The Importance of Pharmaceutical-grade Herbal Supplements
3 Types of Products
There are three types of food products that can be purchased.
- Feed grade is for animals. It doesn’t apply to supplements a person would take, so we’ll ignore it.
- Food grade products and supplements meet standards for human consumption. These can include fillers, binders, dyes and other substances that offer no nutritional benefit. A food grade supplement can have as little as 20% of the active ingredient, by batch of the product.
- Pharmaceutical-grade products must meet the standards of the United States Pharmacopeia which requires exacting manufacturing and production standards for quality and purity. Each dose (tablet, capsule, etc.) must meet this exacting standard.
What Makes a Supplement Pharmaceutical-grade?
A pharmaceutical-grade supplement must exceed 99% purity. It does not contain any of the binders, fillers or other possible substances found in food grade supplements. The manufacturing process must validate this quality and purity.
What Pharmaceutical-grade Really Means
Ok, so pharmaceutical-grade means a higher quality supplement. Why does this mean for a consumer?
Pharmaceutical-grade means you get better bioavailability. One reason for this is that the amount of the active ingredient is guaranteed. This also limits anything that might interfere with absorption of the nutrient.
Pharmaceutical-grade means greater safety. The absence of additives means you won’t consume something that could cause an undesirable side effect.
Pharmaceutical-grade also means you the consumer, or prescribing doctor, can validate the quality and purity. Manufacturers and corresponding distributors often provide certification sheets demonstrating the testing of a given product.
Perhaps more specifically, pharmaceutical-grade means not all products are created equal. And if you’re going to take a supplement, especially an herbal supplement, doesn’t it make sense to take the one which will deliver what it promises?
The Advantage of Pharmaceutical-grade Herbal Supplements
Herbal supplements are unique. They are not like a vitamin or mineral which must be isolated. Research has shown that the benefits of herbs comes from their nutrient composition. This relies not only in the extraction and manufacturing process of the product, but also the agricultural processes that grow it. This means a pharmaceutical-grade herbal supplement meets the highest quality standards on its journey from field to shelf.
How to Identify a Pharmaceutical-grade Herbal Supplement
Less than 3% of all supplements on the market are pharmaceutical-grade products. There are even fewer pharma-grade herbal supplements. Most manufacturers and distributors will promote their product as pharmaceutical-grade, if it qualifies. Here are a few ways you can confirm for yourself.
Pharmaceutical-grade supplements must meet the minimum FDA requirement for manufacturing. The facilities that produce the supplement must follow the certified Good Manufacturing Process, or GMP. You might also see this standard as cGMP.
Whether you see it as GMP or cGMP, it’s not the only standard. And for herbal supplements, the other five potential accreditations are essential to ensure you’re getting the best product. They are:
- Good Agricultural Practice (GAP)
- Good Supply Practice (GSP)
- Good Extracting Practice (GEP)
- Good Clinical Practice (GCP)
- Good Laboratory Practice (GLP)
These five accreditations plus GMP represent global standards for quality. Regardless of where the product originates, if it meets these standards it is a pharmaceutical-grade supplement.
These additional five accreditations are especially important for herbal supplements. They reflect the highest possible quality in the growing, extraction and production of the supplement. For a consumer, this means the product provides the best potency, which is why it’s being taken in the first place.
Of course, you can also look – or ask – for product certification forms. Many suppliers post them to their websites. If you don’t see it, you can always call and ask.
But whether you see process accreditations like GMP, or certification sheets, confirm your herbal supplement is pharmaceutical-grade. It will deliver the best quality, but more importantly, it will ensure you get a product manufactured to give you the best results.
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