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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.

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 other. 

RULE # 2 Look for standardized extracts. 
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.

Some standardized herbs at a glance
Basis of Standardization
Helps Treat or Prevent
Echinacea Echinacosides (marker) Colds and flu
Feverfew Parthenolides (marker) Migraines
Garlic Allicin yield High cholesterol, infections
Ginkgo Flavonoids and ginkgolides Cognitive deficiency
Ginseng Ginsenosides Reduced vitality
Grapeseed Proanthocyanidins Oxidative tissue damage
Kava Kavalactones (kavapyrones) Anxiety
Milk Thistle Silymarin complex Liver disorders
St. John's wort Hypericin (marker) Depression
Saw palmetto Lipids and steroids Prostate disease

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 of years. 

RULE #4 Choose the right brand.
Here are 4 ways to choose the right brand.

1) Look for well -tested products. 
Look at the labels for lab testing
2) Look for a well made brand.
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 outrageous claims. 
If an herb sounds to good to be true, then it probably is. 

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