Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Can Herbal Remedies Lose Their Power?

I have read that 'exogenous' substances (those that don’t occur naturally in the body) lose their effectiveness after 6-12 months of regular use. Is this true of all medicinal herbs?

Answer (Published 9/4/2008)

Yes, many herbs will lose their effectiveness if you use them all the time or too frequently, which is why they're best saved for when they're really needed. Medicinal plants are often dilute forms of natural drugs, not foods or dietary supplements. For that reason, you should not take them casually or for no good reason, any more than you would take a pharmaceutical drug casually or for no good reason. When using medicinal herbs, bear in mind that individuals vary in their responses, so it is best to let your experience be your guide and use only remedies and brands that give you consistent results.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor for Supplements & Herbs - If you are interested in supplementing your diet, and want to take the mystery out of choosing vitamins, try Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor. Visit today for your free, personalized Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor Recommendation.

The exception to the general rule about using medicinal herbs only when needed for a specific purpose are the tonic herbs, or adaptogens, such as ginseng, that can strengthen or invigorate the healing system, and Asian mushrooms that enhance immunity. I use and recommend a number of tonics including garlic, ginger, turmeric, and green tea for toning the cardiovascular system, reducing inflammation and lowering risks of cancer. Ginseng comes from several species in the genus Panax, whose name comes from the same root as "panacea" meaning "all-heal." Used regularly, ginseng increases energy, vitality and sexual vigor, improves skin and muscle tone, and helps build resistance to stress. I often recommend ginseng, especially the American species, to chronically ill patients and to those who are debilitated or lacking in vitality.

I also frequently use mushrooms, such as the Chinese caterpillar fungus (Cordyceps sinensis), as tonics for improving athletic performance and increasing energy, and species like reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), shiitake (Lentinella edodes), and maitake (Grifola frondosa) to boost defenses against infections and cancer. Clinical research on medicinal mushrooms suggests that taking more than one species at the same time often gives better results.

Be sure to give any tonic a reasonable trial - take it regularly for at least two months. With some, you'll experience obvious effects - perhaps an increased sense of well-being and more energy. Or you may find that, over time, a tonic improves your response to both physical and emotional stress and decreases your susceptibility to illness.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here