5 REASONS HERBAL REMEDIES DO NOT WORK
Frequently I see Facebook posts complaining that after taking a popular herb, they “didn’t feel a thing” or many others asking “Does [Insert your favorite herb] really work?” These are honest, genuine complaints and questions, however the answers are bit more complex than a simple black and white yes or no. I understand completely the frustration with trying to find an alternative to pain relief, a sleep aid or a mood boost only to be disappointed when we spend money and it just doesn’t work for us. If you have ever tried a new herb with high hopes, only to be let down when you didn’t “feel” what you were hoping for…this article might offer you some insight.
Herbs and Botanical Medicine in general provide us with some incredible alternatives to western pharmacopeia, but unfortunately many of us are still trapped in the allopathic mindset of intense and quick symptom relief. We live in a society with expectations of fast relief from our aches, pains and anxiety. We have been spoiled by the “magic” of over-the-counter drugs that can quickly address the headache, congestion and even provide a quick energy boost. We have been blinded by the powerful and intense symptom relief of allopathic medicine and it has skewed our perspective on healing in general. While some herbal preparations are certainly competitive with their fast-acting pharma counterparts, herbal medicine in general requires planning, strategy and frequently, patience. If the herb doesn’t quickly alleviate our symptom, we are understandably discouraged and many times head back to the welcoming arms of the synthetic drugs that have been so effective in delivering short-term results.
The short answer is that herbal medicine works. The modern pharmaceutical model has made billions on isolating herbal constituents, synthesizing them and filing a patent to prevent others from profiting. There is not a pharmaceutical product on the planet that isn’t a synthetic derivative of an herb, amino acid or mineral….so obviously the natural medicines work. So what happens when we are faced with the dilemma of our herbs not delivering the results as we had hoped? There are a number of reasons this can happen.
Unrealistic expectations. This doesn’t just apply to hoping a cup of willow bark tea will work quickly to eliminate our headache, but also expecting an action of an herb of which it is not capable. For example, if you are using Blue Lotus by itself to address insomnia, you will probably be sorely disappointed. In this case, Blue Lotus works well to alleviate anxiety, which helps to prepare the mind and body for sleep, but it doesn't address insomnia directly. It plays a vital role, but isn’t the lead.
Improper preparation or delivery. Are you taking the herb in a manner that maximizes the benefits? Are you “tossing” when you should be sipping a hot tea? Is your dose meeting the therapeutic range or threshold? Are you taking a single herb when the best option is a compound for the condition or system you wish to support?
Underlying medical conditions. Liver congestion will frequently interfere with the effects of herbs when introduced into the body. The herb cannot be properly metabolized in the body and therefore the effects are muted if not suppressed fully. This is a problem for many people coming off an extended period of pharmaceutical use. They are probably manifesting some degree of liver damage or congestion. A detox/liver reset is very helpful in these instances.
Chemical/Drug Interactions. Aside from the interaction warnings one can find quite easily on the web, many suffer from interactions that while not dangerous, can be inhibiting the efficacy of herbal medicine. If you are trying to support better sleep patterns and resolve your insomnia, it is probably best to not ingest caffeine within several hours of planned sleep period. Most people metabolize and excrete the caffeine within 6 hours of ingestion, but for those dealing with a congested liver, that 6 hours can become 8 or even 12. Many medications can interfere with normal sleep patterns. Blood pressure medications, anti-epileptics and even some anti-depressants can trigger medication induced insomnia that might not respond to even the strongest of herbal sleep aids.
Poor Quality of herbs. Ask yourself a few questions before buying. How fresh is the herbal product you are about to purchase or ingest? What is the shelf life of the herb? Has the herb been processed in a way to ensure that it will be effective when you are ready to take the product? Even buying from a reputable online store doesn’t guarantee you the best quality herbs with the greatest of medical value. Often times herbs are ground into a powder, encapsulated and sent to the stores. That process can take up to 3 months to hit the stores and then can sit on the shelf for several more months on end. The efficacy clock for herbal medicine starts to tick once the herb is ground into a powder. The quicker and fresher you can obtain it, the better.
There is good news. If you know this going in to a cycle of herbal supplementation, there are steps you can take to help maximize the benefits of the herbs you will be taking. Consulting with a knowledgeable Herbalist would be the first step toward helping you navigate the tricky waters. My advice is to consult first as that will minimize the guesswork. Ultimately you will find healing in the plants. Above all, don’t give up.
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