I’m always harping on the fact that you need to experiment to find the herbs that work for you. However, I haven’t really covered HOW you should experiment. While there is no one right way, the aim of this article and video is to give you several methods and ideas so you know what to do and what to look out for.
Choose Your Intended Outcome
The way I see it, there are two ways you can conduct your experiment. And there are some big differences between them, so it is essential that you understand what you’re trying to accomplish. Both ways are valid. Your choice of which one to use comes down to the end result you want.
Option 1 – Make it a “Scientific” Experiment
The classic scientific way of doing experiments is to isolate a single variable to see whether it makes a change. This is because if things aren’t reduced to a single variable you don’t know whether it works or not, or what is causing a change.
For instance, let’s say you want to increase your testosterone level. The scientific approach would be to use only one herb, for example, Pine Pollen Tincture, and keep everything else the same. No other herbs. But also no other changes to your diet, your physical training, your sleep, your lifestyle.
The reason for this is that we want to isolate that single variable, that one herb, to see if it indeed is the thing that makes the difference.
The advantage is that this method would tell you if the Pine Pollen Tincture “worked” for you…almost.
This doesn’t get rid of the potential for the placebo effect, unless you’re also doing a similar period of time before or after in which you look at the same results but without the herbal intervention. Still not the gold standard, but better than nothing.
(On the other hand, except for strict scientists, the placebo effect isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you’re just going for results. See more in this article all about the placebo, nocebo and more.)
There are a couple of other drawbacks to option one. This can be a long process!
Generally, people are interested in getting RESULTS more than staying true to a scientific method. And that brings us to…
Option 2 – Make it a “Get Results” Experiment
Let’s say you have an issue or a wellness goal that you want to address (or maybe you want to increase peak performance). Should you try to find the ONE thing that helps the issue? Probably not. Instead, I suggest you go into massive action mode. Here your aim is not to find out whether or not a specific herb works, your aim is to GET RESULTS.
Unlike the first approach that tested only one herb, this method will try multiple herbs and variables. Take a bunch of different herbs. Change your diet. Change your lifestyle. Do multiple things that should help you achieve your desired results.
You will probably get at least some results in doing so. The only drawback is that you will not know exactly which one(s) contributed to the results most. Still, I’m guessing for the vast majority of people reading this, this is the more important purpose of conducting an experiment.
Life is messy. The fact is, you aren’t really able to isolate variables ala the first approach. Perhaps life happens and you have a new big stressor. That could completely change the results of your experiment.
Or maybe your diet isn’t 100% the same? Your sleep? Your training? Unless you’re anal-retentive it’s highly unlikely. (And it could be argued that these things largely make the first approach null and void, at least to a degree.)
The other part of life being messy is that sometimes it is the synergy of different herbs, or the combination of herbs, diet, and lifestyle that results in a greater systemic effect. In these cases 1+1+1 = 10. This is something that a reductionist approach almost always misses out on.
So in this approach, we don’t care so much about “science” as we do with the fact that you get the results you want. Or at least make progress in that direction. Partial success is better than no success.
And since we are not isolating a single variable, we can also aim for more than one result. Perhaps you’re looking to increase your energy, sleep better, shed some weight, etc. Sure, you can over-complicate things, but the whole framework of one drug or one herb to one function isn’t how life actually works.
Let’s say you take ten herbs. In this hypothetical example, let’s say one of them is the perfect herb for you. Four others do some good things too. But maybe one of the herbs actually work against you somehow. And four more don’t do much, at least in regards to the result you’re seeking. Understand that this still ends up a net positive because it helped you get closer to the result you wanted.
Option 2B – Get Results then Eliminate
If it isn’t clear I lean towards approach number two. And then we have this next method that can be used if you want to narrow it down to exactly what is working.
First and foremost get results for yourself. If this takes five herbs, plus ten lifestyle “hacks” that’s fine. But from this point, you can eliminate a few at a time to see if you are still getting results.
By subtracting a few at a time, you might be able to identify exactly which things are working and which are not. This way you’re starting from the point of getting results, rather than slowly plodding along without them.
Run enough experiments over time and you will get an intuitive feeling for what works for you and what does not.
How to Setup an Experiment
Now let’s move on to the steps of actually doing this, regardless of the options you chose above. This includes:
- Start with a hypothesis
- Craft the protocol
- Choose a time frame
- Follow a protocol
- Record the results
Start with a Hypothesis
A scientific experiment starts with a hypothesis. A hypothesis is defined as: “a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.”
This can be as simple as Pine Pollen Tincture might help increase my total testosterone. (An option 1 example.)
Or it can be the protocol I laid out might help increase my total hormone health. (An example of option 2 with what I mean by protocol covered in the next section.)
It is good to form a hypothesis as it forces you to get clear on what you’re going for. In my recent experiment, my hypothesis was that I could achieve a total testosterone of over 1,000 ng/dL (which would beat out my previous best of 992).
Crafting a Protocol
If you’ve selected option two above, it’s important to realize that just because you’re going for results doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be specific about what you’re doing. As an example, I’ll share the herbal protocol I did before my latest blood test. (I’ll be sharing my results of that next week.)
- Stag Swag, twice a day Monday-Friday
- Ashwagandha Tincture, twice a day Monday-Friday
- Nettle Root Tincture, twice a day Monday-Friday
- Blue Vervain Tincture, twice a day Monday-Friday
- Pine Pollen Megadose, once daily (at night), seven days a week
- Nettle Root Powder, once daily (at night), seven days a week
This was done in addition to sunbathing nude every day the sun was out and using my testosterone boosting hypnosis. There were not any other big changes to my diet, training, sleep or sex life.
Choose a Time Frame
How long are you going to do your test or protocol?
In the above example, I engaged in my protocol for just under three weeks. I likely would have gone longer but had to get a blood test before I took a vacation.
A typical time frame will be three to six weeks. But you could go shorter or longer. It depends on your hypothesis, and the results you’re trying to achieve.
Since this gets asked all the time, I’m mostly talking about herbal experiments here, I want to reiterate the points from this article about How Long Until Herbs Work.
1. Sometimes you can feel herbs right away (like Blue Vervain’s nervous system stress reduction, or Ant Extract’s energy boost)
2. Sometimes it takes about a week (Tongkat Ali seems to need a little time to build up in the body for many people and at the end of a one week cycle they’re noticing it)
3. Sometimes it takes about a month
4. Sometimes you only notice benefits when you stop taking things because of the contrast effect (Lion’s Mane is often an example of this. It subtly helps support your memory which you might only notice once it is gone)
5. Sometimes you don’t notice anything.
Although I wrote some possibilities in there, recognize that these will differ from person to person. Although I can feel Blue Vervain immediately, someone else might only notice it after a month, or after they quit taking it…or maybe even not at all.
These are just a few things to keep in mind when you’re designing your hypothesis, protocol and time frame.
If this is to be a true experiment, then you need some form of data. In the above example, I took a comprehensive blood panel. While I didn’t take one before, I could measure it up against previous blood tests.
But the numbers a test gives you isn’t the only form of data.
We can be subjective. How do you feel? How’s your energy? How’s your recovery from training? Etc. BUT, to take it slightly out of the subjective and into the objective it is best to answer questions such as these on a scale of 0-10. Really any symptom or effect can be measured as such.
And you don’t necessarily need to come up with your own questions either (though you can). A search online and you can find that standardized tests are used in many areas.
And here’s the International Prostate Symptom Score that has been used in real scientific studies such as with Nettle Root.
Just search around and you’re likely to find a test that may be helpful.
You can do this before you begin your experiment and at the end of the time frame. You could also do this “test” anytime during the time frame too, like weekly.
It’s important to write down these numbers as memory is not always reliable, especially when talking about subjective things. In psychology, there is something known as the “Apex Effect” where once you’re passed the issue or problem you don’t perceive it as having been as big a deal as it was. You may have labeled an issue a nine before and today it’s a five, but you might not think it’s any different.
I hope all of this helps. If you have any more questions about how to set up and run an experiment for yourself please ask them below. It can be a general question about what we’ve covered here or some specifics about an experiment you want to run for yourself.
Here are articles worth reading to go deeper into related subjects to help you better understand your experiment.
What Should I Expect When Taking Herbs?
How Long Should You Take Herbs?
Dosage with Herbs
How Long Does It Take For Herbs To Work?
How to Cycle Herbs
Herbal Extract Strength and Type
Take Herbs with Food or Without?