Wednesday’s Ask Dr. Walt — A Closer Look at Using Herbs Wisely

Dear Dr. Walt,

With herbal supplements, is there any difference between root powder or root extract or other parts of the plant? Does it matter?

—Supplement User in South Dakota

Dear Plant User,

There are differences, and they do matter.

When selecting an herbal supplement, you should always be guided by clinical studies. When they show a benefit for a particular problem, you should always be clear about:

  1. the specific name of the plant and its species,
  2. the part of the plant (e.g., the root, leaf, flower or bark), and
  3. whether the product was made of the whole plant, part of the plant (such as root or dried leaf powder), or just key compounds extracted from a part of the plant (root extract). These may be provided as dried powder or liquid.

If it’s an extract, you will also need to know the percent of the specific compound(s) to which the extract is “standardized,” since there are many types and concentrations of extracts.

Supplements made of the whole plant or plant parts, are typically not standardized like extracts. It’s complex isn’t it?

For more details I recommend two subscription-only but evidence-based sources for information: ConsumerLab.com or Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database.

Often times church libraries will get subscriptions for congregants.

Dr. Walt

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2018. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.
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