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What is the Difference Between Raw Herbs and Herbal Extracts in TCM?

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raw herbs and herbal extractsThe world of Traditional Chinese Medicine can seem complicated at first glance. However, if you learn a few key concepts about TCM, you will have a much easier time understanding it, putting its benefits to use and improving your health. One of the first things you’ll notice as you explore TCM further is the great variety of herbs that are available to you and the wide range of concerns which they can help improve. You will probably also notice right away that practitioners may recommend the same Chinese herbs and formulas in many different forms.

When you think of Chinese Medicine, you might picture endless boxes of dried herbs resembling those you have in your kitchen, but dried or ‘raw herbs,’ as they are called, are but one of the forms in which you can take your formula. Primarily, these medicinal herbs come in two main forms — raw herbs, which have been minimally processed, and herbal extracts, which have been derived from raw herbs and offer much the same benefits. There are, however, subtle differences between raw and extracted herbal formulas. For the most part, these differences are more practical rather than substantive in nature.

Let’s look at each form in closer detail, learn how each is to be taken and what the prominent differences are between the two forms so that you can get the most of the TCM herbs your acupuncturist or licensed practitioner prescribes for you.

What are raw herbs, and what are their advantages?

Raw herbs are dried herbs, and are closest to the form in which they are grown. Following your practitioner’s recommendation, you will prepare and take raw herbs either individually or in combination, as a formula, depending on your particular needs and concerns.

Taking raw herbs has several advantages over taking herbs in other forms. For example:

  • Rapid Absorption — It is believed that the body absorbs raw herbs quickly;
  • Faster Effects — As a result, raw herbs will take effect quickly;
  • Easy substitution— Taking raw herbs makes substitutions easier when necessary

However, there are some drawbacks to taking raw herbs. These include:

  • Storage — storing raw herbs properly under the right temperature conditions can often be more costly;
  • Preparation — preparing raw herbs is more time-consuming, with most decoctions requiring at least 30 minutes to prepare following the correct methods. And not everyone may prefer the smell of raw herbs;
  • Sourcing — obtaining quality raw herbs depends, to a greater degree, on the experience of the practitioner, growers and distributors, which may vary.

Even with these drawbacks, the benefits of taking raw herbs is substantial; however, it is not the only way to take TCM herbs and enjoy greater health. We’ll talk about extracts and granules, in few moments, but first, let’s look at how one prepares and takes raw herbs once prescribed.

How do I prepare my raw herbs to get the maximum benefits?

In order to take raw herbs, you will first need to prepare them. Preparation — commonly called a “decoction” — is a simple process but one which nonetheless requires some care. To decoct your herbs properly, you will need to take your raw herbs and perform the following steps:

  • First, cover the prescribed amount of herbs with three cups of water.
  • Next, boil the herbs for about 30 minutes or until about one cup of water remains.
  • Then, strain the liquid into a separate container, keeping the herbs in the decoction pot.
  • Repeat this process two more times to extract all the healthful benefits from your prescribed herbs.

Each cup of final liquid makes one serving, which you should take as prescribed by your practitioner.

What makes herbal extracts or granules, capsules and tablets different from raw herbs?

Granules, tablets and capsules offer customers a pre-prepared version of the raw herbs they have been prescribed and may come in many forms. The various forms of production will also have some impact on the effectiveness of the herbs. For example, some companies use single herb powders blended together while others will decoct the herbs together before extraction. Herbal extracts which contain decocted formulas will provide individuals with greater benefits than those which include blended formulas.

Decocting raw herbs prior to making granules, capsules or tablets from them ensures that you will receive the intended benefits of the formula you have been prescribed because, when decocted together, raw herbs will have pharmacological interactions which enhance their collective effectiveness. These complex interactions do not occur when single herbs are merely blended together. However, single herbs can have their own benefits, and can still be effective when combined with a formula for added or enhanced benefits.

As with raw herbs, herbal extracts have their own unique advantages and drawbacks. Individuals may prefer these extracts in forms like granules, tablets and capsules over raw herbs because of:

  • Safety— Can be safer than the raw herb alternative because of additional laboratory quality control checks
  • Consistency— If well manufactured, extracts can be consistently fast-acting and effective
  • Convenience— More convenient to carry around and consume anywhere, anytime
  • Storage— Easier to store as compared with raw herbs, which have varying storage temperature and humidity requirements
  • Cost- effectiveness— Extracts have a longer shelf life which reduces waste and overall cost

Since herbal extracts are decocted in a clean and controlled environment, and tested in a laboratory, more quality control measures can be taken, making them somewhat safer than raw herbs; however, not all labs are made equal. Variability in the source of the raw herbs the lab accepts and in the extraction methods being used can result in a product whose quality also varies. This is why it is so important to choose a Chinese herbal products company which has implemented and rigorously follows internationally-accepted, pharmaceutical-grade laboratory protocols:

One drawback that comes with herbal extracts, however, is the potential to have reduced beneficial active compounds caused by improper extraction or low concentration levels, but stringent lab protocols can control and minimize these problems, and even help ensure that the level of active ingredients remains consistent from batch to batch.

Why does KPC Products offer herbal extracts in the form of granules, capsules, and tablets?

There are a few reasons why KPC Products offers herbal products like granules, capsules and tablets instead of raw herbs. Since KPC Products has long been committed to offering herbs of the highest quality, producing extracts from carefully selected premium raw herbs allow us to perform additional quality control testing on these products which further ensures our customer’s safety, providing them with additional peace of mind.

Also, many people find granules, capsules or tablets easier to take than raw herbs which must be carefully prepared first; as a result, there are higher levels of patient compliance if they are in powder or capsule form. So to make our products as accessible, safe and easy to take as possible, we offer hundreds of decocted formulas in granule, capsule or tablet form in addition to our single-herb products.

KPC Herbs — a history of tradition, innovation and quality

KPC began as a raw herbal pharmacy offering the safest and highest quality of herbal products to our customers — values which we still adhere to today. Using the advantages of state-of-the-art laboratory technology along with world-class and internationally-recognized pharmaceutical and manufacturing guidelines has allowed KPC Products to extend its ability to deliver quality products even further. Our company today, however, still honors the traditions upon which it was founded, by continuing to make proper identification and decoction of herbs a critical focus of our business since it has the most direct impact on our formula’s effectiveness. We hope you will derive great benefit from our products, guided by your acupuncturist or TCM practitioner, and enjoy greater health today! Want to know more about how we manufacture our herbal products? Fill out our contact form or call us today at (949) 398-8158.

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