When to take herbs
The role of herbs and herbal supplements in Ayurveda is ancillary but important. That is, diet and lifestyle are the foundation but herbs support and augment diet and lifestyle influences. The herbs are said to be a kind of intelligence, which gently promotes healthy physiology. They work on many levels of our being: mental, emotional, physical, spiritual. They may affect cells, tissues, organs and systems, individually or in combination. Herbs and herbal compounds are a balance of energies and if taken properly are generally free from side effects; e.g. they do not provoke toxicity-related reactions from the body, even when taking allopathic drugs (some homeopathic drugs may be affected). It is important to note, however, that herbs may make your prescription drugs more effective, necessitating dose monitoring and adjustments of those medications. In other ways herbs may be regarded as nutritional food supplements. It is well known that the body makes all new blood cells every 60-120 days while replacement of every cell of our bones takes a year, so it takes time for the positive effects of herbs and nutrients to be realized as healing -- 90 days at the least. Herbal regimes are intended to support nature's work of healing or maintaining proper physiology - - they are not interventions in nature's work. The following information is a guideline for understanding our herbal suggestions:
- herbs are generally suggested in doses of fractions of teaspoons = 1/4 t or 1/2 t for example. tablespoon doses are given by capital T as in 1 tablespoons. In the area of dosing our initial suggestions are starting points that many be modified as needed to produce the appropriate effect. Please monitor this and advise your Ayurvedic practitioner of developments in a timely way.
- herb powders are to be taken in measured dose and frequency by placing on the tongue and chasing with some liquid -- such as water shown by the symbol = /c or w/. While having unpleasant taste, the taste actually helps the physiology to change, to improve. Herb powders are sometimes mixed with hot water and steeped but this will be suggested explicitly when appropriate. Fruit juices, Aloe vera gel or Aloe vera juice, milk, coffee, honey are a few of many other possible vehicles for taking herbs. Some herbal tinctures are to be taken sublingually.
- herbs may be suggested:
- The timing of herbs varies according to many factors but generally if the target area in the physiology is below the stomach then the herbs are taken 15 minutes before meals = a.c. (before meals (from Latin ante cibum).
- When herbs are to be taken on an empty stomach this means they may be taken 30 minutes before eating.
- If the suggestion calls for taking the herb around a meal it should be taken even if the meal itself is not eaten.
- If more than one herbal recommendation is to be taken then try to separate each item by at least 30 minutes. If more than one item is suggested following a meal then they may be taken together.
- Digestive herbs are OK to take during menstruation but herbs such as triphala, which have laxative effect, should not be taken at this time. Laxatives may exacerbate menstruation. Menstruation tends to deplete the body so herbs, which are heavy on digestion, may be avoided at this time.
- Finally, an herbal recommendation is given for a minimum of 3 months. This is the minimum time necessary for a change in physiology to take place. If a change in symptoms takes place or if there is a change in season these would also be reasons for a change in an herbal recommendation. Ayurveda is not a quick fix.
- Rasayanas (rejuvenatives), when recommended, should be discontinued for about two weeks seasonally. This gives the body a rest, which makes the rasayana more effective.