A Rich History

Dominion Herbal College was founded in Vancouver, Canada in 1926 by naturopathic physician Dr. Herbert Nowell. Dr. Nowell taught Botanical Medicine to medical doctors prior to 1918 when such medicine was accepted and practiced by the medical profession. Dr. Nowell’s knowledge in Herbal Medicine was admired and appreciated by doctors in England, Canada and the United States.

In 1962 Ella Birzneck, RMT, MH, EP, who apprenticed with Dr. Nowell, continued the tradition and spirit of Dr. Nowell’s love of herbs and natural healing by resurrecting and reorganizing Dominion Herbal College and making the Chartered Herbalist and Master Herbalist Diploma Programs available for study by anyone with a sincere desire to gain real knowledge in the field of Herbal Medicine. Since 1987 members of Ella Birzneck’s family have worked to ensure that the original purpose of the College is maintained.

Dominion Herbal College was the first school of Herbal Medicine to offer clinical level studies in North America. In 1989, in order to meet the growing demand for advanced herbal studies, the Clinical Herbal Therapy Diploma Program – 3 Year In-class was introduced and in 1993 the Clinical Herbal Therapy Diploma Program – 4 Year Distance Learning was established. These programs were developed to enable individuals with a strong sense of vocation to practice as a Clinical Herbal Therapist. Also introduced at this time was the Clinical Herbal Therapy Diploma Program Specially Structured for Health Care Professionals at the Physician Level – 2 Year Distance Learning.

In 2003 the Herbal Consulting Diploma Program – 1 Year Distance Learning was designed for individuals, employed or seeking employment in the herbal industry, to upgrade and become competent Herbal Consultants.

Pioneers in Herbal Medicine

Dr. Herbert Nowell

Dr. Judy Nelson, DC, ND, MH

Vice President | Herbal Studies

Dr. Judy Nelson has a long and distinguished history in the field of complimentary health services, particularly in the area of Herbal Medicine. She began as a clinical assistant in Ella Birzneck’s holistic health practice before attending Western States College of Chiropractic and Naturopathy in Portland, Oregon where she attained degrees in both Chiropractic and Naturopathy. Dr. Nelson practiced in Vancouver, British Columbia and while raising her family opened a health food and natural products store.


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More about Dr. Nelson

Dr. Nelson became active in both the Canadian Health Food Association and the Canadian Herbalists Association of British Columbia. After the passing of her mother, Ella Birzneck, RMT, MH, EP, Dr. Nelson became the President of Dominion Herbal College and continued to actively promote health service alternatives, especially in the area of education. In 1989, after long recognizing the need for advanced-level herbal studies in North America, she enlisted the aid of Chanchal Cabrera, MSc, MNIMH, AHG, a graduate of the School of Phytotherapy in England, to structure the first advanced clinical programs of Herbal Medicine available in North America. A three-year classroom and a four-year distance learning program at the clinical level were developed and implemented.

Dr. Nelson has been invited to speak on various aspects of Herbal Education at many herbal seminars and meetings including events and symposiums in Canada. USA and Australia. She has been a frequent guest on radio and television programs and has contributed articles on health, nutrition and beauty to local newspapers. Dr. Nelson also promoted nutritional awareness in the community by working with Public Health Nutritionists to provide a better understanding of the necessity of whole foods for school children. She worked closely with the Health Action Network Society during public debates over health food and herbal legislation. In 2001, she was recognized by the Canadian Health Food Association for being the first woman elected to the “CHFA Hall of Fame” which recognizes significant contributions to the advancement of complimentary medicine and the health food and products field.

In 2005, Dr. Nelson assumed the position of Vice President Herbal Studies and Lorraine Birzneck kept the family tradition alive by becoming the President of Dominion Herbal College. Dr. Nelson continues to play an active role in the College due to her continuing passionate interest in Herbal Education.

Maryann has a BSc in Biological Sciences (1987) from the University of British Columbia and a post-graduate diploma in Community Economic Development (2000) from Simon Fraser University. As well, she has over 15 years experience as an adult educator and has worked for colleges, labour unions, and community organizations.

Dr. Herbert Nowell

Ella Birzneck, RMT, MH, EP (1909-1987)

President of Dominion Herbal College 1962-1987

Ella Birzneck was born in Libau, Latvia in 1909. She was raised by her maternal grandmother until age 14 when she immigrated to Canada. Her grandmother, a mid-wife, Herbalist and “bonesetter”, introduced Ella to Herbalism at an early pre-school age. Additional training in Herbalism was received from her uncle, a professor in Botanical Medicine, who owned and operated several botanical pharmacies in her native Latvia. Sorting herbs, preparing tinctures and mixing salves was a Saturday and holiday occupation much enjoyed by Ella as a youngster.


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More about Ella Birzneck

In Canada, Ella received her High School and Business College education in Manitoba where she spent 10 years on a homestead 85 miles from the nearest hospital. Food and medications were all grown on the farm. All four of the Birzneck children got their start on the farm – no phones, no running water, lots of fresh air and natural food.

In 1942, Ella was injured in an auto accident which later resulted in her resuming her interest in Herbalism and other natural methods of healing to help improve her own health as well as that of her husband who suffered a severe head injury in a construction accident.

Ella Birzneck’s education included: The College of Swedish Massage, Chicago, Illinois; Palmer School of Chiropractic, Davenport, Iowa; Dr. Paul Wendell’s Soft Tissue Technique; Dr. Just, OD, Dietary Therapy (Interned), Winnipeg, Manitoba and Dr. Herbert Nowell’s Dominion Herbal College Diploma Program, Vancouver, British Columbia. Ella interned for one year with Dr. Nowell and graduated in 1953.

In 1962, Ella Birzneck became President and Instructor of Advanced Herbal Therapeutics and Clinical practice at Dominion Herbal College. She was also co-founder of the Canadian Health Food Association and the Canadian Herbalist Association of British Columbia. She was in private clinical practice for over 40 years. As an innovative pioneer in complementary health therapies, she combined many natural healing modalities such as diet, vitamins, massage, chiropractic, physiotherapy, contact healing, reflexology, iridology and colon therapy with the main emphasis on herbal therapy.

Ella’s dedication and inspiration will live on through the lives of Dominion Herbal College graduates and her family who continue to work and teach in the alternative health field.

Dr. Herbert Nowell

A Tribute to Dr. Herbert Nowell, ND

Julieta graduated from Dominion Herbal College as a Clinical Herbal Therapist, and is a board certified Doctor of Natural Medicine. Julieta has been practicing holistic natural medicine since 2001 and has served on the Canadian Herbal Association of BC board of directors. Julieta is the instructor for Botany & Herbarium, Materia Medica I, Materia Medica II and Pharmacy in the Herbal Consulting and Clinical Herbal Therapy Diploma Programs.

Julieta’s skills and training include Herbal Medicine, Nutrition and Lifestyle Counseling, German New Medicine, Salvestrols Therapy, Bach Flower Essences, various forms of Energy Healing (such as Reiki, Healing Touch, Touch for Health, etc.), Reflexology, Visualization, and Meditation.