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Taking Herbal Extracts

Q: Is it better to choose herbal formulas instead of single herbs?
A: To get the results you hope to achieve, it is important to choose the herbs that best address your specific health concerns. This web site lists both single herbal extracts and formulas, as both are effective healing agents. I generally favor formulas because they offer greater health benefits, greater affordability and greater convenience. The guesswork of determining which single extracts to take has been eliminated. The cost of buying one or two formulas versus buying all of the single extracts included in each formula is significantly less. The level of support from a formula is greatly amplified because a formula is stronger than the sum of its herbal parts. Each herb complements the others and together they form a strong coalition to support the body in its quest for health.

Q: What is the best time of day to take liquid herbal extracts?
A: In most instances, I suggest taking extracts between meals, apart from eating food. This way, extracts don't have to compete with food and the digestive process and the constituents rapidly enter the bloodstream and immediately start the healing process. A few herbs, however, are better taken before meals. For example, bitter herbs help tone up the stomach and increase production of hydrochloric acid and other digestive enzymes. Others, like sleep aid herbs, are better taken one hour before bedtime to allow relaxation and more restful sleep. Pay attention to the dosage notation under each herb in the Herbal Directory for specific directions on timing.

Q: How do I know when to stop taking an extract?
A: Herbs work in an individual way within each body. Some herbs act very quickly, while others take more time to balance, nourish and support body systems. Certain herbs are best taken for a short time (one to three weeks) while other herbs will yield their best results when they are taken for longer periods (one to six months or longer). When duration is specifically important, it is noted in the dosage recommendations in the Herbal Directory .

The following considerations determine duration. In general, the stronger the herb, the shorter the length of time it should be taken. Examples of these strong herbs include Chaparral, Goldenseal, Lomatium and Uva Ursi. Other herbs, such as Ginkgo, Hawthorn, Oat Seed and St. John's Wort, must be taken for a least one month before they even begin to share their healing qualities with us.

Formulas designed to be taken during acute health conditions, such as Peak Defense™ (A Goldenseal/Echinacea complex) for colds and flu, should be taken for shorter amounts of time. On the other hand, formulas aimed at chronic problems, such as Deprezac™ for depression, and Deep Health® for deep immune system support, require longer periods of ingestion. Their benefits accrue over time.

When you are treating a problem that has existed for a long time, it is sometimes helpful to alternate between two formulas. Using acne as an example, take Acnetonic™ for one month and then take Dermatonic™ for one month. Start again with the Acnetonic™ and keep alternating every other month until the problem is resolved. If duration is not indicated, then take the herb until symptoms cease. If you are in doubt, consult a knowledgeable herbalist, a naturopath or primary care physician. Keep in mind that herbs are medicine and recommended dosages should not be exceeded, unless under the supervision of a health professional.

Q: Since I am dealing with several different health conditions, what is the best way to take herbs for more than one problem at once?
A: When taking different herbs for different health problems, there are four points to keep in mind. These guidelines are applicable to all age groups.

1) Go to the root of your problems rather than just treating separate symptoms. For example, a person may experience difficulty sleeping, sour stomach, cystitis, sinusitis and nervousness. If you treat each symptom as a separate problem, you will need herbs for the urinary, digestive and respiratory systems, as well as herbs for the nervous system. What may be needed instead are herbs targeted at stress. Or it may be that the best system to strengthen is the digestive system if that is where the root of the different symptoms is centered. When the root cause is addressed with appropriate herbs, then the other remaining symptoms disappear.

2) Take herbs for different problems at different times. Take herbs for the same problem at the same time. For example, if you want to take Arthrotonic™ for arthritis and Feverfew for migraine headaches, I suggest that you take them at least fifteen minutes apart. On the other hand, if you are taking different herbs for the same problem, such as Dandelion, Burdock and Stinging Nettle for skin problems, they can be combined and taken at the same time.

3) Take herbs at least fifteen minutes apart. See item 2 above.

4) It is usually best to address no more than three health problems at once. Let's say you are taking herbs for asthma, arthritis and migraines, but you also suffer from skin rashes and chronic fatigue. First, decide which three health conditions to address, and then take the herbs for those conditions at least fifteen minutes apart. It is okay to take a single extract, like Feverfew, for your migraines, and also to take combinations, like Adrenotonic™ for your asthma, and Arthrotonic™ for your arthritis. For best results, also take these combinations apart from each other.

Q: Can I take herbal extracts at the same time I am taking conventional drugs?
A: In many instances taking herbs at the same time as conventional drugs will actually support and heal the body faster and more thoroughly. For example, taking immune stimulating herbs while a person is on antibiotics is recommended, because these herbs will strengthen the immune system and prevent relapses after the round of antibiotics is done. In other instances it is best not to take herbal extracts at the same time as conventional drugs. For example, I do not recommend taking antidepressant drugs and herbal antidepressants at the same time. Be aware that when herbs are combined with drugs, they can increase the action of the drugs. Consult a knowledgeable herbalist, a naturopath or primary care physician when combining any medications.

Q: Why do some extracts taste so awful?
A: Don't let taste keep you from enjoying the healing benefits of herbs. In our society, we are addicted to two basic tastes: salty and sweet. But there are three other tastes that are equally important in maintaining health: sour, bitter and pungent. These tastes, when taken as herbs or foods, initiate body reactions that help restore health. For example pungent tasting herbs, such as Turmeric, help tone the liver. It is important to remember that herbs, even though they may not taste salty or sweet, put us in touch with nature's pure energy to assist us in our quest for health. When the taste of herbs is a major inconvenience, the benefits and effectiveness of liquid herbal extracts are available in the convenience of softgels.

Q: What is the best way to disguise the taste of liquid herbal extracts?
A: The easiest way to disguise the taste of liquid herbal extracts is to take them in softgel form because they bypass the taste buds. The best way to take alcohol-containing or alcohol-free liquid herbal extracts without affecting their healing properties is to put them in two ounces of water, juice, and/or herbal tea, as long as the tea doesn't contain caffeine. Although some people prefer to put undiluted liquid herbal extracts directly in their mouths, putting extracts in some form of liquid is easier for most people. Herbs taken for digestion are best taken in only two or three ounces of water so that you can taste the bitterness of the herbs. It is the bitterness that enhances digestion.

Q: Can I give liquid herbal extracts to my children?
A: There are four things you must be aware of with children and liquid herbal extracts.

1) Children should be at least one year old before they are given herbs. Children under a year old should only be given extracts under the supervision of a knowledgeable herbalist or primary care physician (medical doctor, naturopath, acupuncturist, etc.). In a few instances in the Herbal Directory, reference is made to certain herbs which can be given to babies. These are Chamomile, Fennel, Pau D'Arco and Stomach Tonic™. See specific dosage instructions under these listings.

2) A child's dosage is a fraction of the adult dosage. If an extract calls for a 20-drop dose for an adult, adjust the dosage by giving two drops per year of age to a child. For example, a three-year-old child would take six drops of the extract (20 = 2 drops x 3 years old = 6 drops). If the extract calls for a 10-drop dose for an adult, adjust the dosage by giving one drop per year of age. Therefore, a three-year-old child would take three drops of the extract (10 = 1 drop x 3 years old = 3 drops). California Poppy, Horsetail, Passionflower and Red Clover, as noted in the Herbal Directory, are exceptions to this rule. See specific dosage instructions under these listings.
A second way to figure out a child's dosage is to divide the adult dosage by 150 pounds and multiply the answer by the weight of the child. For example, take an adult dosage of 30 drops and divide by 150 pounds = 2/10 of a drop, multiplied by the weight of a 30 pound child = 6 drops.

3) If the child is of slight build or is underweight for his/her age, determine the correct dosage by the weight of the child according to the formula above.

4) If the child has a weak constitution, i.e. is frail, recuperating from an illness or is in any weakened state, cut the usual child's dosage by 25-50 percent. Adjust dosage according to effectiveness.

Q: How can I get my child to take liquid herbal extracts?

A: Alcohol-free liquid herbal extracts have a pleasant citrus flavor. Putting the drops in orange juice is the easiest way to give an herbal extract to a child, because it disguises the taste. Other juices may also do the trick.

Q: Can I give liquid herbal extracts to my pets? How much should I give them?
A: I have found over the years that pets respond very favorably to extracts. However, in the same way that you need to adjust dosages for children, care should be taken to adjust dosages for animals. The general rule is to give two drops per 10 pounds of weight. The best way to give extracts to pets is to mix it in their food. It is not necessary to evaporate the alcohol, as the amount of alcohol in a dose is too small to hurt them.

Q: How many drops/softgels should I take?

A: For best results follow the dosages suggested in the Herbal Directory under the appropriate herb.

Q: How many drops are in a one-ounce bottle of alcohol-containing or alcohol-free extracts? How many drops are in a softgel?
A: There are approximately 1,200 drops in a one-ounce bottle of an alcohol-containing or alcohol-free liquid herbal extract. Each softgel contains the equivalent of 30 drops of a liquid herbal extract.

Q: How do I compare regular herbal capsules to liquid herbal extracts or softgels? How do milligrams compare to drops?

A: It is difficult to compare regular herbal capsules to liquid herbal extracts, especially when it comes to issues concerning assimilation and potency. With regular herbal capsules, the body first has to break down plant fibers and then digest and assimilate the plant constituents. If a person taking capsules has any digestive problems, breaking down and assimilating the herbs will be incomplete. In the case of liquid extracts or softgels, the body assimilates them more rapidly and thoroughly.

On the issue of potency, regular herbal capsules lose potency through evaporation, oxidation and degradation, both in the manufacturing process and every day that they sit on the shelf. On the other hand, because liquid herbal extracts are processed immediately after harvesting and their active constituents are preserved, liquid herbal extracts or softgels will keep their potency for a minimum of five. Capsules cannot rival that. Each softgel contains liquid herbal extract concentrate and offers the benefits of taking approximately one and one-half capsules of ground herbs. Therefore, the following equivalencies are at best approximate.

25 mg = 1 drop
50 mg = 2 drops
500 mg = 20 drops
One softgel = 30 drops
One dropperful = 30 drops
Approximately forty dropperfuls per bottle=1200 drops (a one-ounce bottle)

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