Standardization of Herbs by Nathan Jaynes, M.H., Student Advisor, School of Natural Healing
A look into the way some plants are standardized should show just how un-natural this whole process is. Below is a common way alkaloids are extracted from raw plant material. This is not a recipe, some of these chemicals are very dangerous.
1. The plant material is first juiced and blended along with water
2. Acetic Acid (or some other acid) is added until the solution is around 5ph. This acidic solution slowly converts the alkaloids into alkaloid salts.
3. The solution is heated for hours and sometimes days
4. The aqueous solution is strained off and saved and the plant material goes through the process sometimes three or four times before the plant matter is finally discarded.
5. A defatting solvent like ylene chloride, ether, chloroform, dichloromethane, or naphtha (lighter fluid) is added to the solution. This will take out all fats and waxes from the product.
6. The mixture will separate into 2 parts the solvent with dissolved fats and oils and the alkaloid solution. The solvent mixture is discarded.
7. To this solution, a base chemical is added like Ammonium hydroxide, Sodium hydroxide (lye), Ethyl acetate, or Potassium hydroxide until the ph is about 9 or 10. This un-hooks the salts and transforms the alkaloids into their free base form.
8. The alkaloids are no longer soluble in water and are extracted as in step 5 by again adding more ylene chloride, ether, chloroform, or naphtha (lighter fluid).
9. This yellow to brown extract (the color indicates alkaloid content) is allowed to evaporate or is heated and the process may be applied again and again until a final white crystalline product is achieved.
10. The resulting isolated alkaloid is then added to your herbs just before encapsulation.
Even after adding all of these chemicals they market the end product as “all natural”. Ephedrine, extracted in this manner from Ma hang is as natural as from coco leaves or Morphine from poppies. When did the herb stop being a natural and safe product and start being a dangerous and powerful chemical ? Answer: When the “inactive” phytochemicals that are usually present in the plant are taken out. These “inactive” phytochemicals work synergistically or as buffers with the so called “active” principles making the whole plant a safer and more effective medicine. The less mankind does to an herb between it being harvested and you ingesting it the better and more natural it is.