Don’t discount the potency of herbal supplements. They’re a potent weapon in your exercise arsenal, but they could help or hinder your performance. Here’s what you need to know:


Herbs are among some of the most beneficial dietary ingredients that we consume. Many of them have the ability to directly affect your health in the short and long term. They‘ve been used for thousands of years in Eastern and holistic medicines to treat just about every ailment. Their benefi ts can include boosts to weight loss, appetite control, neural function, cognitive function, sexual health, memory function, heart health, prostate health, eye health, relaxation and sleep.

Many herbs can also have drug-like interactions – both good and bad. The good means you could have an alternative to prescription drugs, though some herbal supplements can interfere with medications or increase the effects of others. Magnolia bark extract has been found to have anti-anxiety properties, but if you’re on anti-anxiety medication it may not be wise to take it. It’s best to always do your research and check with a qualified healthcare professional when in doubt.


Understanding the types of herbal supplements

There are generally three types of herbal preparations we are dealing with:


Whole herb powders

A good example is matcha green tea, which is dried green tea leaves ground into powder and not put through any other processes.


Concentration ratios

You’ll see these on the bottles as ratios like 4:1, 5:1 or 10:1. A 4:1 extract means 4kg of green tea leaf powder was concentrated down into 1kg. Extracts or concentrations of this type are usually created using solvents like water or ethanol. They’re dried off to leave a concentrated form of their herbal powder.


Standardized extracts

These are created in a similar way to concentrated extracts, but the raw herbal powder is extracted for specific chemical biomarker compounds. Using green tea again as an example, it may be standardized for total polyphenols (the health promoting compounds found in green tea leaves), or taken a step farther and standardized to extract for Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) – a type of polyphenol found in green tea with some of the highest health and weight-loss benefits.


The cost

Products that use concentrated or standardized extracts will generally cost more, but then you’ll get a more potent form of the herb. The benefi ts are usually worth the extra cost. One of the other advantages of using concentrates and extracts is that typically you can take less of the ingredient to get the same health benefits.


How to use them

Take the time to do your research when you add herbal products to your supplement regime. Find products that use an extract ratio or are standardized for compounds that have been scientifi cally proven to have the greatest health benefits. There are many herbal ingredients that claim to have health benefits, but there’s no actual clinical research data to back it up. That’s not to say that these products can’t or don’t do what they claim, it just means no one has done the clinical tests to prove it yet. That’s because it can often be tricky to isolate which compound is providing the health benefits in herbs and other plant products. Choose wisely.


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