OPINION PIECE FROM OUR RESIDENT PSYCHOLOGIST & YOGA INSTRUCTOR, ALICIA:
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE NOT-SO-KNOWN OF HERBAL MEDICINE...
How many of us are guilty of self-diagnosis? How many of us buy the newest herb and supplement on the market because your favorite Insta guru uses it? I am pleading guilty, no doubt about it.
I recently had a moment where I realised I had just spent more than an hour researching a herb. I had read about it on one of my favorite sites, convinced I needed that herb in order to make my body function correctly (and I admit this is not the first nor tenth time this has happened). She was taking it and looks amazing and I love all of the things she loves, so why wouldn’t it work for me too?
You were told you should take this if you are stressed? Obviously. Anxious? Yes. Want unique minerals for beauty, energy, and vitality? It’s like they knew me. And just as I was about to pay $50+ for my necessary herbs, it occurred to me, will this really be the cure-all I am hoping for?
The answer, I sadly had to admit to myself, was no. It would not be the cure-all I thought it was going to be, for more reasons than not. Herbs work differently for every single person, it’s the greatest thing about the human race, we are all so incredibly different.
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
It got me talking to our resident acupuncturist and Chinese medicine practitioner, Rachael Haley, about herbs and what we really should know before jumping on the bandwagon. To put it in simple terms, “you wouldn’t take western medicine prescriptions on a whim for symptomatic relief, would you?”. It goes for herbs as well. They can be beneficial in many ways, especially if they are formulated just for you.
They can be potent and they can have side effects. Chinese Herbal formulas are designed to rebalance the body rather than to just give you quick symptomatic relief. A lot have this effect (awesome!) but essentially it’s more about restoring balance rather than depending on a herb or formula for continued symptomatic relief. The idea being to treat the root of the problem, rather than just a band-aid solution. Some herbs can be taken for prolonged periods, while some cannot. I learned that certain herbs can actually suppress and prolong a flu or cold if taken incorrectly, while other herbs if taken in the right dosage, will actually promote sweating helping you get over virus more quickly.
DON'T OVERCOMPLICATE THINGS
As we got deep into conversation about my addiction to taking what I thought were 'much-needed' herbs, Rachael said we all go there. We all have a duty to think before we put something in our bodies. If in doubt at all, don’t take it. Herbs are dependent on what we eat when we eat, what we drink, what other medications we are taking - always ask a specialist first. The composition of our bodies is intricate and we have to appreciate and respect that one is not for all in these cases.
Rachael noted that sometimes simplifying things like modifying what we eat or how we eat, how much sleep we are getting and our lifestyle habits, can have a much more profound effect on our health than any herbal formula.
TRUST & KNOW YOUR OWN SELF
Now, I am not saying don’t ever take your pro-biotics or your fish oils if a naturopath or health professional has told you to do so. Our bodies are fickle and there is no such thing as a cure-all, we have to eat what our bodies like and need and stay away from those things that make us feel like crap. I believe we want things that create the shift and some herbs aren’t meant to be taken for a lifetime, isn’t that essentially what we want? Something that we don’t have to take forever to keep our bodies working how we expect them to? It really just got me to thinking, wouldn’t I rather have someone who really knows and has seen my body and habits to tell me what is best for me?
*If you have been prescribed a medicine from a health professional please consult with them directly if you plan to discontinue a prescribed drug/formula.