Why herbs sometimes don’t work or Why it’s really important to make your own herbal remedies.
Hey there *|FNAME|*,
Have you ever had the experience of herbs not working as well as they did the last time? Maybe you bought some echinacea tincture or an elderberry syrup to get ready for cold and flu season, but it didn’t seem to do anything. You took it right when you were supposed to, as soon as you noticed that tickle in the back of your throat, but you got sick anyway.
Have you heard an herbalist say something like “herbs aren’t the same as pharmaceutical drugs, they can be subtle” or “you can’t have the same expectations of herbs because …”? I confess that I’ve said these things, too.
And while there is a need for a paradigm shift in order to really understand the full potential of healing with herbs, you also have a practical need for these things to work right when you need them to work. You don’t want using herbs to feel like a gamble, right?
Well it turns out that there’s a strong possibility that the herbs weren’t working right is because you weren’t actually taking the right herbs.
To be absolutely clear, I’m not suggesting that you chose the wrong herbs to take. I’m saying that it’s possible that the herbs INSIDE the bottle you bought were different from the herbs on the label of the bottle.
In 2011, there was a study done in Canada testing the quality of commercially available herbal supplements. “Canadian researchers tested … popular supplements sold by 12 companies. They found that many were not what they claimed to be, and that pills labeled as popular herbs were often diluted — or replaced entirely — by cheap fillers like soybean, wheat and rice,” says a NY Times article published this past November.
It goes on to explain why your echinacea may not have worked, “among their findings were bottles of echinacea supplements, used by millions of Americans to prevent and treat colds, that contained ground up bitter weed, Parthenium hysterophorus, an invasive plant found in India and Australia.”
Your motivation and quality control are far higher than what you commonly find in commercially available herbs. The “nutraceutical industry” is now worth billions of dollars in the US and Canada. And practically, you know as well as I do, that corners are going to be cut to increase that profit (even if it’s just a little). If you were an underpaid wildcrafter or farmer, I’d bet that you’d be tempted to get as much as you could too.
But this article’s not so much about assigning blame as it is a reality check. It’s very important to know what you’re buying when you buy herbs.
“Of 44 herbal supplements tested, one-third showed outright substitution, meaning there was no trace of the plant advertised on the bottle — only another plant in its place.
Many were adulterated with ingredients not listed on the label, like rice, soybean and wheat, which are used as fillers.
In some cases, these fillers were the only plant detected in the bottle — a health concern for people with allergies or those seeking gluten-free products, said the study’s lead author.”
The person who shared this with me is a medical doctor and presented it as evidence that ‘herbs aren’t real medicine.’ But, as you can imagine, he and I see things quite differently.
I see this article as evidence of why it’s SO INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT to make your own herbal remedies. It’s not that all commercial herbs are mislabeled or poor quality, but 1 out of 3 is a great reason to learn to make it yourself.
We need to make the high standards we place on our food the same high standards we place on our herbal medicines. And for many of us, this means making it yourself.
There are many other advantages to making your own herbal remedies (lower cost, locally sourced, etc), but isn’t it a huge motivation just to make sure that you’re taking what you mean to be taking? How well can herbs work if they’re replaced with wheat, corn or rice?!
Build your home medicine cabinet with the Herbal Integration Course.
I created this course specifically to help people develop a deep and powerful trust in local herbal medicines, along with building the skills to make these medicines in their own kitchens.
If you’re interested in feeling more connected with your life’s purpose and the aliveness of the world around you, I invite you find out more.
strength & wisdom.