Why Herbs Don’t Always Work

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. Why Herbs Don't Always Work l Health and Wellness troubleshooting and advice when using herbs l Homestead Lady.com

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:Medical disclaimer

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.

The Herbal Materia Medica Course is registering for Free during January! Stop by the Herbal Academy

You also also click below on the ad to visit their course descriptions – they have something for every level of herbal learner.

Herbalism Courses for all levels

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.

Pain Stinks

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.

To learn more about yeast overgrowth, please visit this link, then this one, then this one.

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:

  • simple
  • 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!

I highly encourage you to check it out below:

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!) hereCalendula Earache Oil Recipe l Simple herbal ingredients l Homestead Lady.com

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.

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31 thoughts on “Why Herbs Don’t Always Work

  1. I love your attitude! I am reminded time and again how important it is to pay attention to my body. I can always tell when I’m getting sick, though sometimes it takes me a day to recognize the sign, yet again.

    Thanks for linking up at Motivation Monday. FYI – we changed the format of the party to have 4 separate categories – Inspirational Writing, Healthy Recipes, Crafts, and Home Decor/Organizing. Our hope is by organizing the posts by categories, our readers can find what they’re interested in faster.

  2. Love this balanced approach to medicine. And we also love Learning Herbs – we’re taking the Herb Fairies course right now as a part of our homeschool. So much fun.
    Visiting from Natural Living Monday…

  3. I can so understand where you are coming from. Though I, thankfully, have never really struggled with breastfeeding I do also prefer to use natural remedies most of the time. However after recently being sick for a several weeks and developing some weird symptoms I did end up going in to urgent care- got an antibiotic (for bacterial pneumonia) and am now finally recovering. I am thankful to God for all the different ways He has provided for our healing.

  4. Excellent post! This so needs to be said. I am a firm advocate of home healthcare and using natural remedies to facilitate healing (heck, that’s all I blog about!) but at the end of the day conventional medicine does have it’s place. The point is to recognize and teach others not to run to the doctor for every little thing, but also to know when they should go.

    I’ll be sharing this post with my readers. Thanks!

    1. Thank you for your kind words! I agree and, in fact, I think that’s what I struggle with the most – trying to figure out when I SHOULD go to a doctor! Thank you, too, for the share! Now, here’s to our good health this season!

  5. I feel the same you do about modern medicine. It sure is nice to have when you are in crazy pain or have a nasty infection (or whatever other illness can’t be resolved with natural remedies). I think the responsible use of both together to create a more holistic paradigm is a much more reasonable road. I am sorry you had such a rough year but isn’t the learning that comes from it wonderful? You are featured on Natural Living Monday on Monday. Keep an eye out and thanks for sharing!

  6. Very wise and balanced post! I’m glad you are getting better. I really like the part about being reminded of the need to listen to God. I have had many many migraines and learned all about ranking pain on a scale from 1 to 10 and developed an intimate familiarity with exactly what Levels 4-9 feel like, but I never labeled my pain 10, thinking that it was possible to have pain worse than I had ever experienced. A few years ago I found out that I had been right about that–I had a migraine that took me to Level 10, an unremitting unreasoning pain that overwhelmed my ability to do anything but get myself to the bathroom and back to bed. I kept trying to pray but finding that my mental words dissolved and the only words I could think were, “BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.” Yes sir!! It was very humbling, and as I recovered I gradually realized just how much I had been pushing myself to do too much out of pride, harming my body, instead of seeking God’s guidance.

    1. Wise words, Becca! There’s a reason He calls even us “adults” His children – because we continue to act like little kids!! At church our young children sing a song called, “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam” and in their sweet innocence it’s so appropriate for their age group to sing such a song. But sometimes I feel like I STILL think Jesus wants me for a sunbeam. Uh-uh, I’m dressed as an adult, maybe I should act like one and stop being so, as you say, pushy with myself, my pride and my ideas of what I should be doing. Sigh. I figure the first hundred years are the hardest!

  7. I was lucky enough to find a Doctor that does both herbal and modern. He always gives his patients a choice between pills and herbal healing. I opt for the herbal when ever possible.

  8. Thanks for sharing your story at the HomeAcre Hop!
    There have been times that I have been so grateful for modern medicine. When my daughter broke her arm, for one.

  9. I would never recommend someone ignore a licensed physician when it comes to serious conditions. Home remedies can be great for illness prevention and over all wellness, but serious conditions requires aggressive treatment. That’s not to say we can’t continue with the natural paths of healing. Both can work together. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I would say that depends on what they’re licensed in exactly and what it was they’re recommending I do. I have a very high distrust of most Western Medical doctors based on various personal experiences with their “recommendations” but there a lot of docs anymore who school themselves in multiple modalities and certify in them; Western docs who become naturopaths and/or herbalists, for example. My chiropractor worked to certify in acupuncture, too, because he strongly felt he could help more people with both skills. That’s the kind of thing that identifies a healer to me; the world is full of doctors but what we need are healers.

      As far as the methods working together, I’ve found that to be possible in my home but most Western docs still poo poo alternative healing methods so looking to them for guidance can be fruitless. Which just means we need to be proactive and engaged in our own healing and learn to study, which we should be doing anyway. I don’t expect any doctor to solve all my problems for me; I’m just hoping that when I need one, I can find a doctor whose willing to help me understand my options – all my options.

      It’s a tough business to be in anymore, no matter what your paradigm. Time for moms to step it up and learn more about keeping their families healthy! Home cooked meals might actually save the world at some point. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Excellent post. I’m so thankful to live in a time where we can do things “the old fashioned way”, i.e. naturally, but have that “safety net” of modern medicine (as flawed as it is) to help when things don’t work out. I would add, though, that the modern drugs/ medicines work best to help us heal when our bodies are working more properly from being cleaned with natural remedies/ diets. Then, the drugs come in to “knock out” whatever the natural can’t get rid of. =)

    1. Absolutely! That’s why I stayed on my herbal antibiotic and yeast combo while I was taking the modern antibiotic. Food is such a factor, too! For me, though, my weak area is always rest – I just don’t get enough of it. Naughty me.

  11. Thanks so much for sharing Homestead Lady. I saw 2 of your excellent post (the other on herb combinations) at the Natural Family Friday Linkup #5 this week. Your honest sharing and courage to deal with your situation is commendable. What I took away from your experience is that I realize there are less and less times when I need to struggle with self-care and do things the hard way. If you get a chance, look for my post Eggplant Lasagna Sans Pasta and Cheese at https://theskinnypear.com/natural-family-fridays-5/
    Nancy A. at https://obloggernewbie.blogspot.com

    1. Yes! And we’re so grateful those times for outside intervention are few and far between. Then, we’re grateful that there are outside mentors when we need them, in every medical field.

  12. Hello read your article about herb capsule combinations. I have digestive issues and candida. I do sleep enough daily most days unless stomach bugs too much. I like the Herbs lemongrass and lemon verbena. If I buy those powdered herbs from mountain rose herbs and encapsule them should I do equal parts of both? I was looking at a product called swanson fit with lemon verbena. https://www.swansonvitamins.com/swanson-fit-performance-regenerator-600-mg-60-veg-caps

    There’s a tea bag I like but doesn’t say organic and has natural flavors added so should probably make something organic..

    Not sure I would get a similar Effect but swansons fit usually $20 per bottle. The herbs I chose seem good to just take at last meal of day?

    Even though I’ve had fungus and digestive issues daily for nearly 10 years I want to be active even though it’s hard with illness.


    1. What great questions and I commend you for trying so diligently to listen to your body!

      I’m not a physician or herbalist so I’m really not able to advise you personally. I can recommend that you find a local herbalist, naturopath or holistically minded physician to guide you in prescribing just the right herbs. I’m also able to say that I love lemograss, too, and I grew lemon verbena in college because I just couldn’t live without it (I’d always had some in my garden at home).

      I’ve never used Swanson products but would generally recommend you stay away from anything not labeled organic and/or that have natural flavors (unless it specifies what they are and you’re comfortable with them). It sounds like you already know those things, though. I have tried Dr. Christopher’s formulations and can recommend them as they’ve been very beneficial for me. He has two bowel formulations that might assist you in your current problem. His products are sold on Amazon for reasonable (comparatively) prices.

      I also recommend you read these three articles, which were a guest post series on yeast overgrowth and gut health from an “herbal” friend of mine. Here’s the first, the second and the third. I really think these can help you find some answers.

      It is so frustrating to be working so hard to be healthy and still feel so miserable but there is always a solution. God made our bodies wonderfully resilient and our spirits more so!

      1. Your so nice and you reply quick ๐Ÿ™‚ I did find a program that works for me. It’s Bee candida diet and supplements- healingnaturallybybee . I just need to start on the program fell off long time was stressed but now ready to start. That program doesn’t allow more than 2 cups of tea per day as you aren’t to have a lot of duretic stuff daily. I can have those herbs if I wish. I read lemongrass is good for sleep and lemon verbena for fitness- https://depasi.com/2010/10/24/unique-antioxidant-doesnt-interfere-with-post-workout-adaptions/

        I will go check out all the links now and the supplements. other supplements aren’t allowed on her program but I don’t see an herbal capsule as a supplement unless extra vitamins or minerals added,but can’t take too much either. Just wondering te best way to get those 2 herbs in. ๐Ÿ˜€

          1. Hello. Tried to email you but your email doesn’t work? What kind of flower is at the bottom of this page? Says herbarium and it’s black. Looks cool. You know everytime I find something about lemon verbena and fitness it’s always the extract. So seems taking powder or tea won’t help much with fitness recovery. The swanson product does have fillers but I tried their other swanson fit product with panax notoginsing it worked. I wish it was organic but I do drink living clay daily it absorbs toxins..it appears lemon verbena extract really hard to find. https://www.plxarea.com/index.html

            Don’t know what PLX is..maybe stands for something in the plant that is extracted?

            Have you taken lemon verbena as a tea after exercise? If not maybe when you were in pain? Maybe someone has some on hand and would experiment and post it here ๐Ÿ˜€
            I’m somewhere cold so it can’t grow here. Hehe a next blog post request.

          2. That flower is a violet and it’s an ad for The Herbarium which is an online, herbal education resource from one of our affiliates The Herbal Academy of New England. You can click on the ad (an affiliate link) or you can click on this link to learn more.

            They also have a beginning herbal medicine course, which might appeal to you – just visit this link to learn more about that (also an affiliate link).

            I’m sorry the email form didn’t seem to be working – I’ll look into that.

  13. Excellent post that describes in details how listening to our body and all the signals that is giving us is imperative to healing. The bottom line just says it all.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Vladka! I appreciate your words of praise, too. Women, I’ve found, are able of taking care of so many people but they often neglect themselves. Rest is so important!!

  14. This is so thorough and full of amazing info! I think Americans, for the most part, know nothing of actual healing and we trust a doctorโ€™s authority far too much. Iโ€™m so glad to even have a glimpse into healing from the inside out and doing the basics – resting, getting water, etc. Your examples make it clear how important those steps are!!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Addie, and thank you for your kind words! It was a hard lesson to learn, but I’m grateful to have learned it well. That doesn’t mean I always take the best care of myself. Sadly, moms are far too inclined to take care of everyone but themselves! I’m getting better about it, though. ๐Ÿ™‚

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