Using Herbs: The Natural Approaches to Healing, Dealing with the
Using Herbs Effectively – How to Work with Nature’s Healing Aids
My introduction into natural medicines and healing was the same as many. It started with an exploration in the use
of vitamins, minerals and herbs.
I soon discovered that I really liked the effect of these natural approaches to healing far better than their prescription
counterparts and eventually decided to work with them exclusively, to stay healthy.
From this decision, and in conjunction with my work as a minister and spiritual healer, it soon came to be a way
that I helped others who wanted to heal naturally, as well.
Some important things to remember about natural medicines as opposed to prescription drugs is that more time is
typically required to see results. Healing, the natural way, goes to the core of the problem where much of Western
Medicine deals with the cessation of symptoms.
To the Naturopath, symptoms are seen as clues to the problem of origin, and not as something to be treated but to
be monitored as treatment progresses. Of course, in some cases, temporary relief of symptoms is called for, if one
has to work or cannot afford to take time off to let the body do it’s job of naturally dealing with imbalances. The
problem in our society is that we’ve begun to depend on the “quick fix” of the antacid, the headache remedy,
the sleeping pill, or the nerve pill, instead of dealing with the core imbalances.
One of the more dangerous dependencies we’ve developed is a dependence on antibiotics. What has happened over time
is that viruses and bacteria have developed ways to survive stronger and stronger antibiotics and some holistic healthcare
providers (myself included) believe that it may not be long until even the strongest available antibiotic will not
We must learn to support our bodies’ natural defense system, give it the nutrition it needs to stay healthy, and
deal with our emotional, mental and spiritual lives in a more healthy way.
In this article, I will focus on ways to use herbs effectively for health and wellness, but the same guidelines
could be used when choosing to work with other natural approaches, such as vitamins, minerals, etc.
Please remember that this information is given for educational purposes only. I do not diagnose or prescribe but
only share holistic options for wellness that many are seeking in today’s world. The tips I share below have come
from my own personal experience in the use of herbal remedies for my own healing and are not to be construed as replacing
any current medication or regimen suggested by your doctor. It is my hope that you’ve chosen a physician who is open
to natural supplementation.
Tips for Working with Herbs
1. Self-Monitoring – Starting with low Dosages
Whenever I decide to take a new substance into my body system, for the purpose of healing or correcting some condition,
I understand that I have decided to self-medicate. This is my right, and it is also my responsibility. I have come
to realize that any substance at all can cause an allergic reaction (many people are allergic to peanut butter, wheat,
milk, and other common foods, for example), and that the most important time for paying attention is the first three
days I add something new.
Some things I have learned to notice are my physical energy level, any changes in breathing, temperature, skin color,
itching or rash-like symptoms, dizziness, and my mental/emotional state.
Determining whether or not to continue taking a formula has sometimes been a little tricky for me because when a
person begins taking a detox formula, the symptoms of necessary internal cleansing can be the same as allergic reactions.
The skin is our largest eliminatory organ and can respond to a big release of toxins by temporarily developing rash-like
symptoms. Also, detoxing often does temporarily tax the entire system (due to toxins being released and having to
be flushed out through the skin, liver, spleen, kidneys and colon and can create feelings of fatigue, depression,
For me, the way to know for sure that whatever reactions I have are not allergic in nature is to start with a very
low dosage and work my way up to the recommended dosage. By starting with a very low dosage — too low for rapid
detox to be a factor — at least, for 2-3 days, I can eliminate allergic reaction and side effects as reasons for
any symptoms. For example, if I were to take a tincture, and the dosage was 15 drops three times a day, I might start
with five drops, once a day.
Then, after a day or two, I increase to two times daily, then three. I only increase dosage after I have reached
three doses per day. I do this because the efficiency of the medicine is in great part dependent on the medicine
being in the system continually. Until I get up to three doses a day, that doesn’t happen. After I’m sure the continual
dose is not causing a problem, then I feel it is safe to increase. This method is one I choose to employ mainly when
taking those formulas containing many herbs or those designed for heavy detox. Single herbs have rarely posed a problem
2. Adding One New Thing at a Time
I learned this one the hard way. I’m a little short on patience sometimes, and wanted to do a liver detox at the
same time I was trying to lose a little weight and work with my low blood pressure. I added four different formulas
at once, and started at the trial dosage, three times a day.
Within a few days, I had an irritation develop. I didn’t know which formula was causing the reaction, so I cut them
all out. The problem persisted. So I started taking my own Anti-Yeast Formula. Things
got instantly better but, as soon as I stopped taking the formula, the problem was back and full-blown again. Finally,
through the process of elimination, I tracked the culprit down and it turned out to be a new enzyme formula (tablets,
not one of my tinctures) that I was taking before I found the Enzyme Essentials Formulas.
I had not even considered that, because I’ve been taking enzymes for years (I don’t eat enough raw foods, so my
body requires some digestion assistance) but I had not been taking that particular formula until just before the
problem started(about the time I started with the herb tinctures). As soon as I switched back to the enzymes I had
been taking before, I got much better and soon, all symptoms were gone. If I had only added one thing at a time,
it would have been very easy to determine what had caused the problem.
Also, it’s a lesson in “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” because the other enzyme formula had always worked
without allergic reaction although I didn’t at the time realize it was far less potent than what I really needed.
The only reason I tried the new one was that it had more “stuff” in it. Speaking of enzymes, if you haven’t
read my article Enzymes and Weight Loss: The Hidden Factor in Obesity, you might find
it an interesting read. Most associate digestive enzymes with digesting and that is their primary function when we
eat, but oh, they do so much more that I consider them the number one top supplement a person can take for health
3. Giving It Time
Herbs definitely take longer to create relief of some symptoms and conditions than some of their pharmaceutical
counterparts. Look at all the antacids, for example. All offer near-instant relief and some even promise to stop
heartburn Before it starts; yet, none of them promise to eliminate the condition that is causing the heartburn to
keep coming back. The big difference between those types of products and herbal medicines is the focus. The focus
of herbal medicine is to create a healthy environment in the body system, rebuild, cleanse, and permanently heal.
The primary focus of “quick-fix” medicines is to relieve symptoms temporarily, such as pain, indigestion
or depression. Relieving distressing symptoms is not necessarily a bad thing. If I’ve got terrible heartburn, for
example, quick relief can be very valuable and I won’t hesitate to chew a few antacid tablets if I don’t have time
to make some nice ginger tea for the same effect.
However, if I fail to acknowledge that some imbalance of my total physical system, as well as some corresponding
imbalance in my non-physical system (either mentally, emotionally, and/or spiritually) is causing me to manifest
the symptoms and continue to treat those symptoms without dealing with the causative factors, then simple heartburn
will eventually turn into something far more serious.
To completely balance an chronic or very serious condition in the holistic, herbal way, may take six months to a
year. Usually, I see improvement within a week or so but each person’s system is different so my advice would be
to hang in there for at least a month or two (in the absence of allergic reactions, of course) before deciding that
a certain regimen is not working for you.
Also, just because one herb doesn’t work, please don’t decide that none of them will. In fact, most drugs have far
more potential for allergic reaction than full plant herbal preparations, by far. Each person’s chemistry and metabolic
make-up is unique. I’d keep trying until you find the right combination and dosage. Therein is an important key to treatment..
4. Shaking Things Up
I believe that shaking the bottle (when using a tincture, or other stored liquid preparation) before each use actually
rejuvenates, reactivates and stimulates the potency of the medicine. This is a component of homeopathic medicine
called sucussion, which, I feel, applies equally to herbal tinctures. Of course, proper sucussion in homeopathy involves
striking the bottle against a soft object (like a pillow) for 100 times.
This I do when I first buy a new tincture but only then. After that, I just tap it 10 times before use. Note: This
is not according to any homeopathic guideline and you might hear different suggestions from a homeopathic physician.
This is just what works for me.
5. Detoxing Slowly
Whenever I take a strong detox formula, such as a Total System Cleanse or a Colon
Cleanse Program, I start even more slowly than with singles or tonic formulas and build up to maximum dosage.
I try to begin at a time when I can rest – at least for the first two days after I start. I also skip a day every
week or so, to give my body time to rest and renew.
In addition, I add tonic herbs like lemon balm to support my body and keep my energy level high. Drinking lots of
water (and, even more important, spreading that water throughout the day so that I drink some at least every two
hours) is a definite focus for me.
Getting moderate exercise is more difficult for me to accomplish (because, frankly, I don’t like to exercise), but
I try because I know this helps the body with cleansing and detoxing too. Taking more showers helps my skin eliminate
more and reduces the chance of skin eruption from toxins being released. Brisk towel rubs are also something I do
when cleansing, to help the skin release and to stimulate circulation and blood flow on the skin surface.
Taking a potent and viable acidophilus formula (the best and most stable will contain L. Plantarum – the one I use
is Plantadophilus) every day insures that my intestinal flora stays in balance and a full
regimen of acidophilus follows the end of the detox program.
6. Mixing and Matching
I have learned to be a little cautious about adding several different formulas into my system at once. If I were
under a doctor’s care for a pre-existing condition, I would think it most advisable to consult with my doctor before
adding any herbal medicines to the system.
In general, I have learned (through experience) not to add more than two new formulas at a time. It’s what works
for me. By honoring what your body tells you, you can determine what is safe for you. Using more than one formula
is sometimes perfect, and appropriate. If we learn to listen to the Spirit of our body, we will know. Until then,
it might be wiser to err on the side of caution by using only one new formula at a time or by working with a wellness
counselor and monitoring our body system closely during the first few days of any new addition to our regimen.
7. Hearing the Spiritual Message
Experience has taught me, to the point that it is absolute Truth for me, that our physical bodies are a kind of Diagnostic
Tool for our spiritual selves. If we are living in balance, in accordance with what is true and progressive
for our path, keeping our minds positive and our emotions cleared, we will not manifest illness. It is when we
are out of spiritual balance that the physical warnings appear. I will use myself as an example of what I am sharing
In the situation I described earlier, where I suddenly began taking four different formulas at once and changed
the enzyme formula I was used to, the messages are clear to me now. I was disturbed about gaining weight (ego reaction)
and impatient (not sensitive to my body). If I had taken the time to tune in, I might have realized that the reason
I was gaining weight had to do with some personality and emotional patterns in my life and that impatience with myself
was one of them. In fact, once I started to notice my patterns, I could see that I would literally eat out of frustration,
because I couldn’t finish something I wanted to finish or something else wasn’t happening fast enough for me.
I was also being very mentally hard on myself, and demanding that the situation turn around practically overnight,
not considering that the weight didn’t appear over night so how could it go overnight. Maybe I didn’t tune in to
my own imbalance because that would have meant I’d have to deal with the issues. I wanted a quick fix. I didn’t have
time, I thought, to wait.
In taking all the formulas at once, I was saying to my body “Heal, and I mean right now!” Of course my
body rebelled. It was doing it’s job, which was to keep the physical alarm going until I discovered the imbalance
that caused it. When I decided to switch to the new and improved enzyme version, that was clearly me not trusting
my own instincts. I thought more must be better. I was wrong. I remember standing at the shelf in the herb store,
thinking that I might ought stick with what I was already taking. That was my instinct. Then, my logical mind said “But
so and so raved about it. It must be better – look at all these extra ingredients.” Well, one of those extra
ingredients created an allergic response.
I have learned not to look so much at why any ingested ingredient causes imbalance but why I chose to take it in
the first place. It is in my choices that I’ve found my answers. I would not have chosen the new brand if I had trusted
my instincts in the first place so the true cause of my allergic reaction was a failure to listen to the inner voice.
Working with herbs is a wonderful journey into natural health and wellness that, when approached with respect, responsibility
and a sense of exploration can yield dividends for the rest of your days. I hope that you explore this amazing field
in more depth and feel free to contact me with any specific questions. Of course, this information is given strictly
for educational purposes and not intended to replace any current medical treatment you may have chosen. I believe
herbs provide a viable supplementation to traditional medicines and, for some like myself, are the preferred method
We’re all adults here. Make wise choices; choices which work for you. Self treatment requires self-responsibility
and monitoring. Don’t try it if you aren’t willing to explore, expand and learn what may now be new to you.
If you’d be interested in learning more about herbs, please visit the Herbal Resources
Herbal Remedies has an extensive selection of herbals: Extracts, tinctures, supplements,
and children’s herbal products.