Whole herb vs plant extract?
It can be difficult to decide which herbal products to purchase due to the many selections available. With so many products to choose from, it is easy to become confused about which form of the herbal product is the right fit for you. Whole herb and plant extract are the typical forms found in supplements. One is not necessarily better than the other, so it good to understand the difference between the two.
Whole herb is a product that is usually dried and ground into a powder. The dried herb can be placed into a capsule, formed into a tablet, or preserved in alcohol or another solvent. This is the traditional approach to medicinal ethnobotany. The medicinal effect of the herb can vary from one batch to another because each plant can be slightly different due to the growing conditions and health of the plant. Ideally, each plant should be grown and harvested under the same conditions to prevent variations in the final quality of the product.
Herbal extract is a product is extracted from whole herb, usually a solvent, and typically standardized to an active component of the herb. This goal of this approach is to eliminate batch to batch variations so that the consumer will be guaranteed to get the same product each time. The extraction process can also be used to eliminate toxic components of the herb as well. The method of standardized extract is based on the modern approach of medicine where only the active compound that has been tested is prescribed and given to the patient. The idea is to give a pure product with mainly the active components and limit the inactive components as much as possible. This is similar to the idea of ether taking caffeine pills or brewing and drinking coffee instead. However, there may be many important compounds in the herb that work synergistically to provide the beneficial effects. Thus, the standardization process may favor and concentrate one important component over another, resulting in the disruption of the herb’s natural balance. The complexity of the herb and how it works in the body can be affected, resulting in a product that is completely different from whole herb.
Some herbal extracts are not standardized to an active component but instead standardized to a key component in the herb. This is also done to make sure that the final products are consistent with each other. Eliminating variability between batches is important to make sure the consumer experience the same effect with each product.