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Using Herbs: Determining Herbal Dosages

Determining Herbal Dosages | GrowingUpHerbal.com | Learn about herbal dosing practices so your feel confident using herbs.
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

WEIGHT-BASED DOSES

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.

In Conclusion

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!

Have questions about determining herbal dosages? If so, leave them in the comment section below, and I’ll do my best to get to them quickly!

Click here to get back to the “How To Start Using Herbs” series intro.

27 thoughts on “Using Herbs: Determining Herbal Dosages”

  1. I was wondering how you know the adult dosage amounts? For example a glycerin chamomile tincture, or a tincture herb mix you buy, to make your own tinctures, where there is no dosages given?

    1. It can definitely be tricky Michelle.

      If you have an herbal preparation that you’ve made or purchased with no dosing suggestions, one option you have is to titrate the dose until you get the results you want. Keep this dose in mind for future use with that batch so you’ll have a starting point. The next option is to know the ratio of herb to menstrum you used and find a product online that has that same ratio so you can use it’s dosage suggestions as a guideline. (The ratios are important in tinctures because they determine the strength of the preparation. For example a 1:5 ratio is much weaker than a 1:2 ratio so the 1:5 would need a larger dose whereas the 1:2 would need a smaller dose. Does that make sense? If not, I can explain it further. We’ll also be talking about ratios in the tincturing part of this series so stay tuned.) As far as buying an herbal mix and making your own tincture goes, I’d again make my tincture in a specific ratio (I almost always make my tinctures in 1:4 ratios and titrate my doses until I know what works for me.) then titrate the dose to find what works for you.

      Another option with that is to look up all the herbs in the blend and find each individual herbs dosing info and go from there. You can find individual herbal dosages in many herbal books. The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook and The Way Of Herbs are two of my favorites, but there are many more. Hope that helps Michelle. Definitely let me know if you have more questions!

    2. I discovered a combination of herbs in 1975 that cures the cold and flu virus. I received the nick-name of “Dr. Dave” because of it. It is cayenne pepper and goldenseal root in equal amounts in a 00 size capsule. It will normally kill the virus in a couple of hours as well as break the fever.

      It always works for me but sometimes a verilent virus will require a second dose but normally never more than a third dose.

      David

      1. Hi,

        I am very new to making capsules and am desperately looking for advice. I am wanting to make a lactation blend using alfalfa, goats rue, moringa leaf, nettle leaf and blessed milk thistle. But I have no idea on how I’d work out the ratio for these. Is there any guidance on how to do this anywhere?

        Thank you

        1. You could look at some herbal books that talk about formulation. I have a mini-course here that teaches how to formulate herbal tea blends. The concept would be the same for any herbal blend regardless of how you use it (capsules, tincture, syrup, etc.). You can also find courses online or from local herbalists that will teach about formulation. You can even look at the ingredient labels of herbal capsules that are similar to what you are making to see how much of which herbs they use. All of the above could be helpful to you! Best of luck, Louise!

  2. Jill@JillsHomeRemedies

    I normally give a spoonful of homemade medicines to my girls hourly if the situation is acute, or 3-5 times a day if it is not. You are right that each person is different. One of my girls might be ok with just a few spoonfuls a day of an herb, while another could get worse fast if I don’t stay on top of it and give more frequent doses.

    1. Exactly Jill. Titrating doses based on individual needs seems to be the best way of going about dosing herbs. Thanks for sharing your methods!

  3. Oh my! So herbs are a bit overwhelming for me because I know how powerful they are. I am trying my hand at making tinctures and the dosage has me so stressed out! I got the herbs from your fever tea in your Treating Fevers Naturally book and I also got 4 tincture mixes from the Bulk Herb Store. I have made the cough tea into a glycerite but I have no idea about the dosing. I have tried looking up red clover, licorice root and ginger root but it is all just a bunch of separate doses to me and I am a bit lost as to how I might figure out a dose for a 38lb 3 year old. I am also wondering if I can make the fever tea into a tincture or if it has to be warm. I tried to make a little test tea of peppermint, yarrow and elder flower- he HATED it. Maybe because he didn’t need it but it made me wonder about having a tincture if I were to ever need it. I would appreciate any advice you could give me.

    1. I totally understand where you’re coming from Jessie! In fact, I still struggle with dosing at times. I think there comes a point, after using herbs for a while, you just have an intuition about things. It’s hard to explain really.
      So first, with the fever tea… if you’re using it as a tea, you let your kid drink about 1/4 c. at a time. If he won’t drink that much because he’s sick and whiny, then you may need to use a medicine dropper and squirt it into his mouth.
      For the tinctures, you can make them using the folk method and start with a small dosage and work your way up from there until you get the results you want. This is referred to as “titrating the dose,” and it’s a common approach to dosing herbs, especially when using folk method tinctures. As far as figuring out what your starting dose should be, you can look up each herb in the mix and write down the recommended dosage for each herb. If there’s a common theme (say 30 drops) then you can start there and increase as needed. Personally I try to stick with one dosage for a day or so before increasing it. If you’re using your tincture for something that you’d like quick results with, like a cough, then you may be able to titrate the dose every 3-4 hours. Also, remember that most dosages are based on a 150-pound adult so if you can figure out the adult dose then you can use Clark’s Rule to figure out the child’s dose.
      Lastly, don’t let this overwhelm you. Herbs are incredibly safe and dosing herbs isn’t like dosing medication. If you’re under on your dosage, you simply won’t get the results you’re looking for as quickly. If you’re over, you may get results faster, you may simply use up more of your preparation, or you may experience some mild side effects like an upset stomach or a headache (but this is rare).
      I hope this helps you a bit Jessie… and puts you at ease. Don’t let it keep you from using herbs. You’ll learn as you go!

      1. You know Meagan I got the most picky family around.. I tell them the dosage in medicine dropper and they can’t stand the taste..so that person took her medicine diluted in juice instead but added more than the amount given. I guess it can be done this way, since she is so picky but I worry about tackling that sore throat for example in a much longer time than three dropper full kills the soreness. They never listen to the amount being told.. I just never dream that a large family of mine can be so picky and different..How did my Mother put up with all of us?

        1. Hi Mages, I see you wrote that an adult dose is 30 drops.
          If my baby is 7 months , decide it by 150 than multiplie by 30 , I get 1.4. What does this mean, how much should I give him?

          1. That means you’d use 1.4 drops for your child’s dosage. What I do when I get fractioned doses is to round up or down to the nearest whole number which would make your starting dose 1 drop. You can titrate up from there if needed depending on the situation and herb you’re using. Best of luck!

  4. Pingback: How to Determine Proper Herbal Dosages When Using HERBS | The Homestead Survival

  5. Hello so I bought the Herb Pharm Chamomile Extract for my 8 month teething baby and not really sure how to give it. Can you please help? How many drops to how much water?

    1. There should be a suggested dosage on the bottle, Tanya. Dosages are typically for a 150 lb. adult so you’ll want to figure out your baby’s dosage based on his/her weight. You can find a children’s dosing formula here. Best of luck!

  6. Hello my 4 year old 30 pound son is having issues with his liver . They are telling me its a bit enlarged has some fatty deposits on it and a few small cyst . I juice as much a possible I usually use the same things , apple , carrots, kale , parsley,spinach , beets , orange , celery . What cleanse would you suggest for him or juice i can give him everyday ? Any specific ingredients you think i should use ? And dosage ? Please help , thank you

    1. Hi there, Melissa. Seeing how I’m not a clinical herbalist or a nutritionist, I can’t offer specific recommendations for your situation. However, I can direct you to this blog post on liver health for children. Perhaps you can discuss incorporating some of these liver supportive herbs into your son’s daily regimen with his doctor. Thanks for your comment, and I wish you the best!

  7. Hello, I was wondering if there is a way to convert tincture dosage recommendations of an herb to what those would be equivalent to if it was a dried herb version of the same herb?

    1. I’m not sure I’m understanding what you’re asking. Are you wanting to figure out how to determine the dosage of the herb in dried form based on the tincture dosage, or are you wanting to know if there’s a difference in dosages between tinctures made using fresh herbs and those made using dried herbs?

  8. Cindy Rodriguez

    Hi Meagan, My daughter is ADHD and I have been looking up natural remedies and have come across info. that Lions Mane Mushroom and Ashwagandha are good for ADHD. She is 10 years old, 89lbs. How do you figure out the correct dosage? And what are your suggestions?

    1. Hey, Cindy. Thanks for reaching out. It looks like you’re on the right track in doing your own research into natural products that can support your kiddo. If you need to convert adult dosages based on her weight, I’d recommend looking at this post and using Clark’s Rule to find the best dosage for her. I’d also recommend checking out Herbal Academy’s Herbs for ADHD, Cognition, and Focus intensive. It’s only $39 dollars, and it has a ton of info in it that could be really helpful to you. Best of luck, mama!

  9. Exist anywhere a Dosing chart from Herbal Tincture to herbal Powder? As example how much liquid extract in a 1/4 Tsp is equivalent to ? amount of Herbal Powder. Researching in google for this brings me to your article but no luck on what im was looking for.
    But you have an amazing Blog in here for sure <3

    1. Hi there, Dyanira. I hear what you are saying. Most times you won’t find that information on the web. Instead, you’ll want an herbal materia medica with recommended dosages for each herb and the various types of herbal preparations used for the herb. The Herbal Academy has The Herbarium — an online materia medica with this info, and then you can find various books with this type of info as well. Hope this helps!

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