Why Herbs Don't Work for You---You May be Doing Some Things Wrong! Find Out Common Mistakes People Make When Using Herbs for Healing
Has this happened to you? You get sick, but you really don't want to go to the doctor and get yet another antibiotic? Or maybe you know that using that over the counter decongestant is really ruining your nasal passages and creating a physical addiction? Are you joining the growing ranks of folks who are fed up with Big Pharma and the chemicals in all the medications we now take in our country?
So...you get online and do a little research. Oh-Ho! You discover that maybe using Holy Basil will help improve your stress levels. Or that Valerian will help you sleep? Or Saw Palmetto (for men) or Red Clover (women) will help fix all your hormone issues? Or Rosemary will solve all your memory problems?
You immediately charge off to the nearest supermarket and find a bottle (or stale box of tea bags) of whatever herb you read about online and decide to try it out. But! It doesn't work.
So you just chalk up herbalism to being some kind of voodoo witchcraft or snake oil and give up, leaving you once again at the mercy of the modern medical industry.
If you have ever wondered why herbal remedies aren't working for you, there are some potential mistakes you might be making.
Herbs DO work. However, several factors can affect how effective they are on each individual's body. Let's take a look at these common mistakes many make or have made (including myself).
FTC Disclosure: There are affiliate links scattered throughout this article. If you click through and make any kind of purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you--Heidi (Full Disclosure Here)
Reasons Why Herbs Don't Work for You
It's easy to make simple mistakes when you are first learning about something new. Using herbs for your health is no exception. In fact, I would argue that learning how to use herbs may be more difficult than learning other new skills because everyone's body is different, not to mention there is SO much to know!
The bottom line is: Herbs are incredibly powerful, and they DO work. Avoid these common mistakes:
1) Unrealistic Expectations: You Might be Expecting Herbs to Work Like Prescription or OTC (Over the Counter) Medications
OK. Just doing a little internet research to find an herb that will solve a health ailment does not (always) work. I'm just being straight with you, here. Herbs are NOT like pills.
Herbs work gently and may need time to work on and heal your body---but they do work much better and are generally far more successful in the long term. This is because they help your body actually heal and are far more gentle in most cases than Rx or OTC drugs.
Our modern society has been brainwashed for the past six or so decades by the ever-growing Big Pharmaceutical Industry and Big Government into a mistrust of our traditional ancestral folk medicine and the "modern" perceived need for "the quick fix" a pill can provide (often with unpleasant or unsafe side effects that require even more medications).
So many people believe, because of their upbringing in the past recent several decades (I call it the re-education of the masses), that you just need to "take a pill" and you will be cured! In reality, in the great majority of cases, a pill often simply masks the underlying problem, and doesn't solve it at all.
Did you know that up until the early 20th century, people relied ONLY on herbal preparations and traditional remedies to heal themselves? And that pharmacists of that time (my great-grandfather was one), actually created many of their own formulations to provide to their customers on an individualized basis?
Nowadays, thanks to Big Pharma and government "safety" controls, traditional folk herbalism is looked upon with suspicion, if not downright mistrust...often bordering on contempt and even fear.
This is because herbal medicine and prescription medicine (and OTC's) are completely different, and we have so very sadly lost the understanding and use of the traditional medicines our ancestors used. What our grandmothers and great-grandparents knew to work has been thrown carelessly by the wayside.
In this modern day and age, people under the age of about 80 have been trained to simply go to the doctor and "get a pill" that will solve the problem. No longer are underlying causes and lifestyle changes, including using herbs, being addressed by most doctors. It's just easier to go take that pill (and prescribe it), right?
Here's a Real Life Case Study:
Because of a change in our teachers' insurance, we were all made to choose a primary physician (I have never had one). So I went to see this fine doctor (and he truly is a wonderful man). He diagnosed me with high blood pressure and proceeded to scare me into taking high blood pressure medications.
But, sadly (or maybe thank goodness), they didn't work. So he adjusted the medications. Then I started to puff up by retaining water to the point I couldn't walk at the end of the day. So....now I was handed another prescription for diuretics.
Not only did I suffer the indignity of puffiness due to water retention, I GAINED actual weight! So now, I had to deal with that too!
And isn't this what often happens to people? They go to the doctor, are prescribed their pills, and take their daily pill or two (or ten). Oh, no! Now you have side effects from that/those pill(s) too? So, here: Take another pill to counteract those side effects!
My doctor actually wanted to have me start taking THREE different prescriptions! I finally said NO to all of it and went all natural, cold turkey after about six months of nonsense. NO WAY was I going to become one of those people on multiple medications...when I truly believe I can heal my body using natural methods and lifestyle changes.
When people understand how herbs work, give themselves and the herbs time to work, possibly make some life style changes, and have patience, it's pretty amazing how the human body can heal itself. Herbs are gentle, working to encourage the body to heal, and they work much more slowly. For me, that's ok.
For herbs to work for you, you truly have to understand the difference between herbal remedies and modern prescription pills.
***Note: Please be sure to research and discuss your health with medical professionals as well as obtaining your own knowledge. I am not a medical doctor, and I'm NOT advocating for you to do as I did. I am simply sharing my own personal story to show how herbs and medications work differently.
I believe we are all in charge of our own health and bodies and it is up to us individually to take responsibility and to determine the amount of control we are willing to give others over our health.
Please be sure to see a medical professional if you have questions. Although I have to admit, my doctor had absolutely no idea about the herbs and oils and the lifestyle changes I planned out for myself to solve my high blood pressure issue--he actually laughed at me when I asked him about changing my diet and adding herbs.
It was at that point I lost all trust in his judgment.
This short story is simply one example about how I decided to take responsibility for my own health issue.
Did I solve my high blood pressure problem? The answer is YES.
I managed to get my blood pressure and my cholesterol levels within normal ranges by making some changes to my diet, lifestyle, and using certain herbs and remedies. You might enjoy these articles if you are dealing with heart issues or know someone who is:
2) Using the Incorrect Preparation of the Herb
There are different ways to prepare herbs, depending on the person and the situation. Sometimes taking powdered herbs in a capsule form is the best way to solve a problem, and other times, drinking a tonic tea several times a day over a period of weeks is better.
Sometimes using a tincture and using only a few drops or droppers full is the best way, and sometimes it's best to use an external rub, poultice, or salve. Knowing what kind of preparation to use for what kind of problem, as well as matching the preparation to the person is necessary for herbs to work well.
If you are not sure, find a good herbalist and ask questions. But be careful. I love getting into these groups where someone has a problem like a strange bump, and the advice floods in from everyone in Timbuktu.
Be sure you find someone who has had at least a modicum of training. Or better yet---take classes for yourself! They are fun and empowering. I recommend The Herbal Academy of New England.
If you just want to start out with a good book, I recommend Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner's Guide. It's where I began my own herbal journey many years ago, and I still refer to it often now.
3) The Person's Individual Constitution is Not Taken Into Consideration
People have different constitutions and body make up. Basically, we can classify ourselves into hot, dry, moist, and cool constitutions in a quadrant. Therefore, knowing how your body behaves is of utmost importance when considering what herb or combination of herbs to use for a malady.
Here's an example: I personally have a hot, dry constitution. If I have a runny nose and sinus problem, for my type of body, I will choose cooling and moisturizing herbs. Using a vapor rub containing Peppermint and Eucalyptus (cooling) etc. as well as drinking a tea containing Mullein and Marshmallow (moisturizing and soothing for inflammation) is best for my personal body.
For a person who has a cool, moist constitution, however, using a decongestant containing Ginger, Onion, and Cayenne infused Honey, taken internally, may work better to gently open up those sinuses, while drinking a more astringent type tea might help dry up that runny nose better.
Everyone has a different kind of body and reacts differently to different herbs. Knowing your own body type (and your family's) is extremely important when choosing which herbs to use for what condition.
When using herbs, there are lots of options---and you'll want to choose the best herbs for each individual.
NOTE: I just want to say that when I first learned about people having different constitutions, I was quite confused and worried about making a mistake. Let me just add that there are many remedies that tend to work well across all types of bodies, as well as safe herbs that have low side effect risks.
I try to have those be the kind I share on the blog--Easy and common remedies that work well across the board. Again, Rosemary Gladstar's book is a wonderful place to begin!
4) Poor Quality of Herb....and Even Adulteration of Commercial Herbs
Just like anything else, the freshness and quality of the herb matters. And so does the source!
I'll never forget the time I needed some dried Plantain, as I had let mine run out. There's an herb shop in our large city, so I went in to pick up a couple of ounces since I couldn't wait a day for my online order to arrive. So when I received the Plaintain I had ordered from my online bulk herb supplier, I couldn't help but compare the two.
The herbs I had purchased from the store in town were brownish, dry, and obviously stale. The Plantain I received from my normal online supplier was bright green and fresh tasting. The difference was SO obvious, and I was truly disgusted at the quality I had received from the shop in town. I haven't been there since, and now I make sure not to let my important herbs run out.
Mostly, if I can, I grow my own herbs, especially the ones I rely on the most. Foraging or growing your own is the best way to get fresh herbs. However, if you can't (and I certainly don't grow all of mine), my best place to purchase herbs is Starwest Botanicals for quality, options, and fast shipping.
Another issue that is related to poor quality is the potential adulteration or even mislabeling of herbs you buy commercially.
There have been cases where herbs in stores have been tested, and it's been discovered that the St. John's Wort you think you are buying (as an example) turns out to be alfalfa or something else. Therefore, it's VERY important to be able to trust the source of your herbs. Growing, drying, and preparing you own is always best, but if you can't, then purchase your herbs from a reputable source.
5) You Might be Using the Incorrect Dosage
The amount of tincture I might need is going to be slightly different than the amount for my husband and definitely for my grand child. Knowing how much to take and how often to take it is of vital importance.
If you are new to herbs and are using "safe" herbs, then it's fine to play around with different amounts and preparations to see what works best for you! For children, please be VERY conservative. In general, about 1/4 the dose for an adult is generally fine for children 2-5. For children 5-12, use about 1/2 the dose as adults.
You might enjoy this article: How to Make and Use an Herbal Tincture. I've included basic dosing information there. And again, Rosemary Gladstar's book has a phenomenal section on dosing common herbs for adults and children.
6) Poor Blending (Formulation)
Blending herbs for specific needs is both a science and an art. Closely related to understanding an individual's constitution (see above) is knowing how herbs interact with one another and how to use herbs to make sure they work as well as they can.
When blending a tea for an ailment, I choose one or two of the primary herbs--these are the herbs that will have the most effect on the malady. Then I'll use a secondary herb (or herbs) that enhance the effect of the primary herb(s). Finally, I'll add a stimulating herb. These are not stimulating like caffeine, but they do stimulate the action of the other two categories of herbs. Herbs such as ginger, cayenne, cinnamon, rosemary, etc. are stimulating-type herbs.
For example, a good tea blend for supporting the liver will contain primary herbs such as Nettle, Burdock, Dandelion; a secondary herb such as Calendula; and finally a stimulating herb like Peppermint or Ginger.
If you'd like to learn the basics about how to blend your own medicinal teas (and it's fun to do), you'll like my eBook: How to Create Herbal Tea Blends for Health and Pleasure. My eBook is also available on Amazon Kindle.
Final Thoughts on How You Can Get Herbal Remedies to Work for You
Many people these days are wanting to "go natural," and solve their own health problems using holistic remedies. Trust in the current medical and health system in our country has eroded in the past few decades and with good reason.
Especially with typical illnesses like the common cold and allergies, herbal medicine is extremely safe and useful and can create healing systems in your body rather than dependence on chemical pharmaceuticals or over the counter (OTC) medications.
The bottom line is that you need to do your due diligence. Learn as much as you can. Experiment and try safe herbal remedies. Seek advice from herbalists and people who use herbs. If you have elders in your family who are aware of using plant medicine, talk to them! Don't let that knowledge die out!
I hope this article was helpful to you, and that you'll consider trying learn about and use herbs over time to help solve basic illnesses and improve your overall health.
If you are interested in some tea blends that could be very helpful for you, you might want to start with these articles:
and my eBook on How to Blend Your Own Herbal Teas for Pleasure & Health!
Do you have questions? Comments? An experience to share? Please share in the comments section!
Hugs and Self-Reliance--
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P.P.S. If you want to know where you can purchase quality herbs at a great price with wonderful customer service and quick shipping--I use Starwest Botanicals, almost exclusively.
Disclaimer: I am NOT a medical professional. All statements are my own opinion and are only based on years of experience and study. Please seek medical attention from a medical professional if you have health issues--especially acute or serious ones. In no manner, stated or implied, are any statements made by me in my blog or website meant to cure, diagnose, prevent, or treat any illness. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.