I thought an herbalist question and answer session would be appropriate since I, and other herbalists, get asked these questions quite frequently. Here are my answers starting with the beginning of the process of working together (the intake) through how you know if the herbs are working. I hope you enjoy this herbalist question and answer session! If you have other questions, please post them below, or contact me, I will happily have a second question and answer session if enough questions are asked.
Herbalist Question: Why is the intake and consultation form so long, why is the consultation an hour? Why are you asking me about my diet, exercise, sleep, stool and urine?
Answer from the Herbalist: All of this information, however seemingly gross-sounding it may be or sound, matters.
It all forms the map that is you: these elements are certain keys that tell me what could be going on with you. Without all of that information, we’d be trying to cross from point A to B without knowing the rest of the terrain, and we’d be conducting “plug and play herbalism”. Plug and play herbalism is when you take X herb for Y condition, it has a lower efficacy rate as compared to energetic based herbalism.
Each herb has unique actions and energetics; some herbs are more appropriate than others for the individual’s condition and pattern. This is why valerian root helps some people relax and sleep, whereas with others valerian root makes them more awake or gives the person nightmares.
Getting the full picture, through the long intake and consultation, helps me figure out which herbs are right for you.
Q: What is included in the program fees?
A: My job is to map out the terrain that is you, what makes you tick, what needs additional attention, and how to help you get to the next step. You are not only paying me for my time, you are paying for my education and expertise.
Here are some of the more tangible things that are included in the fees when you work with me:
- 60-90 mins intake consultation
- Depending on the program that is chosen, you get anywhere from 3-6 follow-ups with anywhere from 30-60 minutes per follow-up conversation, with me.
- You get thoroughly written recommendations for not only herbs, but for your diet, lifestyle and any recipes you may need. I won’t overwhelm you with a multi-page list of recommendations, instead I will have a “getting started” guide for you, and we’ll build from there.
- If you choose to have me order and ship your formulas to you, this is included in the adjusted package.
- I’m available for email support between sessions – you can contact me with a question you have about anything relating to your protocol or with what you are going through. I’ll get back to you within 48 hours.
Q: I just want help with my insomnia, why can’t you just give me something to make me sleep? Why do I have to work on diet, exercise, and take herbs during the day?
A: Your insomnia, or other complaint, does not exist in a vacuum. It has taken time to get to this point, and the other parts of of your day and body affect how you sleep (or whatever your complaint is.) The more you can support yourself in making these changes, the more effective your individual results. Think about it: if you only took a tincture or tea to help you sleep, but you did not change how late or how much coffee you drink during the day – how effective will that tea at night really be? This is the essence of working holistically.
Sidenote: I quit coffee back in May, it was hard. If it is suggested that you quit coffee, know that I feel your pain and empathize with your struggle. In case you wanted to know: it was 100% worth it to quit, the herbs that I take are working so much better for me now.
Q: Why are there so many herbs in this tea? Why can’t I use a teaspoon per cup? I’ve already tried chamomile, valerian, ginger, you name it, and those herbs don’t do anything for me, why are you giving them to me now?
A: When herbs are combined together, they equal more than the sum of their parts. And herbs given at the right dosage (see below) also provide more oomph.
The difference between a tea that you drink as a beverage and a tea that you drink as a medicinal dose are quite different. Beverage doses (think: a teabag) are equivalent to approximately 1tsp (3g) of herb per cup of water, yet medicinal doses of teas are around 1oz (30g) of herb per pint of water. Some TCM formulas have upwards of 5oz (150g) of herbs! Because of this lower ratio of plant material to water, the herb’s constituents are able to get into the bloodstream and body much faster and with more strength than with drinking a cup of tea every day. Your results and changes will start to manifest much faster than with the beverage doses. This is the biggest difference between the chamomile that did nothing for you before, vs now.
Q: What is a full dropper? What is a half dropper? Why so many “drops of tincture”?
A: A full dropper is where the glass pipette is filled as much as possible from tip to bulb, ideally from tip to bulb base. This is approximately .7-.9mL depending on the size of your pipette, how much tincture/liquid is in the bottle, and other factors.
A half dropper is when then glass pipette is filled half as much as you can reasonably get your dropper to fill up completely.
I’ve rarely seen a dropper pipette fill with tincture from tip to bulb, this is why a full dropper is the full amount that your pipette can fill with liquid – it is not an exact science which is why individual drops or teaspoon amounts is preferable to full or half-dropper amounts.
Drops of tincture amounts, and teaspoon conversions
20 drops of tincture is equivalent to a 1/4tsp dose (depending on the size of the pipette this may be a half or a full dropper), 40 drops is a half teaspoon, and 80 drops of tincture is equivalent to a 1tsp dose
Q: How do I know if the herbs are working?
A: Over time, you will observe that your primary complaint (and some of your secondary and tertiary concerns) are less frequent or severe and you feel better overall. I commonly hear that clients are sleeping better, and have more energy, as two examples of how they know the herbs are working – in addition to having the client’s primary complaint begin to feel relief. If you forget to take your herbs for a couple of days, you may notice that you do not feel as good, that something is “off” or not quite right, you may even notice that some of your symptoms begin returning.
This leads me to the next common question that I get:
Q: How long will this take? Why do I have to take this for so long, when I can get a medicine to get rid of the symptoms in a few days?
A: The time it takes for you to start to feel better depends on you, the correct selection of herbs, and your body/mind approach. Are the herbs correct for your pattern of disharmony? Do you remember to take your herbs as recommended? Have you been making, and sticking to, the dietary and lifestyle changes? Are you mentally, emotionally and spiritually ready for the change? The last question is really the most important.
If you aren’t ready for the changes, or not committed to making the changes, the progress will be slow-going or non-existent.
Here is my general rule of thumb, which is subject to an individual’s unique situation: The less time you’ve had an issue the less time it will take to resolve. Acute issues (such as colds, flus, and the like – known as “external invasions”) and less severe complaints, take a shorter time to resolve because you’ve had the issue for less overall time and/or it is not as serious. On the other side of the coin, the longer you have been dealing with an issue, or the more severe the problem, generally speaking the longer it will take. Gynecological issues may take three months to manifest positive changes, issues revolving around deficiencies may take months to years (Yin and Blood Deficiency are two of these conditions.)
I’ve seen a few drops of a tincture ease acute symptoms associated with Heart Yin Deficiency (anxiety, restlessness) enough for the client to be able to continue working on the deeper and more long-term causes of their symptoms.
While some herbs are fast acting (like taking an herb that promotes sweating, or taking bitters to promote the flow of digestive fluids) other herbs work more subtly. Herbs, unlike drugs, do not suppress symptoms and they should not cause unwanted side-effects. They work with your body to promote change from the root-cause up to the symptom level.
All this said, no matter what you are coming to me for, you should start to feel different (in a good way) within the first couple of weeks on your herbs. If you stop taking the herbs, and you start to feel different (in a not-good way) then you know the herbs are doing your body good!
Q: What do all of those TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) terms, like Yin Deficiency, mean?
A: That’s what I’ll be covering in my next post! I hope you enjoyed this Herbalist Question and Answer Session!
Question From the Herbalist: What do YOU want to know about working with an herbalist?