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Many Herbal Products to Choose From

The mainstream use of herbal medicines is becoming increasingly popular, and there are many herbal products to choose from. With so many choices, it is easy to get confused about which forms of herbs are right for you. One important decision is whether to use whole herbs or standardized herbal extracts. This can be tricky because even the experts are split on this issue. Therefore, it is best to know the facts about the difference between the two so that you can make an informed decision.

Whole Herbs

A whole herb is just what it says: the whole herb, usually dried and encapsulated or processed and preserved in alcohol or another solvent. Whole herbs contain all of the constituents of the plant and have been used for hundreds of years by many cultures. In fact, modern medicine originated with the use of whole herbs. The medicinal properties of herbs have been learned through empirical observation and the information has been passed down through successive generations of healers. Although the effects of herbs have not always been formally and scientifically researched, whole herbs have a long track record validating their safety and efficacy.

The chemical makeup of an herb can vary slightly, however, depending on a variety of factors. First, the environment in which the plant has been grown has an effect on the constituents of the herb. The time of year it is harvested, the soil in which it is grown, and the weather all influence the overall quality of the final product. Second, methodology plays a role. For example, the age of the plant at harvest, the exact part of the plant being used, and processing techniques can all make a difference. Finally, each plant or population of plants has its own individual genetics, thus adding another source of end-product variation.

Standardized Herbal Extract

Standardized herbal extracts are functional ingredients that have one or more components present in a specific, guaranteed amount, usually expressed as a percentage. The intention behind the standardization of herbs is to guarantee that the consumer is getting a product in which the chemistry is consistent from batch to batch. This practice has developed out of the drug model of herbal medicine, in which modern scientists have attempted to identify the components of a plant that have definite pharmacological activity in the body. Unfortunately, while scientists can isolate many constituents from an herb and discover how particular chemicals may act in the body, they inadvertently remove or overlook components that may contribute to the activity of the whole herb. Consequently, standardization may concentrate one constituent at the expense of other potentially important ones, while changing the natural balance of the herb’s components.

As more shoppers gravitate toward fresh foods in lieu of processed items, bakers must examine how their products align with this changing attitude. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans are consuming more products than ever, but the average U.S. diet still falls short of the recommendations listed in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans due to lack of access, busy schedules, poor eating habits and more.

While nothing may ever completely replace the feeling of biting into a crisp apple or the smug satisfaction of finishing a salad, fruit and vegetable powders give snack producers an opportunity to provide consumers with nutrient-dense products that can be conveniently enjoyed without the intense prep work other fresh items require.

ON THE FACE OR body, a dusting of powder gives a smooth finish to the skin, covers blemishes and flaws, and absorbs perspiration and excess skin oil.

The marketplace offers a profusion of powders. There are matte face powders, in loose or pressed form, that are designed for dry, normal or oily skin; translucent powders that allow the natural skin color to show through; opalescent powders that give the skin a slight shimmer; tinted powders that tone down ruddiness; body powders that are suffused with fragrance or with glitter for nighttime sparkle; baby powders that are made from either talc or cornstarch; medicated powders that fight body odor and troublesome microorganisms or soothe irritations, and even perfumed liquid body ''coolers'' - powder suspended in an alcohol base - that dry on the skin to a powder finish.

The highly purified powders of the present are a far cry from the crude cosmetics of the past. From the dawn of history, vanity led women to sometimes life-threatening lengths to whiten their skin. The earliest powders were concocted from ingredients such as bean flour, chalk and ceruse, a highly toxic white lead. 

Today, most powders are a blend of several cosmetics ingredients, including talc, zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, kaolin and magnesium carbonate, each of which imparts specific benefits. According to cosmetic chemists, the ideal powders should have five characteristics: covering power, absorbency, adhesiveness, slip and bloom.

There’s a lot of buzz around probiotics. They’re endorsed by celebrities and fill grocery stores aisles.

Probiotic powder is beneficial bacteria that promote a healthy gut. Scientists believe they could unlock a deeper understanding of our health. Probiotics are found in some foods and drinks, like yogurt or fermented tea. 

Just like vitamins, probiotics are available as supplements. Manufacturers make steep claims about their benefits. They include digestive health, strengthened immune system, weight loss and reduced cancer risk.

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