12 Tips to take your Herbs Successfully
Susan Pulley, Making Medicines, Q & A, Tips & Techniques
29 April 2016
Let’s face it- taking your herbs can be like swallowing your medicine: not always pleasant, but you’ve got to do it if you want to get the results.
Because so many of you have questions about whether you’re taking your herbs correctly, here’s your spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.
- Start slowly. For the first 3 days, take half the dosage recommended and let the herbs settle. Then you can increase to full dosage.
- Introduce each herb mix or formula one by one to see the resulting effects most clearly. Give each a minimum of a week head start before introducing another (also consider #3).
- Marathon or Sprint? Ask your practitioner how long a herb takes to yield its effects. Some herbs have an immediately discernible effect and others are intended to support gently over time. Make sure you take the marathon herbs long enough to tree results (3-6+ months), and the sprinter only for the short time recommended (as little as 2 weeks).
- Don’t take herbs indefinitely. Your condition should change, that’s the point, and your herbs need to be changed accordingly. Plus, your recommendations were based many changing factors, like whether you had ama, which dosha was temporarily out of balance, or in which season you came for your appointment. What might be appropriate for your body type & condition in spring may not be contraindicated in summer. Similarly, some herbs should not be taken for more than a couple weeks at a time due to their strong action.
- Get a follow up monthly or minimally seasonally to get herbs that are right for the new you, rather than your old condition.
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- Good timing! Ayurveda uses timing to direct medicines to the relevant area of the body & strengthen the effectiveness. Timing may also be indicated to curtail interference with a pharmaceutical medicine you are already taking.
- What’s an Anupam? The hot water, honey, ghee, tea, etc. that you’ve been recommended to take your herbs helps to direct the herb & enhance the intended effect.
- Get with someone who will take into account your body type, your health imbalances, and specific factors like the current season that are influencing your body’s performance.
NEVER settle for a statement like “This herb is good for _____.” Too many people waste time and money using herbs that they found on the internet that is “Good for (insert non-specific condition)”. Lots of herbs are “good for digestion”, but there can be a huge opposition between a herb that is good for constipation and a herb that is good for diarrhea. Work with a professional so you don’t work in the opposite direction you are trying to!
How to communicate about your herbal recommendations
- Please bring your herbs and your recommendations page to each appointment.
- If you need to ask a question about your herbs between appointments, please take a picture of the package or scan your recommendations page. Send the date you received them, the names & amounts of each one in your mix. Indicate the quantity you are actually taking if that is different than the recommended dosage, and any additional supplements or herbs you’re taking.
I haven’t been very good about taking the herbs- What now?
- No-guilt back on track policy! Sometimes people tell me they feel guilty if they don’t take their recommended herbs. You’re an adult, you’re not in ‘trouble’, so don’t delay to contact me if you find you’re not taking them! These things happen, and we’ll find an alternate way that is easier, or a way to reinforce the habit. For example, you may realize you’re not taking your herbs in powder form and you would do better with capsule form. We have choices to work with, so don’t let this be the reason you don’t get results!
- Expect to troubleshoot. There are so many herbs for stress, for example, but we may need to try a couple different ones that get the best results for you.
Needless to say, if you feel something unexpected, stop the herbs immediately. Contact your practitioner, and write down everything you can remember about what you ate and drank and your activity for the last 48 hours. Sometimes it is just about changing the dosage or finding a herb that does a similar action but fits better with you. If that’s the case, please bring your mix to be exchanged.