Timing is Everything: Why Taking Herbs Long-Term Has Greater Benefits
Nov 04, 2022
By Casie Giroux
In addition to working optimally when combined in a synergistic formula, most herbs work best when taken long-term. The fundamental reason herbs take time to work is because we are aiming to get to the root cause of major health issues, instead of putting a band-aid over the symptoms (as is the case with some pharmaceutical medications and modern medicine modalities). As such, it can take time to fully resolve the underlying issue, versus topically treating a symptom.
Many pharmaceutical medications are designed to suppress symptoms and often are prescribed for life in order to maintain the symptom suppression. However, when taken consistently, herbs can address the root cause of health concerns—making it so that your body ultimately gets back to equilibrium and you no longer need treatment.
Adaptogenic herbs (and mushrooms!) specifically take time to build up in the body in order to regulate our stress response via the HPA-axis. Examples of adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms are ashwagandha, Siberian ginseng, maca, reishi, and lion’s mane. A recent study found taking ashwagandha over a period of 60 days significantly reduced feelings of stress and lowered cortisol levels compared to a placebo group. The study found almost no negative side effects within the test group taking the ashwagandha, revealing the high level of safety and effectiveness for improving their overall resistance to stress after taking the herb consistently for a longer period of time.
Cognition and overall brain health can also significantly improve from consistent use of herbs, but for these areas specifically, herbs can take time to accumulate in our bodies to be effective. In two clinical trials, consistent use of lion’s mane mushroom improved cognition over the period of four months in both healthy older adults and those with mild cognitive impairments. In another trial, adaptogen herb use resulted in substantial improvements in cognition scores as well as immune and inflammatory markers over a 9- and 12-month time period.
Many herbs can energize us (like cordyceps) and calm the nervous system (like motherwort—found in Stop Your Wine-ing) in the moment, but adjusting patterns within our complex body systems can take time and patience. In addition to the actions that herbs like cordyceps can provide in the moment, they also tend to build in our bodies over time. Long-term benefits in this case would include building stamina, improving overall energy levels, and cognitive health.
So, drop the quick fix-mentality and see how you feel taking a long-term approach to your health.
About Casie Giroux
Casie Giroux is a Clinical Herbalist with a background in communication sciences, herbal product formulation and creation, sustainable wildcrafting, teaching, and organic farming. She earned her certification through the California School of Herbal Studies in Forestville, CA. On the weekends you can find her playing in the garden, foraging for abundant plants, and camping by the water.