Whole Herbs vs. Extracts
Choices, choices! We have so many choices of supplements in the modern world. I do wonder about some of the products out there: what motivated the company to come up with this? Was it simple ambition, or was it a sincere desire to create something remarkably helpful? With Sam’s Herbal Synergy, I know the answer.
Over the last decade, health food stores have seen a steady increase in the popularity of powdered whole herb combinations. It’s only natural, as people experience enhanced vitality, that they tell their friends and clients about what’s working for them. I work in a small, independent health food store on the west coast, where people are pretty into this stuff. We started carrying Sam’s Herbal Synergy a couple of years ago. Enthusiasm and demand for it have grown steadily during that time. I’m pleased, because time has shown it to be an excellent product that really works for many repeat customers. I’m impressed, because the market is highly competitive, with literally tons of options, but it makes sense that its popularity is spreading.
When I first read the formula, I was impressed to find a number of my favorite herbs, herbs that have worked well for me and my customers. The commitment to organic sourcing impressed me too. I’ve seen a lot of companies touting their conventional ingredients, many of which have never been genetically modified, as non-GMO. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for non-GMO certification! But anything that is certified organic is, by definition, non-GMO, as well as being free of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, such as glyphosate, that have been repeatedly established as being harmful to humans. So yeah, it’s cool when a company offers a certified non-GMO herbal powder, but if they go further than that by having it certified organic we can have greater confidence in the quality and safety of their offering.
Another thing that I find remarkable about this product is that it’s made from whole herbs. What’s the significance of that, you might ask? Thanks for an asking; I think you’ll agree that it’s an interesting subject.
I’m not against extracts. It’s just that, during more than a decade of working in health food stores and talking with all kinds of people who are taking supplements to improve their health, and a lifetime of experimenting on myself in order to overcome disease and live my best life, I’ve come to see extracts more clearly. Let me explain.
It’s not uncommon to read a label that says, 20:1 concentrate, supplying 20 times the normal amount of an active component found in the whole herb. The assumption is that one gram of this concentrate equals twenty grams of the starting material in efficacy. Yet this is not really true. Herbs are complex, and their actions in the body result from complex relationships between their components. Take marijuana for example: THC and CBD counteract one another in some ways. People have bred marijuana to decrease CBD while increasing THC in order to create a stronger drug effect. But now we are learning about the amazing anti-anxiety and anti-seizure effects of CBD, and growers are breeding marijuana for high levels of CBD. Obviously, the situation is more interesting than we once thought. So if we started with both cannabinoids, and have concentrated THC by 20 times, the ratio of THC to CBD has changed dramatically and we will of course experience different effects.
With modern science, herbalists have been able to identify and isolate active compounds from herbs. This has been exciting, to be sure, but experience is showing us that, in many cases, these extracts have a less balanced and more drug-like effect than the whole herb. They push the body in a certain direction, whereas powerful medicinal herbs tend to have dual actions, normalizing a body function by raising activity when it is below par and lowering it when it is overacting. For the most part, we don’t really know how they do this, because the mechanisms are so complex. This is synergy, often defined as “the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.”