What does “standardized” extract mean? Are herbs produced with this label better for you?
Standardized herbal extracts are concentrated extracts which have one or more constituents at a particular standard level. This gives you a constant dose of that particular constituent. This can be important in the case of certain herbs where an active constituent is known and when treating a health condition that requires the use of high doses and consistent amounts. Standardized extracts are often used in research studies in order to insure reliable results.
However, standardized herbal extracts can have some drawbacks including they may not contain other important constituents in appropriate levels or may have toxic solvents used in the concentration process. For many herbs, it appears that a number of different constituents work in synergy to produce the therapeutic effect, so that the measurement of one constituent does not necessarily assure the best results.
Herbal extracts may also be assayed for particular constituents without manipulating the amount of the constituent. This can help you with choosing an appropriate dosage, while preserving the levels of other constituents.
I personally feel it is important to use a standardized or assayed form for some herbs including milk thistle, saw palmetto, ginkgo biloba, bilberry and ginseng. For other herbs like dandelion, echinacea, calendula and goldenseal, I feel the most important thing is to select a product that is made from high quality herbs and is very fresh. In these cases, excellent herbal quality will provide high levels of all the important constituents.