The Benefit of Standardized Herbal Extracts in Functional Medicine

Herbs have been used in many forms by traditional medicine practitioners through the ages, and their modern day use extends into the practice of naturopathic and functional medicine.  While herbal preparations have evolved over time, the most common utilization of herbs today is through the use of extracts.  Herbal extracts are made by isolating or concentrating the raw herb’s main bioactive compounds. This process can involve freeze-drying or extraction using a solvent, such as ethanol, water or supercritical carbon dioxide. The result is an extract many times stronger in active components compared to the raw herb.

As herbs are complex mixtures of phytochemicals and nutrients, standardized herbal extracts contain a specific percentage of one or more primary active components or marker compounds to ensure consistency from batch to batch. The process of standardization ensures that key bioactive compounds are found in the extract in consistent amounts.  Conversely, whole herb extracts provide no guarantee of the amount of the bioactive substance in the extract, and can vary from batch to batch.

One example of this standardization process can be observed in the popular herb Ashwagandha.  Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb used to help counteract feelings of stress and support cardiovascular, immune, cognitive, and joint function.  Scientific research indicates that these benefits are primarily resulting from the steroidal lactones called withanolides. Since the discovery of the importance of the withanolides in Ashwagandha, clinical research has focused mainly on these compounds.  Therefore, it is important to ensure herbal ingredients contain known amounts of the primary active components to ensure the desired therapeutic effects.

Pure Encapsulations are proud to use standardized herbal extracts in their formulations.  Below are some examples of herbs, their active components and the strength of the standardized extract used in the products: