A clinical nutritionist is generally someone who has earned a clinical doctorate, a chiropractor or a medical doctor. Their background in biochemistry is extensive. Rather than a dietary advisor (nutritionist) or being focused on calories, fat or carbohydrate intake (dietician), a clinical nutritionist is a primary care doctor and expert diagnostician who can apply biochemical principles of supplements and foods to specific health conditions. A core concept is biochemical individuality; that we are each the sum of our genes, the factors modifying our genetic expression (epigenetics), our environment and lifestyle choices.
Functional medicine, a term coined in the 1980s, encompasses both biochemical individuality and the important idea that dysfunction (of an organ or organ system) precedes disease of that organ or system. Making an intervention when the issue is a functional one, before the onset of actual disease, is highly effective. This is familiar to many as having visited their medical doctor and been told that tests are negative and no disease has fortunately been found, yet illness and symptoms persist. Functional medicine also offers those who have been diagnosed with a particular condition such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease a tangible approach to restoring their health without the use of pharmaceuticals. The clinical nutritionist, unlike the average medical doctor, is trained in food/drug and vitamin/drug interactions.
Medicinal herbs have a history of application for human ills which harks back millennia into the human past. Herbs were our first medicines and are often highly effective in treating health conditions. The vast plant medicine traditions of the rain forest (Central and South America), Ayurveda (India) and TCM (China) are sophisticated systems which rely upon herbal formulas and the energy-moving qualities of plants rather than single herbs. Our herbal tradition in the west is often far simpler and less evolved. While there is currently no licensing available in the US for herbalists, do not assume that your doctor or even a clinical nutritionist is an herbal expert. Professional herbalists are certified through the American Herbalists Guild and specific board-level herbal programs at acupuncture colleges.