What Are Botanical Dietary Supplements? Plants are companions to mankind in many ways. Just as they breathe out oxygen and absorb man’s carbon dioxide, they also provide humans with plenty of medicines, foods and more to enhance their lives and keep them thriving.
From minerals in shampoo and lotions to body washes, face crèmes, and even cleaning supplies, botanicals have been used to create much needed products and foods.
Botanical dietary supplements are just another way that plants are providing much needed nutrients and minerals to humans of all ages.
What Is a Botanical?
Botanical is the name for a plant or plant piece that is highly valued for its therapeutic and medicinal attributes, flavors or scents. In fact, herbs are known as a subset, or relative, of botanicals as they serve much of the same purpose. The products created from botanicals that are specifically used to increase one’s health and maintain wellness are often called botanical or herbal products, or else phytomedicines.
Botanicals can also be used for other products that may or may not be geared to maintaining and improving health. These can be anything from scented lotions and soups to hair products and deodorizers.
Since they use botanicals as some of their main ingredients, these products are often better to use for hair, skin, nails and more because they are both natural and gentle on the body while still being effective. Botanicals are used in so many products that many of the nutrients man has come to rely on come from these plants and/or plant parts.
How are botanicals commonly sold and prepared?
Botanicals are sold in many forms: as fresh or dried products; liquid or solid extracts; and tablets, capsules, powders, and tea bags.
For example, fresh ginger root is often found in the produce section of grocery stores; dried ginger root is sold packaged in tea bags, capsules, or tablets; and liquid preparations of ginger root are also sold. A specific group of chemicals or a single chemical may be isolated from a plant substance and sold as a dietary supplement, usually in tablet or capsule form. Phytoestrogens from soy products are an example.
Common preparations include teas, decoctions, tinctures, and extracts:
A tea, also known as an infusion, is made by adding boiling water to fresh or dried botanicals and steeping. The tea can be drunk hot or cold. Some roots, barks and berries require more treatment to extract the desired ingredients. They are cooked in boiling water longer than teas and form a decoction that can also be drunk hot or cold.
A tincture is made by steeping a botanical in a solution of alcohol and water. Tinctures are sold as liquids and are used to concentrate and preserve a botanical. They are made in various strengths expressed as ratios of botanical to extract (i.e., ratios of the weight of the dried botanical to the volume or weight of the final product).
An extract is prepared by soaking the botanical in a liquid that removes certain types of chemicals. The liquid can be used as is or evaporated to produce a dry extract for use in capsules or tablets.
Can botanicals be dietary supplements?
To be classified as a dietary supplement, a botanical must meet the definition given below. Many botanicals meet the definition.
As defined by Congress in the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act http://www.fda.gov/, which became law in 1994, a dietary supplement is a product (other than tobacco).
Is intended to supplement the diet;
Contains one or more dietary ingredients (including vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, and other substances) or components thereof;
Is intended to be taken orally as a pill, capsule, tablet, or liquid; and
Is labeled on the front as a dietary supplement.
As with all medications, supplements, and therapies; consult your doctor.