There is no progress without change.
Standing between a clinician and a thriving practice is often a mediocre brand of herbal products with a sensational marketing campaign – and the failure to take charge of one’s own best interests.
And how to do a simple, self-performed, 5-minute test
to find higher potency TCM that will, without a doubt,
improve your clinical success rate.
“It’s the most important thing they didn’t teach us at the university.” -L.Ac.
An Herb Can Be
…Or it can be too damaged to fulfill expectations.
Mass manufacturers can produce 1000’s of bottles daily, but there’s a tradeoff between industrial volume, and the freshness and power of hands-on simplicity – found in our fluid tea concentrates, for example. To overly trusting clinicians, caveat emptor: By the time a clinic receives a dehydrated tea (dry herbal extract concentrate), it doesn’t seem to have an imposing residual power. Is this true with all such products? Which of the dry or liquid are the best? We’ll show you how you can take charge with a simple 5-minute test on any or all of them.
We can’t rely on the people selling something for unbiased information about what they’re selling.
It’s so seductive to follow the leader. But when choosing a brand of herbal extract concentrates, if we’re not personally testing, we’re guessing – without any solid information, and relying on familiarity or biased influencers. It’s gambling in a marketplace where the potency differentials are so high, the odds are stacked against us. Our patients expect more – and it’s not a smart way to run a business.
TRUST, BUT VERIFY
When prescribing what our instincts tell us is a weak herbal extract concentrate,
why is it a not safe to simply increase the dosage level as compensation?
Consider this: Multiple slices of Wonder Bread will not equal the nutritious potency of one slice of whole wheat bread. White bread: nutritious parts gone, starch remaining – basically carbs without the nutrients. So, eating additional white white bread at mealtime won’t compensate for its missing nutrients.
Likewise, with dried, herbal extract concentrates, the typical industrial preparation and preservation methods will degrade certain herbs in a formula more than other herbs in the same formula. This creates an imbalanced prescription that cannot be compensated for by increasing the dosage: The formula’s effects and side effects would be unpredictable.
The on-line special discount of a mass-market brand herbal extract concentrate prompts a clinician to purchase many bottles for the clinic. The prescribed dose is maximum plus because the patient is in great distress and the medicine, cheap. It’s a 2-herb formula containing one hard to digest herb and one herb to help with digestion. Later, the patient experiences acute digestive discomfort. Why? In this scenario, it was the over-processing at the factory which diminished the capability of just one of the 2 herbs – the digestive herb. It’s just one example of what could go wrong with an increased dosage level of an imbalanced herbal prescription.
Here are the vital signs and how to use them to
expose the weak herbal products that can
enable an illness to become entrenched and chronic.
A person’s vital signs are the evidence of the current physical functioning of the body.
An herbal extract concentrate’s vital signs are the evidence of the current capability of the product.
- If the herbal product’s vital signs are strong, expect a strong effect.
- If the herbal product’s vital signs are weak, expect a weak effect.
- Use the method below to find the stronger brands.
IF THE VITAL SIGNS ARE WEAK, NOTHING ELSE ABOUT THE PRODUCT MATTERS
You don’t need to know the taste of each individual herb in the formula in order to test. For the experienced, testing is easy; for the novice, your culinary intuition will guide you.
VITAL SIGN 1: A potent herbal extract concentrate should have a strong taste . . .
The intensity of an herbal product’s flavor is a palpable measure of its potency. This makes it exceedingly easy to compare two brands. A “concentrate” should be really strong. So, with very few exceptions: if it doesn’t taste like much, it won’t do much. Note that the bitter or sweet tastes of certain herbs may survive factory processing excesses, but in a formula, they are likely accompanied by ruined and rancid co-players. Rancidity too displays its own flavor: a nasty sour or bitter taste. Taste-test as described below; you’ll find the stronger brand and better clinical results will follow.
VITAL SIGN 2: A potent herbal extract concentrate should have a rich color . . .
Let’s not be led to assume that a product is potent just because the herb specimen pictured in the seller’s ad looks potent. A raw material and a finished product are worlds apart, and we clinicians need to test the latter. When comparing two concentrate brands, the one with a darker color that is true to the herbs within, hints at more potency. It’s just one sign. If one product is darker but without a stronger taste, something’s not right.
VITAL SIGN 3: A potent herbal extract concentrate should have a distinct fragrance . .
Fragrance is medicine. With aromatic/fragrant herbs, the therapeutic response is rapid and significant. If you can’t smell fragrance in the bottle claiming to include “concentrated” fragrant herbs, that’s a red flag: The herbs may have been potent at harvest, but the state of the herbs at the time of administration is what matters. Industrial processing, especially “spray drying,” will absolutely ruin a fragrant herb.
VITAL SIGN 4: A potent herbal extract concentrate should have oils you can feel . . .
A product, listing a substantial % of seeds (tao ren, xing ren, etc.) and/or rich natured herbs like tonics, should have an easily perceptible oily, viscus feel. To verify, simply rub the wet concentrate between two fingers. If you can’t feel oil, the oil and its therapeutic value are absent. If you do feel oil when testing a moistened dry product (pill/powder/granule), it’s logical to assume that rancidity is present unless there were preservatives added to protect those oils.
Without signs, a clinician is really only guessing . . .
The fact is, the TCM marketplace is plagued by over-hyped, industrially processed, herbal extract concentrates of little or no clinical value. A TCM practitioner can easily guess wrong and choose a product line that is weak, out of balance, and incapable, leading to years of mediocre practice and frustration. But by comparing the vital signs of many brands, a clinician will be directed to those which are the most effective. And that could make all the difference. “It’s the most important thing they didn’t teach us at the university.” -L.Ac.
It’s your future; don’t leave it to chance.
HOW TO TEST FOR EASILY OBSERVABLE POTENCY LEVELS
Anyone can do this; you don’t have to know the taste of any individual herb in order to test. You are searching primarily for the intensity of the taste.
Simple comparative analysis: Chose a single herb or a formula from brand A and the exact same from brand B. Can be a dry or liquid product.
1 – Place a recommended dose from brand A in a small cup (a shot glass works great). In a different cup, do the same with brand B. If tablets, powder, or granule, add just enough water to rehydrate it back into a liquid: maybe a teaspoonful. Tablets will take a little time to break down.
2 – If you are comparing a liquid product, add enough water, if needed, to the recommended dose to make a teaspoonful. With the 2 brands you are to compare now in liquid form, check vital signs 2, 3, and 4: color, fragrance, and feel.
3 – NOW CHECK VITAL SIGN 1 – THE TASTE: Place the entire brand A dose in your mouth and don’t swallow. Focus your attention on the taste. Rinse your mouth. Do the same with brand B.
- Which brand had a stronger taste? Remember, rancidity also has a strong taste.
- Check for medicinal oils (see Vital Sign 4 above). Note color and fragrance.
- Ask for sample concentrates whenever you can – all brands, dry and liquid.
- The more you test, the better your testing abilities become.
- Eventually, just chewing on a tablet will tell you what you need to know.
- Don’t stop there, make periodic testing a lifestyle; test and retest often.
- Every encounter is an opportunity for education leading to better clinical outcomes.
- Take charge; manufacturers will respect you (or fear you).
- It’s ok to say, “Persuasive ad, but nope, still tastes bland and powerless; keep trying!”
- Compare to find the products with stronger vital signs.
- Use new-found, stronger products to invigorate your practice.
- Try not to lament years using a product with an exaggerated opinion of itself.
As clinicians, we are attracted to product labels that we
recognize, perhaps mistaking familiarity for quality.
We feel safe, but our comfort zone can put our needs last. Attraction to the familiar keeps us stuck.