Using Herbal Medicines Safely And Effectively

Self-healing is becoming more popular because of the Internet, I think this on the whole is a good thing, however, it is best to do this from an educated and well informed position. Using herbal medicine safely and effectively requires attention to a number of guidelines. I have provided some details here, please read these carefully.

  1. Take your time, research well, and do not do anything rash. Like drink a whole bottle of skullcap tincture, or, mixing high doses of relaxing herbs together with alcohol and/or other drugs.
  2. Consult an experienced herbal practitioner if you feel like you need some help. Do research into who is the best person in your area, traveling further distances may be helpful or on-line consultation with someone you trust.
  3. If pregnant or breastfeeding, be ultra cautious. Many herbs are not definitely not safe in these situations.
  4. If building up a formula add one herb at a time and don’t go overboard with taking supplements. It is best to only increase the dose or add another herb after you are sure it is not reacting badly with you. For example, a week is a reasonable time to wait before adding a new herb. To start with it is probably best to use just 2 or 3 herbs at the same time, also, this can be very effective. It can be confusing to consume too many herbs or supplements, I use between 2-6 herbs at a time. Supplements like vitamins, minerals, and synthetics can usually be replaced with herbs and a balanced diet. It may be good to have a break a.
  5. Pay attention to your bodies reactions, discontinue the herb if you are having a bad reaction. Learn to be aware and trust your intuition.
  6. If you are already on pharmaceutical drugs, be more cautious. Research interactions carefully, and be aware effects are often additive. E.g. sedative herb plus a sedative drug = more sedation. This effect can be dangerous.
  7. Do not stop seeing your ordinary doctor and believing in the value of conventional medicine. It can be very helpful, has been well tested, and may save your life! The site is more geared towards people with minor issues they don’t want to take drugs for, or people who have found inadequate relief with mainstream medicine.
  8. Be aware that herbal medicines may cause side effects and are not 100% safe. This is similar to pharmaceutical drugs, although generally they are safer, do not believe people (herbal practitioners, homeopaths, naturopaths) saying to you they are completely or 100% safe for everyone. That is a lie.
  9. Herbal medicines may take some time to work so be patient. Herbs can be divided into slow and fast acting, to heal chronic conditions, the slow acting tonics are usually best. However, it may be useful to use faster remedies to treat certain problems. The tonics can take months.
  10. Dosage is dependent on the individual. For example young people (under 16) or old people (over 65) will require less of a herb, so be cautious with these people especially.
  11. Always practice with a holistic approach. I mean here, herbal medicine is just one part of an overall picture where you may need physiotherapy, yoga, mindfulness, or to visit a chiropractor. Diet is important. You may need other changes to your life or career.
  12. Quality is important. Herbal extracts are very variable in quality and you will get very different results, so research well and find trusted companies you can order from. Oftentimes it is best to go with a big company with a good reputation so it is likely they won’t shut up shop and the quality is consistent (e.g. Jarrow or Herb Pharm).
  13. If taking a formula it is usual to the reduce individual dose as the effects are often additive.
  14. Formulas are good. Many people are using single medicines which can be very effective, but herbs have synergistic interactions and act well in teams. Choose the herbs carefully. I recommend the book ‘Body Into Balance’ by Maria Groves or going to see a good herbalist in your area.
  15. Pay attention to recommended dosages. It is best to follow the label that comes with the product and/or guidelines from a good source. Only increase the dose in small amounts, leaving time to observe the bodies reactions.
  16. Be aware that certain adaptogenic herbs (e.g. Asian ginseng, cordyceps) are a bit stimulating and can mess up your sleep. Try taking the more stimulating ones in the morning or just find others. They also combine well with the nervine herbs which are more relaxing. Individuals with sensitive nervous systems need to be particuarly careful with most adaptogenic herbs; there are certain ones that are calmer like ashwagandha or holy basil, but the nervines may be more appropiate for these people.
  17. Try your best to refrain from drugs or other intoxicants while taking herbal medicines. The aim is to heal the body and mind, these things are not conductive.
  18. Do your best to make sure you are sleeping well. I give more guidelines on the sleep page. This is a pillar of longevity.
  19. Eat a nutritious plant based diet. I give more guidelines on the diet page, but briefly, I recommend a Paleo diet without red meat (with legumes and rice if you can handle them).
  20. Don’t ignore the tonic herbs. This class of herbs is reserved for medicines that tend to restore health over a long time and are also safe to take long term. These herbs lead the way in bringing the body into balance. It is best not just to rely on pain killing herbs and short acting remedies most of the time.

If you follow the above guidelines this will help you learn to use herbal medicines safely and effectively within the correct context. The systems of worldwide herbal medicine are in fact a wonderfully supportive matrix, if well chosen they may support your journey back towards health.