We get it, understanding how to read an herbal supplement label can be like deciphering a foreign language for some people. Percentages, dosages, an actual other language (Latin)… where do you begin? We can help.
First, we need to understand the biological make-up of an herb. Herbs are made up of active and inactive compounds. The medicinal parts of an herb, the parts that provide benefit to the body, are the active compounds. We isolate the active compounds to create an herbal extract so that we can ensure that we are providing the therapeutic benefits that are intended. Conversely, herbs can be found in a powder format which essentially takes the entire herb and grinds it up, active and inactive compounds together, so when using a powder you may get the active ingredient or you may not.
Secondly, it is important to understand the standardization of extracts when reading a label. A standardized extract means that there will be a guaranteed amount of the active compound found in the extract. Simply put, standardized extracts guarantee that you are getting what you pay for, every time.
One (delicious) way to understand standardization is to think of it like buying a box of chocolate chip cookies. There’s no guarantee on how many chocolate chips you’re going to find in the cookies, since you can’t see inside the package.
Cookie recipes vary from brand to brand (just like herbal supplements), so how can you guarantee the level of chocolatiness (or active compounds)? Imagine a standardized cookie dough, standardized to contain 40% chocolate chips. That means that in the cookies you’re buying, forty percent of its contents are guaranteed to be chocolate chips in every cookie, every time.
What could be more disappointing than a chocolate chip cookie with only a couple of chips per cookie?
This is the comparison you should keep when mind when shopping for supplements.
Take milk thistle as an example. The medicinal part compound in milk thistle is silymarin, and as such, this you want to have a guaranteed dose of. If you look at the greens+ label, you will find listed on the label:
Silybum marianum L.: Milk thistle seed extract. Standardized to 80% silymarin (15:1 = 900mg) ……………..60mg
The italic text lists the Latin name for milk thistle. The Latin name refers to the particular species (Silybum) and the biological classification of the herb (marianum). It’s been the universally understand language of herbs since the 1700’s. Immediately after the Latin is the English name.
Next is the standardized percentage of silymarin. It means the milk thistle extract we use contains 80% of its active ingredient. The higher the percentage, the stronger the extract.
In brackets is the concentration ratio rate we used, 15:1 = 900mg. This means we took 900mg of dry-weight, whole milk thistle herb and concentrated it at a 15:1 ratio. The result is 60mg of milk thistle extract, of which 80% of its contents are silymarin.
You don’t need to have a degree in science or botanical medicine to understand what is in the product you’re buying. Understanding how to read an herbal supplement label will empower you to make smart purchases and ask informed questions. It will help you weed out products and companies that aren’t actually going to help you feel your best. Not only do we ensure that we are using quality ingredients, but Genuine Health products also go through rigorous testing and questioning before we put anything on the shelf, because we know your health depends on it. You can put what you learned to the test with any of our products: we’ll meet the grade every time. We want you to ask questions, because we’re proud to give you the answers. Quality results come from quality ingredients, don’t settle for anything less!