How long do you take a herb/supplement for?

I decided to experiment with this over a week ago. I've been making a green smoothie every morning for over 12 months now. The reason I wanted to start with this was after much research, I needed to improve my digestion, mood and overall health. I found a product that I could incorporate into my breakfast smoothie mix to do just that. I also add powdered ashwaganda, astragalus, rhodiola and cinnamon. Last week I traveled to Sydney and decided to leave my "goodies" behind to see what difference it might make.

So I believe I could definitely feel the difference, digestion and especially mood! So when you read, take this for that etc, how long for? I realise that in cold/flu season you can take different herbs for that season but for overall wellness do you stick at it forever? Maybe vary the dose, interchange alternate days with different herbs. Does your body get used to the same old regime and it turns out your wasting money or effort. Or if you generally feel good, then you must be doing something right! Your thoughts please.


  • Jack_Went_Splat
    Jack_Went_Splat Posts: 59 ✭✭✭
    edited October 2020

    This is a great question. From my experience, it seems a good idea to vary supplements on and off. One that I use suggested 5 days on and 2 days off or 11 days on and 3 days off to keep your body from responding as if there is an over abundance of one nutrient or another and just dumping it instead of utilizing to the fullest extent. When it comes to herbs, it seems to me the best answer will come from an herbalist and that is not me. :o) Following for answers from an herbalist.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,408 admin

    I hope @stephanie447 or any other experienced Ayurvedic practitioner here will correct me if I am wrong but in Ayurveda there are herbs that are included in the diet and sometimes taken for the lifetime of the individual. I think Ashwaghanda is one of those. I put Astragalus in all the broths I make and think it is fine to take on a regular basis. We include cinnamon in our diets daily to help modulate blood sugars. My husband;s morning hot chocolate is a blend that has a powdered 5 mushroom concentrate and I add cinnamon to it as well. So that is something he has daily. Tulsi has medicinal applications but it is a tea that many people drink on a daily basis as a general tonic. I see nothing wrong with using herbs or plant materials for daily support.

    But there are a lot of herbs that should only be taken for a short time. Senna and cascara are two that come to mind.

    Supplements are a different matter. Some should be taken regularly if they are being used to treat a deficiency or a specific condition. Others may need to be taken temporarily due to short term illness or high stress situations where diet is not sufficient. Follow your naturopath's or herbalist's advice on this. I take ginkgo to help with my focus and memory but not all the time. I find it helps when I am stressed so that is when I take it and I don't take as much as what is recommended on the label because I get good effect from the smaller dose. That is always good advice; try lower doses of herbs to see what might be effective for you. You can always tritrate up. My homeopathic teacher also recommends not taking supplements daily over a long period of time. He said to take them a bit more intermittently as @Jack_Went_Splat has mentioned.

  • dipat2005
    dipat2005 Posts: 1,207 ✭✭✭✭

    My Doctor says I should take 2 D3. I told him then I need to take 3 which I do periodically. I do tend to run low. One year I got a bottle of 5000 not 1000 and used them every other day and felt much better. Does anyone have any personal experience with this?

  • stephanie447
    stephanie447 Posts: 404 ✭✭✭

    Yes. Consider all the turmeric that regularly goes into Indian cooking - Westerners typically use less spices but in India these spices are liberally used in cooking and they are also "herbs" that can be used for healing.

    Supposedly, in Ayurvedic cultures, young men start taking a little bit of Ashwaganda from puberty onward as a daily tonic for life, and young women do the same with shatavari. I don't know if this is the current practice anywhere. BTW, both men and women can take either or both of these herbs. I take ashwaganda daily and I find it very helpful.

  • Charlie
    Charlie Posts: 18 ✭✭✭

    Hi @jodienancarrow I appreciate your question. I have been taking advantage of supplements/herbs for close to 20 years. As a constant student of herbalism I tend to cycle herbs but do take some almost daily.

    From experience, I have found taking a supplement or herb for a specific reason is a good start. I can remember when first starting on my health journey that I had the approach that many do when first attempting to implement "superfoods" and "green powders," and that is the "kitchen sink approach." :) In other words, a little bit of this, a whole lot of that, mix it in the blender and see how it goes! Oh boy... Of course I found I wasn't so good at digesting all of those supplements at once.

    It sounds like you're not doing the whole kitchen sink so good on you :)

    Of course if you really want to see if your deficient in an area you're concerned about, blood work can give you some great insight.

    But as I'm sure you know, it's hard to get down to the bottom of some issues, esp digestion. I think it was a great idea that you decided to go without your supplements/herbs and see how you feel, I think that is one of the best tests there is, and it sounds like you got your answer, that they do make a difference for you.

    You're taking some powerful herbs so it's no surprise you noticed a difference. Astragalus by itself is amazing. Rhodiola by itself is amazing as well as Ashwaghanda. Rhodiola's benefits are extensive and I would think your mood was noticed by it not being with you as it fights depression, it increases energy levels, stamina, etc... I enjoy it because it really does act as an adaptogen. I live over 5,000 ft. above sea level and go way beyond that often, so the fact that Rhodiola naturally increases oxygen in the blood, it really supports me when hiking, being active outdoors, etc... helps with physical endurance as well as shorter recovery time. It's not a coincidence that it grows in very harsh climates at high elevations. So many benefits... Rhodiola is often thought of as an athlete's herb but of course as you've felt first hand, it is a mood enhancer as well.

    For me, I know life is full of everyday stressors that I mostly don't see coming so I anticipate those stressors with herbs that help me adapt to stress, quickly bringing me back to a functioning equilibrium. Astragalus is one of those herbs for me. It's not called, "The Great Protector" because it sounds nice, it helps support the immune system. Holy Basil would be another stress reducer I enjoy.

    There are many herbs that help teach our immune systems to be more efficient. And like I've learned, you really do have to become you're most interested doctor :) We all have our own individual immune systems and one herb may work with you differently than it does me. Best to learn from herbs that have been used for thousands of years, Ashwagandha being one of them. I love how others have mentioned cooking with herbs. This is definitely missed in American cooking. Why not throw some Astragalus in that soup or bone broth, how about some medicinal mushrooms that aren't too bitter. And don't be afraid to use spices! :)

    Cycling is a safe way to utilize herbs, 10 days on, 4 days off, 20 days on, 6 days off, etc... although once you start working with herbs, you'll know what works best for you.

    Let's make this response a little bit longer :)

    Don't make the mistake by using one-directional herbs for lengthy periods of time. Everyone knows Echinacea helps boost the immune system somewhat rapidly and can be phenomenal when you feel "something" coming on. So you take it for 4-6 days straight and it helps that "something" subside. You wouldn't want to take it for another 2 weeks as it will start to work against your immune system. Definitely not an herb to take daily long term.

    Everyday minerals I enjoy our chromium for blood sugar balance, selenium for it's protective abilities - #1 anti-cancer mineral that I know of and silica to help maintain bone elasticity. I try to go daily but of course some days are missed. This is when I smile more throughout the day as I know that's protective as well :)

    Hope this helps.

    If others want to correct me or add on, I love to learn!

  • Jack_Went_Splat
    Jack_Went_Splat Posts: 59 ✭✭✭

    @Charlie Wilkins Thank you for that response! Very detailed and packed full of information.

  • frogvalley
    frogvalley Posts: 675 ✭✭✭✭

    Great question! I couldn't do anything for a week, much less forever. I'm just that kind of person. I'm not oppositional defiant, more of a non-conformist. It could be that the grocery stores limit our intake of much needed nutrients & minerals, so that when we present with symptoms, we can then refill our bucket with supplements for a short period of time to fix it. Living the Ayurvedic way, one is always renewing our supply.

    When I have an issue, I use something short term for the acute issue and change our lifestyle to help prevent chronic issues and clear up whatever might have caused it in the first place. Most of the time I use homeopathy to deal with acute problems, so only a few doses are needed. Some chronic issues can be dealt with short term also, so I wasn't set on using anything prophylactically forever until I read George Vithoulkas's paper on Arnica in which he states that he takes it daily. I had to do a mind reset. I mean if George said it, it must be good. So I don't take it every day, or even every week, but once in a while I'll pop one in and not worry - because the worry would kill me.

  • karenjanicki
    karenjanicki Posts: 947 ✭✭✭✭

    I think it depends on the herb. If an herb is considered a food herb such as stinging nettles I think it's safe to take as often as you like. Other herbs that are strictly medicinal are herbs that you should research well and take only at the time they are needed and in the correct amounts.

  • JodieDownUnder
    JodieDownUnder Posts: 1,481 admin

    @Charlie Wilkins and I really appreciate your response. The cycling practice is a great idea, thank you. Welcome to the forum, I hope you enjoy what's on offer.