Why Herbs (Sometimes) Don’t Work

One of the biggest and most frequent complaints I get (and read) about herbal remedies is that they don’t work.

Ok, I get it. Sometimes an herbal remedy legitimately does not work for a myriad of reasons — body chemistry, subpar herbs, poor processing, mistaken cause of the complaint, etc. But more often than not? The herb’s ability to restore health doesn’t match the client’s expectations for healing. Let me explain.

Herbs are food, and food is medicine. We’ve seen this time and time again; sugar, rancid fats, gluten and dairy can all be the causes of disease and discomfort in the body. Say you’re having digestive complaints (often linked to dairy). I'd give you ginger or marshmallow or turmeric and advise you to cut out the dairy. Maybe you’re not ready to give up the dairy, but decide to try the herbs anyway. Guess what? Those herbs won’t help. Until you cut out the underlying source of your discomfort, the herbs can’t assist in your healing.

Same thing with drugs — if you’re switching from a sleeping pill to valerian or passion flower, you’re probably going to have to suffer through a few sleepless nights while your body weans itself off the chemicals. Herbs take time to work.

Herbs probably won’t "cure" you of your issues the way pharmaceuticals will. Or, at least, that’s what most people believe. Pharmaceuticals most often work on symptoms like pain or discomfort, while masking the source of the disease. Herbs go to the source; they’re tonics, meaning they heal the stomach lining, the heart, the joints. But they won’t (necessarily) take the immediate discomfort away.

Over time, herbs can certainly do the trick. No one ever said healing was comfortable (ask anyone who's made it through a juice fast).

Obviously, your lifestyle is your choice. If you suffer from chronic bronchitis but keep smoking, herbs probably aren’t going to ease your pain. If your lifestyle choice includes chemicals, you might need to fight discomfort with chemicals as well.

There’s no judgment in these statements, by the way. Giving up vices and habits is hard; I’m totally with you on that struggle. But it all comes down to personal responsibility — you are responsible for your health.

Does that mean that you have to be a raw foodie, give up wine and bread and dairy in order to see any results from herbal remedies? No, of course not. In fact, if you did all that at once, you’d probably suffer from withdrawal and detox and be totally miserable.

There's wisdom in moderation. Asceticism isn’t for everyone. We’re here to enjoy our lives, but part of that enjoyment (true enjoyment) is being healthy enough to relish every single moment well into old age.

So, if your herbal remedies aren’t working, take a look at your lifestyle. What small changes can you make? You never know — cutting out that extra cup of dairy might make all the difference. Just be wild, daring, and feisty enough to let go. Then wait. See what happens.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Amy Jirsa is a writer, wanderer, 500 RYT yoga instructor, Ashtangi, and master herbalist. She makes her home at quietearthyoga.com and regularly counsels clients from around the country on matters of health, wellness, and herbal support. Hop on over to her website for her newest offerings, including a six week ecourse for combating anxiety. She can also be reached through Twitter @QuietEarthYoga or Facebook at Quiet Earth Yoga. Her upcoming book on yoga and herbs, The Herbal Goddess Guide, is due out in April, 2015. Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.