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Herbs: Standardisation vs. Holistic Approach

Herbs: Standardisation vs. Holistic Approach

When it comes to buying herbs, customers are often have a choice of getting the standardised extract supplement or a whole plant supplement. One would contain the major working constituent of the plant – isolated, another would have the extract of the whole herb or the main constituent in the base of a whole herb.

Standardisation is based upon precise analytical reference procedures, which can be found in official publications such as: European Pharmacopoeia (EP), British Pharmacopoeia (BP), British Herbal Compendium (BHC), British Pharmaceutical Codex (BPC) and United States Pharmacopoeia. 

Standardised herbal extracts are produced by isolating the main working component of the herb, i. e. silymarin from Milk Thistle and leaving the rest of the herb, so that you would only get what you need to treat the problem. This has been done for decades by pharmaceutical and independent companies. 

Read more: In Details-Where Does Vanilla Flavoring Come From?

Take aspirin for example and other pharmaceutical drugs – most of the times they are actually derived from plants. Standardisation provides exactly the same amount of herbal extract, which has been tested and proven to work in certain amounts, so that every time you pop a pill, you are guaranteed to have the exact same properties as from the previous pill. It will guarantee the potency, purity, quality (given that you can trust the company who produces it) and consistency every time.

Some companies however, believe that if you rip away one beneficial constituent from the herb, discarding the rest, it would not work because that constituent might be dependent on another and would work in synergy with other parts of the plant. Research supports this theory and shows that potent activities of some of the herbal substances are often supported by the other compound present. 

Traditionally, many herbs were prepared whole as teas, tinctures or ointments for thousands of years before the tech. However, the active components of any herb vary from species to species and maybe be concentrated in either a root of the plant or leafs, fruits or stem, etc. 

Sometimes, leaves of the plant may provide one benefit and the root – another, e. g. Dandelion. So when it comes to buying a supplement, one can not rely on the benefits of a herb’s quality, potency, activity and consistency if parts of the plants used are not on the label.

In recent years there is much research and tests has been done on extracts rather then whole herbs. It is true that nature provides the foundation for proper health and well-being, but not all herbs grow alike and there are many factors, e. g. weather conditions, that can affect crops. 

Standardised extracts tend to be stronger than whole herb supplements and tests have shown that these extracts do work, since controlled double-blind studies has been done using standardised extracts. So which supplement would be best? It depends what one tries to achieve.

 It depends on the kind of herb and what do you need it for. If someone wants to take a herbal remedy for a less significant problem or for a maintenance, e. g. water retention, calming the nerves or reducing the hangover, whole herbal supplement would do just fine. If for instance one wants to get help with acute problem, such as pain, spasms, serious digestive problems, etc., then standardised extracts could be more efficient.

How to read the herbal supplement.

A herbal product containing 100 mg at a 4:1 concentration indicates that 400 mg of the herb was used to produce the 100 mg contained in the capsule. The potency might be ranging from 4:1 to 500:1 and contrary to popular belief, it expresses only the amount of herb used, not the level of activity. 

There should be a clear indication what parts of herb are used in the the supplement, e. g. Andrographis (aerial extract) or Black Cohosh (rhizome extract n%, root extract n%), etc. unless the supplement is made of whole plant.

Common brands using standardised extracts: BioCare, Nature’s Plus, Higher Nature, Solaray and any pharmaseutically produced herbal supplement.

Brands using holistic blends or a standardised extract in the whole herb base: Solgar, Pukka, Viridian, Nature’s Answers, A. Vogel (BioForce)

Since April 2011 the new EU legistation came to power for moderation and control of herbal medicines on the market. There are some big pros and cons to this, but one thing consumer can be happy about is that annotation for all herbal products must be included with the packaging and every single herb on the market is now must have a license in order to be sold. 

This will for sure increase the prices and decrease the variety and strength of herbs available, but will hopefully make herbal supplements less alien to novices and generally safer to use. You can find out more at MHRA website.

Also visit: www.coldfeargame.com

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