A BRIEF GUIDE TO SUPPLEMENT SELECTION
Part A: Debating Standardized Herbs Versus Non-Standardized Herbs
Part B: It’s All In The Delivery System – Liquids Versus Capsules
When we enter the health food store, we are barraged by a multitude of herbal products. Herbs are available as bulk products, teas, capsules, tinctures and extracts. To add to the confusion, some herbal products claim to be standardized while others do not. Which is the right choice…the ideal choice? Adding to this dilemma is the confusion surrounding the issue of “delivery systems” – capsules versus liquids. Which delivery system offers the maximum benefits? Why choose a liquid herbal supplement over a capsule supplement? The following provides a brief outline to help answer two of the most frequently asked questions relating to the purchase of herbal supplements.
PART A: THE HERBAL DEBATE
Standardization refers to the creation of an herbal product containing a guaranteed potency of a particular compound found in an herb. Standardization surfaced in the European marketplace in 1992. It was developed by manufacturers interested in delivering guaranteed potency products to physicians who regularly used herbs in their practice. These physicians and other researchers wanted to be certain of the exact dose of medicinal components that patients received each time they used an herb.
Standardization begins with an analysis of the chemical compounds present in plant material. This is accomplished through the use of various techniques such as chromatography, spectrophotometry and MRI’s. Through years of scientific research, a particular plant compound (or group of compounds) is often found to produce a specific desired medicinal effect. Each batch of product produced can then be tested to ensure that it contains the specific amount of that particular chemical compound. If it does not, additional portions of the active compound are added.
Advantages versus Drawbacks of Standardization
Standardization offers many benefits. Firstly, it gives us the guidelines to harvest and grow herbs in such a manner that they contain the maximum levels of the specific chemical compounds responsible for the herb’s medicinal benefits. Secondly, producing a standardized product guarantees that manufacturing remains consistent from batch to batch. Finally, every serving of a standardized product contains the same levels of the active ingredients for more exact dosing.
Standardization, however, also has some drawbacks. For instance, ongoing research may discover additional chemical compounds within the herb that may offer therapeutic benefits not previously recognized or understood. However, these constituents are not included in the final formula, and we lose out on experiencing the medicinal support. Secondly, different manufacturers choose different chemical constituents to isolate and use as the basis of their standardization. Hence, competitive brands can not be fairly compared since they are not always standardized to the same constituents. This leads to confusion when trying to determine which product is the “ideal” product for you. Finally, a standardized product does not guarantee that the product is also pure and of the best quality. Some companies offer standardized herbal products that also contain artificial coatings, dyes, fillers and binders. (Be sure to read the label information listed as ‘Other Ingredients’)
The main point here is that standardization misses the concept of “Holistic Balance”!
Holistically Balanced™ Mirrors Mother Nature
Holistically Balanced™ defines the Nature’s Answer’s philosophy, which recognizes that for maximum health benefits, extracts should retain as many of the natural constituents found in the plant, and in the same ratios, as appear in nature. In many instances, due to chemical complexity, it is not yet known how constituents within a plant work together to provide a specific physiological effect. Furthermore, although a constituent may have been identified as being key to the herb’s medicinal effect (ie. hypericin in St. John’s Wort), this may be misleading because we don’t know the roles of other components and their contributions to the known active ingredient in generating an overall positive effect. For instance, many researchers are now claiming that Hyperforin, or a combination of Hyperforin and Hypericin is actually ideal!
The ‘strength’ of an extract is often expressed as a ratio. When reading labels on herbal products, you will notice the ratios expressed as 2 numbers inside a parenthesis, such as (1:5) or (12:1). This number expresses the ratio of plant material (by weight) to solvent (by volume). The higher the first number, the stronger the extract. When using natural solvents, the best ratio would be (1:1). Several companies are now expressing ratios of a much higher number. One example is Astragalus (12:1). Anything over (1:1) indicates that additional ingredients have been added, other than the holistically balanced components as they would exist in nature. In order to get these high ratios, a chemical solvent is often used such as hexane or benzene. Nature’s Answer uses only pure natural solvents and ends with a product that is Holistically Balanced™ with a true ratio of all naturally occurring plant components.
ONE FACT REMAINS CLEAR:
Herbs have been used by mankind as medicine for thousands of years without
the benefit of standardization. Standardization can be used as a modern guideline,
while continuing to honor the whole plant concept of Holistically Balanced™.
Nature’s Answer® combines the best of both worlds, using the highest level of scientific testing to ensure that every herbal product in their line is Holistically Balanced™, as well as providing specific compounds at guaranteed potencies in selected supplements. Understanding the difference between standardized and non-standardized, or Holistically Balanced™ provides you with key information to help you make an informed purchasing decision.
PART B: THE DELIVERY SYSTEM DEBATE
Liquids versus Capsules
There are many ways to experience the benefits of herbs. The oldest methods include direct ingestion of raw plant material, and the use of herbal teas made from fresh or dried plant parts. Tinctures are liquid preparations made by soaking herbs in a solvent to draw out active ingredients. Extracts are a more potent form of liquid herbs, where active constituents are much more concentrated. Capsules contain dried plant parts that have been powdered. Unfortunately, these delivery systems do not all provide the same high levels of herb quality. This may be attributed to a number of factors ranging from environmental conditions of the original plant to the processing of the herb to the scientific quality control of the finished product. Nature’s Answer® truly excels in the execution of these important steps with its state-of-the-art FDA registered and pharmaceutically licensed facilities.
Capsules may be more convenient for the herbal user on the go, since a daily dose can be packed in a pill carrier. Capsules also override the sometimes bitter and unpleasant flavors associated with certain herbs, and are “less messy” to use. Liquids, however, have the advantage of being easier to swallow. This is especially helpful for young children, the elderly, and those who find swallowing pills difficult. In addition, several liquids can easily be taken at once, by combining them into juice or tea. Furthermore, the active herbal constituents in liquids are absorbed more easily and faster by the body than capsules, since they are already in liquid form and don’t require additional digestion. If herbal support in liquid extract form is your choice, you can be sure you are getting the highest quality in either an alcohol-free or organic (low) alcohol form if the brand is Nature’s Answer Quality Without Question™.
These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.