I get this question a lot, “How long should I take my herbal remedies to treat a specific condition?” For example, how long should I take something for the flu vs. a long-term condition like allergies?
This is one of those “it depends” answers. Each individual and each condition is unique. The answer really lies in that subjective area we call “the art of herbalism.” Ultimately, there’s no substitute for experience, whether is years in clinical practice, or decades of being under the care of Grandma. However, we can draw some general conclusions.
Acute conditions (those with a rapid onset and following a short but severe course) generally are treated aggressively with powerful herbal medicines. These herbs, which have specific targeted action, are called “effectors”, and they treat symptoms immediately, but often do not have any long term healing benefit. Examples include goldenseal for mucus membrane infection and cascara sagrada for constipation.
In some cases, high doses of milder herbs will work just as quickly. Usually these herbs are administered as tea. Examples are elder flower for sinus infection and willow bark for headache.
Typically these conditions are treated until symptoms cease. Once bodily functions have normalized, no further treatment is necessary. In the case of infections, such the flu you mentioned, a good standard would be until symptoms disappear, plus 2 days to make sure all the bugs are gone. If you stop treating an infection too early, the remaining bugs may revive and you’ll be hammered again.
By contrast, “normalizers” are nutritive or regulating herbs that assist the body in building tissue, supplying necessary raw materials that slowly resolve chronic conditions and support tissues. These herbs are often taken for months or years. Ginseng and ashwaganda are classic examples that are frequently given to men for years at a time.
Allergy, while responsive to short term symptomatic treatment, is a chronic degenerate condition of the immune system. Immune building herbs, including garlic, sometimes need 1-2 years at modest doses. Astragalus is used at a dose of ½ ounce, dry weight, brewed as tea, per day, for this length of time.
You should consult a medical doctor when:
- You have been seriously injured and are experiencing shock, severe bleeding, head trauma or other life-threatening condition.
- An infection is not responding at all to natural alternatives, and symptoms are increasing.
- You have lumps, masses, sores or lesions anywhere on your body that remain after a few weeks.
- Any condition you have been trying to treat with other methods shows no improvement after several days/weeks.
Knowing how long to take an herb is just as important as knowing which herb to take. With a bit of study (or a chat with Grandma) you can master some remarkable home remedies that will leave you healthy and content.