational organization to our detailed curriculum page for more information and to help determine whether RMHI's courses meet their requirements.


General questions about preparing to practice as a Chinese (TCM) herbalist

How do I determine if studying Chinese herbology makes sense to me?

  • Chinese herbology, correct and incorrect ways of choosing herbs. Choosing herbs can often be a haphazard endeavor without some way to organize and make sense of the huge amount of information available to us. Find out how the traditional Chinese herbal sciences help us to choose herbs more precisely, without side effects.
  • Test your knowledge of common and popular herbs. A short quiz with answers, illustrating how traditional Chinese herbal (TCM) methods help us choose herbs correctly. After taking this quiz and checking the answers, you may be surprised how herbs may sometimes be misused.

What are the legal issues I need to consider?

In the U.S., herbalists generally do not need licenses to practice as long as they follow certain guidelines established by the courts. Read the following articles for details:

  • Strategies for defending your rights as an herbalist. Many alternative health practitioners are vaguely aware of the desirability of avoiding claiming to treat or cure disease, in order to avoid being accused of practicing of medicine without a license. Here is the low-down, complete with U.S. and state Supreme Court case citations, that explicitly outlines the boundaries that herbalists and other alternative practitioners must not cross. Know your rights and obligations so that you can practice lawfully and ethically. Note: a state health-care practice license (massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, etc) does not necessarily protect you from the need to know this information.
  • Herbalists' guidelines for avoiding the practice of medicine. Conclusions and guidelines are derived from the preceding articles to help herbalists defend their right to assist and educate the public.

How do I know if a school of Chinese herbology or traditional Chinese medicine will adequately prepare me to become an effective practitioner?

For a clinical herbalist, how important is knowing about diet and environmental factors in illness?

  • Diet and nutrition checklists: basic food information for healthy eating. Beside the three major vices of tobacco, alcohol, and excessive sugar, discover many of the lesser-known evils of modern society that together may account for over 70% of all chronic illness in America.
  • Environmental hazards to eliminate or minimize. Checklist of common household and workplace chemical and electromagnetic hazards.
  • Modest proposals for the improvement of traditional Chinese herbal education, with guidelines for the self-motivated student. Read the section on "diet, environmental health and social factors".