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When it comes to herbs, how do you know which preparation is best for you? Let us explore the various types of herbal preparations to help you decide on the right choice for you.
These are from one herb species, ground to a powder and put a into capsule or tablet form. Capsules are generally the better option because the herb has not been through a manufacturing process where fillers and binders have been used, therefore the integrity of the herb has not been compromised. A capsule also provides enhanced and faster absorption due to easier digestibility. Single herbs are ideal for use when a therapeutic action is required for a specific symptom.
This is a mix of two or more herbs that work together when combined in specific amounts to address one or more symptoms. For instance, a stress-related digestive formula should contain herbs that not only address digestion, but also stress. Some people find this approach a more convenient and economical way to take herbs. Combination herbs are ideal when you suffer from one or more symptoms.
Bulk herbs and teas
This is an ideal way to take herbs if you prefer to sprinkle them on your food or drink them as a tea. They are more readily absorbed by the body because they are not encased in a tablet or capsule. Bulk herbs can also be made into topical preparations (such as compresses, poultices or lotions) by mixing the powdered herb with a carrier oil such as vitamin E oil or cream.
Standardised herbal extracts are a result of modern-day scientific technology, where herbs are concentrated for incorporation into high-potency tablets or capsules. This form of herbal preparation guarantees the potency of the active ingredient, allowing for a more accurate dose.
Standardised herbal extracts lean towards a ‘pharmaceutical’ approach to treatment. Read the labels carefully, however, as often the amount of ‘equivalent’ dried herb sounds huge, but is not the amount of the extract. Look for the standardised quantity as this is what guarantees the potency.
The benefits of using the traditional ‘whole herb’ often outweigh standardised preparations because they contain more than one chemical fraction that’s usually responsible for achieving the desired therapeutic result. Concentrated herbal preparations are good for when a high dose of the herb is required to achieve a therapeutic benefit.
Liquid herbal extracts
These are mostly alcohol-based and, in some instances, glycerine-based. If you can tolerate the taste of liquid extracts they are readily absorbed and have an attractive shelf life. The downside is the taste and, compared with capsules and tablets, the product selection is somewhat limited. They are good to use if a fast-acting herbal preparation is required.