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New to Herbal Remedies?: 6 Common Questions Answered

Are you new to using herbal remedies? You are not alone. Today I want to talk about using herbal remedies as part of a greater commitment to mindful wellness.

As the founder of our herbal remedy business, Cortesia Herbal Products, and a longtime advocate for herbal remedies, I have learned that many people simply do not understand their benefits and how to use them. Fundamentally, it is important to understand how herbs play a part in human health— as unique catalysts for the body’s natural chemistry and immune system to aid health restoration.

Here are six common questions often asked by newbies to herbal remedies. The answers are representative of common knowledge in herbalism and medicine.

  1. Are herbal remedies safe?
  2. What forms of herbal remedies are most effective and safe?
  3. Do herbal remedies have side effects?
  4. Will herbal remedies interfere with prescription medication?
  5. How long can an herbal remedy be taken?
  6. How do I know if an herbal remedy is effective?
  7. How can I trust I am using a safely prepared herbal remedy?

Herbal medicine has been the most commonly used form of self-care worldwide for thousands of years. However, remedies are not miracle cures or magic bullets. Science shows instead that the chemical composition (phytonutrients) of plants acts as a catalyst to stimulate an immune response in the body. This immune response primarily focuses on symptom, cause, and health restoration within the three phases of healing (inflammation, repair, and remodeling).

When properly prepared, the dosage amounts recommended for a remedy are generally very safe. Importantly, these dosage amounts are based according to herbal pharmacopeia standards created after hundreds of years of study and observation. However, one should be aware of drug interaction effects if using herbal remedies along with prescription drugs.

TIP:  It is always advisable to consult with a knowledgeable health practitioner. The Internet may have qualified information, but there are many unqualified claims, too!

What Forms of Herbal Remedies Are Most Effective and Safe?

Herbal medicines commonly come in different orate and topical forms all used throughout history for health support.

Here are the most common forms:

  • Tincture. A tincture captures the therapeutic qualities (phytonutrients) of the plant. A professionally prepared tincture is made in a pre-determined ratio of plant parts to an extracting solution, like alcohol, glycerin, or water. This ratio may be described on a bottle as 5:1, 4:1, 3:1, etc. Among herbal remedies, historically a tincture is considered a very effective choice.
  • Concentrate. Medicine today is emphasizing concentrated liquids or capsules. Concentrated powdered herbs in a capsule may have ratios far higher than those of a tincture. Consequently, caution is advised because the potency can be excessive, causing some side effects, especially when taken over an extended period of time. This requires the consult of a medical professional.
  • Topical. Herbs are commonly used in topical remedies and cosmetics. They are infused with oils and other natural ingredients to create a salve, lotion, or liniment-type spray. Deep penetrating topical remedies have been used throughout history effectively.  Many people use topicals and tinctures for a well-rounded approach.
  • Tea & Tonic.  Teas and tonics are almost synonymous with herbs! Be it cold or hot-fused with water or other herbs, herbal teas and tonics, all have been know to be a wonderful part of gentle herbal health.

Using varying forms of remedies together can be quite effective through their synergetic relationships. Please consult a professional for further understanding of herbal blends.

Do Herbal Remedies Have Side Effects?

Herbal preparations are mostly effective when taken within dosage guidelines. Any side effects, like most medicines, are often individually unique and short-term, and/or related to the specific plants used, or to overdosing. However, common short-term side effects, if any, are like many medications: perhaps a little nausea, drowsiness, stomach upset, etc.

TIP:  If experiencing a side effect from an herbal remedy (i.e. tincture), the most common strategy is to stop using for 1-2 days or so. Then, start again with a greatly reduced dosage, perhaps one-third to one-half. The tincture drops can also be placed in a cup of warm water, or a favorite herbal tea for sipping.

Will Herbal Remedies Interfere With Prescription Medications?

They may interfere and your doctor has to advise you about your prescriptions. Replacing prescriptions is not something ANY herbal company should claim to do with its products. It is always advisable to consult with a health practitioner when using remedies with prescriptive medicines being that drug interaction of any kind is important to understand. For example, some herbs can be beneficial for heart health (regulating blood pressure), but may interfere with certain heart medications. If you are pregnant, have diabetes, a heart condition, or any other serious health condition, it is especially fundamental a health professional help you understand the risks of using any type of medication. 

People have unique individual responses to medicines, no matter the form. Some people may experience immediate effects, while others may need days or longer. This is because of differences in the way the body is assimilating the nutrients in relation to diet, water intake, exercise, stress, or other medications. Oftentimes, the possible benefits of remedies are subtle. And always, they need to play part of a greater commitment to wellness and healing.

Finally, just like their prescription drug counterparts, herbal medicines can be characterized by their sedative (sleep inducing), vulnerary (nerve calming), demulcent (mucilaginous), tonic (strengthening), adaptogenic (immune system support), or diuretic (laxative) qualities, to name a few. Understanding these qualities can help toward observing their effects as a remedy is taken over time.

An herbal remedy in the form of a tincture is considered a dietary food supplement whereas other remedy types (salve, lotion, etc.) are considered cosmetics. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and other agencies regulate each of these areas in the U.S. Ideally, the source (retailer, herbalist, and health store) has obtained their products from approved growers, manufacturing facilities, or distributor. However, numerous small home-based sellers may make very good remedies, but do not follow specific FDA guidelines for labeling, manufacturing or recordkeeping. So, consumers beware! Additionally, if herbal remedies are organic, there must also be certification.

Here are some tips to guide you:   

  • The label of a remedy is important. Depending upon the remedy, it should have content and nutritional information, serving size, matrix ratio (if necessary), any cautionary and FDA disclaimer statement, manufacturer/distributor contact, and lot number (if required).
  • Be cautious of exaggerated health claims for a remedy or ingredient.
  • On the Internet, review the seller’s website thoroughly to review any stated manufacturing process and FDA oversight of the facility or products.
  • Buy from a retailer with whom you can trust and have a good discussion about herbal remedies. Online, reach out to the seller for further information about a product.
  • Express caution if buying any raw herbs or remedies from Asia. Because of known corruption in farming practices, environmental pollution, and paperwork, ensure they are organic with certification.

While we can’t give health advice of any kind, we sure do know a lot about herbs and are happy to speak with you at any time about their properties and proper usage.

Blessings of Health.

Forrest McDowell

C. Forrest McDowell, PhD provides his 50 years of expertise in wellness care and advocacy to Cortesia Herbal Products. He is responsible for the white paper Blog articles, posts promoting practical health strategies, maintenance of accurate website information, and more. An accomplished performing guitarist and composer, author, and passionate outdoorsman, he has dedicated himself to natural wellness and the cultivation of quality organic products.

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