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FAQ about Botanicals

Who might benefit from botanicals?

Many cultures today still use botanicals as their primary source of medicine. In recent years North America has experienced a resurgence of botanical medicine as people take more responsibility for their health.  People who benefit from botanicals are:

  • Those interested in perusing a healthier lifestyle
  • Those desiring more energy
  • Those not helped with modern medicine
  • Those with chronic persistent conditions
  • Those that do not want to take a pharmaceutical route to manage their symptoms

Are there differences in quality when it comes to botanical medicine?

Like all supplements there is a wide range in quality when it comes to botanical medicine. In either the standardized extract form or whole botanical form. It is imperative to seek the advice of a licensed naturopathic doctor to select the right botanical or botanical combination and best quality for your specific case.

What forms of botanical medicine are out there?

Botanicals can come in standardized extract form, part specific or whole plant form. They can be mixed into oils, taken as pills or tablets or come as fluid extracts or tinctures. The strength of the botanical phytonutrients can vary greatly between each form.

When will I see results?

Some patients may notice a difference within 2 weeks. Others my not see any results for 3-6 months from the time their first embark on their protocol. Botanicals are only as effective as the patient allows them to be. If the patient continues to abuse their body through harmful processed foods, sodas, caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes, lack of hydration, stress and limited sleep, results will not come for a long time. The good news is that the power to heal is in the patient’s hands. The bad news is that the power to heal is in our own hands.

How long should I take botanicals?

An organ usually takes 4 to 6 months to detoxify and rebuild itself to the point where it will function properly. However, depending on the severity of the condition, the organs may require 1 month treatment for every year the problem existed. Some botanicals may be required for  days or weeks. Chronic conditions may take longer than one year to heal. Patients who are patient, make lifestyle changes and preserve to the end see the best results. Each case is different and the duration of treatment will be discussed by the naturopathic doctor.

Can I get the same botanicals cheaper from a drugstore?

With so many people turning to botanicals, new companies have appeared on the market. In the scramble to meet customer demand, some have sacrificed quality and standards of manufacturing. The best way to know if the product has the highest quality is to purchase from a reputable manufacturer that guarantees the quality and purity of its products on every bottle. Some well known manufacturers have been known to add fillers and chemical binders to their products. Cheaper does not always mean better. Most naturopathic doctors carry professional line products which have been certified through rigorous standards and have NHP (natural health product numbers). When choosing a botanical product consider the following:

  • Choose a company that has been manufacturing botanicals for a long time
  • Choose a company that has NHP numbers for their botanicals
  • Ensure the manufacturer guarantees the quality of its products
  • Ensure the product is of ‘professional standards’
  • Ensure there are no chemical binders or fillers in the supplement

Can I take botanicals with my prescription medication?

It is important to realize that botanicals are not drugs. Botanicals are foods, and in most cases will not interfere or react to any prescription medications. Seek the guidance of a licensed naturopathic doctor before beginning any botanical medicine protocol to ensure that the products do not interfere with your prescription medications. Be sure to read the labels for any precautions or warnings.

Do I take botanicals with or without meals?

Most prepared botanicals come packaged with instructions on the container. Botanicals are usually taken with meals unless otherwise specified in order for the body to digest and assimilate them easily. Some botanicals are designed to be taken away from meals – this is especially true for tinctures or fluid extracts (unless they are being used to stimulate digestion in which case they will be taken just prior to a meal). Consult the naturopathic doctor to find out which botanicals are best with, during or away from meals.

Could I overdose or get reactions to botanicals?

The term “overdose” in our modern day western society is synonymous with danger. With most botanicals, however, “overdosing” can only be synonymous with overdosing on food. The body will only absorb as much food (botanical) as it requires and will eliminate all the excess through the liver or colon. It is possible to have a minor reaction to botanicals. This is usually very rare, and in most cases mistaken for a “healing crisis.” The odd headache, sore throat, tired, lethargic feeling, aches and pains or even nausea and vomiting (which are extremely rare) are all usual signs the body is utilizing the botanicals for cleansing itself of toxins, catarrh or mucous. This is known as a “healing crisis.” A healing crisis can start within 3 days in some cases, and may last from 1-28 days. For this reason, many are surprised when the botanicals, vitamins or minerals they are consuming are not helping them feel better. In fact, they may appear to be getting sick. This is actually a good sign, not a bad one. That being said, there are some botanicals which taken at high amounts are toxic to the body these specific species are compounded at a very small dose over a short period of time. Individuals should check with a licensed naturopathic doctor before beginning any botanical or supplement program. Those who are pregnant or allergic to plants should take caution before taking any botanical prescription.

Isn’t botanical medicine an old fashioned form of medicine?

Botanicals have always been an important tool in the hands of ancient healers. To the traditional and modern herbalist, botanicals are the body’s friend. The modern use of botanicals continues with the philosophy that botanicals work with the natural healing processes of the body and not against them. 80% of the world’s population uses botanical medicine rather than synthetic drugs as medicine. In fact many of the pharmaceuticals on the market today are derived from botanicals. True botanical medicine utilizes the specific energetic and healing properties of the plant instead of specific chemicals isolated from the plant.

Why do I have to take so much of any botanical?

Botanicals are taken in several forms: dried encapsulated powder, liquid extracts and teas, or ointments or salves for external application. A single botanical may be adequate or, more commonly, a botanical combination will be recommended. Herbalists have found over the centuries that when certain herbs are combined, the result is a greater effect than if they were taken on their own. For example, if someone needed to take dandelion, they may need to consume 1 teaspoon per day in a dried powdered form. However, to avoid the bitter taste of dandelion, some manufacturers have enclosed a powder in a plant cellulose or gelatin capsule. Therefore, in order to receive the full dosage, one must consume several capsules of the same botanical.

My doctor says that botanicals do not work and they can be harmful. Are they mistaken?

Yes and no. If prescribed properly botanicals do work very well and have no side effects. If prescribed incorrectly there is the potential for harm. Many botanicals can interact with pharmaceutical medications which is why it is important to be treated by a licensed naturopathic doctor. The safety record of botanical medicine speaks for itself. Dr. Zoltan Rona MD MSc., after investigating poisoning from botanicals in 1991 wrote “the total number of all poisonings for all vitamins, minerals and botanicals was zero.” His conclusion: “There is no evidence whatsoever that vitamins, minerals and botanicals have killed anyone. Botanicals have been helping millions of people upon millions of people around the world for centuries. How ironic that 21st century people, now faced with chronic disease, are turning to ancient traditions and concepts and finding, once again, that they work.”