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How to use medicinal herbs to get a tonic effect

5 min read time Sep 17, 2020


The biggest reason we choose one herb over another can be summed up in one word:


What most people really care about is a specific end-result and if one can get there in a shorter period of time, it is a win-win.

When I discuss medicinal herbs I often talk about the powerful onset of positive effects one can feel by using them properly.  A typical time-frame to use medicinal herbs (without diminishing medicinal effects) is anywhere from a few days to 3 months. The time-frame depends on your purpose for using the herbs. On the other hand,a true tonic is about long-term use and cumulative effects which come-on much slower and build over time. Therefore, the longer you use a tonic

The better the effects will be

I am going to let you in on a big secret...

All medicinal herbs have the ability to act and work like tonics

There are two main factors that allow a medicinal herb to provide tonic effects. First, is the dosage being used. When one begins using medicinal herbs, you often start with a pretty aggressive amount because they have a specific intention in mind. For example, if you are feeling the onset of a cold or the flu, it is more than likely you will take a large amount (7-8 times a day for 2-7 days) of something medicinal like Elderberry, Oil of oregano or Echinacea in order to give your body what it needs to support  “the fight”. Once you have successfully won that battle (because you brought a gun to a knife fight), there is no longer a need to be as aggressive in your dosing.

Since there are several months left in the cold and flu season, you can use those same medicinal herbs to provide a balancing tonic-effect in order to sustain that level of wellbeing. So, for the remaining months of the winter, use these herbs in moderate amounts for only the first seven days of each month. This will provide your body with the tools it needs to maintain your health. If at some point, you begin to feel under the weather again, you can always go back to using the herbs in a more medicinal manner. This method works extremely well.  

The other factor that plays a role when trying to get a tonic effect from medicinal herbs is the amount of time you use them. The longer you used medicinal herbs at the same dose, chances are you will begin to see more tonic than medicinal effects. A wonderful example of this is to tell you about a friend of mine who I encouraged to do an elimination and nourishment program. My friend, for the longest time, has had bowel issues. While she was having bowel movements every day, they were not as productive as they could be. This program contained 5 different medicinal formulas targeting specific organs. When she first began the program, the bowel formula had taken on a very powerful effect. Since this was one of her weaknesses, these powerful effects came as no surprise to her. Over several months of use, she discovered that because she was using the same amount the entire time, her body’s response shifted from medicinal effects to tonic effects.

One day, I received a call from her as she needed some clarification on what was happening. She explained, at the beginning, she was getting 5-7 powerful bowel movements daily and then it went down to 3-4. After a period of time, it went back up to the 7 movements again all while on the same dosage. I explained to her, that the bowel formula she was using was a medicinal formula that when taken over a long period of time works to tonify the bowels. It does this because the objective is not to become addicted to it like you would a laxative. A good bowel formula can be used for both medicinal and tonification purposes to work as a roto-rooter (for fast results) and, over the long term to re-establish proper bowel health. When the same amount is used over a long period of time, your body will go through healing response cycles. So, when her body was ready to release more, it did. Otherwise, these herbs will continue to tonify and strengthen the bowels versus producing a medicinal effect. This is a wonderful example of how your body will use what you provide it in a tonifying or medicinal way.

Can a tonic provide medicinal effects? The answer is yes, but one of the 2 factors mentioned above need to be clarified in this specific situation. For a tonic to work as a medicinal herb the dosage needed far exceeds how you would use it as a tonic, in order to stimulate that healing response we look for in medicinal herbs. While there are tonics that support specific systems like tongkat ali (endocrine) and reishi (immune) they also have very broad spectrum balancing effects. Therefore, to go from tonic to medicinal you will need to use 3-4 times the amount you would use as a tonic.

Two great examples of how to use tonics as medicine are as follows:

  1. First, if you were feeling the beginnings of a cold, you could use reishi mushroom extract at 4 teaspoons daily for a few days. This is a powerful enough amount to stimulate a healing response support your body in getting well.
  2. Another example, is for the athlete and a quick boost for performance enhancement.      

There is an old expression which goes “The difference between a poison and a medicine is the dosage”. Herbs are very powerful medicines which when used properly for an individual’s situation can help produce a powerful healing effect.  

About Michael Stuchiner

Michael Stuchiner is an experienced Master Herbalist, the Head of Education for Z Natural Foods, a teacher and an accomplished author.  With a 16-year specialization in medicinal herbs, Mike also has a vast knowledge in tonic and adaptogenic herbalism. Mike has enjoyed a 25-year career as an elite-level competitive powerlifter where he learned to heal his ‘mind and body’ as an avid user of herbal remedies.

        As an “in-the-trenches” herbalist, Mike has done more than 85 speaking engagements, consulted with clients ranging from young to elderly, worked with athletes in virtually all sports and with clients who have “dis-ease” states of a wide variety. Mike also mentors student Master Herbalists and will continue to teach the next generation to grow a deeper wisdom of the human body through appropriate herbal remedies.


For Bulk inquiries and custom formulations click here: https://www.znaturalfoods.com/pages/bulk

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