Which Format is Best for Herbal Supplements?

a person looking at Traditional Chinese Medicine herbs

When it comes to herbal supplements, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure you’re getting the best quality and efficacy. After all, it’s incredibly frustrating to spend money on something only to realize it’s not at all what you wanted or expected, right?

As you know, at NuTraditions, we’re all about three things: Convenience, efficacy and tradition. That’s why we put so much thought, research and consideration into the products we make. We know that they need to:

  • Work with your busy modern life
  • Be as potent as possible
  • Honor the foundation of Traditional Chinese Medicine

As with so much in life, you get what you pay for when it comes to herbal supplements. The ones you find at your supermarket in a dusty clearance bin have been marked down for a reason. They’re likely packed with fillers and/or way past their prime. However, the most expensive custom supplements aren’t necessarily the answer, either.

If you browse online for ginseng supplements, for example, you’ll see:

  • Ginseng tincture
  • Ginseng tea
  • Ginseng capsules
  • Ginseng extract
  • Ginseng tablets
  • Ginseng powder
  • Whole ginseng root
  • Ground ginseng

Unless you’re an herbalist or trained in TCM, how on earth are you supposed to know what to pick and at what dose? And, to be honest, if you’re looking for ginseng to fight fatigue and stress less, trying to decide might counteract those efforts!*

Let’s start by defining some common types of herbal supplements:

Extract: A dried or fresh herb that has been extracted into a solution (such as alcohol, water, glycerin, etc.), so that its beneficial components are more bioavailable and easier to consume. The herbal materials are strained, so only the herbal components remain.

Dried Herbs: Herbs that have been dried to extend their life span. Some herbs, like Asian Ginseng, are traditionally dried before they are extracted or used therapeutically. Others (such as delicate leaves) lose some of their potency once dried.

Powdered Extract: A liquid extract that has been carefully dehydrated to concentrate the herbal components, removing all water and other liquids.

Tincture: An alcohol-based preparation. Dried or fresh herbs get soaked in alcohol, then strained. The little glass dropper bottles you see at health food stores are usually tinctures.

Glycerite: Sometimes called no-alcohol or alcohol-free extracts, glycerites are dried or fresh herbs extracted in glycerin. They are naturally sweet so they’re often used for kids’ products.

Capsules: These can contain liquid or dried extracts, or dried herbs.

Tablets: Compressed dried or extracted herbs.

Why We Use Herbal Extracts

Herbs contain beneficial components called phytonutrients or phytochemicals. (Phyto = plant) Certain plants have phytochemicals that are unique to a species or genus of plants. Ginseng, for example, contains unique phytochemicals called ginsenosides or panaxosides. Others contain more common phytochemicals that are still beneficial.

These phytochemicals are locked up inside the cell walls of the plant. To unlock them, we need to break down those walls. Think about when you cook: If you are going to use an ingredient like ginger and want to maximize the flavor and aroma, you don’t toss a big chunk in your dish. You grate or mince it, right?

Extraction is somewhat similar, albeit much more scientific. An herb gets broken down into tiny pieces, then extracted to draw out those phytochemicals. The result? A much more potent form of the herb than a simple tea (decoction) or dried herbs in a capsule.

In the case of our organic red ginseng, we start with Certified Organic Chinese ginseng grown on land we control and monitor. The quality starts with the soil. As a slow-growing root crop, ginseng spends more time in the soil than, say, a leafy herb that matures in a few months. That’s why choosing organic ginseng is so important.

Our ginseng is grown using a managed forest plan. We plant it in “virgin” soil rich in nutrients. Once the ginseng is harvested, the soil is depleted so we use that land to grow trees. Over time, the trees replenish the soil and the process starts over again.

Fun fact: All Asian ginseng starts out white, but then the processing technique, which uses steam, changes the color to red.

When you make ginseng tea or simply add dried ginseng to your coffee grounds, you can’t control the dosage or the potency in the same way. Since ginseng is one of the most expensive (and revered) herbs on the planet, it makes sense to choose a format that has been processed so it’s potent to the last drop!

Which Herbal Supplement Format is Best?

anatomy of a NuTraditions Goor Morning Sunshine k-cup | Herbal Supplements

The best herbal supplement is the one you’ll actually take. Sure, there are some people who would have absolutely no problem remembering to take a handful of herbal capsules or a dropper of tincture in water every morning.

But for many of us – and there’s no shame here, only honesty – that’s not going to happen. We’re busy! We’re stressed. We’re fatigued! (That’s why we’re taking ginseng in the first place…*)

So the best format is the one that’s the easiest to take. And if it’s also incredibly high quality and potently dosed, well, that’s another win-win!

If you study behavioral science or read a book on goal-setting, you’ll likely come across this handy tip, which is backed by research. When you want to start a new habit, like taking ginseng, the best/easiest way to do so is by attaching that new habit to an existing one to make it stick.

You already drink coffee in the mornings, right? By taking herbs at the same time, your new habit can take hold more easily. You won’t have to remember to take your ginseng, because you don’t have to remember to drink your coffee – you just do it.

The Benefits of Coffee + Adaptogens*

a woman drinking Good Morning Sunshine coffee

By choosing a convenient coffee pod (compatible with most Keurig® K-Kup® brewers), you get smooth, delicious, Certified Organic and Fair Trade Certified coffee at the touch of a button. And, since we’ve used red ginseng extract, instead of ground ginseng, you get a specific amount of the adaptogen in every cup. (1 gram of extract = 3 grams of dried ginseng)

We tested and tested our products to verify that we use the perfect amount of extract – so that you get to fight fatigue, experience sustained energy and stress less with every sip of your morning brew.* This is one small way you can help to maintain or get back to that balance that’s at the very core of TCM.

Our founder, Wilson, loves coffee. We considered all sorts of delivery methods before opting for the ease and convenience of a pod. Why? Nothing goes to waste, and you don’t have to measure or weigh your coffee, time the brew or take the temperature of the water. That’s way too much effort for so early in the morning… before you’ve even had coffee!

This is ancient wisdom and modern convenience designed for your busy life, after all.

For the best results, adaptogens need to be taken over time. When you combine them with your favorite morning routine, you don’t have to add another thing to your to-do list. So you can fight fatigue without even worrying about it!

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.