Effects too hard to predict.

Careless factory processing (cooking blindly) can cause each individual herb in the recipe to lose potency or change character to varying degrees: some a lot as excessive cooking “sterilizes” certain herbs, some not at all, and others somewhere in between. . .


Consider a formula of six herbs; each herb is there for a reason and in a relative quantity for a reason. In order to do its job and do it without side-effects, this imagined formula requires an equal amount by weight of each raw herb . . .

But in the end, careless factory processing has altered each individual herb in the six herb formula differently:

Herb #1 – factory processing decreased potency 20%

Herb #2 – factory processing decreased potency 5%

Herb #3 – factory processing decreased potency 70%

Herb #4 – factory processing decreased potency 100%

Herb #5 – factory processing decreased potency 0%

Herb #6 – factory processing decreased potency 35%

The formula has clearly lost its balance. And what if herb # 5 was a carminative to prevent the undesired side effects of #4, a rich, difficult to digest tonic… Would increasing the dosage help or hurt? -It’s a problematic and not well considered strategy with cheap, low potency products, to try to compensate by increasing volume.

In the example formula containing six herbs, consider the ingredient percentages written on the box useless because that only states bulk herb percentages by weight that they started with and not the functional (medicinal property) percentages remaining after factory processing.

Obviously then, the actions of this formula would be unpredictable and would not correspond to the ingredients listed on the label or to its traditional application. Advertised ratios like 5:1, 10:1, don’t tell the whole story.

Taste, color and fragrance have a story to tell.

A potent herbal formula should have a strong taste . . . Recall that each of the five flavors in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) will perform a specific function. To what degree can you “taste” those functions in a comparative test of brands? Taste level is a palpable measure of potency, and in TCM, the right taste matters. In short, if it doesn’t taste like much, it won’t do much.

A potent herbal formula should have a rich color . . . Color helps us to find the best produce in the market. A pale colored orange would raise suspicions – a dull taste would confirm them. In a vegetable soup or in an “herbal soup”, a rich color is revealing. When accompanied by a rich flavor and fragrance, high potency is defined. Red flag: dark colored herbs listed on the label . . . but light colored pills, powder, or liquid, found in the bottle.

A potent herbal formula should have a distinct fragrance . . . Our sense of smell is a thousand times as sensitive as our sense of taste. Some of the most important and commonly used herbs in culinary endeavors and in TCM are quite aromatic, i.e. fragrant, and capable of rapidly causing a response from the body. Inhaling some aromatic herbs can help relieve a headache – other aromatic herbs can cause one. That demonstrates how influential the smell of an herb can be. In the bloodstream, aromatic herbs are said to perform with similarly significant action. What about herbs that were fragrant when harvested but not fragrant out of the bottle? -They have no potential; useless. If the rosemary intended for the soup has no flavor, then there’s no reason to add any. Beware: it is not unheard of to open a bottle of dried concentrated extract and smell oxidized oils; the smell is rancid. Check, especially if seeds are included (this would be less likely in a liquid preserved in alcohol). Rancid oil is poison.