Creating an Intermediate Herbal Training Program

In today's episode, I interview herbalist Oren Hercz about his experience developing an intermediate herbal program in partnership with Ember Peters.

Oren shares how his educational work dovetails with his clinical practice, and some of the challenges that arise when creating a new program - especially one that is longer and more resource-intensive than previous offerings.

If you're curious about what goes into planning and collaborating on an in-depth herbal training program, definitely check out this episode. 



Oren Hercz

Oren Hercz RHP (HANS) has been in practice as a Clinical Herbalist since 2010, working in holistic health clinics, a family medicine office, and in private practice online.  He teaches a year long beginner’s herbal medicine program, empowering people to become their own home herbalists and be proactive about their health.  In 2023, he will be co-launching a more intensive intermediate program with his colleague Ember Peters ( 

Oren loves to teach and can often be found giving an herb walk, speaking at a local garden club, or even on TV where has been featured on the show Wild Nova Scotia.  He is a Registered Herbal Practitioner (RHP) with the Herbalist Association of Nova Scotia, where he currently sits on the board of directors.  Oren cares deeply about bringing this traditional wisdom to today’s world, where we need it more than ever.


Episode 54 | Oren Hercz on the Intermediate Herb Program at Maritime - powered by Happy Scribe

Hi there. Welcome to in the clinic with Camille. My name is Camille Freeman. I am a licensed nutritionist and registered herbalist. And in this podcast, I bring to you little tips and tidbits that may be helpful for other practitioners. Today I'm really excited to share an interview that I've done with Orin Hercs. Orin is an herbalist who has been in practice since 2010, working in Nova Scotia. He also teaches a year long beginners herbal medicine program, which will touch on in this interview. The reason that I asked Orin to come and join us is because he and Ember Peters are developing an intermediate herb program. And I wanted to talk to Oren about the process of developing these types of programs, how it's been to collaborate, and where these programs fit in terms of the clinical work that he's doing. I thought this might give other people some ideas, especially folks who are thinking about doing their own longer term programs. So Orin is very experienced. He often does herb walks. He is a registered herbal practitioner with the herbalist association of Nova Scotia, and he is also on the board of directors of that organization.

So let me just share with you the interview I hope you enjoy, and I hope you will click over to learn more about the work that Oren has been up to and the maritime herbschool.

All right, oran welcome back. Welcome back to in the clinic. You are our first guest to ever come back a second time. So excited. The reason that I wanted you to come on here is because you have a new program coming up. And I know this is a collaboration, and I thought it would be really interesting to just talk to you about what's a little bit different about this program, how it's been different, preparing what it's like to work with somebody else, all kinds of different topics. So I'm wondering, as we set the stage here, can you just tell us about the program that you normally run and then this new program and how they're different?

Sure, yeah. I've been running what I'm going to call a beginner. I call the fundamentals of herbal medicine, year long program. So it's like ten days out of the year, one Sunday a month. So we just follow the seasons, and it's more or less an introduction to the principles of orbital medicine, botany, plant ID, medicine making. We do a little bit of anatomy and physiology, just enough to understand how the herbs work in the different body systems and things like that. And it's a fully in person program. So I've been doing that for, gosh, three or four years now. And just this last year, ember Peters, a colleague of mine, they approached me with this idea to do an intermediate program, something that's not really a program, that's kind of program that's not really offered around here yet. So it was kind of a neat opportunity both to work with somebody else and to teach at a at a higher level. So this has been sort of in the works now for we started talking about it about a year ago when we first started meeting about it. And the application deadline closes in a couple of weeks, and it's starting in May.

Wow. So give us a short version of what is this new program and what's going to be involved.

Okay, so we're calling it an intermediate herbal medicine program. So my beginner program is basically like 60 hours total. It's about six hour days. And this program is 250 hours. So it's a significantly larger commitment. It's ten full weekends out of the year. And there's also, like, a bunch of online modules that we're preparing that people will be reviewing in between the weekends. There's going to be about, like, 12 hours of online content a month on top of the in person weekends. So we get to cover a lot more. So we're going to do like, in depth material, medica on 50 plants. We're going to have classes on herbal pharmacology, all kinds of other things. Now it's like leaving me, but obviously herbal therapeutics for a bunch of different conditions. We're keeping it to kind of what we're going to call, like, self limiting conditions. So not really into some of those chronic conditions that would be the realm of clinical practice. We're not building this as a clinical program. It's not a clinical program, but we'll talk about, you know, like, respiratory issues and like, you know, constipation and diarrhea and dysbiosis and sort of things like kind of your the things that a lot of people experience, but not going into autoimmune conditions or more serious things like that.

We're going to do all that therapeutics. There's going to be anatomy and physiology. We're actually going to be partnering with Tammy Sweet, who does this online anatomy and physiology program. That was kind of one of the ways that we were trying to make it easier for ourselves so that we don't have to teach everything that we want to teach. Like, that was actually one of the things that was very daunting about it. Maybe we can get into that a bit later. But I was nervous about teaching all of this content, even sharing it with another person. It still felt like initially I was like, whoa, this is for me, this is a lot to teach. Anyway, so we're going to do there's going to be a module on ethics, and obviously a big piece on botany and plant identification and herbal safety and oh, herbal nutrition. We're going to have a whole nutrition module which will cover, like, nutrition nutrition, but also like, a focus on using herbs in a nutritive way, which is personal passion of mine, and a few other things that I'm probably forgetting.

Yeah. Cool. So this is an in person program.

So it was originally we originally built it as just an in person program with an online component. But then quite a few people were like, oh, I'm really interested in this, but I don't live close enough. I can't make it. And we started talking about it, and so we decided now that we're seeing about offering, we've said we're offering now a fully online version. And so we just figured it out, like, how we would do it. I don't know if that will end up happening. Depends if we have enough online students sign up. So we decided we need three or four online students to sign up to make it worth our while to do all the recording and everything. And the way we're going to do it is well, the online component is already there, but for the live classes, we're going to do like a live stream, not like a zoom thing, because that can be kind of distracting for in person for an in person class. But it'll be like a live stream, and there'll be a chat so people can ask questions that are joining us online. So that'll be kind of the version for the online program.

I used to work in video production, so to me, that part is like, whatever, we can figure that out. It was more like figuring out the cost, the added costs of it, because we'll have to have a dedicated person doing that recording. It's not something we can just ourselves on the fly to do it properly.


That was just a matter of getting enough people signed up to do it. So we'll see. It may or may not go the online version.

Got it. Okay. And we'll get into some of the.

Details in a minute here.

But one thing that came up for me when you were talking is since you are going to be having some online portions of it and then also some in person portions, are you using some kind of learning management system? Are you running this on your own website? How are you dealing with that angle of things?

Yes. So our plan is to use this learning management system called Moodle. Now, the reason we're going with that one, I don't think it's the easiest one to set up on your own. It's like an open source thing, but Embers partner is like a computer programmer person. So they have offered to work with us to set it up on Moodle. So we just kind of happened to have a person in our corner that can do it. That's why we're going with Moodle. I don't know anything about it except that I know what it does. Kind of all the things that a learning management system would do.

The things yes, I've talked with Moodle before.

Oh, you have? Okay. You're familiar with it. All right.

I am. Okay, so cool. I wanted to just dive into some of the details here because, as you know, the folks who listen are primarily other practitioners who might be either teaching themselves or thinking about teaching. And I wondered if you could talk a little bit about how the teaching fits in with your clinical work. Do you think of these as two totally separate things? Do you say, I'm going to do like half and half? How do you conceptualize that?

Okay, so do you mean in terms of just like how it fits in logistically into my practice or how do I feel the two things kind of serve each other or both?

I think both. Either. Both.

Okay. So for me, I have my clinical work, and so I don't see a ton of clients right now. I'm seeing 15 clients a month kind of thing. So that's my client work. And then I also formulate for my clients, and I make medicine and I slow half my client work. I have my medicine making and formulating and getting the medicine to my clients. That's like another component, the apothecary component of my practice. And then, yeah, there's the teaching. So in terms of how I work it out, it seems to be like about I don't know if I would put it into half with this new program, I'm going to be doing more teaching, a lot more teaching than client work right now. It's maybe a little more client work than the teaching component. And my beginner program that I do is pretty easy to run now because I've already developed all the content. It was a lot more work the first year in. So that's something I'm having to think about and something that was quite daunting because I know it's going to be a lot of work this first year of this intermediate program.

But I don't know. I really like teaching. I always wanted teaching to be a part of what I do, and there are a lot of benefits, I find, to doing the two together. So I could elaborate a little bit on that if you want. Okay, so basically okay, even my beginner program, when I was teaching it, I felt like I learned so much teaching that program about the things that I thought I knew but didn't really know about what I was doing and trying to teach and explain something, even the basic things to other people. I'm like, do I really understand how alternatives work or whatever? I don't know how well I really grasp this. So I just feel like I learned so much teaching that informed my clinical work and also my students would be experimenting and trying things and telling me how it was going. So I'm just getting a lot of this anecdotal from them about herbs that they're taking. And so I'm just getting actually quite a lot of experience from them. And it's obviously very satisfying because people go and they run with it and they get excited and they get bitten by the bug just like I did.

So that's all very exciting and it builds a certain amount of community, which I really like. But then the other way around too, like the clinical work, it really puts me in, I think, in a unique position as a teacher that people really appreciate. My students know that I'm a practitioner and I'm doing this with clients every day, and I'm bringing stories from my clinical practice into my teaching all the time. And so I feel like there's a richness there in terms of what I have to offer my students by bringing in my clinical experience. And actually, that was one of the things, even with this intermediate program, that I was quite feeling a little nervous about this question. It's kind of like this imposter thing, like, oh, am I really qualified to do this? I've never taught at this level. Like Ember, who I'm working with, they are more experienced in the teaching department. They taught at the Vermont School of Integrative Herbalism for a couple of years, so they have more experience teaching at this and practitioner level as well, whereas I didn't. And so there was a little bit of that nervousness around, like, can I do this?

And then also, just in general, what do I have to offer my qualified? There's all these other schools out there and you gave me, you encouraged me, Camille, when we talked about this, and it's true. And the more I reflect on it, the more I see how true it is that there's a lot of people out there teaching that are not practitioners and they'll have personal experience, or maybe they were a practitioner a long time ago, or they have an academic understanding or a research focus or whatever it is. And that's great. But there's something quite unique that practitioners have to offer if they decide to teach, in the sense that we're really living this every day. We really have that hands on personal experience with the plants, working with people, and that's pretty invaluable for people that want to learn how to use the plants as medicine. So maybe I'm going on about this a little muih, and maybe it's partly to pet myself up and to remind myself of that truth, because I work like I've never taught in a school. My own path for becoming an herbalist was sort of a little windy.

Like I cobbled together my training from various different places. I didn't go to a big institution, so it's a very foreign environment for me, thinking about what goes on there. And maybe in some way I think like, oh, that's more some kind of higher level of professionalism than what I have to offer. But I think that's just in my mind. Like, I don't think that's actually true the more they think about it and the more that I talk to other people about it and about their experiences at those places. So I think we have a lot to offer as practitioners. If we also teach. And the other thing that I should mention is that I got a lot of clients from my students, so it's kind of a great way to get clients. You obviously develop rapport and trust and the other way around, I got students from my clients, so the two feed into each other really nicely.

Yeah, I love that. And I do think I mean, I've said this over and over again, but I do think there's so much value in the clinical experience that you really can't get around that with book learning and there's really no shortcut to that. And so I do think there's a lot of value. And I know you mentioned also that just in your physical neck of the woods there, there aren't any options for people who want to kind of go to the next level. And so I think that's another strength of your program, your new program. So speaking of that, I wanted to talk to you about some of the things you're really excited about with this program and also see if you could reflect on some of the bits that are scary, some of the challenges of working with someone else versus doing it on your own. If you wanted to share anything like that, that might be helpful for other folks to hear.

Yeah, I was thinking about this. It's funny because I think they're like the same things I'm excited about and the six that are the most challenging, some of that are touched on already. So I'll go over it and see what new things I have to say. But obviously one of the things that I'm super excited about is just like working with someone else on a program. One of the things I was not. I knew it was going to happen, but I was not necessarily prepared for in terms of my experience of it. When I shifted my work more fully into my herbal practice was the amount of time that I would spend working on all by myself in my office, in my home office. I used to work at a company in a team of like 15 people that I saw every day in my past life. So it was quite shocked and I thought I was going to love it and I do love it in a lot of ways, but there are certainly days where it feels really hard. Like, I'm a relatively interpersonally motivated person. Like other people motivate me when I'm working with others.

So I do find it harder to stay motivated when I'm just working all by myself. So it was like it has been truly a breath of fresh air to be able to work with someone else and have that accountability and bouncing ideas off each other and just obviously working with someone that you have a good vibe with and a good relationship with, which we totally do. So that's been really great. I really appreciated that aspect of it for me, and also it comes with its own challenges. We just had to make sure in developing this program that we were aligned. There's a lot of things to get aligned on, like, in terms of our values, our teaching style. We're going to be teaching different modules of this. Is it going to work well together? Like, herbalism is such a diverse what do I even call it? Such a diverse field.

I don't know.

Such a diverse field. People practice in so many different ways, and they sometimes feel quite divergent, like, different worlds, even. And so we had just had to make sure that we were going to be compatible, and we are. As part of the lead up to the program, we taught a class together, and it was great. It was great. We, like, bounced back and forth, and it went super well. So but we had to figure that out. We had to make sure that was okay. Then there was like, you know, like, how much are we going to charge and how much do we want to make? Like, kind of like the financial back end stuff, like, to make sure we were aligned on, like, that kind of stuff. And, you know, that also was, like, a discussion. I think ember and I have different backgrounds in terms of just, like, where we're coming from. Ember has a real social justice focus to their practice and offers a lot of discounts. And I'm also passionate about social justice, but I wouldn't say I'm as focused on it in my clinical work. And I've got three kids and a family.

And so that was just like a discussion that we had to have in terms of how much are we needing to earn? And it was actually a really good discussion, and we aligned quite nicely on that. And so I'm actually quite excited about it, because in this program, we are going to be offering some reduced rates for people that are low income and BIPOC. And it's not something I've done a lot of before, but I'm excited to do it, and we've structured it in a way that it's still going to sustain us. And so that's neat. But that was like, a big discussion that we had to have, I guess that is I'm excited, and that was exciting and challenging. What's another thing? Well, I guess I've already mentioned about teaching at a higher level that I felt a little intimidated by the course material and also a little bit by ember, because they have a lot more experience teaching at this level. But it's another area where I just feel like I don't know where this quote is coming from, but it's kind of a famous one. But if you want to improve with something, just surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.

So I'm trying to live that philosophy because I feel like already it's been great. So, again, challenging but also exciting. Like, I'm able to sink my teeth into areas of herbal medicine that maybe I'm a little rusty on. And so I'm going to have to learn a bunch of things. So it's part of my own professional development. And I'm excited about that because you do sometimes get into ruts. And so this is an opportunity to learn about new things that I'm passionate about and put that into my teaching. I'm pretty stoked about this nutrition aspect I'm really quite excited about. Yeah. Another thing I should mention, and maybe this goes back to our previous piece about how it interacts with my practice, but also something I'm excited about. It's worth mentioning that doing a program like this offers a certain amount of financial stability for the year. So just from a business standpoint, it's like, okay, so it's just kind of like something like a foundation upon which other things can build because we do the registration at the beginning of the year and then it's done for the year it's set. So whereas my clinical practice goes up and down to a little bit of feast and famine where I'm at with it anyways in terms of like, having months where I have more clients or less clients.

So it's just a nice balance. So that's a nice thing about teaching in general, this program and my other program. Yeah. Oh, another challenge, I guess. Sorry, can I go on a little?

Keep going.

Yeah. One other challenge or thing that I was a little daunted by is, of course, marketing it. And can we get the number of people that we need, like this program for this area? It's an opportunity because it's not really being offered, but it's not like people aren't used to paying this kind of money for a program of this scope around here. So it's kind of something new, I think, for the community also to wrap their heads around, like, oh, this is a cool thing being offered, but, oh, wow, it's a big investment and a big commitment. So there was a little bit of nervousness around yeah. Are we going to be able to find these people? And I think that's just something like you just really don't know until you can. We have obviously done things. We've done a couple of webinars and like, put up a ton of posters and done various things to work on that. And also we've just been kind of smart about, like, not putting too much work into it until we know that it's going to run. So just being a little smart about that and not designing every little detail about it in advance, right?

Yeah. So far, I know that we haven't gotten to the end of the registration period, but what do you think has been working well in terms of the promotion and the marketing so far? What seems to be so we actually.

Started promoting this program quite early, so we started promoting it in August. So registration closes in two weeks and we were both teaching at a live event in in our area here and we made some flyers and at that event we did like a Q and A session. We just announced we're going to be doing this program. So we did that and we got people to sign up for an email list to know more, like a waiting list. And so we had that and then we had a waiting list on the website. We had kind of a splash page of like, this program is coming and sign up to be the first to know when more information is available. So we actually got quite a few people that signed up onto that waiting list. And then probably the biggest, best thing we did was doing this webinar or online class, which was we did a class on herbs for winter wellness, but it was paired with it was that the last part of the class would be about this program and would be like a bit of a Q and A on that. And we had quite a lot of people sign up for that and a lot of interest.

And that's where we learned that there were people that wanted to do it online but not in person. And so I think that was quite good and we had a lot of follow ups from that. So those were valuable. I'll say probably the like the most valuable thing is that we're also drawing from our pool of students from our other programs. Like, that's probably like the number one area where students are coming from. So I think that's worth mentioning is that having the beginner program has been extremely useful for getting a few people to come on over to the next level. So that's been useful. I think the posters have been great for generating interest in my area. It's a very word of mouth kind of area and very community focused. So like, physical posters actually did generate a lot of interest. Like, I see people around town like, oh, I saw your poster, your programs look great. So I know it's at least getting the word out there that it exists. But in terms of people signing up, I think it's a big step from seeing a poster to signing up for a program at this level.

So they need more. So we've been trying to offer more things like this webinar. We're doing another Q and A next week. We put a couple of free classes on the website, like just like as an example, like here's we did a class on Burdock and a class on Dandelion so that people just could just get a feel for what it's going to be like and what we're like. So that's what we've been doing in terms of so just to clarify, the.

Webinar you did earlier was free and then it was marketed as we're going to talk about Winter Wellness, and then we're also going to talk about this program. Is that correct? Yeah, correct.

Okay, we're clear about that. It wasn't like her for Winter Wellness, and then at the end, it was like, oh, by the way, this is secretly to tell you about our program. It was all very upfront. And then we're doing another class next week, which we're anticipating to be smaller and more focused on people that really want to be in the program. It's called. So you want to be a herbalist? And it's about just like the different paths to being an herbalist and sort of our past and how we got to be doing what we're doing and all the different things that ways you can go with it, and then how our program fits into that.

Yeah. Fun so I realized I didn't ask you how much does the new program cost compared to your old program? Not your old program, but your beginner level? What are the cost price points for those two?

Yes, so the new program is $4,000. $3,950 us.

Dollars or canadian dollars.

Canadian dollars.

Canadian dollars.

So I don't know what the conversion is. It's probably like 3500 or 3600 or something like that. We have to charge tax, which is really because we're not like a school, like a registered with the government institution, which they wouldn't have to charge tax. So I wish there was a way around that, and maybe there is something to look into legally. But anyway, so that's the cost of this program. And then my beginner program is $1,200 for the ten Sunday a month program. And I've kind of inched it up. Like, I think the first year I did it, I only charged $900. But I sort of been increasing it a little bit with inflation especially and all that. And you learned the first year how much it takes to do it, and so inevitably you underestimated.

So it sounds like it's about sort of by educational hour. It's about the same. It's just this new program is a lot more hours.

It's more or less the same if you break it down by educational hour. Exactly.

Fun so the registration ends in a couple of weeks in the middle of February, and then you'll be starting in the spring, is that right?

Yeah, registration ends February 15 is the registration deadline, and the first class is in May. I don't have the exact date, but it's May. The first weekend in May. May 6, I think, is the first date, and then we go from there.

Fun all right. Is there anything else you wanted to share with people who are, you know, thinking about teaching, perhaps putting together programs, anything you think would be useful before we wrap up?

Gosh I think for anybody that's thinking about teaching, I would say just go do some teaching, like anything, especially if you're kind of nervous about getting up in. Front of groups of people. You can start small, like I started just doing herb walks. And that's just, you know, depending on where you're at with it, like, in terms of your comfort level, like, there's there's many ways to teach and, you know, you can do a short little webinar, you can do herb walks. You can start with something super low key and informal and just going into there's lots of places that will want to have herbalist speak to them, so you can go into garden clubs and stuff like that. So there's lots of sort of low, lower, I should say getting up in front of a group is never easy, I know, but lower kind of lower stress, entry level ways to just get into it and see if you like it and then you can work up to doing bigger programs. I would just say for me, it's been so rewarding. It's probably I don't know if I'd say it's been more challenging than my clinical practice.

I think it's been equally challenging, but there are definitely times where I felt like, oh, this is just too much, or the amount of work I'm putting in. There are times where I felt somewhat defeated by it, but it's always turned out so well and it's so rewarding. And I feel like the energy you get back from your students is really not something I really anticipated and really feeds me in a lot of ways and keeps me going, whereas I feel like with clinical work, where it's also very rewarding, but you're working often depending on the type of work that you do. You're working often with people that are in really difficult situations and it can be very challenging and exhausting and rewarding at the same time. And so this is just like a different way that it's rewarding, where people are just really getting excited about what they're learning and they're sharing it with their friends. So I don't know, I find that aspect quite rewarding and fun and so that's why I really like doing it alongside the clinical work.

Yeah, awesome. Well, thank you so much for coming and talking to us about this. I think it's so helpful just to hear the models that other people are using and kind of a little bit of the behind the scenes info. So if people want to learn more about you or either one of these programs, how could they find out more?

Okay, well, if you want to learn about all of the information is on my website, so you could go to my website, which is Orenherds CA, O-R-E-N-H-E-R-C-Z CA. And you could navigate to the various things that I do. But we also have a website for this new program which is So just maritime herbschool. One word, just like it, and all the information is there.

Great. In case anybody is interested in your upcoming webinar about paths into becoming an herbalist. Do you have the details of that? I can include it in the show notes if you don't know them off the top of your head.

Yeah, it's like a zoom link to register and gosh. It's not super obvious how to find that because it's on a Facebook post and in my newsletter. But maybe I could send you to put in the show notes. It's just a zoom link to register for it.

Yeah, that would be great. And I'm assuming it will be recorded in case somebody is listening after it happens. They could get the recording in the same fashion.

They could totally get the recording. Absolutely, yeah.

Cool. All right, well, thank you so much for coming in and chatting with us. And hopefully people can go find out more on your website if they want to have more details.

Great. Well, thanks for having me, Camille. I really appreciate it.

Thanks for listening to in the clinic with Camille.

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