Herbal Medicine Does Work?

More and more people are growing disillusioned with conventional medicine’s ‘one size fits all’ approach and using pharmaceutical medications due to their side effects. People are seeking healthier, natural alternatives. Their search often brings them to the world of herbal medicine. Maybe this has also happened to you. It is certainly what happened to me.

Many years ago when I was suffering with digestive issues, that my GP was failing to address, I heard that chamomile tea would help. I bought a box of chamomile tea bags but these did nothing to ease my problems. It’s only now that I know that the brand I bought does not use good quality chamomile and that the small amount put in a tea bag is not an adequate medicinal dose.

A friend of mine who suffers with anxiety came to me recently saying she had bought St. John’s Wort capsules but they had not worked. St. John’s Wort is well known as the depression herb but it is only effective on 3 out of 14 types of depression.

Let me reassure you, herbs DO work. I would not have spent five years training as a herbalist if I did not totally believe in their power.

If you have ever tried to self-medicate with herbs and wondered why they did not work then maybe you, like me, made some of these common mistakes.

Incorrect dosage

Prescription and over the counter medications come with very clear dosage instructions but herbs do not always come with directions.

A bag of dried herbs won’t have any dosage information. A bottle of herbal tincture or herbal capsules will have a standard dosage that has not been determined by a herbalist.

A herbalist decides upon the dosage by considering the individual person and what this herb is aiming to achieve.

For example, a few drops of lobelia tincture can promote relaxation; while a strong cup of lobelia tea has a purgative action so could make you vomit.

If the illness is acute, such as a sore throat or a cold, then the dosage may be small but frequent. A three-times-a-day dose used for a long term chronic condition will not be effective for an acute condition.

Low quality plant material

It is very important that herbs are properly harvested, processed and stored so using a reputable supplier is extremely important. A well-known name does not necessarily mean good quality.

Plants do decay so use your senses to check how vibrant and fresh the plant looks. Do the dried calendula flowers still look bright? Have the red clover flowers turned brown instead of being red/purple?

How long have you had those powdered herb capsules? Powdered herbs exposed to light and oxygen loses their potency fast.

Incorrect preparations

How herbs are prepared can affect their therapeutic qualities. For example, milky oats tincture is very different to milky oats tea. Milky oats tincture has a stronger action than the dried herb on the nervous system, whilst the dried herb used for tea is a gentle, long term restorative for the nervous system.

Ignoring the art of herbalism

I often get asked, ‘What herb can I take for my eczema?’, ‘What herb should I take for my arthritis?’ But it is not that simple. People are complex, diseases are complex; there is no one herb for any condition. Each individual’s constitution, the energetics of their illness and the energetics of the herb must be taken into account in order to select the most suitable herbs.

Poor herbal formulation

Taking all the herbs considered good for arthritis and chucking them together is not a skilled way to blend a formula. It may work but more often than not it does not.

More than 2000 years ago Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, said, ‘It is more important to know the person who has the disease, than the disease the person has”.

A qualified herbalist, skilled in the art of herbalism, after assessing the individual’s constitution and energetics of the illness, will select the most suitable herbs considering the synergetic effects when these are blended together, along with the quantities of each herb to use.

Unrealistic expectations

Do not expect herbs to work like a prescription drug or over the counter drug. Herbs are powerful healers yet work gently and need time. Rather than mask symptoms, herbs seek to address the underlying root cause.

Herbs are most effective when dietary changes are made, with proper rest and exercise, and when the mind is also taken into consideration. Other modalities such as yoga, meditation, massage and acupuncture can also support herbs work.

Attempting to suppress symptoms rather than getting to the root cause

Let’s take eczema as an example: I often get asked by eczema suffers what herb they can put on their skin instead of the prescribed steroid creams, as this is how their doctor has treated their eczema and they assume herbs work the same way.

Although herbs do offer relief from topical symptoms, herbs are mainly used to correct the underlying imbalance. For any skin condition this imbalance is internal so herbs to take internally will be blended.

Healing takes time

To truly recover from a chronic disease, you need to take time and commitment to stick to a herbal plan. Everyone responds differently – some people may feel the benefit within a month, but you should realistically expect it to take three to six months for deep healing and recovery to happen.

If you want a little guidance or help getting to the root cause of an illness to correct the underlying imbalance, please feel free to book a consultation with me.  I want to help you take control of your health, vitality and happiness.


de la Foret, Rosalee. (2012). 9 Reasons Why Herbs May Not Work. [Blog Post]. Available at: http://www.methowvalleyherbs.com/2012/12/9-reasons-why-herbs-might-not-work.html