|What herb(s) do I need?
(Good shopping practices)
What herb do I need? What
herbs are best? What herbal companies provide the best quality? Is this
the conversation you have when buying herbs or supplements? Here is a practical
guide to follow when shopping for herbs and herbal formulas.
Some standardized herbs at a glance
RULE #1 Choose the herb that's
right for you.
First, ask yourself why
you're buying a particular herb. Then make sure it's appropriate for the
condition you're treating. Fortunately, science has established the value
and safety of many herbs and vitamins for treating many common problems,
including black cohosh for menopausal problems, chaste berry for menstrual
problems, licorice for coughs, and valerian to relieve insomnia, among
RULE # 2 Look for standardized
The quality and strength
of herbs vary widely - depending on place of growth, time of harvest, method
of drying, and length of storage. Even genetic composition comes into play.
So it is obvious that ground or powdered herbs are going to range greatly
in their potency and efficacy. A standardized extract is prepared so a
given weight of the product contains a specific amount of one or more of
the herb's active constituents - the ingredients that give it it's healing
power. Alternatively, the product may be standardized for a so-called "marker
compound" that's believed to reflect the concentration of its active ingredients.
For example, ginseng is most
often prepared so each capsule contains a standardized level of ginsenosides,
its main active constituents. A product might contain 100mg of herbal extract
standardized to a level of 4 percent (4mg) total ginsenosides. On the other
hand, most standardized St. John's-wort preparations are adjusted to contain
a level of 0.3% hypericin. In this case, hypericin is a marker compound,
not the principal active ingredient - which is still unknown.
Basis of Standardization
Helps Treat or Prevent
||Colds and flu
||High cholesterol, infections
||Flavonoids and ginkgolides
||Oxidative tissue damage
|St. John's wort
||Lipids and steroids
RULE #3 Find the form that
is right for you.
People who have difficulty
swallowing a capsule or tablet may prefer a liquid extract or tincture
of the herb, which is usually prepared with water alcohol, or glycerine.
Or a soothing herbal tea-they have been used as medicine for thousands
RULE #4 Choose the right
Here are 4 ways to choose
the right brand.
1) Look for well -tested
Look at the labels for lab
2) Look for a well made
Herbal product manufacters
are required to adhere to standards established for food processing (so
called-GMP's or Good Manufacturing Practices).Those that are proud to adhere
and do so voluntarily often mention this on the label.
3) Buy single herb products
that clearly state how much of the herb you are buying.
Complex mixtures of numerous
herbs often contain inadequate doses of each. As most things, you generally
get what you pay for; cheap herbs aren't necessarily good buys.
4) Finally, beware of
If an herb sounds to good
to be true, then it probably is.