Concentrated herbal granules or extracts have been produced since the 1960s as a convenient way to consume herbal medicine. We compared concentrated herbal granules/extracts with raw herb powders in another blog post, where we looked at efficacy, safety and practicality. Concentrated herbal extracts continue to be the most popular medium for patients and practitioners seeking a convenient solution to Chinese medicine. So, what must you consider when choosing a brand of concentrated granules?
1. Country of origin
Chinese herbal medicine dates back thousands of years and the oldest documented Materia Medica is the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (Divine Farmer’s Classic Materia Medica). 365 herbs were documented, along with their origins and purposes. Many species of Chinese herbs originated from various locations in mainland China and are still grown at there today. The origin of each herb should be printed on the finished bottle of concentrated herbal extracts or on the Certificate of Analysis to prove authenticity. To ensure that you are using herbs that are authentic and of the correct species, choose a brand that provides transparency by making this information available to customers. At Phoenix, this information is freely available on request.
2. How far have the herbs travelled?
Climate change is now one of the world’s biggest challenges and many individuals are consciously making changes to be more sustainable. Whilst the TCM industry lacks a perfect solution at present, ensuring that the herbs you prescribe are as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible helps to reduce your impact on global warming.
Some Chinese-based herbal extract manufacturers like Tianjiang Pharmaceutical exclusively source their herbs from farms within the mainland of China. By keeping their herb supply within the country, they are able to minimise their carbon footprint. In comparison, Taiwanese manufacturers must import their herbs from China to ensure that they use the right species. This is because the island of Taiwan is simply too small to grow the hundreds of different Chinese herb species required by TCM practitioners.
What’s more, any herbs that are considered endangered e.g. Tian Ma Gastrodia Root, are exclusively farmed by Tianjiang on their own land, to avoid interfering with wild endangered plants. By purchasing concentrated granules made by Tianjiang, you simply reduce your carbon footprint as your herbs have had to travel less to get to your dispensary.
3. Are the herbs traditionally decocted?
The main method of preparing Chinese herbs is by decoction, which is to boil herbs in water to produce a concentrated extract of herbal essence. This helps to break down tough cell walls, which makes the herbal properties available for human consumption. In order to produce Chinese herbal extracts that are efficacious as described in classical Chinese medicine texts, herbs must first be prepared by decoction. Tianjiang ensure that this is the first step in production of their concentrated extracts, before turning them into granules. Some herbal extract manufacturers skip the decoction phase for cost saving reasons.
4. How are the herbs made into granules?
There are two main methods to producing concentrated herbal extracts – spray dry granulation and fluid bed granulation. Spray dry granulation is used by Tianjiang and fluid bed granulation is used by various manufacturers based in Taiwan. The difference is the end-product and the quality.
Spray Dry Granulation – Once the herbs have been decocted and prepared, the herbal essence is sprayed from the top of the granulation chamber. As the herbal essence falls through the chamber, air is blown to dehydrate the essence. Simply put, when the herbal essence arrives at the bottom of the chamber, it is sliced into extremely small particles to produce granules. Tianjiang prides themselves on this technology as it has enabled them to produce the purest concentrated herbal extracts on the market.
Fluid Bed Granulation – Once the concentrated herbal essence is produced, it is poured into a chamber where it is then sprayed onto cornstarch to produce granulated particles. The cornstarch allows the herbal liquid to form a solid. As a large amount of cornstarch is often used during Fluid Bed Granulation, the concentration of the herbs may be diluted. The cornstarch also prevents the granules from clumping.
To test whether there is cornstarch in your concentrated granules, simply mix a little bit of water with your granules and heat them up in the microwave. If the solution becomes thick like porridge, cornstarch is present.
5. What Excipients Are Used?
To ensure that concentrated herbal granules or even powders in supplements do not clump together when exposed to moisture, a binder is usually added. In granules, powders and supplements across the globe, you will find fillers such as magnesium stearate, stearic acid, carrageenan, titanium dioxide, silicone dioxide, maltodextrin and cornstarch.
Tianjiang concentrated herbal granules only contain the binder Maltodextrin, which is a food safe polysaccharide. In each bottle of concentrated herbal granules, only 5 – 10% of the total contents is maltodextrin and it is added to help stablise the product and adjust the concentration ratio. The maltodextrin that Tianjiang uses is also certified gluten-free.
As many Taiwanese brands use Fluid Bed Granulation, the levels of cornstarch found in the finished product can be very high. Some brands fill a bottle of herbs with up to 50% cornstarch, to stablise the product. Unfortunately, this also dilutes the effectiveness of each herb, which leads to poorer clinical results. Furthermore, if the cornstarch used is not certified gluten-free, it may come from factories where gluten containing cereals are processed for the food industry. Be aware of the risks involved in prescribing concentrated herbs that are not certified gluten-free to individuals with coeliac disease, gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity.
By laying down the concrete facts, Tianjiang simply produce the best option for effective clinical results. Furthermore, Tianjiang are part of the China National Pharmaceutical Group or “Sinopharm”, which supplies over 70% of the top AAA hospitals in China and all of the state-owned hospitals in Hong Kong. At Phoenix, we are proud to be the exclusive European distributor of Tianjiang concentrated granules.
Tianjiang concentrated herbal granules are also used in our ATCM and RCHM approved herbal dispensary. If you require any information about our products or services, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org