Identification of Quality Herbs Products Available on Herbal Market

Identifying quality herbal products is not as easy as it sounds. An astounding number of products are on the North American market today, and not all of them measure up to the standards we expect. Surprisingly, no assurance of quality control exists in this rapidly expanding business beyond that of the manufacturers'. Our best defense against a less than potent herbal product is to arm ourselves with a few criteria when shopping for herbal tinctures and extracts.

Be prepared to ask some questions. Any place herbal remedies can be found will have someone available who can explain the store's policies on buying its products from manufacturers. If possible, try to find a store that specializes in herbal products. Specialty stores will often be able to provide more complete information on product quality control and the practices of the manufacturers. Not many of us have the opportunity to visit the manufacturers ourselves, and even if we did they would most likely not be willing to volunteer any information pertaining to their business ethics. Understanding what passes as quality control is the key to identifying quality products.

Quality control is a system of setting standards and evaluating methods of production and harvesting to produce a sophisticated and ethical product. Europe's long-established herbal industry is a world leader and represents an ideal and sustainable version of what we have in North America. A strict code of ethics outlines the acceptable practices of wildcrafters, farmers, harvesters, and manufacturers used to make the finished products found on the shelves. This stringency is a direct reflection of the widespread European acceptance and use of herbal remedies, in conjunction with western medicine. Until this becomes the case in North America, we will need to set our own standards of quality and identify which companies satisfy our expectations.

Reading the ingredients and their quantities is one of the best and easiest ways to identify a quality product. As well, knowing how big the manufacturing company is and from where they purchase their crops (if they do not grow their own) can give you a fairly good idea of the product's freshness and potency. For example, larger companies often buy from the open market, that is, in bulk form with no particular regard for where the products were grown, or whether ethical codes of harvesting and production were observed. In general, smaller companies work with fresher ingredients and are more aware and concerned with how plants are grown and gathered. The result, however, is often a higher cost to the consumers.

Finally, the extraction process used on the plants to harness their nutrients is vital in the resulting product quality. All companies will promise their extraction methods extract and preserve the most amounts of nutrients. Because of the chemicals used by the larger companies, namely benzene and acetate, determining the quality of a product once it has been distilled in tincture form or processed as an extract is extremely difficult. It is equally complicated to determine which parts of the plants - a significant factor that may affect potency - were used in the product. As you can see, beneath a mask of chemicals, it becomes increasingly difficult to identify exactly what is in some of these herbal goods. We face the same dilemma with processed food and inorganically grown produce.

As consumers we need to realize that we are at the mercy of the corporate honour system. Not all products are created equal. With a few questions and a little insight into the workings of a manufacturer's mandate, we can choose the products that satisfy our criteria for quality. It pays to look beyond the label.

Kim Riordon

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