Herbal Dietary Supplements - Preparation and Usage


By Tess Thompson
 
Healing herbs and botanicals are interchangeable terms. Any plant or part of a plant that is valued for its medicinal properties is termed as an herb. Products made from herbs to improve or maintain health are termed as herbal remedies  especially if they are targeted to treat a disease. An herbal dietary supplement is an herb or a combination of herbs that is used to overcome nutritional deficiencies.

 As defined by US laws, a botanical must meet the following criteria to be classified as herbal dietary supplement:

-          It should be intended to supplement diet

-          It should contains one or more dietary ingredients including vitamins, minerals, herbs, botanicals, amino acids or their ingredients

-          It should be intended to be taken by mouth as a pill, tablet, capsule or liquid

-          It should be labeled on the front panel as being a dietary supplement.

 Herbs are sold in different forms – fresh or dried, liquid or solid extracts, tablets or capsules, powders or in the form of tea bags. A typical example of this is ginger. Fresh ginger is sold in vegetable stores; dried ginger is sold in powdered form in tea bags, tablets and capsules and liquid preparations are also available.

Herbal dietary supplements can be prepared in the following four ways:

-          Teas: Some herbs require only steeping in boiling water to get the desired benefits. Teas can be made from either dried or fresh herbs and may be had hot or cold.

-          Decoctions: Roots, barks and berries require a longer time to impart with their properties. Decoctions are prepared by boiling the natural products in water for longer periods than teas. Usually the water used for boiling is allowed to reduce to half or a quarter of its original amount to extract the desired ingredient.

-          Tinctures: A tincture is sold as a liquid concentrate. This is done to preserve the herb by soaking it in water or alcohol. The ratio of the dried herb in relation to the weight or volume of the end product needs to be mentioned on the label while selling it in the open market.

-          Extracts: An extract is made by soaking an herb in a liquid that removes specific substances from the plant. The liquid is generally evaporated for use as a tablet or a capsule.

The action of herbs ranges from mild to potent. Peppermint, chamomile and green teas are taken to aid digestion, soothe tense nerves or increase mental alertness. There are other herbal supplements  that have multiple benefits like increasing mental health and physical health while they supplement nutritional deficiencies in diet.

Over time herbal supplements have attained a reputation of their own and have become a part of conventional medicine. Certain herbal preparations, though labeled as dietary supplements to meet legal requirement, are used as natural remedies http://www.nativeremedies.com/ by doctors for treating diseases that conventional medicine finds difficult to manage due to side effects of the drugs that are usually used to treat them.

 
References:

http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/BotanicalBackground.asp

http://www.asahq.org/patientEducation/herbPatient.pdf

http://www.dietpolicy.com/diets-articles/herbal-dietary-supplements.htm

http://www.dietpolicy.com/diets-articles/dietary-supplements-dangers.htm

http://nccam.nih.gov/health/bottle/


 


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