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Full-Spectrum Extracts vs. Standardized Extracts: Why This Is Important





HealthPoint has one of the largest and most varied traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) herbal pharmacies in the upper Midwest. Many visitors to our clinic are intrigued by the bulk-dispensed herbs in all their various colors, textures, smells, and listed functions. These are compounded into herbal formulas prescribed specifically for a particular patient and which the patient decocts in a water solution at home according to instructions from their licensed acupuncturist. (A TCM decoction is a liquid herbal extract formula made from water-soluble substances with the aid of boiling water; this differs from tea, which is steeped.) 


But HealthPoint’s lower level boasts a similarly exhaustive full-spectrum granule
extract pharmacy. In the context of TCM, full-spectrum extracts are those that include the natural constituents of an herbal medicinal substance that is obtained when the substance is decocted with the traditional water method. So “full-spectrum,” in the context of TCM refers to a water-based extract that does not focus on concentrating any one single constituent. Instead, extracts focus on concentrating all the water-soluble material in an herbal substance without affecting the natural ratio of these constituents.
his best approximates the spectrum of constituents that Chinese medicine’s time-tested results are based upon. Note that this method differs from “standardized extracts” more commonly found in health-food stores or departments. Rather than leaving unchanged the broad-spectrum of chemical constituents found in a plant’s or other substance’s natural state, standardized extracts concentrate a single constituent or group of constituents.

Let’s look at an example. Ren Shen is a TCM herbal medicinal said to powerfully supplement the source qi, engender fluids, and boost the intelligence. It is commonly known as ginseng. A TCM full-spectrum extract producer would likely measure the ginsenoside content of both the raw material and the finished product of their renshen. Ginsenosides are a class of steroid glycosides, and triterpene saponins, found exclusively in the plant genus Panax (ginseng).  Let’s say that the TCM full-spectrum manufacturer’s standard for its renshen is 7 percent ginsenosides or more. If that company then made a full-spectrum 3:1 extract concentrate, they would require at least 21 percent ginsenosides, and they would test that this minimum level was achieved. Moreover, the final extract might be 22 to 25 percent ginsenosides (or even more), depending on the potency of the original raw herb. By contrast, a “standardized extract” of 21 percent ginsenosides would contain no more than that amount. Instead, the product could be made with whatever amount of whatever quality raw herb it took to achieve that level, including something less than the 7 percent ginsenosides of the raw herb used to achieve the higher quality full-spectrum extract.

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Let’s look at an example. Ren Shen is a TCM herbal medicinal said to powerfully supplement the source qi, engender fluids, and boost the intelligence. It is commonly known as ginseng. A TCM full-spectrum extract producer would likely measure the ginsenoside content of both the raw material and the finished product of their renshen. Ginsenosides are a class of steroid glycosides, and triterpene saponins, found exclusively in the plant genus Panax (ginseng).  Let’s say that the TCM full-spectrum manufacturer’s standard for its renshen is 7 percent ginsenosides or more. If that company then made a full-spectrum 3:1 extract concentrate, they would require at least 21 percent ginsenosides, and they would test that this minimum level was achieved. Moreover, the final extract might be 22 to 25 percent ginsenosides (or even more), depending on the potency of the original raw herb. By contrast, a “standardized extract” of 21 percent ginsenosides would contain no more than that amount. Instead, the product could be made with whatever amount of whatever quality raw herb it took to achieve that level, including something less than the 7 percent ginsenosides of the raw herb used to achieve the higher quality full-spectrum extract.

Because science is a long way from identifying exactly which constituents or interactions between constituents are responsible for most of the effects observed with the use of Chinese herbal medicinals, it is best to use full-spectrum extracts as much as possible. And the best place to get these is from a trained and licensed acupuncturist.


Want to learn more about traditional Chinese herbal medicine? Click here or call us at 952-767-4910!

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