In this blog I am talking about herb products that are usually sold as food or herbal supplements. It’s important to know that these products are beneficial for general health but aren’t designed to cure specific diseases. Needless to say, that people who take medication should always discuss with their doctors whether a supplement or herbal medicine is ok to take.
In my previous blog I mentioned seven types of herb products available on the market: 1) fresh herbs 2) dry herbs 3) herbal teas 4) powders 5) tablets 6) capsules 7) tinctures. In this blog I will give you a brief overview as well as some recommendations, pros and cons of each type of product.
This market is serving mainly to customers who like using fresh herbs for cooking (meals and teas) or eating them fresh in salads. If you like to buy fresh herbs you can choose between organically grown herbs and the others. If you don’t buy herbs in organic quality make sure that you wash them properly before using them to get rid of pesticides. If you want to minimize pesticides wash your herbs in salt water or soak it in vinegar. The latter is definitely the most recommended because it also keeps the herbs fresher for longer!
Eating fresh herbs such as parsley, ginger, chives, basil, tarragon etc. has become very popular both for their taste and nutritional value. However, if you decide to boost your health by eating fresh herbs you need to eat them regularly and in bigger quantities. This is a little disadvantage of using fresh herbs to try improve some health issues such as weakened immune system (due to stress and lack of rest) quickly.
In this section, I will talk about whole or crushed dry herbs that you might buy for making your own herbal tea or powder. Of course, dry herbs market includes spices as well.
Choose only organically grown brands. Why? There is no way to clean dry herbs without weakening the potency of the herb (for example soaking in cold water). If you think buying organic is too expensive, then grow your own herbs and then dry it. The most important thing is to avoid pesticides and other unwanted chemicals. Obviously, it’s counterproductive to try to boost your health with herbs that pollute your system at the same time.
The popularity of drinking herbal teas is growing – especially within the “healthy lifestyle” community. Looking at the herbal tea blogs, the most popular tea brands among healthy living bloggers are: Pukka, Clipper, Yogi Tea, Mighty Leaf – these brands were also picked up by Tammy Catania who is a registered holistic nutritionist. When it comes to checking the authenticity of organic brands, make sure that you see the logo of Soil Association, usually followed by the EU Organic Standards Logo.
When you make a cup of herbal tea – you are creating a herbal extract, which is a process of separating the soluble beneficial components from the fibre of the plant. There are two most popular ways of preparing tea infusion and decoction. When you use infusion you steep the herbs in hot water for a recommended time. When you make a tea decoction you simmer the water and the herbs in a pan. This method is usually used for preparing teas out of roots, barks and stems. The third way of preparing tea includes fermentation. An example is the Japanese tea drink called Kombucha.
4) Herbal Powders
Herbal powders are finely milled herbal produce such as bark, roots, berries, leaves and flowers. It’s another way of getting the nutritional and healing benefits of herbs into your body. Herbal powders are really versatile. You can take them in drinks, in food (sprinkled over cereals, salads). You can even put them into capsules or make a cup of tea.
Again, look for organic certificates and Best Manufacturing Practice certificate (BMP) before you buy. They usually come packed in re-sealable paper food bags.
Tablets are made from herbal powder extract which is the dried “essence” of the herb, with no fibre, cellulose, lignin and other “passive” elements. The disadvantage might be the taste, plus the fact that large tablets can be hard for some people to swallow. Finally, tablets don’t offer the flexibility of dosing that liquids and powders do.
Capsules are usually made from herbal powder extract but you can make them yourself from both an extract and “raw” powder. The advantage of capsules is that they are easy to swallow and they break down quickly in the stomach. For many people, consuming herbs in capsules is the most comfortable and quick way and that’s why it’s becoming more and more popular. Also, you can open the capsule and sprinkle the powder over your food or stir it into a drink. This might be a good way to help children take extra minerals and vitamins.
A tincture is a liquid herbal extract where the solvent used for extracting the beneficial components is alcohol. It’s possible to replace alcohol with other solvents like apple vinegar or vegetable glycerine. Tinctures can have different potency but usually, you find the ratio of 1:2 or 1:3 which means that for one ounce of dry herb you will have two or three ounces of alcohol or another type of solvent.