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Why Your Herbs May Not Be Working


Staff member
Dec 14, 2023
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Have you dabbled in herbal medicine only to be disappointed with the outcomes? Perhaps you had high hopes of being able to swap out your medication for your favourite botanical or finally be able to move through a roadblock that you could never quite get past.

It can be very frustrating when this occurs, especially after invested time and money into books, education, materials and dried/fresh herbs. Your passion and interest in herbal medicine is likely to wane if you are experiencing disappointment in your outcomes.

I know it seems very strange for a herbalist to be talking about times when plants do not work the way you had hoped, but it does happen. In today’s post I want to dive into why that may be.

Unrealistic Expectations​

This is the first and most common reason why people feel they are experiencing failure in terms of utilizing herbs on their healing journey. I cannot tell you how many times as a practitioner I have had folks say to be “can you give me plants that will replace medication xyz”. While I am so pleased to see more people turning to holistic and natural treatment modalities to help them on their healing path, to compare botanicals with pharmaceutical interventions is a recipe for disappointment and let down.

Herbs do not work like medications. Most allopathic treatment measures are designed to force the body into responding in a particular way. If medications are your preverbal bull in the china shop, than herbs are a fly in the same space (in the way we explore how they work in the body).

In many ways we are comparing apples to oranges; both are fruit but they are not the same. Or maybe the comparison of a bicycle to a car is a better analogy. Both are modes of transportation, but to hold either one up to the expectations of the other is simply unfair. Bike maintenance will always be cheaper and cars will always drive faster.

Medications and herbs are both choices in terms of managing health related conditions, but they do not function or work the same way to expect could be why you are unhappy with the results.

Wrong Herb​

In the world of herbal medicine there are a great many plants that can do the ‘same’ thing as another. I use the term same loosely and I will explain that in just a moment. For example, if you are looking for a herb that helps with insomnia, you have a plethora of sedative and relaxing herbs to choose from.

There is a synergy that exists between a person a plant that creates the perfect formulation for health and support. Some of this knowledge comes with practice and time, but some of it is trusting your intuition. As you work with plants you will begin to develop a relationship with them, with each sharing their personality and uniqueness.

Another area to consider is a person’s constitution which is far more tangible than simply ‘trusting your gut’. Constitution means if a person tends toward being cold or hot and damp or dry. For example, if I have a client who tends towards the hot side and gets easily flushed and is often sweaty; I am not going to give them a hot and damp herb (even if it would technically help them based on therapeutic properties) because it does not mesh well with their constitution.

We also take into consideration frailty and in these cases we would use less potent herbs on a person who is generally considered unwell.

Poor Quality​

This is a very common culprit for poor results in terms of botanicals. Your outcomes are only as good as the quality of the plant material you are using. With herbal medicine available at pretty much every grocery store and pharmacy, we have to be so careful that we are investing in the best quality herbs possible. In general, I am not a big fan of tablets or capsules due to their lower quality and poor solubility.

When purchasing dried herbs to make medicines ensure they are vibrant in colour and still pungent in aroma. Making medicine from stale herbs is never a wise course of action. When using fresh herbs, ensure you are harvesting them at their peak potency and that they are not sprayed with any chemicals.

Did You Give Them Time?​

This is another way that folks often play the comparison game between medications and herbs, expecting them to act as quickly as a pill. Herbs are a slow, but deep medicine that needs time to act in the body.

Something to consider; how long of a journey was it for you to arrive at a place of dis-ease and imbalance in the body? It likely took a very long time which means we should afford plants the same time to help you heal. That being said, they rarely take as long to heal as it did for you to manifest symptoms.

Working in Formulation​

Just like there is a synergy that occurs between a plant and person, this same magic occurs when plants work together towards a common goal. In my own clinical practice I have found that when I create a formulation for a client we receive much better results.

Digestion is a lovely example of how we want herbs with varying properties working together to aid the person. We should cover carminatives, bitters, circulatory stimulants and aperients to form the right blend of therapeutic actions.

Proper formulating is an art in it of itself and it something I am so excited to cover in Weavers of Plant Wisdom in the future!

Are They Doing the Heavy Lifting?​

Are you expecting the herbs to do all the work? The path of holistic healing needs to be multi-dimensional involving all aspects of the human. I discuss this concept in depth in this blog post.

In order for your hypertensive herbs to really work well, it is best combined with a healthy and supportive diet, a vigorous exercise regime and a good quality self-care and stress reduction plan.

Symptomatic Suppression​

This is yet another way that people measure the success of herbs against the benchmark of pharmaceutical medications. Most allopathic approaches to healing involve the suppression of symptoms. For example. your medication for high blood pressure doesn’t actually eliminate your high blood pressure, instead it works to suppress the symptoms of high blood pressure.

When we take herbs using the same goal, we can often be disappointed when they do not work as well as we had hoped. This is because herbal medicine works best with a holistic approach, i.e. looking to find the root cause of the issues.

If you are constipated you can take herbal laxatives if you choose, but if you use plants to instead heal the gut and support the liver, you will have better and longer lasting results.

See you on the next post,

Regular Readers/Watchers​

If you are a regular reader of this blog or viewer of Spiraea’s content on YouTube, I would be honoured if you took at peek at my Patreon site. Patreon is a crowd-funding site where folks can show their gratitude for the free content that creators like me produce. My currently Patreon family has been so amazing and supportive. They are the only reason I can continue to put out free video content on my YouTube channel and write blog posts right here. I have immense gratitude for them and would be thrilled if you joined us.

The post Why Your Herbs May Not Be Working appeared first on Spiraea.
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