You need to take an herb for
weeks or months before it will start working.
Some herbs work quickly, some slowly—just like drugs. Some
botanicals, like ashwaganda, take weeks to gradually show
an effect. For chronic conditions like colitis, significant
improvement comes only after dozens of doses.
But that doesn’t mean you don’t have a fast route to relief,
even in the case of colitis. I’ve seen people with colitis
feel remarkably better after one dose of turmeric and slippery
elm bark. Many herbs show equally swift success for acute
conditions. For instance, Andrew Weil, MD, recommends peppermint
and chamomile teas for immediate relief of upset stomach and
nausea. Other herbs like California poppy will knock you right
out if you have insomnia.
Most of the time, when people experience results only after
weeks of using an herbal medicine, it’s because they took
a subclinical, and therefore insufficient, dose. Ask your
herbalist to recommend an effective dose if you’re still not
Herbal formulas contain high
levels of contaminants.
An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association
this past December reported the presence of heavy metals
in certain Ayurvedic remedies. The researchers obtained
the Ayurvedic medicines, all manufactured in South Asia,
from small, privately owned Indian groceries in their local
As it turns out, the formulas in question contained bhasmas,
or purified, specially processed forms of heavy metals purposely
added to the formula according to traditional Ayurvedic
principles. These mineral ash constituents would certainly
show up in the finished product when tested for heavy metals.
DSHEA, the law that regulates dietary supplements in the
US, actually bans the sale of these types of metalcontaining
formulas. Therefore, explains Michael McGuffin, president
of the American Herbal Products Association, the problem
lies not with Ayurvedic herbal medicines in general but
with the illegal importation of these particular products.
“Mercury is an ingredient in certain traditional Ayurvedic
formulas. They might be comfortable with it; my association
is not,” he says. The products purchased by the researchers
are not widely available —only through small Indian markets—and
customers are likely foreigners familiar with these preparations,
Chinese formulas that were found contaminated in a 1998
study brought up similar issues of metal as an ingredient
in certain traditional formulas and the problem of illegal
sales. However, you can feel confident that Ayurvedic and
Chinese products made in the US contain no such metals.
Preparations purchased at the health food store, from reputable
companies, pose little risk of toxic contamination.