What time should I take my herbal formula?

Students and clients often ask me, “When the best time is to take my herbs?” This is a very good question, and there are several different answers. (However, in truth, the best time to take herbs is when you remember to take them.) 

Often, when people try to follow rules, they invariably can’t comply, or they forget, or some other thing happens and then before you know it, the time has passed and the time to take the herbs was missed. Then it’s on to the next required time and if this is also missed, the day soon passes and the herbs are never taken at all.

Taking herbs this way can be hit or miss. With such infrequent ingestion, they help very little or are entirely ineffective. This is why I say, take the herbs when you remember them!

But if you want to know the real ‘rules’ for taking herbs – what will make them most effective in their use – here they are (and they are given in Lesson 9 of the East West Herb Course). Keep in mind that these ‘rules’ are not necessarily agreed upon by everyone, so you’ll find herbalists who have other ideas instead. But these are generally the ones most acceptable.

In general, the time herbs are taken has to do with efficiently getting them to the part of the body they most affect. Thus:

  • Herbs treating the upper part of the body (heart/lungs/head) should be taken after meals so the food in the middle of the body slows their descent, and they stay in the upper part of the body longer.
  • Herbs treating conditions in the middle part of the body (spleen/pancreas/stomach/liver/gallbladder) should be taken just before or during the early part of meals, so they stay in the middle part of the body for a longer time, along with the food being digested.
  • Herbal formulas targeted toward the lower part of the body (kidneys/bladder/intestines/genitals) should be taken between meals, when the stomach is empty, so they have a free passage to the lower part of the body.

Of course, if the disease is urgent, herbs may ‘”- and should ‘”- be taken at any time and, in fact, they should generally be taken more frequently anyway.

Further, if digestion is weak, herbs are best taken with meals, as this is when the digestive juices most strongly flow.

If people continuously forget to take their herbs, even if told they can be taken anytime, help set a convenient location and schedule. Put the herbs in the kitchen by spice jars or some other obvious place, or put them in the bathroom by the toothbrush, or put them on the bedside table, wherever they will be easily seen at the appropriate times.

Generally, when people are eating they can remember to take herbs. Most can take them with breakfast and dinner, but often miss lunch since they’re gone all day. If this happens, the third dose can be taken at bedtime.

If none of this works, and the person (or you!) keeps forgetting to take the herbs, remember that the herbs can be taken anytime!

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