Working with Liquid Herbal Tinctures
Liquid herbal tinctures allow your Herbalist or Naturopath to tailor make an herbal prescription specific to your individual needs. This cannot always be done with pre-prepared herbal formulas, such as those in tablet form, for example. Liquid herbals can also be easier to digest. The main downside is taste. Liquid herbs often have a range of tastes we don't encounter quite so often when eating a modern western diet. Some herbal blends are going to taste unpleasant and this might affect your willingness or ability to keep taking them, but these unpleasant tastes may actually be very good for you!
In eastern medicine theory, taste can be just as important as the herb itself, in fostering good health. The most famous taste in herbal medicine is 'bitter'. When a bitter taste touches the taste receptors on the tongue, a message is sent via the nervous system to the brain and digestive system. This message stimulates the exocrine and endocrine glands, encouraging them to release digestive juices into the stomach, liver, pancreas and duodenum. The flow of these juices improves the appetite, digestion, and assimilation. It also stimulates the repair of damaged intestinal walls.
If you are struggling with the taste of your liquid herbs, try keeping your herbal mix in the fridge. The coldness of the herbs can reduce the unpleasant taste. Some people hold their nose while swallowing or experiment with the dilution. You can dilute it just a little so you can swallow it all in one go and have it over and done with, or you can dilute it to reduce the intensity of the taste and sip it slowly over time. If your herbs have a strong alcohol content or a very strong taste, please make sure you dilute them enough to protect the tissues inside your mouth and throat. You can also try diluting your herbs with fruit juices or honey to reduce the unpleasant taste.
If you are still struggling, speak to your Naturopath or Herbalist. They might be able to add a flavour enhancer or change the prescription to improve the taste. There is also a small range of liquid herbals available that are alcohol-free. Some are sweet glycetracts and there is also a growing range of pear-based herbal remedies available that have quite a pleasant taste. If all else fails, you can try a different form, such as tablet, powder or tea. These forms can also be preferable if you are travelling.
Honouring Dosage Instructions
Just because herbs aren't medical drugs doesn't mean they won't be harmful if you abuse them. Dosages are provided for very good reason and taking a wild guess rather than measuring the exact dose can result in overdoses that could harm you. Most things can be harmful in excessive amounts, even fairly non-toxic herbs. If you don't measure the dose, its also possible you may not be getting enough of the remedy to help you. The same will occur if you repeatedly miss dosages. There is no point wasting your money and time if you don't take enough of the remedy to bring about positive changes.
If you are forgetting to take your remedy, talk to your Naturopath or Herbalist about finding ways to help you with this. Dosage frequency can be reduced for example, from 3 doses a day to 2 and you can use little tricks to help yourself remember, by leaving a few different bottles in strategic locations, or putting alarm reminders in your mobile phone.
We are all a bit different and even the most benign herb can occasionally result in an unexpected reaction from a client. The same occurs with medically prescribed medicines. If you think you are having some kind of adverse reaction to a herbal remedy, stop taking it immediately and call your Naturopath or Herbalist. Quite often, the symptoms will be caused by something completely unrelated but its important to play it safe and err on the side of caution.
Your Naturopath or Herbalist will be able to advise you on how to proceed. Based on your symptoms, they may be able to help you work out whether the reaction is indeed caused by the herb, or more likely due to something unrelated like the onset of an acute illness or an environmental allergy. If the reaction is mild, you may be asked to stop taking the herb for a few days and then to begin again, to test whether your remedy is the culprit. If you do have an adverse reaction to a herb, you will need to remember this for future reference and let your health practitioners know about it.
Herbs work in a range of different ways. For acute illnesses, results can be obtained after the first dosage. For chronic conditions, results may take much longer and you will need to be patient and persist before giving up and trying something else. In many chronic scenarios, you will need to be on your herbal blend for three to six months. Herbs are like teachers who are retraining your body and teaching it how to function normally again. This takes time.
Ideally, you will not need to become dependant upon your herbs permanently. They should be considered reparative, rather than crutch-like. But to encourage and maintain the positive results you obtain, you will need to consider making positive lifestyle changes. In some situations, symptoms return as soon as the herbs are removed, even after they have been used for a long period of time. This may be because your condition has become quite entrenched or degenerative, but you may also need to consider trying a different practitioner or therapy.