medicinal herbsIt’s finally out of the bag!  It’s available in stores; you can find it online; in fact, you probably receive at least 1 junk email a day from someone trying to sell it to you!  What herb is it?


Echinacea / Ginseng / Ephedra / Horny Goat’s Weed (no, I am not making up that name!) / Raspberry Ketone / Green Coffee Beans / Gingko Biloba / Mushrooms Extract / Tea Tree Oil / etc…

Don’t get me wrong here:  I am in favor of all of these herbal supplements.  But what I am opposing is the notion that there is one cure-all herb for _____ (fill in your problem).

Here are some concepts regarding herbology that are frequently misunderstood:

1.  Herbs have powerful side-effects:  just like prescription medications, herbs can have side-effects.  A good herbalist will minimize these side-effects by combining your herbs with other herbs that balance the total formula to make it very gentle on your body.  My favorite example is ephedra, or Ma Huang in Chinese.  In Chinese herbology, Ma Huang is used in very small doses, combined with other herbs to treat asthma and allergies.  Someone realized that in large doses, it suppressed the appetite, and sold it as a weight loss supplement.  Of course, so many people started taking it, and then they started having heart problems.  Now it’s illegal and nobody can use it!

2.  Your herbal needs will change at least every 3 months.  Rarely does someone’s body need the same formula for more than 2 – 3 months.  In the case of an acute injury or cold, the herbal formula may change within 2 days!  Only in very long-term problems may the formula stay mostly the same, and in this case, the herbs will mostly be “tonifying” or nourishing for the body.

3.  (MOST IMPORTANT:)  Herbs are NOT a “one size fits all” thing.  Let me give you some examples:  suan zao ren is a Chinese herb used to treat insomnia and irritability.  But in some patients with insomnia and irritability, if I gave them suan zao ren it would actually make them worse!  Cang er san is an herbal formula used to treat sinus allergy, but for some patients with allergies, it wouldn’t do anything at all!  (You see in Chinese medicine there are actually 4 different TYPES of allergies you could have!  All of which would get different types of herbs.)

With some guidelines to herbal medicine you can get better results, but also more clearly understand what you’re doing and how the herbs are working in your body:

1.  Consult with an herbalist (someone licensed to practice herbology by the medical licensing board of your state) to find out if there would be any potential side-effects of taking a certain herb or supplement that you should watch out for.

2.  If your condition changes, again, consult with an herbalist.  If you want to continue taking herbs and other natural remedies, I actually do not recommend talking to an MD.  In my experience, they will only try to convince you that all herbs are dangerous and unregulated and may conflict with your prescriptions.  In my opinion:  Did they study herbs?  No?  Well, then how do they know if they are dangerous, unregulated and conflicting with medication?  THEY DON’T.  I don’t proclame to be an expert in pharmacology and they should not proclame to be an expert in herbology.  Just sayin’…

3.  The safest herbs and supplements to use?  The ones that are “food grade,” meaning if you saw it on your plate at dinner time, you wouldn’t be alarmed!  Some examples may be:  ginger, garlic, tumeric, cinnamon, etc.  Just remember, consult with an expert first!  I can’t tell you how many times I see someone in my clinic with insomnia because they’ve been taking ginseng tea before bedtime! 

Just like when a computer has a glitch…it’s often not the fault of the computer, but an operator error.  It’s not the fault of the herbs if there’s a side-effect, but maybe it’s not the right herb for your constitution. 

Always remember, we are here to help you. 

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