10 Essential Rules for Herbs to Work

10 Essential Rules for Herbs to Work

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Healing With Herbs

At LifeSpa we aim to bring the body into balance so it can take charge of the healing process.

In this way, the herbs we use are intended to reset optimal function and are never intended to be a life sentence. The goal is to create self-sufficiency rather than a dependency on a pill and powder.

Yes, herbs are often an important part of the reset plan, but the aim is always to restore function and then eventually wean off the herbs.

10 Essential Rules for Herbs to Work

1. Take the herbs for at least 2 weeks to begin experiencing the effects. I am not a fan of needing to take an herb for 6 months to experience noticeable benefits, but you first have to start taking them regularly.

I usually expect to see some improvements within the first 2 weeks. So give it your best effort to be regular with the herbs for those first couple of weeks.

2. Because we use organic whole herbs rather than extracts, we rarely experience side effects or herbal or drug interactions. If there is an uncomfortable reaction to the herbal regime, the most common cause is that we are taking too high of a dose. So, before you give up, consider the possibility that the herbs could be working, but you may just need to dial the intensity down a few notches. 

If this happens to you, the first step is to stop all of the herbal formulas you are taking. Then, once you are feeling better, one herbal formula at a time, restart them at 1/2 or even 1/4 the original dose – this may require opening the capsules and putting them into food or water. Leave 2-3 days between each herbal formula as you re-introduce them.

This will allow you to hone in on which formula you may be having trouble with.

3. There is always a lot of confusion as to when the best time to take the herbs is. The answer is actually quite simple. Almost all the herbs are best taken right AFTER meals. If you are new to taking herbs or have a weaker or more sensitive digestive system, take the herbs in the middle of meals.

At LifeSpa, there are only a handful of herbal formulas that I suggest to take BEFORE meals to reset digestive function, and they are: Warm, Cool and Gentle Digest, Beet Cleanse, Sugar Destroyer and Sugar Balance HP. Before-meal herbs can be taken right before the meal or 15-30 minutes before the meal with 12 ounces of water to help increase digestive fire. Either way is fine.

If you forget to take them 15-30 minutes before the meal, take them right before the meal and even during or after the meal. They will support better digestion no matter when you take them in proximity to a meal.

Brahmi Brain and Sleep Easy are the only herbs I would suggest to be taken before bed for better sleep. Sometimes these can trigger a digestive response and keep you awake if you take them immediately before bed, so I suggest taking them a couple of hours before bed as you begin slowing down to sleep.

Are you taking Elim 1 or Leaky Gut? These are two formulas are both designed to support healthy bowel function, but they have opposite functions between the two. Elim 1 is for dry, sluggish bowels. It works to soften and lubricate the mucus membranes of a dry intestinal tract while simultaneously strengthening the bowel muscles to effectively support waste moving out of the system. Elim 1 can be taken either after meals or before bed and first thing in the morning with 8 ounces of water. Leaky Gut is for loose intestinal function. Leaky Gut includes an herb called bilva, which pulls the excess water and mucus off the intestinal wall, helping to restore optimal intestinal health and function. Leaky Gut should be taken after meals.

4. Often times the onset of an herbal regime happens to be in conjunction with stressful events, a major change in routine, travel, changing medications/supplements, or a recent sickness. While many of these are unavoidable, it is important to realize that these situations may have an impact on the effectiveness of the herbal plan.

I have had many patients who have a situation right after a consultation that makes it challenging to stay on the plan and that, along with the added stress, can mask or hinder the effectiveness of the plan. It is also important to note that it is very natural for us to feel good, and often we forget about pain or discomfort we may have had when evaluating the effectiveness of the herbs.

I have also had so many patients over the years where I would ask them how their back pain is that they complained about six weeks earlier and they would respond, “what back pain?” I would remind them that that was one of their major complaints and they would then remember, “Oh my, that’s right, I totally forgot about that pain. It is much better.” It is a good idea to keep a copy of your intake form when you go to any consultation, or at least make a note of your concerns.

5. Whole herbs digest like food rather than extracts, which are more like medicines. While there is a time and place for herbal extracts, I prefer using pure, organic whole herbs. These are plants, roots or leaves that were used as foods in many cultures for thousands of years.

We dry, grind and encapsulate them to help bring some of these medicinal foods back into our diet. Whole herbs have over 1000x more microbes (which researchers are finding do the heavy lifting for almost all the functions and healing in the body) compared to extracts (1), help support the healthy function of the body and, if used properly, do not create a dependency.

While my first choice is whole herbs, there are times when I use herbal extracts (our LifeSpa HP – high potency line) for short periods of time to restore balance and then transition to the whole herb LifeSpa Organics line.

6. More often than not, when patients start an herbal regime while already on a handful of supplements and ask if they should continue taking them, I always answer ‘yes.’ If you stop them and then start taking the LifeSpa herbs right away, you will not know for sure what is causing the change in your health.

Is it the addition of the LifeSpa herbs, or the lack of the other supplements? In some cases, if the addition of the LifeSpa herbs is just too many pills to swallow, I suggest taking just half the dose of the other supplements while starting the LifeSpa herbs. Continue all medications. Only stop any medications under the supervision of your primary physician.

7. I often get asked if powders or tablets are better than capsules when taking herbs. I prefer vegetable capsules because they open up within seconds of hitting the stomach lining and I’ve seen a higher rate of patients actually taking the herbs compared to when I prescribed powders. Herbal pills/tablets are pressed with hundreds of pounds of pressure and sometimes they do not open until they reach the small intestine, or don’t open at all.

One of the benefits of using an herbal tablet is that there is an instant tasting of the herb once it enters the mouth. There are sublingual digestive pathways and enzymes in the mouth that play an important role in the assimilation of an herb

To get the best of both worlds, I suggest opening up one capsule of your LifeSpa herb and sprinkling some of that herb on the other herbal capsules in the bottle. This way, when you swallow the capsule, you will get a small taste of the herbs and activate the digestive process in the mouth for that herb. Some people find the taste of the herbs hard to tolerate, so you might want to try this as an experiment on just a couple of capsules before you open a capsule up in your bottle.

8. LifeSpa Organic herbals are extremely safe because they are basically foods that are ground up and combined in formulas designed to boost the herbal effectiveness. While some folks will need only a 1/4 of a capsule to feel better, other folks may need a stronger dose

I always suggest starting at a small dose and working your way up to a larger dose. A larger dose would be 1-3 capsules, 3 times a day and a smaller dose would be 1/4 cap-1 cap, 1-3 times a day. Remember, start small and build up as needed.

9. Helping your kids (or yourself) learn to swallow pills can make life much easier. Here is a trick that my son taught me, and how he figured out to swallow herbs comfortably: There are pills that either sink or float. If they float, like our LifeSpa herbs, then you would simply fill the mouth with water and then put the capsule in the mouth. Tip the head down and the capsule will float to the back of the mouth – then with the head down, just swallow. If you had a pill that sank, you would do the same thing, but tip the head back and the pill will sink to the back of the throat and then once again – just swallow.

This technique has been miraculous for hundreds of kids and adults that I have instructed since my son instructed me.

10. The goal is to get on the herb, get better and then wean off the herb. This typically takes between one and three months. If you are not sure if the herbs are working for you, then stop it and see if you feel any difference. If you feel worse, you may still be in the process of resetting function from that herb.

Most folks intuitively know that the herb is working and they choose to keep it up for a while, and some can tell when they are ready to get off of it. I find that when I am done with an herb I start to forget to take it. When I am getting benefits from the herbs I don’t forget to take it – in fact, I look forward to my next dose!

Finally, while our goal at LifeSpa is to get off the herbs, many of them offer dietary benefits that are simply missing in the American diet.

For example, bitter herbs such as Manjistha, Turmeric Plus and Liver Repair are spring harvested and are great in the spring, but they simply do not exist in the American diet.

Summer herbs like NeemAmalaki and Brahmi are amazing summer herbs that were part of a seasonally balanced diet that are, again, missing from our diet.

Winter herbs like AshwagandhaShilajit and Chyawanprash are great examples of immune boosters that are naturally abundant during the winter’s cold and flu season. I find that taking these herbs as seasonal food supplements helps me stay connected to the natural cycles of nature.


  1. https://www.ahpa.org/Portals/0/PDFs/Policies/Guidance-Policies/14_0705_AHPA_Microlimit_guidance_w_Comparables.pdf

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Dr. John

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