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How to Take Herbal Remedies and Nutritional Supplements

posted on 8 April 2004 | posted in Health Articles


How to take Herbal Remedies
The guidelines below enable meaningful doses to be used safely and effectively. 

1.Follow the manufacturer’s instructions as to when is best to take them. Usually it is in the middle of a meal, as it is also a food. However, sometimes you will be instructed to specifically take away from food. 

2.Without professional advice, stick to the dose on the pack. If you have read an article on this site that specifies more than the stated dose, as long as the product recommended is used, we will always tell you safe doses.

On the instructions of some herbal formulae ages and doses are given, and this can be relied upon. However, as a general rule as naturopaths, we would probably want to start using herbs from the age of 6 years upwards. 

Doses pro rata
Age 6-12       ½ dose
Age 13-16      ¾ dose
Age 16+          Full dose 

Again, this is a general guide because a 14 year old may weigh in as a large adult, and one may consider a full dose since the guidelines above are based on weight.

Remember that the action of a natural remedy is not to block responses that alleviate symptoms. They work by giving the body ‘raw materials’ to heal itself. They help to restore faulty programming within the body and act at a much deeper level, supporting the systems of the body. So with all the treatment protocols that you might try, they need to be continued for a few months.  

You are likely to experience changes within 4-6 weeks of starting taking the remedies. If there is no change in 8 weeks, you may want to re-evaluate what you are taking and change to other remedies.

The general rule is, do not use a herbal combination continually for any longer than a year. Several months are usually adequate in most cases.  

Nutritional vitamins, minerals and digestive enzymes
These can be taken long term. However after several months, you may be able to take some general nutrition to ensure that your reserves are topped up and that your health problems don’t return. For more information on keeping healthy, see article: Why you should take food supplements

Unlike we are lead to believe by biased and poorly informed media reports, herbals are very safe - particularly in their most natural form as opposed to concentrates or extracts. It is, however, wise to note any calls for caution, even though the risks of harming someone are a ‘million to one’. 

Any adverse effect recorded for herbs on free sale have usually been due to poor manufacturing rather than the herbs themselves being damaging. For example the comfrey scare was due to a picker mistaking belladonna for comfrey. It got into the production and some people contracted liver damage. It was not the comfrey that caused the problem, but it was banned after that! Make sure that you use companies who only use high quality herbs that have been tested for purity and for contamination. Bad batches of herbs can contain other plant material, soil, dirt or pest infestation as well as chemicals and radiation. 
Remember, cheap herbs can be old and contaminated or poorly prepared, therefore next to useless. It does not make any sense to skimp trying to save money by buying cheap products. You run the risk that the herbs won’t work at all and you will gain no benefit.  

Most herbs are probably not harmful in pregnancy or during breast-feeding. In fact some could be beneficial. For example, ginger root is excellent in preventing early morning sickness. However knowledge is sparse in this area therefore it is better to err on the side of caution and not take them in pregnancy without professional advice. So if you would like to use herbs whilst you are pregnant or breastfeeding, please go and see a qualified medical herbalist. For a registered herbalist practitioner in the UK go to

When using homoeopathy or other natural medicines, sometimes suppressed past symptoms start manifesting themselves again. Although this time, if it is a healing process, the symptoms will be aggressive but short lived. Clients say that in some way they feel better, despite the aggressive symptoms. A bad reaction to a remedy will not normally cause symptoms to be aggravated in this way. Be pleased that there is something happening. In clinic, we have the skills to avoid a healing crisis i by always ensuring that we treat priorities and only give remedies that raise vital force. If you choose to self medicate, consider the following should you feel your body changing:

Things to consider:

Are you willing to go with it and let it happen?
Are they new symptoms, or ones you have had before?

Naturopathic and homoeopathic principles follow this pattern of cure. When we are facilitating the healing process and get to the root of the problem, you may see the following pattern emerge.

Symptoms move:
From present to past symptoms
From above downwards
From the inside to the outside

One example we come across is where symptoms may become acute is if a client has been suffering from post viral fatigue syndrome. Sometimes they may tell us  that they feel as if they have the ‘flu but never have a fever (may have originally been suppressed with aspirin). They may tell us that they never get colds despite their weakened state. We look on it as a good sign if they begin to get a cold and a fever. A fever is not an enemy unless it is very high and prolonged, in which case a doctor should be consulted. It shows that the body is making a definite defensive effort to curing the illness. At a higher temperature, the body can destroy viruses and bacteria.

General measures to help with discomfort of a healing crisis
1.  Drink plenty of water

2.  Mustard footbath (a couple of teaspoons in warm water) Epsom salts footbath or full bath. Use 1 cup of Epsom salts in the bath water.

3.  A hot flannel rinsed in water containing lavender essential oils place on the forehead.

4. Give in and rest! Allow the body to do its work. 


Things to consider:
If it is a vibrational remedy, such as homoeopathy, or flower essences,  it is unlikely to be a reaction unless you have a problem with the carrier. E.g. sugar pillule, sac lac tablet, alcohol etc.

If you have taken a herb or nutrient and the get diarrhoea, constipation, nausea or indigestion, then it’s likely to be a reaction to the remedy. You may also be short of digestive enzymes which break down the supplement and other foods.

Occasionally, people will complain of extreme physical tiredness after taking a remedy if they are reacting to it. On the other hand, it might be because they are detoxifying and this is taking their energy. If this happens to you, make sure that you are drinking plenty of water and add to what you are taking a liver and kidney support remedy. Make sure that you are not constipated thus holding on to the toxins that your body is trying to release. If this is the case consider taking a gentle herbal laxative such as Cascara and Buckthorn you come out in a rash this could be an allergy to the product. So cease taking it. 

If in doubt, stop all remedies and let things settle down for a few days and then reintroduce them one by one to see which one/s are the offenders. Try lessening the dose if the effects are too strong for you. If you are in any doubt at all, seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional.

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