Your relationship to herbs

by Sandra Radja

When you learn from Dr Claudia Welch, she will inevitably bring your attention to the logistics of herbal management, by that I mean the procurement and sustainability issues that arise from the increased desire to use natural means of medicine.  We love Ayurveda – any of you reading this may attest to the seriously fun herbal products on the market and how life affirming it feels to take them and support a bourgeoning industry.  But we could be doing more damage than good, both to ourselves and the environment as a whole.

The exotic nature of alchemy and experimentation of the elements. The nature of plants to assist in healing requires respect in many aspects; from it's unearthing to the focused attention on intake.

The exotic nature of alchemy and experimentation of the elements. The nature of plants to assist in healing requires respect in many aspects; from it's unearthing to the focused attention on intake.

When I started learning Ayurveda, I found more things wrong with me than usual.  I personally think it was a self experiment to try the different products on the market.  I was so freaking excited about it all.  It felt exotic and empowering.  I finally had answers to long held issues and it helped me to gain more compassion in my encounters. 

And I started to try different herbs.  They are available to buy over the counter – so to speak. The increase in proprietary tri-doshic formulations is on the increase meaning the Ayurvedic herbal industry is  becoming symptoms focused and not working with educating the doshas at play.   I see them at my local health food store, formulations for mind, menstrual cycle, digestive disorders, but the seeker is none the wiser as to the root cause of disease.

And if truth be told, I'm not sure whether I saw a huge improvement with all the herbs I took.

Here might be the reasons why~

Dosage

Do you take them before or after food? In the morning, during the day and evening?  How much do you take and does it increase in time or stay stable?  Dosage is critical.  If you really want to take this a step further, your planet alignments in Vedic astrology could create a situation where an herb known for specific qualities could do the complete opposite for you.  If you buy herbs from a general online herbal company, they will have a base recommendation.  That may not work for you.  It really is best to consult with a practitioner that can monitor and tweak a formula to your specific issue.

Knowing when to stop

Dr Lad, in a lecture, once gave an indication on the general time frame a pure dosha might take herbs.  Vata was for a month, Pitta for 2 months and Kapha for 3 months.  This was more illustrative than actual time frames.  It would depend on the person and the herbs involved.  Herbs too must have a stop, lest we completely override the body’s intuitive balance to know how to heal itself.  Maya Tiwari is a staunch advocate of taking herbs for 3 months and then stopping them, in order to give the body time to reset.  Even with Triphala, which is known for being a long time tonic, it is suggested to give it a break every couple of months. 

Purity

Have you ever taken the same herbs from the same company and one time works better than another?  They come from different batches.  These are not synthesized reproductions but the actual natural elements at play.  In Dr Welch’s article on Plant Medicine, a shaman at a workshop she was teaching expressed her knowledge about the gathering and harvesting of plants.  If you treat them rough and in a thoughtless manner, they may not assist in the required healing but could even cause an adverse reaction.  Even Caraka mentions in the Ayurvedic scriptures that there is a specific protocol for gathering herbs.  They are vehicles of subtle energy and should be treated with respect.

Sustainability

The more popular Ayurveda gets the more herbs we will need to produce.  There is a committee in India that oversees the replacement of some of the endangered herbs in traditional formulas but as Dr Welch expresses – we are in a culture that might try something for a month and forget it’s there and leave it to go stale at the back of a cupboard.  It’s even more a practice for practitioners to not just assume an herbal protocol as the first measure of healing, especially when diet and lifestyle can offer so much transformation.

Please take a look at the herbs you're currently taking.  Don’t waste them, you might still need them.  But take a look at what you're taking and ask yourself whether it’s doing the job you’re looking for.  I once had a client who came to me with 3 pages of herbal supplements and when I asked them of the benefits they were receiving, they weren't sure for most of the items.  That is a lot of information for a system to take in and it begs the question of when the system has an opportunity to reset to homeostasis.

There is so much value to diet and lifestyle management.  It is well worth investigating, in my opinion, as to whether your issue can resolved in this manner.  It is a more difficult route to take, no doubt since it requires you to take action, but think of it as your little piece on saving the planet.