Is it okay to take herbs while fasting?
This question has been popping up a lot lately. For example, Craig asked us the following:
“In Upgrade Your Growth Hormone you recommend fasting. When fasting, is it okay to take herbs? For most herbs, you recommend taking them twice a day, so I’m not sure how you should fit them in while fasting.”
As with so many answers, it depends. Primarily, it depends a bit on what type of fasting you’re doing and what goals you’re trying to accomplish with fasting.
If it’s a strict water fast, or even a dry fast, then you wouldn’t want to take herbs. The keyword here being strict.
But herbs, or other supplements, certainly can be taken along with fasting. Doing so may even become a major focus of the fasting by taking an “herb fast” where you’re gain additional benefits.
Below are a number of points that you should be aware of and why you might not want to take herbs while fasting, but also an equal number of points about why you should.
Why you might NOT want to take herbs or supplements while fasting?
1. One of the main aims of fasting is to give digestion a break. If you’re taking a tincture you’re not really digesting much of anything, so that should be okay.
But if you did a megadose of pine pollen, that is activating your digestive process to some degree.
2. With some fasts, you want to consume zero calories. Some of the herbs are going to have some.
Even the alcohol in tinctures generally have 7-calories per gram.
3. Another aim of fasting is to stop insulin signaling which is going to occur from stopping the eating of carbs (primarily, protein does too to a smaller degree).
You can go strict and make sure you have none. But then taking herbs which may have one to two grams is going to trigger insulin but to a minor degree as compared to eating just about any meal.
4. Another aim of fasting is inducing autophagy, which is the “cell-eating” that is where your body goes into clean-up mode.
Here it is the protein that really turns off the autophagy processes. Some herbs have some amount of amino acids.
Why you might WANT to take herbs or supplements while fasting?
1. When you lay off of food, as in a fast, you’re going to be a bit more sensitive to the effects of the herbs so you may be able to “feel” them more.
This can be a great way to become more sensitive to their effects.
2. The amount of calories, carbs, protein, etc. in herbs, or in the digestion of them is going to be a very small amount so it isn’t likely to affect the fasting process much.
Just think of what you normally eat in a day as compared to taking a few herbs. You’re still by-and-large fasting!
3. Herbs can make going through a fast easier by giving you energy, mental clarity, etc.
4. Herbs can improve the results of a fast!
Since fasting is largely about detox, you can take herbs that will support this function. Good options from Lost Empire Herbs for this would include Triphala, Gynostemma tea, and Shilajit. This is why juice fasting is a type of fasting.
And basically, if asked “can you drink juice while fasting,” we’d bring up many similar points, as well as a few different points.
And let me add a bit more on Gynostemma tea: As an herbal tea that has no calories, no carbs or protein, but acts as an adaptogen, helps with energy and has many anti-aging benefits, it may be ideally suited to fasting.
Intermittent Fasting vs. Longer Durations
In addition to the type of fast, there is also the length of fast to look at. For ease of discussion, I like to divide this to intermittent fasting, which is 24-hours or less, and then longer fasts (although 2-days is very different from 30).
Simply put, if you’re just doing an intermittent fast where you don’t eat after dinner one night, until dinner the next, then you could skip any herbs early in the day and take them later. Taking herbs twice a day as we recommend with most herbs is a suggestion, one that can easily be changed depending on the circumstances. (In fact, everything about dosage is malleable as covered HERE.)
But you also could start your day off with herbs…just like some people start their intermittent fasting day with coffee. This could be black, bulletproof style, or with added herbs. (After all, coffee can be considered an herb too.) Learn more about coffee and herbs HERE.
For a longer fast, as I said before, it really depends on what you’re aiming to achieve. Also, you can do different things on different days.
I’m planning on doing a week-long fast around the turn of the year. In doing so, I may start off with some things like MCT oil (for an aid in getting the body into ketosis- learn more HERE) and herbs along with other supplements, but then switching to a strict water/tea fast, and perhaps even doing a one day dry fast in the middle, then reversing out the same way.
I understand I may have raised more questions than answered here, but ultimately it is going to be up to your experience. Try fasting with herbs and see how it works for you. Try fasting without herbs and compare the differences. And please feel free to share your results in the comments below, as your experience may be helpful to other people.