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Difference Between Apothecary, Herbalist and Pharmacy

Apothecary, herbalists, and pharmacists, generally referred to as druggists, are known to deal in medicinal drugs. In some parts of the world, these terms are used interchangeably; but may denote or mean the same thing.

For instance, an apothecary used to be a type of pharmacist who aside from just distributing medications to both patients and professionals, also gave out general medical advice and rendered other services (such as [some] actual surgeries) and might have also sold tobacco.

Druggist, which is an encompassing term for these professionals, may also refer to a seller of drugs or medicinal preparations at wholesale or retail and as owner, manager, or employee of the sales establishment. Ordinarily, they are all regulated under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and Federal drug abuse laws also make provisions for the special registration of any individual who handles controlled substances.

To safeguard the lives and health of citizens, states also have the power to regulate the preparation and dispensing of drugs. They can allow or even ban the sale of certain substances without a prescription and assign who is allowed to deal in prescription drugs.

State regulations stipulate the procedures that are expected to be observed when drugs are handled, coupled with the processes that must be taken for the inspection of drugstores and pharmacy records by agents of the state. They can also sanction that pharmacists be licensed, as long as the necessary qualifications are not unreasonable.

For instance, although it would be okay for a state to mandate that pharmacists earn college degrees, it would be unreasonable to expect them to be natural-born citizens of the state. State legislatures can also institute laws that prohibit any type of improper competition that would bring about low service standards in the industry.

Nevertheless, any business or individual engaged in handling drugs has a legal obligation to exercise proper care. And although the distinction between apothecary, herbalist, and pharmacist has disappeared over the years and may be used interchangeably, they still have their differences.

What is An Apothecary?

Apothecary, simply put, is one term for a medical professional who formulates and gives out materia medica to physicians, surgeons, and patients. According to reports, the more modern pharmacist has assumed this role, while in some languages and regions the word is still used to note retail pharmacy or a pharmacist who owns a drugstore.

Coupled with dispensing medicines, the apothecary is also known to offer general medical advice and a vast range of other services that are now performed by other specialist practitioners, such as surgeons, obstetricians, herbalists, and pharmacists.

The term also is sometimes used to refer to a drug retail shops which, coupled with ingredients for medicines, sold tobacco and patent medicines.

Apothecaries are expected to be versed in state and federal drug laws, and also stay current with any changes or adjustments to these laws, and also comply with them. These professionals also need to ensure that they maintain accurate records about the dispensation of controlled substances. Apothecaries are also expected to have computer skills to maintain electronic records if needed by their establishment.

Duties of an Apothecary

The following duties are more or less common for individuals in apothecary roles:

  • Put together medications following physicians’ prescriptions, noting possibly contradictory therapies
  • Give out medication by compounding, packaging, and labeling medication.
  • Offer pharmacological information by responding to queries of healthcare professionals
  • Arrange records for controlled substances, remove expired stock, maintain registration, study, and adapt to new and existing legislation.
  • Sustain a clean, safe, and hygienic work environment.

What Is A Herbalist?

A certified herbalist is known to leverage the healing properties of plants. These professionals grow and make raw herbs to be used for medical purposes and serve in some situations as consultants for patients eager for a more naturopathic treatment plan.

Although these professionals may not legally practice medicine in the United States, they may work as consultants, researchers, educators, or producers of herbal products.

According to experts, this line of work may be appealing to individuals with an interest in using alternative or natural therapies to boost human health. Note that these professionals may become certified through schools or professional organizations. Educational requirements include formal education and apprenticeships.

Duties of Herbalist

Have it in mind that the duties of a herbalist vary, but they specialize in one of three kinds of herbal medicines; these areas include Western herbs native to Europe or North America, Traditional Chinese herbs native to Asia, and Ayurvedic herbs more aligned to India.

These health professionals may engage in all stages of the herbal medicine process, from planting to the making of raw herbs.

Although these Herbs, which might include other parts of a plant, may be cultivated or gathered in the wild, once these professionals have the raw herbs, they may process one or more into different usable products, such as oils, pills, capsules, powders, and/or tinctures.

However, owing to the lack of national or state licensing, herbalists may not diagnose or treat illnesses. Have it in mind that individuals in this field are constrained to just teaching or consulting in terms of their knowledge of herbs. They are allowed to teach herbal courses at colleges or medical schools and instruct others on how to use herbs to maintain health.

Even though herbalists are expected to complete some education and training to become certified, those who intend to grow their role or even expand may have to seek additional education in a Doctor of Naturopathy degree program and become a licensed healthcare practitioner.

What is a Pharmacist?

Pharmacists are healthcare professionals who are tasked with compounding and/or dispensing prescription medications, providing pharmaceutical information to healthcare professionals, monitoring customers’ drug therapies to avoid interactions with other medications, and providing pharmaceutical advise to customers on the safe use of medications.

They are also expected to explain what the medicine is for, how it works, what to expect when taking the medication, and what to look out for.

Have it in mind that a pharmacist may be based within a hospital or healthcare facility or at a community pharmacy. Generally, they are expected to have a degree in Pharmacy which gives them an inept understanding of the biochemical mechanisms of drugs, drug uses, therapeutic roles, side effects, potential drug interactions, and monitoring parameters.

Duties of a Pharmacist

  • Mix and dispensing medications, as prescribed by physicians.
  • Monitor customers’ drug therapies, offer interventions, and explain to customers any potential side effects.
  • Enlighten customers on how and when to take prescribed medications.
  • Conducting health and wellness screenings.
  • Offering immunizations, and other medical services, such as taking blood pressure, temperature measurements, and checking blood sugar levels.
  • Ensure they keep accurate customer records.
  • Sustain a safe and clean working environment.
  • Perfect the operational requirements of the pharmacy, including verifying order entries, maintaining records of controlled substances, charges, and removing expired and/or damaged drugs from the pharmacy’s inventory.
  • Complying with applicable legal rules, regulations, and procedures governing pharmaceutical practice.
  • Performing other administrative tasks when necessary.

Difference Between an Apothecary, Herbalist, and a Pharmacist

Apothecary, herbalist, and pharmacy are not the same. Aside their different definitions and core duties, as noted above, they have some key differences, and these include;

  1. Education

First and foremost, to become any of these professionals, you require a lot of education. At minimum you need a college degree. However, to become a pharmacist, you will be expected to attend pharmacy school afterwards. A good number of states also mandate a medical degree as well.

But to become an apothecary or a herbalist, you will require a college degree in chemistry, herbology, naturopathy, or traditional Chinese medicine, or nutrition. In the United States, some states might mandate licensure as well. Howbeit, you will still need continuation education credits to stay licensed.

  1. Products and Services

Pharmacists are healthcare professionals who practice in pharmacy. They are involved in all aspects of medicine delivery to patients. They are tasked with preparing and packaging medication that a doctor has prescribed and also sell the medication over the counter.

When you walk into an apothecary shop, most of the time, there are walls lined with shelves of herbs, oils, butter, incense, wellness books, crafting tools like mortars and pestles, tinctures, and much more. Toward the back, there may be access to a greenhouse or even a teaching room.

Certified herbalists are more likely consultants, advisors, researchers, and educators in the realm of herbal medicine. Aspiring herbalists are always expected to go through training courses that vary depending on their area of focus.

  1. License and Certifications

Have it in mind that every state in the United States mandates pharmacists to obtain a license. After they have graduated with a Pharm.D degree, aspiring pharmacists are expected to also pass two exams. The Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam covers pharmacy law and the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam tests the graduate’s knowledge and skills in the field.

Also note that States often have extra requirements as well, and these may involve certain numbers of internship hours. Pharmacists who want to give shots and provide immunizations may also need to obtain additional certification from the American Pharmacists Association.

However, there are no official licenses to practice medicine for herbalists in the United States. Nevertheless, they may become certified by certain schools or professional organizations.

For instance, the East West School of Planetary Herbology is known to confer the East West Certified Herbalist designation on students who successfully finish a number of requirements, including herb and science courses, 400 clinical hours, three presentations, and 12 quizzes.

Apothecaries also need to be licensed by passing the North American Licensure Exam. Apothecaries are also expected to be certified before they can administer vaccines. Apothecaries who have intentions to specialize in certain areas are also expected to earn certificates to buttress their knowledge in that field. Various boards offer certification, such as the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators.

Apothecary Vs Herbalist Vs Pharmacy – Which is More Profitable?

According to reports, a pharmacist is more profitable when compared to a herbalist or an apothecary. Pharmacy is a proficient profession with a combination of science, healthcare, direct patient contact, computer technology application, and business management.

Have it in mind that they play a very crucial role in boosting patient care through the medicine and medicine-related information given to patients.

Also, note that this career offers numerous paybacks and opportunities. Also have it in mind that this career offers more earning probability and is steadily renowned as one of the most highly trusted professions because they offer necessary care to the patients with their versatile services.


Just like it was stated above, Apothecary, herbalist, and Pharmacist all deal in medicinal drugs. In some parts of the world, these terms are used interchangeably, but may not denote or mean the same thing.

However, note that anyone who fails to comply with the legal responsibilities of the profession can be subject to a legal action by a customer or even by the regulating agency. Ensure to perform your research and understand all necessary requirements before you start dispensing any form of drug in the United States.