Combining herbs

When you buy a herbal supplement to help you sleep or help with eczema, to take a couple of well-tried examples, you will get a mixture of different herbs that have some track record for treating these conditions; either a long traditional history, or some scientific evidence, or maybe both. What you won’t get, inevitably, is a prescription that is tailored to your particular needs. It will probably do some good, but with a little more individual attention, the herbs could do a lot more.
I’m sitting in a room with fifteen other people, at least four of whom are coughing, so cough remedies are a good example to take. One has a ‘biscuit cough’, which simply needs soothing; herbally speaking, you’d use Marshmallow root, Liquorice or Comfrey leaf for that job. One has a sore throat, for which some anti-inflammatories would be useful, like Thyme, Hyssop or Elderflower. If the cough is simply irritating and unproductive, you can use Wild Cherry bark to inhibit the cough reflex, though beware of supplements that contain this if you have a ‘deeper’ cough that is trying to clear mucus from your chest or bronchi. There’s one of those in the room too, and she needs something anti-infective like Thyme or Echinacea, together with expectorant herbs that stimulate the expulsion of phlegm: Elecampane or Angelica would be useful here.
Of course, the virtues of these herbs overlap. Putting them all in one basket would be overkill for some functions, and leave out some others – in some cases, for example, it would be useful to include Yarrow, to encourage a rise in core temperature so that your immune system works harder. Some herbs, like Yarrow and Elderflower, work very well together, while others, like Liquorice and Goldenseal, do not get on. The usual rules apply; if the over-the counter remedy doesn’t do enough, get a proper prescription.