The Magic Herbs
Hundreds of herbs have been used for their health-caring properties ever since they were discovered. They are highly diverse in their application and benefits, and there is hardly any condition that cannot be positively influenced by herbal treatment. For example, some of the most common herbs – Gingko biloba, Rhodiola rosea, St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), Bloody Geranium (Geranium sanguineum), etc, can be applied for various purposes: to support the immune system, support anti-inflammatory processes in a healthy organism, tonic the muscle and nervous systems, improve brain activity, and many more. Nowadays it is getting more and more common to go back to nature, as people start realising that widely used drugs can be not only beneficial, but harmful as well. I bet that at least once it has come to your mind that the medication you are taking has done more harm than good for your health. That is why herbalism is gaining interest and it is advisable to make an informed choice once it comes to your body and health, so that you treat yourself the best possible way. Herbal plants can be taken in various forms, like extracts, capsules, teas, or even whole herbs. With so many options present on the market, people are getting confused which is actually the best choice for them. In order to make the best choice, let me explain you what I mean when talking about supplements based on standardized herbal extracts.
Whole herbs are normally taken dried and encapsulated, where all parts of the herb are just ‘chopped up’ into smaller pieces. This is good in a way because you are taking the whole spectrum of ingredients present in the herb. In addition, there are speculations that the ‘inactive’ ingredients in the powdered whole herbs have synergic effect and that is what actually makes them work. However, it is more difficult for your organism to assimilate the biologicaplly active phytochemical (the one that actually do the work) from the whole herb.
On the other hand, there are no standardization methods for such supplements and huge variations are observed between herbs grown in different regions of the world, or harvested during different times of the year. Also, the processing techniques can play a role as well, influencing the final product, even though you assume you are taking a ‘completely natural product’. Ultimately, all of this leads to uncertainty in terms of efficacy and quality of the product, even if you buy the same brand each time. The chemical composition of such products varies in a noticeable way between different batches of the same brand, resulting in unreliable outcome. Generally, supplements which offer encapsulated grinded herb (and not their concentrated extract) are cheap and faulty, having small or no effect at all.
If you prefer to take the whole herb – either gather it manually or buy it from the herbalist shop. Then you can make a tea or tincture. Do not buy supplements with capsules containg just grinded herb. The body is not capable to assimiliate and extract the beneficial properties from grinded herb in a capsule.
Standardized Herbal Extracts
On the other hand, standardized herbal extracts represent the main active ingredients in a given plant. Scientific studies have come to the conclusion exactly which compounds are responsible for the beneficial effect of a specific herb, so isolating them in a standardized herbal extract is the best possible way to provide your organism with them. Also, this allows for the useless compounds present in the herbs to be removed.
However, this can be tricky, because even if a single compound is believed to provide for the benefits of a herb, this may not be the whole picture. I believe a lot of you have come across different dietary supplements, containing Tribulus Terrestris extract (some of them even falsely claiming to be Bulgarian Tribulus Terrestris), with 90% protodioscin. As a comparison, our VemoHerb Bulgarian Tribulus contains 60% furostanol saponins, determined as protodioscin, and anyone who has ever tried it will confirm it is superior to everything else present on the market. This is due to the fact that in our extract we isolate not only protodioscin, but also the whole group of furostanol saponins. Their synergic effect is what actually works in the body, so do not be fooled to rely on the protodioscin on its own.
A standardized herbal extract is made via plenty of extractions and tens of kg herbs are used to produce a small amount of potent extract. For example, our famous VemoHerb Bulgarian Tribulus Terrestris extract is made with extraction ratio of 1:50 (i.e. 1 kg extract is produced from 50 kg herbs). However, there is lot to be cautious of, when choosing your herbal extract dietary supplement. There are plenty of manufacturers that produce low quality extracts with small or even no effect. This was observed with extracts from Tribulus Terrestris, where Chinese and Indian products were analytically proven to contain forbidden substances (steroids), in order to enhance the effect of the otherwise weak extract. Therefore, once you decide to buy dietary supplements, make sure you choose a reliable manufacturer.
In addition, choosing standardized herbal extracts has the benefit to provide for the same quality and quantity of active ingredient with each batch. Trustworthy manufacturers are quality certified, which ensures the same production technique and standardization of a given product every single time is it produced. This means that no matter what the environmental, harvest, growth, i.e. factors were, you get the same quality extract with every new bottle you buy. Of course, this is the case only if you carefully pick a brand that goes for quality instead of quantity.
1. Find supplements that use standardized herbal extracts and show clearly on the label the main active ingredients and their content (in % or in mg) in the extract.
2. Once you select some brands that correspond to the above criteria compare the quantity of the main active ingredients and the recommended dosages (If the extract is weak, the manufacturer will ask you to take big quantity in order to feel any effect. Big capsules and big dosages don’t mean better results.)
3. Find the manufacturers’ website and look for
- Quality certificates
- Certificate of Analysis
- Certificate for not-presences of unwanted/forbidden substances