We get a lot of questions about dosing. We had the same questions when we first started on our herbal journey. Our modern medical landscape often feels prescriptive. It can be hard to feel like any of us are "doing it right" whether it’s drinking water or taking a tincture. So instead of wondering is this the right amount? Am I taking it often enough? Did I take too much? We thought we’d explain how we think about dosing, as herbalists. This way, you have the information you need to find some peace of mind. An important thing to know before we begin: there aren't any hard and fast rules about tincture dosage. But, we do know that stress won’t help the plants work any better. So take this as an invitation to relax into the idea that dosing medicinal herbs can be artful, enjoyable, and flexible. There’s a lot of room here for you to figure out what works for you.
The suggested dose is just a suggestion
We base our tincture dosage on clinical studies. These studies support the dosage amount for a particular formula. Each of our formulas has different suggested dosages and uses based on clinical trials that back our claims. (You can find all that info on our website). To stay within FDA regulations we must suggest those doses. But of course, everyone’s body response is different.
You can use how you react to other foods or substances to help guide where to start when working with a new formula. Or looking to get the most out of an old favorite. Understanding your constitution can help you decide where to begin. "Constitution" basically means all the parts of you that make you, you. For simplicity's sake, let's say constitutions run on a spectrum, which generally goes from more sensitive to more robust. Sensitive and robust are not synonymous with weak and strong. You might be on the more sensitive side if: you’re cautious when it comes to alcohol, sugar, or caffeine. Or your immune system is low. If you're more sensitive, try starting a little below the suggested dose and add more if you don’t see a response. Your constitution might be a bit more robust if you're not as sensitive to foods and medications. Or you experience more stagnation in your body. If that's you, try starting at the suggested dose and expect that you might need more than what we recommend. The choice is yours.
There’s a helpful quote from an eclectic physician, John M. Scudder. Eclecticism resisted any rigid concept of healing. Eclectics drew from a variety of approaches and therapies. He said, “The dose of medicine should be the smallest quantity that will produce the desired result.” So, the goal is to find your smallest effective dose. It's better for your body and your bank account. Plus it means you've found the balance between the energetic and physiological effects of the herbal formula. Instead of suppressing symptoms you are uncovering them and shifting your body into a state of balance.
There is no one way to take a tincture
People and plants vary a lot. How to take a tincture depends on who’s taking the tincture, the herbs in the formula, and the reason it’s taken. Answer these questions for yourself whether you're working with a new formula or an old stand-by. We have lots of good information on our website explaining which plants do what in our formulas. It’s incredibly helpful to know if you’re working with more gentle, nutritive, food herbs or stronger medicinal plants that pack a bit more of a punch. You'll likely dose plants on the more tonic, nutritive end of the spectrum in larger amounts. While a “less is more” approach is a great way to take plants on the more medicinal end of the spectrum.
Herbs are, generally speaking, very gentle therapies. Working with them requires attention and response. We are supposed to engage with everything that interacts with or goes into our bodies. Remaining aware of ourselves is part of the practice. This is part of the point of taking herbs: to, throughout the day, stay engaged with a sense of yourself. A great way to relax about dosage is to explore different ways of taking the formula. Take a few drops of your tincture directly on your tongue. Take a dropperful in water. Brew a quart of tea that complements the formula, add a day's worth of tincture, and sip throughout the day. See how these different engagements make you feel. Then, use that information to help you decide the best way for you to take the tincture.
Working with Herbs is…Work
Get in the habit of asking yourself: why am I taking this tincture? The reason you take a formula might be totally different from why your friend or mom or sister takes a formula. Is it because you are dealing with a more chronic condition or situation? Say, you experience frequent head tension, making it more of a chronic condition. Then 30 drops (1.5 ml) daily of Head Helper for maintenance might do the trick. Of course, you might be a two times or even three times a day person at the beginning. Over time tapering to once a day will work. Different bodies take different doses, which is also true for an acute situation. Some of us experience occasional head tension. Like, during periods of intense overstimulation or stress. Then you are going to dose in larger amounts at more frequent intervals. Take a 60 drop dose, wait 20-30 minutes for your body’s response, and take more if you need. The cumulative dose that delivers relief is your acute dose. And that is the amount that you can start at in a couple of months or weeks when you sense the tension creeping back in. Use a piece of tape to mark on the bottle what your acute dose is because, given the infrequency of the tension, you might forget! In general, smaller doses taken regularly are better than one gigantic large dose. How often do you drink 64 ounces of water in one go and nothing for the next 24 hours? Probably not that often. The same is true with plants.
Getting an accurate read of what dose is right for you depends on you. So the best bet for getting the most out of any formula is to give yourself a lot of attention. Watch your body for gradual shifts as you engage with a formula. Trust that building an informed, reciprocal relationship with the plants in the formula will help you find your perfect dose.