Why That 'One Herb' Didn't Work For You 'That One Time'

I kind of hate how people will try herbs or natural remedies from the big box store (yes, that includes Whole Foods) and it doesn't work for them so they believe that all natural remedies are crap. I mean, I get it, but its kind of the perfect example of why you need an herbalist.

But, I imagine those who tried an herb that didn't work for them....are pretty skeptical about paying someone to recommend what to take. Surely the labels on the bottles at the store are all you need, right?

Wrong.

So lets look at why that 'one herb' didn't work for you 'that one time'.

1) Age/Degradation

If you tried herb capsules, there is a good chance that it was older than it should be for its best potency. The same can be said for dried herbs. While many stores with bulk herbs many find that they go through them quickly enough...the more sunlight they are exposed to, the faster they degrade. Degraded herbs aren't as strong.

On top of that powdered herbs degrade a lot faster than herbs in a more whole form. Many of those capsules use powdered herbs. This is because by powdering them, you are exposing more of the plant to oxygen.

Tincture formulas can avoid this particular problem, but are not exempt from other issues we will talk about below.

2) Wrong Herb

While this seems like a 'no duh' problem, its actually more common than you think. Herbal medicine should never be approached the same way we approach conventional allopathic medicine. If someone says "take this herb for that" they are either not educated or are trying to sell you something.

Herbs do not work the same way that conventional allopathic medicine doesn't.

There can be over a dozen herbs for cough...but they all do something slightly different...some are for dry coughs, some are for wet but unproductive coughs...some are for coughs from irritants.... If you are taking a stimulating herbs for a dry cough, it is not going to help. You are wanting a moistening, relaxing herb (well, in this general case).

THEN there is the case of herbal energetics (slightly covered in moistening and relaxing). This is actually a BIG part of if a formula is successful for you or not. Herbs can be warming or cooling, drying or moistening, stimulating, or relaxing. There are degrees of each category. 

Additionally, YOU have your own energetic profile and taking herbs can affect that. For example, I have a cold/dry constitution (very Vata in Ayurveda)...cold and dry herbs can actually make my constitution (and the not so great things that come with them) even more out of balance!

You won't find these profiles on the herbs at the store and not all herbalists are well versed in it. When talking with a potential herbalist for yourself, make sure they are trained in herbal energetics.

On top of that...

3) Wrong Form

Even if you figured out the right herb, there is still the matter of correct preparation.

Marshmallow root needs to be used in a cool infusion in able to extract the mucilage that coats the throat. It also works in a powder as a pastille but you will not get the mucilage in a tincture or even a hot tea.

Herbs typically used for cooling or breaking a fever are best taken as a tea (or in a bath), not as a capsule or tincture.

The different constituents in herbs all have their favorite extraction methods. Learning which preparation/extraction you need will really help make sure that the herb is working.

4) Wrong Timing and Dose

This is a big one. The doses you see on tincture bottles at the store are very general doses....typically take 1-2 or 2-3 droppers 3 times a day. But again, herbal medicine isn't the same as conventional allopathic medicine. 

Echinancea, for example, is a powerhouse when used in the case of a cold/flu....should be used about 30 drops every HOUR for the first 24 hours. Not just 3x a day. 

Bitters for digestive help, should be taken BEFORE meals and should be registered by your taste buds (another preparation error) to start your digestive juices BEFORE you put food in your mouth.


That is a lot of stuff to take in, especially when you are just starting out with natural remedies. This doesn't even cover the contraindications of herbs or essential oils. I am bringing it up today because herbs work. They have THOUSANDS of years of traditional use and now plenty of research has been done on them to prove they work. They have a much higher safety record than conventional medication as well. There are professionals in the field of herbal medicine, having gone through years of education so they can properly discuss herbs for YOU, the individual.

Yes, you can absolutely study it on your own and be extremely successful. Look for books from Aviva Romm, Rosemary Gladstar, Matthew Wood, Stephen Buhner, James Green, Susun Weed....so many amazing herbalists that have paved the way for us next generation herbalists.

BUT if you don't want to invest that time, visit one of us. Visit an herbalist. Yes, it costs money but so does buying a ton of herbs that you don't need or won't work for you. You will walk away feeling educated about the herbs you are putting in or on your body. 

Please, don't give up on herbal medicine. It works.