For most first time herbal users, herbal dosage is a big deal and feels like a complicated matter. It can make you feel stuck and many times discourage you from moving forward using herbs.
Don’t worry though. You are not alone. The more you use herbs and the more familiar you become with them, the less of a complication this will be.
Below I’ll share 4 common dosing formulas with you that will help you determine herbal dosages for you and your family but first consider a few important things.
Factors That Affect Dosage
Most dosages are based on an adult dose for a 150-pound adult so when it comes to giving your child something, you’ll be giving them a much smaller dose. Same goes if you, the adult, weight more or less than 150 pounds. You will need to adjust the dosage higher or lower depending upon your needs.
NUTRITIONAL VS. MEDICINAL USES
Using herbs for tonic or nutritional purposes will have much larger doses than herbs used medicinal purposes.
ACUTE VS. CHRONIC AILMENTS
Herbal preparations taken for acute situations (as in you need help right now) will be given in smaller, frequent doses whereas preparations taken for chronic situations (as in the problem has been ongoing for 6 months or longer) will be given in larger, less frequent doses.
VARYING STRENGTHS OF PREPARATIONS
Herbs can be prepared in a variety of ways, and each of these preparations has varying dosages to go along with them. For example, an herbal tea dosage will be much larger than an herbal infusion dose because tea is less concentrated than an infusion. For the same reason, herbal powders require a larger dose than herbal tinctures. Powders are less concentrated than tinctures. And again, an herbal honey will require a larger dose than an herbal oxymel will. So when it comes to determining dosages for herbal preparations, the strength of the preparation must be taken into consideration. Below are some factors that affect preparation strength.
- Using fresh herbs versus dried herbs
- Using cultivated/farmed herbs versus wildcrafted herbs
- The menstruum being used: water, vinegar, alcohol, oil, honey, etc.
- The preparation method used: folk verses ratio tincturing, cold infusions versus heat infusions, etc.
- Length of maceration time (how long the herbs set in the menstruum)
The point is this. It’s very difficult to put a specific dosage on herbs due to the fact that there are so many variants in the preparations. Store-bought preparations also tend to be more standardized than homemade preparations since herbal manufacturers have their processes down to a science and the batches are consistent time and time again.
PERSON TAKING THE HERBS
We are all different, thank the good Lord, and that means that what works for me most likely will not work for you… at least in the exact same way. We all have different tendencies, different sensitivities to things, and herbs and their dosages are no exception. Now with all of the above being said, let’s take a look at some dosage formulas that can help you find an appropriate dose for yourself and your children.
Determining Herbal Dosages
Many times, when you come across an herbal remedy, dosage information will be included. Keep in mind that this is just a suggestion and that the factors discussed above will cause changes to be made to the dosage.
MINIMALIST APPROACH (TITRATE DOSING)
In my opinion, the best approach to herbal dosing is following a minimalist’s approach… also known as titrating the dose. This is where you start dosing with the smallest amount recommended, and if you don’t get the results you are expecting, slowly titrate the dose up over a period of time until you achieve those results. This method works best for homemade herbal preparations where the final products strength may vary.
Now a few things must be said about this approach.
First off, time periods for titrating dosages will vary. Sometimes you’ll titrate the dosage quickly and sometimes slowly. It depends on the situation. If your child has a dry cough that’s keeping them up at night (acute situation) and you want to give them an anti-spasmodic herbal tincture, you’ll titrate the dose quickly to find the right amount for them that works. If your child suffers from eczema and you’re using herbs to help heal their digestive system (chronic situation), you’ll titrate doses slowly to find what works for them.
Next, you must be aware of any side effects or overdose considerations for the herb you’re using and respect that information. A good example here is licorice. Licorice is a great herb for kids, but it should not be used in large doses for long periods of time. Generally, licorice is discontinued after 6 weeks as it can have unwanted effects on the cardiovascular system if taken for too long. Another example is lobelia. Lobelia is a great herb. It has many uses for children, but you will find herbalists who disagree on its use. Some will not use it with children while others (like myself) are comfortable using it wisely. It is a low dose botanical (tinctures are usually dosed by drops only) and isn’t to be taken long-term. High dosages have been known in rare cases to induce vomiting.
Lastly, titrating herbal dosages has its limits. If you’ve been using an herb for 2-4 weeks and you aren’t seeing the results you expected, it’s time to change herbs. Just because an herb is known to work for one thing doesn’t mean it will work for everyone who has that issue. Herbs are like puzzle pieces. They need to be fit to the right problem and situation to work effectively.
FOLK METHOD DOSING
Another popular dosing method that can be used, often for tinctures that have been made following the folk method and use 50% alcohol or glycerin, is to give 1 drop for every 2 pounds of body weight as a starting point and then titrating the dose, as explained above, from there.
CHILDREN’S DOSING FORMULAS
To figure out dosages for children, many people prefer to err on the side of caution and determine dosage by using a dosage formula. There are a couple dosage formulas that I’ve found to be easiest to use when it comes to determining age-based and weight-based dosages for children.
Fried’s Rule: Take the child’s age in months, divided by 150, then multiply by the adult dose.
Clark’s Rule: Take the child’s weight in pounds, divided by 150, then multiplied by the adult dose.
As herbalist Rosalee de la Foret likes to say, “Herbs don’t like to fit into boxes.” Herbal dosages can be a complicated matter, but trust me, the more you use herbs and work through these formulas and dosing approaches, the easier it will become. Just keep at it. Don’t give up. You can learn to use herbs for your family successfully!