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How can I tell if an herb is of high quality?
Posted by Jayson Hunter on 22 April 2011 11:18 AM
This is a very important question. Many people have tried herbal products only to be disappointed when they don't work as hoped. A large part of this must be laid at the feet of manufacturers hoping to profit from the explosion of interest in herbs without understanding herbal medicine. For example, many people know of Echinacea as being an important herb for supporting healthy immune function. But only certain parts of the plant contain the substances that have established benefits. Some companies simply grind up the whole plant (stems, roots, leaves, flowers-everything) and sell that as "Echinacea." People taking the whole plant expecting to get the therapeutic benefits described will often be disappointed! A high quality product will have the active ingredients necessary to give the health benefits known by traditional herbalists. So if you've tried herbs before and been disappointed in the results, it may not be the fault of herbal medicine. As is true of nutritional supplements, it is often difficult to see quality in herbs simply by looking at the finished product. This is especially true with herbs, as the standards for quality are still being developed. First and most obviously, quality in herbal products begins with high quality raw materials. This means that the manufacturer must have an intimate knowledge of herbs. One dried powder looks very much like another, so a reputable herbal manufacturer will exercise great care in the raw material purchasing process. Additionally, different parts of the herb have different chemical constituents (and different effects in the body), so knowing which part of the herb to select is important. The delicate active principles of the herb must also be protected during the tableting process, so great care must be taken by the manufacturers here as well.
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