Herbal Medicine Apprenticeships


with Chanchal Cabrera, MSc., FNIMH, RH(AHG)
assisted by Thierry Vrain, Alina Baker and Zhyfhs Millicent

at Innisfree Farm (Vancouver Island).

Are you already a herbalist but longing for greater connection to the plants you work with? Are you a student of herbal medicine ready for a deep dive into materia medica and clinical applications? Are you concerned about where your herbs are coming from and how secure they are? Do you want to learn how to grow food and medicine?

This apprenticeship is an 8-week immersive learning experience. You will learn to grow, harvest, and process a wide range of medicinal herbs while diving deep into their clinical application. From the garden to the classroom, this experience will open new ways of learning about plants, from science to art, from growing and harvesting to using them for medicine.

The program includes learning plans and study guides, weekly classes, and tutorials as well as dispensary practicum, materia medica review, herbal formulating, and plant attunement activities. There are close to 200 medicinal plants on the farm, and apprentices may work with several dozen during their program.

PLUS: Special opportunity for up to 5 apprentices to live on site and assist in all aspects of growing the food and medicine. Gain first-hand experience of running a clinic, dispensary, and small-scale herb farm. Full board and accommodation provided in trade for 25 hours per week of work (see below for details).

Ready to immerse yourself in the world of herbs?

Applications are now open for the summer of 2024.

Not a clinical herbalist but wanting to learn how to grow and use herbal medicines?

Check out 2024 internship opportunities at Innisfree.

Learn more, including program plan and registration information at innisfreefarm.ca/internships


Session one: Monday May 27th – Monday July 22nd 

Session two: Wednesday July 24th – Wed. September 18

***Live-in apprentices should plan to arrive 1 day prior to start date & depart 1 day after end date


$1200 for 8 weeks 

5% Early Bird Discount if fees are paid before March 30th 

How to Apply

  • Fill out application form.
  • We will notify you when your application has been accepted 
  • Fees are due within 10 days of acceptance of your application, this includes a $200 non-refundable deposit (see cancellations and refunds below)


Overview of 8-week program

Weekly 2.5 hour classes with Chanchal Cabrera, MSc., FNIMH, RH(AHG)  (Wednesday afternoons) – 20 hours 

Weekly 2 hour classes sessions with Thierry Vrain, PhD (Monday evenings) – 16 hours 

Herb walk with Zhyfhs Millicent, RH (OHA) – 3 hours 

Herb-drug Interactions class with Alina Baker, R.Ac, RHT (BCHA) – 3 hours 

Two longer format classes with Chanchal on advanced botanical medicine – 10 hours

Dispensary practicum – 4 hours 

Video lectures for self-study (Case Reviews and Clinical Formulation with Chanchal) – 20 hours 


  • Participation in the Vancouver Island Herb Gathering (for session one participants) OR 
  • Participation in 3-day Herb Camp with special guest Kat Maier (for session two participants) 
  • Access to extensive google drive of learning resources including study guides 
  • Access to extensive library on gardening, ecology, plant science, herbal medicine, health care and horticultural therapy – books, DVDs, audio recordings
  • Opportunity to harvest herbs & make remedies for your personal apothecary

Optional for live-out apprentices – 40 hours – Wednesday 8 am – 1 pm practical garden experience with Chanchal

Value added bonus offer to apprentices upon completion of the 8-week session: 

Free 3-month membership in Chanchal’s new monthly online clinical mentoring program after the apprenticeship (starts fall 2024). 

Certificate of completion of hours will be provided upon completion and may be eligible towards professional registration with your herbal association 

The apprenticeship program is best suited to those pursuing a career as a herbalist or looking to weave herbal medicine into another type of clinical practice. Some prior experience and or herbal training is helpful but not strictly mandatory. 

If you love growing food and medicine and more interested in the work-trade aspect of this program, please check out our farm internships

Curriculum Details

Click to View Curriculum Details

Thierry – Mondays 6 – 8 pm  – Holistic Biology and the Foundations of Life

Chanchal  – Wednesday 8am – 1pm –  Herb garden practicum 

  • Seeding trays, potting up, planting & transplanting, weeding, pruning, taking cuttings, harvesting, processing the herbs. 
  • Tending to the learning and amenity gardens, alongside volunteers from the community who garden with us every week. Consideration of garden design for horticulture therapy.

Chanchal – Wednesday 2:30 – 4pm – Herbal medicine tutorials

  • Week one : review of personal learning goals and development of study programs; library and resources including review of google drive
  • Week two : biophilia lecture and a forest walk
  • Weeks three – eight : review body systems and discuss clinical formulating for conditions. These classes are hosted in the apothecary garden, learning directly with the herbs – plant features and forms (field botany), phytochemistry and pharmacology (constituents and actions), materia medica and clinical applications. 
  • Plus Q&A at the end of each class 

Tuesday classes – times TBA:

Herb walks – 2x 90 minutes with Zhyfhs (3 hours total) 

  • Tuesday June 11th (Session 1)
  • Tuesday July 2nd (Session 1) 
  • Tuesday July 30th (Session 2) 
  • Tuesday August 6th (Session 2) 

Herb-Drug Interactions Class with Alina

  • Tuesday July 16th (Session 1) 
  • Tuesday September 5th (Session 2) 

This class will explore the clinical implications of herb-drug interactions and challenge the dichotomy between “alternative” and “conventional” medicines. We will explore how to make the most of beneficial herb-drug interactions for optimal clinical outcomes and how to perform risk assessments where there is potential for harm. This three hour lecture will include a review of concepts such as dosing, pharmacokinetics, and toxicology and include in-depth explorations of some commonly misunderstood plants such as Licorice and St. John’s Wort. By the end of the class, you will feel confident knowing if, how, and when it is safe and beneficial to prescribe herbs alongside common pharmaceutical drugs. 

Additional classes with Chanchal –  Session one

June 7 – Evolution of Plant Medicine and Implications for Clinical Practice –  Botany and Materia Medica  (5 hours) [click to show more info]

Being a good herbalist means knowing your plants, how and why they came to be as they are, how they live and reproduce, what they look like and how to tell them apart. This class will explore:

  • The evolution of primitive plants like blue-green algae, horsetails, club moss and lichen and the particular medicinal value they offer.
  • Why mushrooms are not plants, and their uses in medicine 
  • Botany and the medicine of the conifers 
  • The relationship between form and function of plant parts 
  • Using a botanical key to identify a plant

July 5 – Quality Control and Dispensary Management  (5 hours) 

To be a good herbalist you need to know where your herbs are coming from and if they are of good quality. This is botany in practice– you will learn to properly describe and assess the plant material, compare it to standard specimens and know if you are buying good herbs. This is a practical lecture that anyone running a botanical apothecary or making herbal medicines will find very useful. 

June 21, 22, 23  Vancouver Island Herbal Gathering  (18 hours)

The event runs over three days and is hosted at Innisfree Farm. Apprentices will be able attend at no additional cost. See https://www.herbconference.org  for more information. 

Additional classes with Chanchal –  Session two

August 16 – Advanced Herbal Formulation and Plant Synergy  (5 hours) 

This class will enable you to go beyond the paradigm of “this herb” for “that condition” and allow you to apply a truly holistic lens to your herbal formulation. We will explore topics such as plant synergy, causal chain of disease, proper dosing and toxicity, and the pyramid prescribing principles. 

September 13  – Poison Plants and the Role of the Clinical Herbalist   (5 hours)

Many of the most effective remedies in our materia medica are potentially toxic in the wrong patient or in the wrong dose, and practitioners are understandably wary of using them. Unfortunately, of course, the less they are used the less they are understood, and the less we understand them the less they are used.

In this detailed discussion we will review the principles of toxicology and the relative risk from herbal medicine, and we will consider the pharmacology as it applies to botanicals;  safety guidelines and adverse events.

27 July – 1 August  Herb Camp with Kat Maier  

23 – 25 August  classes with Rosita Arvigo   

(18 hours total)

Live and Study on-site

For up to 5 applicants 

Live-in apprentices are offered a unique opportunity to experience small-scale food and medicine farming first hand. Apprentices commit to 25 hours / week in exchange for board and lodging (accommodation and all meals). 

We grow all sorts of herbs, vegetables, berries and orchard fruits for sale at the farm shop and the live-in apprentices may be involved in all aspects of growing, harvesting and processing the produce. 

Innisfree runs a registered Botanic Garden and is open to the public every week during the summer season, serving brunch and afternoon tea, selling herbal products from the farm and giving guided garden tours, and live-in apprentices may be involved in all aspects of this. 

What the live-in apprentices learn during their stay

  • Garden planning – assessing your soil, understanding the terrain
  • Cover crops, green manure and composting 
  • Making soil mix
  • Preparing garden beds
  • Sowing seeds and transplanting seedlings
  • Food forests 
  • Soil types and soil health; tilling, mulching, irrigation
  • Crop Selection: (nutrients, pH, water, space, support, pests) and crop rotation 
  • Weed control
  • Pest control
  • Harvesting and processing crops 

Cancellations and Refunds 

When you are accepted to the apprenticeship program, we reserve the spot just for you. Since spaces are limited, this often means we end up turning away applicants once the program is full. As such, we ask that you do your very best to commit to the program when you apply. 

However, we understand that circumstances change and ask that if you do need to cancel, you let us know as soon  as possible so we can offer your spot to someone else.

Should you choose to withdraw anytime up to 30 days before the start date, all fees apart from the $200 non-refundable deposit will be returned to you. 

All fees become non-refundable 30 days before the apprenticeship start date