In this article you will learn:
A little about herbs and how to use them properly
Why herbs must be used judiciously, even though they're natural
Some great herbs to incorporate that are relatively safe
It is true that herbs and herbal medicine can be a powerful intervention for healing a wide variety of ailments. Although I've had my fair share of experience with them through things like TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) or Ayurveda, or just plain old biohacking adventures, overall herbs are not necessarily part of The Everyday Basics of your foundation like vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants and probiotics.
Herbs are Nature’s medications, and while they can have powerful effects, this doesn’t always mean a good thing. Remember that the best approach is to find the simplest, highest reward for the least amount of risk. It's better to care more about long-term, sustainable habits rather than periodic, short bursts of random interventions.
Herbs for the most part do not work with all of these considerations. There are a few that can be used long term, but even those lack longitudinal studies and have certain downsides. Rhodiola for example, is a well-known herb in the class of adaptogens, or herbs that regulate processes in your body, whether they are too high or too low.
Particularly, it’s great for stress and Burnout. It is generally well tolerated, but it can compete for detoxification and therefore interact with lots of medications in potentially dangerous ways.(1) Ashwagandha, an amazing herb for a variety of conditions and one that I highlight in my sleep interventions article, is a great adaptogen but can increase thyroid hormones or interact with certain drugs of diabetes, blood
pressure or for the immune system.(2)
Now does all this mean you should avoid herbs? Not at all. In fact, a few of the OHS
supplements in my Top Picks have some herbs in them and most herbs are great for
short-term or intermittent use. While the amounts in the OHS products are low and are often gentler herbs with little risk, the point is that overall herbs require much more thinking and planning because they have powerful effects.
If you are taking medications like blood thinners, seizure medication, heavy antibiotics, autoimmune medication, anti-depressants or anything relatively “serious,” herbs may cause unpleasant or dangerous interactions. Because they are essentially Nature’s medications, herbs compete for detoxification in your liver with man-made medications. Your CYP gene family, the one responsible for detoxification and processing drugs in the liver, can be affected by herbs and therefore lead to unsafe amounts of the other drugs you’re taking because they aren’t getting metabolized .
If you have SNPs in these various genes (most likely), certain ones can lead to even more
pronounced reactions. It’s not something to fuck around with, and despite their beneficial effects as a natural therapy there are no “essential herbs” in our biochemistry like there are essential amino acids or fatty acids.