The most critical guideline for dosing herbs is to listen to your body, feel how herbs interact and how they make you feel, and observe what is happening. There should be a general dosage guideline on the bottle or from your clinical practitioner.
If you know you are very sensitive OR are unfamiliar with the herbs OR you are new to herbal medicine, it is good to start slow and observe.
Herbs do work well and have been used for thousands of years BUT they do not work if we take the wrong herb, don’t get the correct dosage (though the range and timing is not as narrow as with pharmaceuticals) or don’t take them long enough to do their work, or lastly but very importantly if we don’t support the herbs with a healthy mind set, good nutrition and lifestyle like sleep, hydration and movement, for example.
A general rule of thumb for dosing is LOW DOSE is 1-2 droppers 2-3 times per day. A MEDIUM DOSE is 3 droppers 3 times per day and a LARGE DOSE is 4-5 droppers 3 times per day.
To avoid uncomfortable reactions, I often tell people to start with 1/3 of the recommended dose for 24-48 hours and see that there is no reaction, then go up a bit from there and then to full dose.
One idea for those with a sensitive stomach or digestion is to dilute the extract in twice the water or take sips over a time period. If the alcohol causes a reaction then pour just boiled water over the dose in a cup and let it sit till it has cooled sufficiently. This will evaporate off much of the alcohol that was used to extract the medicinal chemistry from the plant.
You can divide up your total dose throughout the day. If smaller doses work better do it more frequently. I see some very busy people who simply cannot disengage to take herbs 3 times per day. That middle dose gets lost in the middle of the day, so I tell them to split the total daily dose into 2 doses. Herbs are very generous and for the most part this works well. The caveat for this method is if you are working with a cold, you do want to dose quite frequently to stay on top of the pathogen that is trying to take
I have seen robust, active people with strong constitutions be very sensitive to herbs and absolutely need to take half of recommended dosage. The opposite is true as well. We must listen to the body’s response rather than a general recommendation. If the herbs make you feel nauseous or headachy or bring out a rash, stop, normalize and if you want to start again do so at 1/3 or ¼ the dose.
On the other hand, if it makes you feel very well or you are noticing signs of improvement, have patience so the body can make the changes and adjust in its own time. Many people quit too soon and then think herbs don’t work. You could try a lower dose or skip a dose and see if the body is holding the change. If it is continue to step it down, but if not then return to the dose and frequency you were doing and continue for awhile, then try doing a little less again. It took me a lot longer than necessary to get over Lyme because I kept stopping my herbs every time I felt somewhat better. I wasn’t really listening to my body and I let myself get busy and did not check in with how I really felt. One of the best reasons to sit with a clinician is to take the time to spotlight yourself and how you feel out of the busyness of life.
Some people take the same herbs, eat the same diet, do the same exercise regimen etc for years and years. The human nervous system loves safety and adventure. At least take breaks if you are planning on using a formula for a long time as in 6 months to 18 months. Also if you are taking larger doses or very strong herbs do take breaks of 1-3 weeks before continuing so you can see how the body respond.
The most important piece is listening to your body. It is innately intelligent and communicates to us through the body’s responses. Sit quietly with your body and let it guide you or at least be heard.
Of course sometimes we don’t really get the message and that’s where the general guidelines and experience of a clinician or others that have used the herbs can help show the way.
If you're struggling with dosing, reach out for a consultation! We're here to help!
My name is Bonnie Bloom and I am a clinical herbalist. Plants give us clothing, shelter, food and medicine. They are an intrinsic part of our earth ecology, diverse and essential. They breathe our carbon dioxide and generously give us oxygen. Where would we be without them.