Bio-Health’s position on whole herb, root, bark material and extracts
Bio-Health has for over 20 years made pure plant products in accordance with our policy of producing additive free products whenever possible. We also use extracts in our combination products when dose and size of tablet/capsule is an issue, thereby allowing 4-5 herbs to be used in a single product.
The philosophy of Herbal Medicine as laid down by traditional herbalists over the years has always been “the whole herb for the whole man” and was the yardstick of the founding members of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists and the British Herbal Medicine Association. This too has been the guiding principle of Bio-Health.
Plants are made up of a vast number of chemical compounds, many known types such as alkaloids, glycosides, flavonoids, tannins, xanthones and essential oils to name but a few, are found in varying proportions in all herbal materials. Some plants contain alkaloids that have profound pharmacological effects when taken by man and the alkaloids derived from Papaver somniferum L morphine and codeine are supreme examples. Because of the narcotic and powerful analgesia and toxic effects of the alkaloids these isolates from the plant have to be rigorously controlled. The morphine content from the plants varies from season and growing area so it vital also that the levels are assayed and controlled. Similarly alkaloids from Atropa belladonna, calculated as Hyoscyamine and glycosides from Digitalis purpurea L also must be carefully regulated.
In terms of pharmacy, these powerful substances became known as “the active principles” meaning they were the sole cause of the pharmacological action when taken to treat various diseases. This factor introduced “standardisation” as it was vital that doses did not vary from year to year or crop of herb gathered or cultivated because the therapeutic dose and toxicity are very close, eg a dose of 1-1.5mg is effective 2.5mg is toxic. This is the orthodox drug route but it is not appropriate for herbal medicines.
Herbal Medicinal Products are all non-prescription products and only recommended for non life threatening or serious conditions and are by definition made up from herbs which have a “more gentle action” in contrast to the herbs and medicines mentioned above. They also differ widely because generally there is no one “active principle” or known active principle in the herb.
However, as mentioned above in each plant there are probable hundreds of different chemical compounds and these exert a gentle action and modify and “buffer” each other and assist in the bio-availability of the herb when taken. Bio-flavonoids are a prime example of this action.
Herbs such as St. Johns Wort Hypericum Perforatum L and Valeriana Officinalis are classic examples of this principle. For many years the two plants have been researched rigorously in a search for the “active principle” in each of the herbs. In St. John’s Wort it was argued that hypericin was the active principle whilst others argued equally strongly that hyperforin was the active ingredient. Both schools of thought were not correct but it has been shown that the whole herb with its many “active substances” produce its anti depressive action and this evidence has been established in many parts of the world. Valerian also, is a known sedative having been used for decades to aid sleep and reduce anxiety. Many compounds have been isolated from Valeriana such as valerenic acid, essential oils and valepotriates and all have been tested to see if the individual compounds produce the sedative effect. Valerenic acid failed when tested singularly as did the valepotriates, but Valerian when taken as the whole root and rhizome is effective. These two examples illustrate the wonder and complexity of herbal medicines. However, we should not be surprised by this because following the principle of a “balanced diet” we know that it is vital to ingest a wide range of wholefoods, especially fruit and vegetables, to enable us to be vital, healthy and able to enjoy life. No one today, supports the view that all we need is a protein, carbohydrate and vitamin pill for a healthy life.
Therefore, Bio-Health maintains firmly, that until it is proved unscientific, illogical or ineffective we will continue to produce our Herbal Medicinal Products with a minimum of processing to retain in the dry form “all the known and unknown compounds” in the leaf, fruit, bark, root, stem or combination of all for the best herbal medicines.
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