Why don’t herbs always work to heal? What am I doing wrong? Are doctors bad? Here’s a little discussion on why wellness herbs don’t always work. Plus, troubleshooting tips and tricks to help those wellness herbs along. They’re not a magic pill, and learning to take care of ourselves is vital to our healing.
If you’re new to herbs, get started with our short e-book, Herbs in the Bathtub. This book will get you growing herbs in pots this year regardless of where you live or how much space you have. It outlines a collection of well known herbs for culinary and wellness uses. We’ll teach you how to grow and use these wonderful plants – anyone can grow an herb garden this year!
FYI, this post is looong! If you’re looking for a quick discussion on troubleshooting herbal treatments, this isn’t it. I do have a lot herbal resources listed here, though. I encourage you to leave comments about your own experiences, if you’re willing.
However, all the information shared here is personal experience and is not meant to diagnose or replace any information from your chosen medical professional. Do your own research. Here’s my official disclaimer so we can be square:
Why Herbs Don’t Always Work
Herbs, in fact, don’t always work and there a myriad of reasons why. Conversely, there are a lot of times herbs do exactly what I expect them to. There are a lot times I’ve had conventional medicines fail and function for me and my immediate problem.
This Grateful Mamma
I’ve had an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for the times in which I live. What a blessing to have so many options and so much information to study. I’m also grateful for mentors like my herb lady friend, Amy, as well as the multitude of herbalists who’ve inspired and instructed me like those at Herbal Academy.
To learn more about The Herbal Academy’s online courses, Preview Lesson from the Introductory Herbal Course. OR, click below to learn all about the FREE course they’re offering for the month of January! They’ve never done this before that I know of, and, if I were you, I would jump on it. Please be sure to tell me what you think, if you decide to take the free course.
You also also click below on the ad to visit their course descriptions – they have something for every level of herbal learner.
I’m also thankful for the good allopathic, or conventional western, doctors I’ve encountered over the years.
You can read some positive experiences I’ve had with western medicine in my article: Broken Body Homesteading – Advice for Keepin’ On.
Even with all that gratitude, I’m still no fan of pain, despite the great teacher that it can be. I’ve had a rough couple of months, I don’t mind confessing.
First, it must be pointed out that, I have a wonderful life full of people who love me. I have good work in which to engage and a peaceful knowledge of who I am and who God is.
However, aforementioned God felt that it was time I had a learning experience and, pain being that great teacher, He chose the physical ailment route. I’ve decided to take the experience as a compliment. Praise Him, my trial did not involve a life threatening, wasting disease. The one thing that can be said about physical pain is that it teaches quickly.
Whole Person Healing
I learned a lot about why I need to think about my whole person when I’m trying to heal. I can’t use natural medicines and not practice natural healing which involves things like:
- whole foods eating
- adequate rest
- consistent herbal regimens for maintenance and treatment
- adequate water consumption
And so much more! IF I want to be all herb-y, natural and holistic in my health regimens then I need to follow all those criteria. Not just the ones I feel I have time for.
Here are some example of what I’ve found to be important, how I’ve failed to respect that importance and my most recent learning experience.
Battling the Yeastie Beasties
I have always had a hard time breast feeding, even with this current baby. In fact, all but one of my four earliest children went on formula after only a few months of being at the breast. You really don’t know much of anything useful when you’re young and I had never bothered to read anything about how formula is made or what goes into it.
Neither did I know anything about yeast overgrowth or acid diets or soaking grains or any of the banquet of things I know now. I just knew that breast feeding equaled constant breast infections complete with horrific pain, burning fevers and unhappy babies.
Tricky Milk Supply
I also knew that, even when I wasn’t battling infection, my milk supply was insufficient to keep baby happy and well fed. My first, one I breast feed for eleven months through shear will power, was colicky and unhappy all of the time. I mean, all of the time. And I hated being a mom.
With the others, the formula magically seemed to fix that. Never mind what the trade off was because I didn’t realize anything negative was happening as a result of using it. I digress. With this caboose baby, I’m much better informed all around and I have enjoyed breast feeding for many months now.
I had started to heal my gut before I got pregnant but never quite finished. (I need to do a few deep cleanses, some more rebuilding and make a few more dietary changes.) Besides, when you’re breast feeding, it’s not really a good time to fiddle with your system.
Throw in a Breast Infection For Fun
Not being quite “there” yet, I experienced my first breast infection with this baby. Wowzers had I forgotten how incredibly much that hurts.
I immediately went for my herbal wellness herbs, my probiotic kefir and started using warm packs with essential oils, cabbage leaves and mullein fomentations. To learn how to encapsulate your own herbal supplements, please visit this link.
For ideas on herbal combinations for health, please visit this link.
If I had the book at the time, I also would have made Devon Young’s Violet Breast Cream from her new book, The Backyard Herbal Apothecary. Speaking of…
The Backyard Herbal Apothecary – HELP!
Since I wrote this article originally, Devon Young of Nitty Gritty Life has written a book called The Backyard Herbal Apothecary. She sent me a copy for review and I HAD to include a bit of information about it in this post. I have a lot of herb books but this has become one of of my favorites.
I’m a gardener at heart and I’ve learned to love to forage native plants. Devon’s book includes information on both, as well as herbal health and wellness recipes and how-to’s. The plant profiles she’s compiled here are completely worth the purchase price of this book, not to mention all the great recipes for balms, tinctures and teas.
I have a really short attention span and the way Devon has put The Backyard Herbal Apothecary together is perfect for me. The book is:
- easy to read and understand
- has tidy sections
- and fabulous graphics
- plus, a wide array of herbal wellness projects
I think I might be babbling at this point, but I can’t say enough good about this book!
What I Didn’t Do to Heal
What didn’t I do while suffering from this breast infection?
- Slow down.
- Eat more deliberately, or at all.
- Drink enough water.
One of the biggest things your body is telling you when you get a breast infection is to rest and replenish. I didn’t do it.
I was finishing up our rather pathetic garden harvest, trying to get home school started and dealing with various other responsibilities. The world would have stopped turning if I slowed down, right?
Despite the lack of respect I showed my system, the breast infection mostly (only mostly) abated. But the infection moved into my outer ear.
Ever had an outer ear infection? Y’all, I’ve had staph present on my eyelid, a cavity in Russia and birthed a 12 lb 6 oz baby in my dining room. I am no stranger to stuff that hurts. BUT, that thing left me curled up in the fetal position, moaning incoherently and sobbing in pain.
I’d Gone Beyond Home Remedies and Herbs Alone
Realizing that I’d gone beyond what my home remedies and herbs were able to do for me (especially since I wasn’t willing to do what I was supposed to), I went to an urgent care clinic.
You know, if you’ve got to go the conventional medical route, I love those places. They’re no nonsense, staffed by typically cool PAs and have a simple format without all that doctor mumbo jumbo about tests and specialists. In this case, I was prescribed a powerhouse commercial antibiotic and some drops for the pain in my ear.
To learn how to keep your probiotic levels up in your gut while you’re on commercial antibiotics, read our post here.
The ear drops ended up not being able to control the acute pain in my ear. I was actually getting a little delirious with the pain. So, I went to my family doctor (whom I hadn’t seen in years) and was prescribed a powerhouse pain pill to go with my antibiotic. I like this doctor because he doesn’t just hand out pills because you have an owie. I told him I didn’t need it not to hurt, I just needed to be able to stay conscious. Har dee har.
The Herbal with the Conventional
I continued to take my herbal antibiotics to make it all go faster and upped my probiotics to avoid a yeast infection from the conventional antibiotics. (Historically, I can’t even look at those things without getting a yeast infection).
I continued with my oils and hot packs for my ear, and continued to pray. Let me just mention: lavender and melaluca oil on a cotton ball, placed just inside an infected ear, can really help with pain management.
I also have a great earache oil I use often for regular ear infections. As my ear began to heal, I started to use it again for pain and to guard against a new infection there. This recipe was inspired by another great author I know – read all about it (and THAT book!) here.
However, as the ear infection subsided, another breast infection began, as well as migraines.
Was I resting enough yet, you ask?
Apparently not. I took to my bed, finally, and got really adept at making fomentations for my breast using breast pads and saran wrap. I felt gift wrapped. And silly.
But, those fomentations help; especially when you put a heating pad over them. I digress again.
Here’s how to make a fomentation – though I pray you never have need of it!
So, after several months of infection and pain, I learned some things.
What I Learned About Why Herbs Don’t Always Work
Western Medicine in its Proper Place
As much as I disagree with the paradigm of modern “healing”, western medicine can be a boon, especially at managing acute conditions. Painful, immediately presenting issues are where modern medicine can excel.
True healing will, in my opinion, always allude a physician trained to only treat a few symptoms without addressing the vital systems of the body as a whole. But, emergent problems can be helped with some western intervention, properly prescribed. Let me tell you, once the pain starts, the first thing you think of is how to make it stop. Human condition.
We don’t need to run to the doctor for every, little thing but we can use their expertise when it’s needed.
We are Responsible for Our Own Health
No one else, especially our physician, is responsible for our health and well-being. We are.
It’s our responsibility to eat well, exercise and see to our basic needs through educating ourselves on simple home remedies and herbs. We’re also responsible for taking care of ourselves. This is an area where moms, especially, fail in epic ways.
In this instance, modern medicines were a safety net that had to catch me because I refused to do what my body was asking me to do. A mom’s work is never done, true, but even mom has to recover when she’s ill. I’m not above doing what I’m supposed to do.
If I had obeyed, in this instance, I feel I would have been healed with my herbs, oils and prayers.
Our Energy/Spirit Make a Difference
Not to go all new-age, spiritual, Christian on you but I believe that energy plays a vital part in our health and well being.
Interestingly, there was a topic close to my heart on which I was unwilling to hear the Word of the Lord. He was telling me what to do and I didn’t like the answer. So, I was refusing to truly hear Him. I had worked myself up so much that I simply didn’t have ears to hear – literally with that ear infection.
Needless to say, after this experience, I am much more willing to listen. If you ask the advice of an omniscient being, it’s a good idea to listen to His advice. Just sayin’.
There’s No Substitute for Rest
I need to rest. Period. I am one person. And the older I get, it seems to me, my biggest flaw is that there IS only one of me. But you know what? I am not indispensable. The world will go on turning if I say no or nap or stay home. I do no one any good sick and useless for three months.
Others Can Pick Up My Slack
The family farm down the road grows amazing produce. Consequently, I didn’t have to freak out about not having the homestead up and running at a 100% this year. Farmer Luke was there to cover the deficit.
Once I got to feeling better, we actually made pickles. They weren’t made from our cukes, grown in our garden, but they were fabulous. I supported local agriculture and there was no shame in not being able to deal with my garden. Indeed, it was fantastic!
It’s OK, I reminded myself, to rely on other people sometimes. We can benefit from their talents. That’s what community is for. On that note, letting a friend from church do my laundry, wash my dishes and bring me dinner was also a great idea. She’s amazing and was blessed for her service, as we were.
Healing is Healing, No Matter Where it Comes From
There’s a place for most healing modalities in my world.
Yes, some I use more often because I have more faith in them. However, whether it’s western medicine or faith or herbs and oils, I’m grateful for all the tools the great Healer has given us in our times.
I’m convinced that God wants us to be healthy. He’s has given us so much of what we need to find healing when things go awry. We tend to feel like we’ll always be stuck with the pain and for some, like Paul with his thorn in the side.
Don’t Live Beneath Your Health Privileges
That might be true for some, but far too many of us live beneath our privileges in this matter by not taking care of ourselves first. Quite often we won’t need anyone’s intervention, western or holistic. We can learn to listen to our bodies and do what it takes to find health in the navel (heal our guts) and marrow in the bones (nourish our systems).
Bottom line, if you’re ill, be wiser than I have been these past few months.
- Deep breaths every day
- Say no to everyone but your spouse and children (or those people to whom you are deeply connected)
- Fill your body with light in the form of whole food, whole communication with your God and a whole lot of sleep.
The cover graphics is gratefully attributed to this Wikipedia Commons user.