Ask The Trainer #46 – Herbal Supplements


Hi Chad. Thank you for all of the helpful information that you provide in your posts. You’ve really opened up my eyes on a lot of different topics. The question that I have for you is in regard to various herbal supplements. I’ve always been big on herbal medicine. There are a number of different herbal supplement that I take for energy and general health. I notice that on some product labels where an ingredient is listed, the word “standardized” appears next to the herbal ingredient. Then again I’ve seen many labels where they only have the ingredient of the product listed but it doesn’t say standardized next to the name. Does it make a difference if an herb is standardized or not? I noticed that the ones that are marked as standardized cost more. Does that mean they are better? Thanks in advance.



Hi, Marlana. Thanks very much for the positive feedback on the blog! I’m happy to know I can shed some light on a few of these topics for you!

So let’s get to your question…

The mainstream use of herbs has become increasingly popular over the last decade. That popularity has compelled many players to join the game of herbal supplement manufacturing.

There are many different options available to consumers, So, it’s easy to be confused about which products are going to be the most beneficial. Furthermore, many experts do not agree on this topic.

The best thing for me to do is explain the difference between whole and standardized herbs. Then, you’ll have the information you need to make your own informed decision as to which is best.

Whole Herbs

A whole herb is exactly that. When you see an herbal ingredient listed on a label that isn’t marked as ‘standardized’, it will probably be specified as coming from the whole herb, the root or leaves of the plant. All of these forms are normally dried and encapsulated, or processed and preserved in alcohol or another solvent.

Whole herbs contain all of the components of the plant and have been used in this form for thousands of years among many different cultures. Centuries of experimentation with whole herbs by generations of various healers actually helped to develop what we know today as modern medicine.

Safety of Herbs

Chad ShawThe most popular whole herbs within the supplement industry generally have a reputation for being safe and offering some level of medicinal benefits.

However, herbs have not always been thoroughly researched in a scientific manner. Where it gets tricky is the fact that the chemical makeup of an herb will vary based on various criteria.

For example, the environment in which the plant is grown will affect its chemical makeup. Other factors are the time of year the herb is harvested, the soil it’s grown in, and the type of whether the plants were subjected to.

Furthermore, the extraction methodology will also have an effect on an herb. For instance, the age of the plant when it was harvested, the exact part of the plant being used, and processing techniques used in manufacturing will all make a difference in the potency and quality of an herbal product.

That being said, there is much to consider when attempting to determine the quality of a product made from whole herbs, roots, and leaves.

Standardized Extracts

On the other hand, a standardized herbal extract is an herb extract that has one or more constituents present in a guaranteed volume, usually listed on the product label as a percentage.

The main purpose of standardization is to guarantee potency from batch to batch.

Modern day scientists and researchers have tried to identify the specific components of an herb that trigger a particular reaction in the human body.

The problem with concentrating and isolating various components of an herb is that one may inadvertently overlook the other key benefits that could be obtained by using the whole herb, especially as its natural chemical composition is altered.

In other words, the standardization process is based on the idea that certain isolated compounds are responsible for the action of an herb. However, there aren’t many herbs known for having only a single function.

Plants naturally contain an elaborate mix of phytochemicals. Like many other natural foods we eat, they have the ability to simultaneously trigger multiple beneficial mechanisms in the body. Therefore, it would make sense that to obtain the full benefits, you’d want to use ALL the components of that herb.

Even so, research proves the properties of many of these concentrated, standardized extracts still provide valuable benefits. Even if they don’t work exactly the same as the whole herb.

Do Your Homework

In short, there really isn’t a definitive answer as to whether standardized herbs are more or less beneficial than whole herbs. This is where it behooves consumers to do their own research before spending money on an herbal product.

Thankfully, many online stores have customer reviews for all the different products they sell. Check out as many of those as you can. See what products other people are using and getting good results with.

In the end, you’ll probably find that certain brands tend to hold higher ratings compared to other brands.

Prove ‘Em Wrong,
Chad Shaw

Have A Question For Chad?

Just click the button below.