Dosage with herbs, that is how much do you take? Besides HOW to take them, this is the number one question we get.
I was reading through Stephen Harrod Buhner’s Healing Lyme, to learn more about the disease specifically for a coaching client of mine, and came across one of the best discussion of dosing with herbs I’ve ever seen. And so, I am sharing parts of that with you here, followed by more of my own thoughts. Hopefully, this will give you insight into how dosing with herbs really works.
Dosages are made up, created out of the blue, generally based on typical dosages used in clinical practice in various cultures around the world, usually over millennia, and an intuitive sense of the herb and its proper dose for specific conditions. There is generally a range of dosing for most herbs; there is no one dose that is ‘the right one’ for any of them.
He then goes onto to discuss three categories of herbs: food, medicinal, and toxic grades. Food grade herbs you can have a lot of. Medicinal grade herbs you can have a fair amount of, because they still cause few side effects. Toxic grade herbs are those that need to be used in very small dosages.
(Note that we only sell food and medicinal grade herbs here at Lost Empire.)
And how different countries, the USA, versus the UK, versus China tend to use differing amounts of herbs, due to the culture. This goes from small amounts, to larger amounts, to very big amounts, respectively. He continues…
The lack of understanding of the variability of dosing ranges in the United States is fostered by the (highly inaccurate) paradigm of pharmaceutical dispensing that American physicians use. There is a common belief that there is a single accurate dose (discovered through reductive, analytical science) for every pharmaceutical. It isn’t true; it never has been. Drug doses need to be adjusted for age, weight, height, sex, and side-effect emergence. That few physicians do so is one of the reasons that properly prescribed pharmaceuticals (that is, according to the drug guidebooks given out by pharmaceutical companies) are, at minimum, the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and why some three million people a year are hospitalized (or permanently disabled) from using them. (Herbs, in contrast, are very safe; they do not produce those kinds of outcomes. So, please understand that dosages listed are, again, just a starting place. You may not need very high doses or you may.
When all you know of ‘medicine’ is from an authoritative doctor saying, “Take two and call me in the morning,” it is understandable that dosing may be a foreign thing to you.
When we deal in powders and tinctures, rather than pills, it is even further from the average Western mind even having a mental concept for what to do with this stuff.
Furthermore, when you add in that some herbs are essentially raw (pine pollen powder, seabuckthorn, beet, etc.) versus other ones that can be very potent extracts (like tongkat or reishi) it can cause further confusion. Why do I take a tablespoon of this one and just 100mg of that one? The answer is different extract strength drastically changes dose.
So please look at all of our recommended dosages as just that, recommendations. They’re a good starting point. We are not doctors. They are not prescriptions.
In general, it is good to start on the smaller side. Start with the minimum dose recommended. Notice the effects.
If you haven’t already, please read this article about noticing the effects and the five categories of time things may fall into. This is also important to know if you’re working with trying to find the best dose of herbs for you.
If you’re not noticing anything, or you’re starting to get good effects but want more, increase your dosage. Move towards the upper end of the recommended dose. If the effects get better keep taking this dose.
And you certainly can go above our recommended dosages too. There is a time and a place to take a lot of an herb. I’ve taken three tablespoons of he shou wu to see what happens. I know people that have done six to eight dropperfuls of pine pollen tincture per day.
You can also do less than the recommended dose. I feel like our rhodiola is very potent, so I often only take 100 to 200mg in a dose when I take it. I can feel the effects at this smaller dose. (Our recommended dose is 300 to 500 mg.)
Feel free to experiment in this way. We highly encourage it.
But first, realize that dosing does not always respond in a linear manner. We expect things to go like this:
In reality, more is NOT always better. Many times, dosage with herbs actually work like this.
Too much can even cause the opposite effect of what you’re going for!
That means there is an optimal dose. We *think* the optimal dose will be somewhere in the recommended dose range. That’s why we recommend it. But, as Buhner said, this depends on age, weight, height, and sex. In short, it depends on you.
When some people are taking herbs for sexual improvements they tell us they were worse off than before! Obviously, that’s not what any of us want. And it may be that you overshoot the optimal amount. Try less and see what happens.
Again, this is why we recommend you experiment. We can give you a place to start, but only YOU can find the optimal dose for you.
(And, of course, even that will change over time. The optimal dose today is not the same as a year from now, and not even necessarily tomorrow!)
Complicated, I know. Welcome to the world of health and biology.
I wish I could give you the exact dose that is going to work for you. But I can’t. Even if I was working with you one on one, I couldn’t do this. After an intensive intake I could point you to the right herbs and may be able to better narrow down the optimal range…perhaps. But even then, part of figuring out dosage is in the taking of it then altering it up or down based on effects.
I know this isn’t the authority figure telling you exactly what to do, that you may want. I am not a doctor. I am not god. In my mind, part of being healthy is accepting self-responsibility for it. Ultimately, the herbs you take and how much of them is up to you.
Hopefully, this article has enlightened you as to understanding dosage with herbs better. And if you have any questions please post them in the comments below.
- Buhner, S. H. (2015). Healing Lyme: natural healing of Lyme borreliosis and the coinfections chlamydia and spotted fever rickettsioses. Silver City, NM: Raven Press.