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Whole Herbs or Extracts? Big corporations are pushing for purified extracts vs.  whole herb. Join us on a journey to learn more here. Are pure extracts  worth the hype?

Whole Herbs or Purified Extracts

Are Extracts better than raw herbal powders or blends?


Especially turmeric, pepper and linked products:

Herbs and spices are harvested from different parts of the plant. Herbs are usually obtained from leaves of the plant while spices come from different seeds, root, bark, fruit berries, aril, pods and flowers of the plant. Several herbs have therapeutic properties such as antioxidative, anti- inflammatory, antidiabetic, antihypertensive and antimicrobial activities.

Herbs has been used to fortify foods as preservatives, flavor and therapeutic agents. Although herbs are low-cost commodities, valued as gold or jewels for many centuries. According to the survey of World Health Organization (WHO) 70-80% of the world population depends on modern medicine mainly on herbal sources in their major healthcare. Moreover, 80% of population in developing countries depends directly on herbs and plants for their medical benefits.

Whole Herb VS. Herbal Extract: Which is better?

There are many methods to deliver herbal supplements such as; teas, capsules, powders, tinctures and oils. With the emergence of the herb-based supplements, nutraceutical sector expanded. Some supplements are made up of pure extracts while others are made up of powder.


Firstly you need to understand what is an extract and what a powder is and what is the difference between these two. Herbal extracts are those in which a key compound is extracted from the plant and used either as a powder or a liquid in the supplement. Whereas, powdered supplements are those in which the whole plant is dried up and made into a powder for use. Now the question arises which one is better than other, extract or powder? The answer is based on the advantages you want. Dr. Bill Rawls, Medical Director of Vital Plan give much clarity about whole herbs and give four common herbal extract preparations.


Whole Herbs
The whole herb in natural form has leaves, stems and roots, dried it and then either cut and sifted or ground and milled into a powder form. Powders are either packed inside a capsule or sold loose so you can add them easily to a juice or smoothie. If you are consuming the entire herb, you get its full spectrum of plant chemicals, called phytochemicals. It is a better than extract because the herb’s phytochemicals work in synergy together, and we don’t always know how a single plant chemical performs on its own. Besides of these, preparation process of whole herb is relatively simple and also tend to be less expensive than other forms.


Herbal Extracts
Herbal extracts are substances extracted from the plant using different solvents have some
combination of water, alcohol, chemicals, or other liquid that works to draw out beneficial plant
components. Extracts might be contain the full spectrum of plant chemicals, typically highlighted on the packaging. Standardization is typically done to make extract by measuring the amount of at least one or two phytochemical compounds that have been researched and identified as having beneficial effects at a certain level. If these compounds are present at the expected levels, the remaining phytochemicals in the plant’s matrix are likely where they should be as well. There are four main types of extracts:

1. Liquid Extracts= Liquid extracts are made by soaking the whole herb in a solution (a mixture of water and alcohol or apple cider vinegar). The solution pulls crucial plant chemicals out of the herb, acts as a preservative.

2. Dried Powders Extracts= Powdered extracts are made by soaking the herb in a solvent that is later evaporated. What’s left behind is a concentrated powder of plant chemicals that’s typically mixed with some whole herb powder to add consistency and sold in capsule, tablet, or powder form. Dried powdered extracts are by far the most potent herbal preparation-they’re even stronger than liquid extracts. They are also easy to take and portable, making them the most versatile option.

3. Essential Oils = These are made by a steam distillation of the plant, which removes its oil-based chemicals into a very concentrated liquid. Essential oils are very potent, which means you can see benefits with just a few drops at a time.

4. Liposomal Blends
A relatively new preparation, these are phytochemical compounds combined with liposomes (fat), which encapsulates the chemicals. They are sold either as a capsule or tincture. The coating of fat helps to protect the stomach from irritation and improves absorption of phytochemicals in the intestines. They are trendy and thus expensive. If you are concerned about absorption, taking your supplement with a healthy fat, like coconut milk, can create essentially the same effect.

Which is better anti-inflammatory supplement: Turmeric or curcumin?

Turmeric is one of the most commonly searched terms for natural anti-inflammatory supplements. But often the words turmeric and curcumin are used interchangeably. Turmeric and curcumin are mentioned together because curcumin is the potent ingredient derived from turmeric with the highest anti-inflammatory activity. Curcumin is sometimes extracted from turmeric and isolated in clinical research studies to measure its impact on inflammation.
Turmeric is a flowering plant native to Southeast Asia and southern India, derived from dried
whole turmeric root. Turmeric is scientifically known as Curcuma longa. Its roots are used in
culinary spice powders and herbal tonics. Turmeric contains many medicinal plant compounds,
but one group, curcuminoids, have the most potent health benefits. There are three curcuminoid compounds in turmeric: curcumin, demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethozycurcumin.

Curcumin is the most active compound than other three. Moreover, turmeric comprises over 200 active anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds including the curcuminoids that work
together within the whole root. It has been demonstrated that whole turmeric is more powerful and stable than products containing only pure curcumin. As with most things in nature, keeping closest to the natural form is often better. Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda medicine have used turmeric as a natural anti-inflammatory joint pain reliever for
centuries because of its anti-inflammatory properties.

Whole Turmeric Root Supplement Supports Long Term Joint Health:
A systemic review published by the Journal of Medicinal Food found that subjects taking a
turmeric joint relief supplement (1000mg daily) for about 8-12 weeks reported a significant
decrease in joint pain caused by osteoarthritis or arthritis. Another study published by the same
academic journal indicated that people with joint pain taking turmeric and curcumin daily for 90
days reported pain relief, reduced swelling and improved range of motion. More importantly, study subjects did not report unpleasant side effects of turmeric and curcumin.

Curcumin and turmeric both have their own advantages. Turmeric powders and supplement offer a whole-foods retaining more of the whole roots nutrients from nature. Curcumin supplement provides an isolated form of the most active antioxidant compound found in turmeric but without the full benefit of all the other potent compounds in turmeric.
Turmeric spice is ground (dried) turmeric herb specifically the root/rhizome, sold as a powder.
Consuming 1⁄2-1 teaspoon of turmeric powder (about 2.5-5g) with food has been found to have
certain digestive and cognitive benefits. However, most clinical studies have not used turmeric
powder, but turmeric extract. Only about 3% of the weight of turmeric powder is curcumin and
"curcuminoid" compounds which are to be important to turmeric's effects. In turmeric extracts, the concentration of these is often increased to as high as 95%.


One advantage of using turmeric spice, as opposed to a supplement, is more likely to consume it with fats or oils from your food. This will enhance absorption of curcuminoids in the turmeric, as they are lipophilic (they attracts to fats). However, some curcumin may be lost due to heat and chemical changes when cooking foods spiced with turmeric.


Ways to Enhance the Absorption of Turmeric through Black Pepper:
• Curcumin only makes up about 5% of turmeric, similar to black pepper where the active
ingredient, piperine also makes up about 5% of the spice. Piperine is responsible for black
pepper’s rich flavor and helps inhibit drug metabolism.
• For example, the liver gets rid of foreign substances by making them water-soluble so that
they can be excreted, and piperine can inhibit this process so that curcumin is not excreted.
This explains how piperine can help to make curcumin more bioavailable. With just 1/20
teaspoon or more of black pepper, the bioavailability of turmeric is greatly improved, and
turmeric’s benefits are further enhanced.
• Another way to increase the bioavailability of turmeric is to consume this spice with a
source of fat (such as avocado, nuts, butter and fish, etc.) and therefore curcumin will
directly be absorbed into the blood stream and bypass the liver.
Black Pepper Functionality:
Black pepper is an essential spice, loved around the world due to its characteristic heat in nature. Among hot spices, black pepper delivers only a fraction of the heat get from chili peppers. It enhances and rarely overpowering other flavors when used with many other ingredients. The main active ingredient in black peppercorns is piperine, which is the source of black pepper’s characteristic heat. Apart from heat, black pepper carries a complex flavor profile of citrusy and piney notes. By adding more black pepper to a dish, eventually the heat from the piperine becomes the main flavor.

The complexity of black pepper and not only the piperine heat can be balanced by adding other spices and herbs that balance and complement black pepper’s inherent flavors. Rosemary adds notes of pine, anise seed adds subtle sweetness, cardamom and coriander add hints of citrus, juniper berries bring a woody characteristic. The use of these spices and herbs in harmony with black pepper enhance and balance the deceptively simple aspects of the black pepper and leave you with more great black pepper flavor in the end.


• Herman, 2015. L. Herman. Herb & Spice Companion: the Complete Guide to over 100 Herbs &
Spices. Wellfleet Press, New York, NY
• Chan, 2003. K. Chan. Some aspects of toxic contaminants in herbal medicines. Chemosphere, 52 p. 1361-1371.
• Shrestha and Dhillon, 2003. P.M. Shrestha, S.S. Dhillon. Medicinal plant diversity and use in the
highlands of Dolakha district. Nepal. J. Ethnopharmacol. 86 (1): p. 81-96.


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