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 simple, self-performed, 5-minute tests
to find higher potency TCM that will, without a doubt,
improve your clinical success rate.
An herb can be powerful medicine…
…or it can be too damaged to fulfil expectations. Mass manufacturers can produce 1000’s of dehydrated tea products (pills, powders, granules) daily. But there’s a tradeoff between industrial volume, and the freshness and power of hands-on simplicity. To overly trusting clinicians, caveat emptor: By the time a clinic receives a dehydrated tea, it doesn’t seem to have an imposing residual power. Is this true with all such products? Which brands are the most potent? How do they compare to liquid products? Below, we’ll show you how you can take charge with simple, self-administered, 5-minute tests 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 extracts, 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
Prescribing low potency herbal products will enable an illness to become entrenched and chronic. High potency herbal products will get good results; the highest potency herbal product will get the best results. To find the highest potency herbal product, a clinician must know how to look for it.
A person’s vital signs are the evidence of the current physical functioning of the body.
An herbal product’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. An “extract 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 damage, but in a formula, they are likely accompanied by ruined and rancid co-players that did not. 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 herbal extract 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 extract (tincture for example) between two fingers. If you can’t feel oil, the oil and its therapeutic value is absent. When testing a moistened dry product (pill/powder/granule), if you do feel oil , 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 clinician 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 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 one teaspoon of water to rehydrate it back into a liquid. 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, compare vital signs 2, 3, and 4: color, fragrance, and the feel of oils (if seeds, nuts, or rich natured herbs are present in formula).
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 and remember its intensity level. Rinse your mouth. Do the same with brand B.
Which brand had the stronger taste?
The brand with the stronger taste is probably the more potent medicine and the one more likely to achieve the results you want.
- Begin by comparing your current brand against one other brand. Then do another and then another . . .
- 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.
- Remember, rancidity also has a strong taste.
- Make periodic testing a lifestyle; test and retest often. Why retest? See QUALITY FADE (#7).
- 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 and then . . .
- 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.