Not all herbs are created equal.
Perhaps even more true is that not all herbs are extracted equally.
This article details two very important areas you must know about before buying any herbal supplements: the type and strength of herbal extracts.
The video gives a brief summary but then much more is written below, including details about all the herbs we offer here at Lost Empire Herbs.
Types of Extracts
(Notice that when we use raw in this category, we’re not referring to raw as in uncooked as may be important for raw foodist, but instead the raw or bulk ingredient with none or minimal processing.)
Our ever-popular Pine Pollen powder fits in this category. Note that ours is steam-processed to combat mold (whereas most other companies are microwave irradiated for this same end result, but our opinion is that this damages the powder). It also has its cell-wall broken through high-speed wind tunnels to make certain nutrients more bioavailable. But overall, it’s quite similar to what you’d get in nature.
The biggest category of herbs we have are simply extracted with water. Think of tea and you get the idea… except that instead of a simple infusion these are often decocted for hours and then dried to make a powder.
Alcohol Extract (aka Tincture)
Alcohol pulls out different constituents from plant material than water does. Alcohol is also a great preservative in this way, and easy to take, which make tinctures a great option, and a personal favorite.
Note that some may have a higher alcohol content than others which has to do with what level of alcohol pulls out the constituents best. (For example, higher alcohol with Pine Pollen Tincture seems to work better to extract and drive the hormonal component, though at 70% ABV it can burn.)
Of those alcohol extracts or tinctures, all of them except the Pine Pollen Tincture is spagyrically prepared. This includes Ashwagandha, Nettle Root, Blue Vervain, and Mushroom Alchemy.
A spagyric tincture is made the same as a normal tincture except that after the alcohol has done its extraction, the marc (leftover herbal material) is calcined to extract the “salts”. Once prepared these are added back into the tincture. It’s an intensive process, but it yields a superior product. You can find out more about the spagyric tincture process and benefits here.
Dual Extract (aka Water and Alcohol Extract or Hydroethanol Extract)
A dual extract is one that refers to using both alcohol and water to extract from an herb. Since each of these extracts different things, it can be very good to combine them both. This is especially true of medicinal mushrooms, but it is done with some other herbs too.
A juice powder is just what it sounds like. The herb is juiced and then this is dried so that it becomes a powder. This does take the addition of some medium on which to dry it. Our juice powders include Beet, Sea Buckthorn Berry, and Goji Berry.
The Beet Juice Powder uses a little bit of extra silicon dioxide (I say extract because this compound is also naturally found in the beet). The berries take organic rice-derived maltodextrin.
Freeze Dried Concentrate
When it comes to berries, they can be processed in a number of ways. One of the methods is freeze drying them. This not only preserves the freshness and potency but serves to concentrate the material as the water weight is eliminated.
Our Schisandra is a 5:1 freeze-dried concentrate.
Soon enough we plan to switch from our Goji Juice Powder to a freeze-dried Goji that is superior. Very excited about that as the taste is amazing.
Full Spectrum Supercritical CO2 Extract
Although water and alcohol are common and can easily be done at home, more powerful technologies can also be used. This high-tech method uses carbon dioxide to do a full spectrum extract of the herbs, in addition to the more common methods. This allows even more of the lipid profiles to be extracted.
Right now, we use this for many of our Ayurvedic herbs including Mucuna, Bacopa, Shatavari, and Gotu Kola. These are extracted not only with CO2 but water and alcohol as well. Basically, a triple extract.
A standardized extract is one where a certain compound, say icariin in Horny Goat Weed is used as the marker to make a standard against. This is typically done with big companies as they can source material from everywhere and anywhere and manipulate it to hit that amount.
We do not have any standardized extracts. In fact, we don’t really believe in this method because human science is so often wrong in what is the most important compound in an herb. There is no one component, but instead many things working together tend to produce synergistic effects. In this way, we gracefully accept the wisdom of nature rather than what the latest science says (because what science says is always being overturned).
Here’s an example. Some things are then standardized to “unnatural” amounts. A 95% icariin extract is more akin to a drug than to Horny Goat Weed. (And although that is the compound with the PDE5 inhibiting effects, several customers have told us our extract with only 1-3% icariin works better for that function. Not saying this is always the case, but it does occur.)
Guaranteed Levels of Compounds
With that being said about standardized extracts we still have standards in that there are guaranteed amounts of certain compounds in some of our extracts. They are not “standardized” for this amount, meaning everything else is there in natural ratios, but it is measured and verified.
Some examples include:
- 51%+ Fulvic Acid in Shilajit Powder
- 13%+ Anthocyanins in Elderberry
- 15%+ L-DOPA in Mucuna
- 15%+ Bacosides in Bacopa
- 1-3% Icariin in Horny Goat Weed
- 3%+ Rosavins and 1% Salidrosides in Rhodiola
- 20%+ Echinacosides and 6%+ Aceteosides in Cistanche
In the future, we’ll be doing more independent lab testing (usually a few hundred dollars for every single compound in these tests) to get specific measurements of more constituents in more herbs.
Shilajit Powder and Shilajit Resin are mostly raw. Special methods of preparation are done with these to keep the benefits intact, but it’s not exactly raw like you would eat the rocks or pitch coming out of the mountain.
Pearl Powder is micronized, that is ground up to very small particles to become more bioavailable. It is also fermented to further increase absorbability.
Elderberry is extracted through a patent-pending Holistic Membrane process.
Of course, our formulas having multiple herbs will then be a blend of these different types of extracts.
Understanding Extract Strengths
You’ll notice in many of our extracts, besides the type, that numbers are listed. Something like:
What does this mean? It is a ratio of 10 to 1. Ideally; it means that 10 pounds of roots are used to make one pound of finished extract.
I said ideally. That’s because these numbers are often inflated by suppliers and marketers. If 10:1 is good, 20:1 must be better right? Once again, ideally yes, but that doesn’t seem to always be the case. It depends on if it is accurate or not. So, these numbers ought to be taken with a grain of salt at least in some cases.
Of course, we offer you real ratios in these rather than inflated numbers as others might provide.
Many of our Chinese herbs are 10:1 water extracts. This is a commonly used amount, but still, one that is very effective.
Our most concentrated herb is Tongkat Ali which is a 100:1 extract. That’s potent stuff! (Many others market 200:1 or 250:1 but I tend not to believe these numbers, it’s that inflation going on.)
The confusing thing is that ratios in tinctures are labeled the same but done differently. That was covered in this How to Make Herbal Tinctures article, so I refer you there.
Extract strength and ratios are very important with our medicinal mushrooms.
We have stronger extracts than almost anyone else on the market. And this is important if you are making comparisons and thinking about buying your herbs elsewhere then right here.
Our Reishi has been called expensive compared to some others, and frankly, those others leave much to be desired when it comes to the quality and potency. At $29.95 for just 15 grams, Lost Empire Herbs coming in at about a $2 per gram. Yet you can pick up a pound of raw Reishi somewhere on the internet for just $23. That’s only about $0.05 per gram! But there is a BIG DIFFERENCE between these two products.
Let’s discuss the difference…
First, let’s get some things straight… as mentioned above some people sell raw Reishi powder that the digestive system cannot even assimilate. Reishi must be extracted to be usable by the body. (Just like you can’t digest wood. Reishi and other mushrooms are woody mushrooms very similar to wood in texture especially once dried.)
Many sell you Reishi grown on mycelium instead of on logs. This turns out to be mostly starch and mostly not mushroom compounds. It still has some benefit it seems but pales in comparison to the real stuff.
One of the important groups of compounds in mushrooms is beta-glucans. Different types of these can be found in grains too, so a high amount doesn’t necessarily mean strong mushroom power. Instead, it could mean strong grain power…and I don’t think that is what you’re looking for.
Many of the Reishi extracts on the market do not taste bitter. Actually, these all come from one supplier that supplies some 70%+ of the U.S. market. We know because we used to deal with them before we found out better. The problem is that those bitter tasting compounds that aren’t there, the Triterpenes, indicate that lots of the potency of the mushroom aren’t there. Reishi must be bitter or you’re doing it wrong!
I would also strongly advise a dual extract for Reishi or any mushrooms. The body gets so much more out of them this way. Yet most of the stuff on the market is only water extracted (or raw as already mentioned).
Our Reishi is an accurate 16:1 extract. Not quite as strong is our Cordyceps at 10:1. And there is Lion’s Mane and Chaga both at 8:1. All are dual extracts of fruiting bodies.
I use the Reishi as an example, but it’s true of many of our other herbs too. Our Cistanche is a very potent 8:1 dual extract. Again, these are accurate numbers compared to most.
When it comes to herbs, you generally get what you pay for so keep that in mind.
Now, I hope you can use this information to ask the right questions when buying supplements for yourself:
- Is this digestible and assimilable to my body?
- How was this herbal extract prepared?
- What is the quality of the herbs used?
- What is the extract ratio?
If you have any other questions about extract strength or types of extracts, please ask in the comments below.