The importance of having natural extracts in supplements

The production of nutritional supplements from the natural extracts of plants and medicinal mushrooms is evolving to adapt to the demands of health professionals, who are looking for new integrative strategies to help their patients, and also to meet needs related to sustainability, providing healthcare for people without neglecting the environment.

However, this constant adaptation and improvement are not common in all laboratories. Today’s supplement market is worth approximately 105 billion pounds worldwide and, as you can imagine, not all supplements are produced to the same quality standards.

Natural extracts as a criterion of choice

When we buy a Reishi supplement, for example, we assume that we are getting a high-quality natural supplement, but the reality is that there are many ways to produce Reishi capsules.

A 2017 study conducted in the US and published in the scientific journal Nature revealed that only 25% of medicinal mushroom products tested contained the amount of Reishi that their labelling reflected. The other 75% contained only traces of Reishi or no mushroom at all.

The fact that the word NATURAL is on the label does not mean that it is necessarily a totally natural product, much less a good quality product. When choosing a product, it is important to look for a trusted brand that manufactures its products according to rigorous or even pharmaceutical quality standards and complies with European legislation and the regulations of the health authorities for processing and production.

Natural Extracts
Natural Extracts

Natural extracts as a criterion of choice

When we buy a Reishi supplement, for example, we assume that we are getting a high-quality natural supplement, but the reality is that there are many ways to produce Reishi capsules.

A 2017 study conducted in the US and published in the scientific journal Nature revealed that only 25% of medicinal mushroom products tested contained the amount of Reishi that their labelling reflected. The other 75% contained only traces of Reishi or no mushroom at all.

The fact that the word NATURAL is on the label does not mean that it is necessarily a totally natural product, much less a good quality product. When choosing a product, it is important to look for a trusted brand that manufactures its products according to rigorous or even pharmaceutical quality standards and complies with European legislation and the regulations of the health authorities for processing and production.

The importance of natural extracts: avoiding synthetic compounds

Labelling regulations are sometimes complex. In some cases, we see that certain ingredients are prohibited, and in other cases, the labelling does not even mention the presence of certain compounds. For example, additives such as maltodextrin may be present in supplements without inclusion on the label.

Unfortunately, natural nutrients and synthetic substances often go hand in hand in supplements. Synthetic additives along with natural extracts can detract from supplement performance and can affect everything from bioavailability to the benefits of consuming the product.

Although laws are evolving fast in this regard to protect consumers, sometimes supplements that are more artificial than natural can be found on the shelves with misleading labelling and using these can lead to undesirable results.

Composition Natural Extracts

How to know what the composition of a chosen supplement really is

The choice of a natural supplement made from natural extracts is critical because it has an impact on the results you can expect. In many cases, the evidence is based precisely on such natural extracts.

Through clinical trials, it is possible to see how natural extracts react in the human body, and also what the results are of a specific type of extraction technique. This helps guide the consumer in knowing what to look out for in terms of quality standards or the quality or quantity of bioactive compounds required for the desired effects. High-grade natural extracts are often only chosen after hundreds of clinical trials and patents.

Supplements created with pure natural extracts avoid common problems that often arise with additives such as:

  • Filler compounds: simply allow the supplement to be artificially ‘plumped up’, but not with the active ingredient.
  • Binding agents: help to hold extracts or other active ingredients together. They can be used safely and in the necessary amount, but in some cases can be found in excessive or unjustified quantities.
  • Preservatives: help to keep the supplement from spoiling, but not all preservatives are equal and their inclusion is not always necessary. Their use must be justified. 
  • Colouring agents: for the purpose of making the supplement’s colour more attractive. They can either be artificial or natural ingredients that do not alter the quality of the supplement.  
  • Flavourings: not usually necessary for supplements, but can sometimes make certain substances easier to swallow and are often added for improved palatability.
Supplements in pantry dish

Knowing how to choose the right food supplement and understanding the real impact of all of the ingredients found in a supplement helps you to avoid unnecessary exposure to substances such as pesticides or other toxins. It is worth remembering that medicinal mushrooms may contain heavy metals and pesticides or they may have been irradiated. These quality considerations demonstrate how important it is to know the details of how your supplements are produced so that you can choose the right brand. 

In order to choose a safe product, it is important to:

  • Look for the active biomolecules contained in the formula and check their concentration
  • Look for elements such as certifications or verifiable information on production quality and consistency such as organic production, or third-party checked production processes and quality standards, as well as other guarantees of safety and efficacy.

Natural extracts and bioavailability

Another aspect to consider is the bioavailability of an extract. Some natural extracts when combined in the right way can improve the bioavailability of the nutrients, vitamins and other beneficial substances in a supplement. This is often the case with co-administration as adjuvants. 

However, certain additives simply diminish the effect of some extracts by reducing the absorption of beneficial nutrients. 

It’s also important to consider that synthetic substances may limit the therapeutic function of a supplement in the stomach or intestinal tract. For example, modified-release tablets may make it difficult for patients with intestinal problems and irritable bowel syndrome to fully absorb the nutrients in a supplement.

Composition Natural Extracts

Natural ingredients, making the right choice

As discussed, when it comes to supplements, there are many aspects that can alter their effect on the human body. However, research indicates that the more natural and better quality ingredients a supplement contain, the more likely it is to support good health and desired results, as well as improve its bioavailability. 

The use of natural substances can also avoid the need for synthetic coatings and additional additives that make it difficult for pills to break down in the stomach, especially for those people with digestion issues. 

Thanks to all-natural supplements, patients can get a better therapeutic response, often needing fewer capsules per day for the desired results.

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