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  • Writer's pictureThe Natural Life Shop

What's In Your Herbal Supplement?

Recently, a lovely customer inadvertently brought to our attention the fact that some 'herbal medicine' products seem to be making claims as to the safety and efficacy of their products over that of those on our shelves.

Now this is something we take very seriously. We believe very strongly in stocking only the most ethical and effective brands to ensure we are making safe and effective recommendations to all of you.

We've watched years go by where traditional herbal remedies have disappeared from our shelves due to 'safety' concerns, only to reappear some years later after having undergone licencing for sale. They were never unsafe, it was a matter of the industry becoming more regulated due to the profound impact a lot of herbal remedies can have on the body!

Sadly, the licencing process was prohibitively expensive for many of the smaller companies we used to work with and we lost forever some truly remarkable products. On the other side of that, several brands such as A Vogel and Bio Health were able to keep up with the new regulations and we still have many of the amazing products that they have formulated over the years.

This brings us to the product in question; sage.

Now to understand a little about why we were so bothered by this, it needs to be understood that every herb and every family of herbs has active chemical constituents (terpenes, phenols, alkaloids, flavonoids etc.) which impact our biochemistry and provide relief. Herbal medicine works on a founding precept that these constituents work in balance together to do this and that that synergy is what produces the best results.

We were clued in to the fact that a leading nationwide brand was claiming that their product was the best out there because it doesn't contain any of an 'unwanted' substance. The substance in question here? Thujone. Most people will know thujone as the thing that can be present in absinthe that can cause the 'Green Fairy' effect. True enough, it is highly toxic in excess.

Que bafflement from us. We, and everyone involved even remotely in herbal medicine, are very well aware that there are compounds in every herb which can be harmful if consumed in excess. That is why licenced medical herbal products have to undergo rigorous quality control and standardisation testing to ensure that they do not contain excessive amounts of these compounds.

To put this in to perspective; your dried sage in the kitchen contains thujone, so does your sage & onion stuffing, any herbal tea containing sage also has some of that in there. Have you ever been made unwell by a little too much stuffing? Us neither.

To add another dimension to this, sage is far from the only herb to contain thujone. It is also present in a number of plants, such as arborvitae (genus Thuja, hence the derivation of the name), Nootka cypress, some junipers (your gin!), mugwort, oregano (all your lovely Italian dishes!), common sage, tansy, and as previously mentioned, wormwood and grand wormwood (Artemisia absinthium). It is also found in various species of Mentha (mint). Even chamomile has a small amount of thujone.

So you can see where we start to become a little confused by the singling out of this particular constituent of a whole genus of herbs just in the instance of sage.

Would this company therefore suggest that the oregano products for general sale also contain 'unwanted' thujone? How about mint?! Is that safe in their eyes?

We can categorically say, with complete confidence, that the 3 sage products we stock and love are completely regulated, licenced and safe (barring any medical contraindications of course!). They are regulated by the MRHA and licenced for the support of menopausal symptoms (Bio Health Salvian & A Vogel Menoforce) as well as fighting infection (A Vogel Echinacea & Sage Throat Spray). None of the 'leading alternatives' are licenced. Only these three products mentioned hold licencing. Therefore the leading alternatives aren't really in a position to make claims as to their safety, standardisation of dosage nor the impact upon the health of the individual taking it. They are unlicensed.

On a small sidebar, it's also interesting to note that in herbal medicine, your herb should be the main ingredient of your remedy. It should be consumed in as unadulterated form as possible. We can say that ours are. We can also say that we, personally, would strongly question the need for added fillers, binders, colours, waxes and emulsifiers. If the products we stock don't require them for administration nor efficacy then we really can't understand why they would be necessary in any other product!

Always make sure you know what you're putting into your body, if it's not part of the remedy then what on earth is it there for?! We can vouch for ours.

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