Herbal Extracts: Why One Size Does Not Fit All

Herbal Extracts: Why One Size Does Not Fit All

When it comes to herbs one size does not fit all! Learn why!

Thanks to Dr. Oz and other popular health gurus, more people than ever before are discovering herbal remedies and how they can be used to improve health and enhance quality of life.  It is important to note that although herbs are regulated as dietary supplements and foods in the United States, in other countries they are more correctly classified as potent natural medicines.  Herbs can have profound healing actions on the body and excel at restoring balance and health.  I have always maintained that for herbs to be truly effective, a custom formula is preferable to a one-size-fits-all approach.  A good herbal practitioner can aid in choosing concentrated plant extracts for a custom blend that is safe, effective and energetically suited to the individual.

Why Custom Blends?

An herbal combination is chosen to specifically address the entire complaint of an individual. The herbs that best address their particular symptoms are chosen over similar plants. Several plants or their extracts can work together in a balanced fashion.  Some herbs in the combination would help relieve the symptoms while others act to correct the cause of the symptoms.  Others are balancing to the overall formula.  In general, a commercially available formula is energetically close to neutral or fits the symptom picture of most people, so that the largest number of individuals can benefit from it.  Custom blended formulas are much more tailored to fit the specific person’s overall needs and are energetically more specific as well.

What Does “Energetically Specific” Mean?

In the world of traditional herbalism, to say that a formula is “energetically specific” means that the herbs are chosen in terms of taste, action(s) on the body, directionality, balancing of “hot-cold”, “wet-dry”, “heavy-light” “ interior-exterior”, etc.  For example, both ginger root and white willow bark are considered anti-inflammatory, but they are energetically different.  Ginger root is considered a “hot’ herb.  It is pungent in taste and increases circulation, which results in the sensation of warmth in the body.  Ginger is best suited to energetically “cold” conditions of the body, such as symptoms of arthritis where there is poor circulation that is improved by the application of heat, as opposed to willow bark, which is a “cooling” and “bitter” anti-inflammatory best suited to “hot” conditions such as fevers, swelling, redness and  pain that is improved with a cold compress or ice pack.

Why Alcohol?

I am often asked why liquid herbal extracts are prepared in food grade alcohol (ethanol).  The answer is that pure grain alcohol functions very well both as a solvent and as a preservative. The properties of alcohol enable it to effectively mobilize active constituents in plants from within the plants’ cell wall and bring them into solution. In this way, when the extract is ingested, there is 100% absorption and 100% bioavailability.  Those with digestive problems benefit from this rapid absorption, as do those who need a quick-acting form of the herb.  Recovering alcoholics and those with a sensitivity to alcohol should avoid using alcohol-based liquid herbal extracts, even though the ingested alcohol is minimal.  The amount of alcohol in a standard dose (40 drops) equals 1/100 the amount in a glass of red wine.  This amount of alcohol is even less when the extract is dropped into a cup of hot water and allowed to steam off before ingesting.

What About Quality?

Choosing a quality herbal supplier is important.  Strict vetting standards should reflect a commitment to organic/ biodynamic / local farming, ecological sustainability/ sustainable wildcrafting and fair labor practices.  Ideally, the company should be herbalist owned or independently owned and meet or exceed the FDA’s GMP guidelines for Quality Control.  A quality herbal supplier must be able to produce a certificate of analysis (C of A) which shows that the chosen herbs have the correct identity, are the right part, are harvested at the right time and are high in certain bioactives.  When high quality liquid extracts are chosen for the individual and custom-blended in a sanitary environment according to traditional indications, they are a safe and time-tested addition to any healthy lifestyle.