Why Whole Herbs?

by Dr. Kyle Christensen

It doesn't matter how you try, man-made vitamin supplements cannot match the combinations of compounds, which are found naturally in whole foods. Nutrients that are taken together as whole foods (minimally processed), contain substances (nutrients) that are synergistic, producing a stronger effect than any of the individual nutrients do on their own.

Scientists came to their conclusion after years of studying more than 8,000 antioxidants and other chemicals found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. They found that because the nutrients (antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, etc.) differ in their molecular size, polarity and solubility, they produce a powerful natural combination that is more biologically available to human cells, organs and tissues than any single or combination of nutrients in the form of a pill.

For example, one medium apple has only 6 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C, but it has enough other antioxidants (quercetin, procyanidins, carcchin and epicatcchin, etc.) to produce as much antioxidant activity as 1,500 mg of an ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) supplement. It would appear that nature knows what it's doing. And it also appears that food and supplement manufacturers who boast of their scientific acuity and prowess haven't a clue. They refine and process foods stripping away the enzymes, vitamins, minerals, co-factors, buffers, synergists, fiber and antioxidants until they end up with a sterile white powder, then they add a dozen vitamins and minerals and call their product "enriched". So if 'Wonder Bread' is enriched with 12 vitamins and minerals, what happened to the other 7,988 that they stripped away?

I am convinced that most people take vitamins and supplements out of fear. They take them because they are afraid not to. Afraid they might be missing something. You read an article or watch the News and hear of the latest scientific discovery of some chemical that is found in your body or your food that can now been synthesized so that it can be taken as a pill. You've got to have it. And of course, after two or three weeks, it gets relegated to the cupboard along with the other half used bottles. Too many of us spend far too much money on supplements that just don't live up to their promises. The issue here is that the nutrients we ingest as food were never meant to be taken in isolation. Our physical bodies are designed to eat food. Whole food - not fragmented, isolated compounds that have been manipulated, processed and sterilized. This is not to say that all of the non-whole food supplements are of no value. Many do help. But I will say that no supplement (vitamin, mineral, herbal or chemical) can make up for a poor diet. Too many people eat junk and think you can be forgiven by drinking a chocolate shake laden with megadoses of synthesized nutrients? Don't fool yourself into thinking this will result in better health. You really can't fool Mother Nature. Science, technology and medicine will continue to try to find magic pills, the elusive gene, or that medical procedure that will reverse the consequences of our poor choices, but there will never be a shortcut to health.

Several years ago, I had a company boast that their supplements were made and formulated by 75 scientists balancing all of the vitamins and minerals perfectly. They asserted they were the best supplements anywhere. I disagreed with them and told them that my vitamin/mineral supplement was designed and perfected by Nature and contained nothing but whole foods with all of the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, including everything science has discovered and has not yet discovered. In addition, these nutrients are in perfect balance, in the precise ratio and form to be best absorbed and assimilated by the body. Herbs are nothing more that natural whole foods in forms that are perfectly designed for the inhabitants of planet earth.

Our antioxidant drink, Bountiful Blend from Western Botanicals, Inc. is a rich source of whole foods commonly referred to as superfoods because of their dense nutrient content. This product is naturally high in nutrients and in perfect balance with nature and our needs in both absorbing and utilizing.

Another beast that has perked up his head in the herbal industry is standardized extracts. This concept began in the food industry. Here's an example of how it works. You begin with the perfect orange. From the most fertile soil, the most idyllic conditions and tree sweetened in the glowing Californian Sun. I mean this orange is so ripened to perfection, it drops off the tree into the farmers hand as he reaches for it. This most glorious of all oranges is then tested for sugar content, tartness, etc. This most perfect of oranges is then held as the standard. Because this is the standard, if a farmer produces oranges whose juice when squeezed is a little tart or bitter, he is now justified in adding sugar or whatever else to bring it up to the idyllic standard. And because the manufacturer is not adding anything that shouldn't be there already, legally it does not need to be added to the label. Politicians and lawyers regulate these kind of things. This same process is true for the dairy industry and many other things. Now the pharmaceutical companies are doing the same thing with herbs. They establish standard parameters for the active ingredient of the herb and then supplement inferiorly produced herbs up to "standard". Of course, the end result is that you have a product that is out of balance - the co-factors, synergists, buffers, etc. were not added and so you take a lop-sided herbal product that is supercharged with what their limited research has decided that the single active ingredient is.

It is interesting that so many of the new designs in technology strive to mimic the designs of nature. So much of food science tries to mimic nutrients and combinations of nutrients found in nature. It is also ironic that research is now validating the healthiness of the diets of our ancesters. Whole natural foods. Foods that have been naturally fermented (such as sauerkraut and yogurt).

Fragmented vitamins (the ones with chemical sounding names) do stimulate the body and cause reactions, but the benefits are usually short lived and if taken too long create imbalances. Also beware of additives and fillers that are put in many of the multi-vitamins and mineral supplements. If you suffer from headaches, fatigue, unclear thinking or digestive upset, you need to suspect the vitamin supplement you may be taking. Go off it for a week and observe how you feel.

So here is my point. Eat whole foods. Use whole herbal medicines. Science and technology does not improve on nature. That is not to say there isn't a time and place for drugs, medicines or emergency procedures. But we have experienced time again that getting back to basics really is the way to go.

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