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Are multi-herb formulas better than single-herb medicines?
Sometimes, one herb is exactly what you need. But in some situations, you need a whole herbal team on your side. In this blog we explore when to choose single-herb medicines vs. multi-herb formulas, and how herbal synergy factors in.
When to Take Single-Herb Medicines
Deciding whether to use one herb vs. many is like managing a work project.
Let’s say you need a document translated from English into Hindi. Such a straightforward task doesn’t require a whole project team – just one translator.
But what if that document was just one part of a broader project? You would need a whole project team to get the job done. How would you choose your team? You would break the project down into tasks, then assign people who have the skills and knowledge to complete those tasks. But it’s not all about each individual – it’s also about how well they work together. A team with real synergy brings out the best in each other, resulting in high-quality work.
Just as translating one document doesn’t need a whole team, a straightforward health issue may require just one herb. This doesn’t make it less effective than a multi-herb formula. It just means that you’ve identified the best tool for the job.
For example, ashwagandha used alone can effectively promote a sense of focussed calm. But if you also want to reduce fatigue, increase energy, and improve how you respond to stress overall, you may need additional support from the herbal team featured in our Strest formula.
Why Herbal Formulas are Greater than the Sum of their Parts
In addition to ashwagandha root, our Strest formula contains holy basil leaf, eleuthero root, rhodiola root and rhizome, oat seed and schisandra fruit. Why are six herbs needed? And why these six herbs? To answer that, let’s return to our project team analogy.
Finding the Right Herbs for the Job
Let’s say that your project is to make your website content available in Hindi and Mandarin. Project tasks may include:
- Translate website content from English into Hindi and Mandarin
- Layout the content in a visually appealing way
- Design and implement a promotion strategy
- Write press releases and social media content
After identifying these individual tasks, you next have to consider potential team members. Your 6-person team could include:
- 2 translators
- 1 graphic designer
- 1 communications strategy expert
- 1 content writer
- 1 content editor
Now you know which project roles you need filled. But let’s say that there is more than one eligible person in each category above. How would you choose your team members? You may consider each individual’s past work: have they successfully completed similar solo projects in the past? But you also need to consider the group dynamic. This is where things get interesting.
Herbal Synergy: Putting Together an Herbal Support Team
Has this particular group of people successfully completed a similar project together in the past? Your decision may have more to do with compatible working styles and interpersonal dynamics than their past individual performance. Each project team has their own dynamic as a group, and also in how individual team members collaborate with one another.
We’ve all been in groups where things just don’t seem to gel. The work is slow and frustrating. And the final results don’t accurately reflect the skills of each individual member. On the other hand, being on a team that just clicks is a great feeling. Timelines are met, and team members bring out the best in one another. Best of all – the final deliverable is much more than the sum of each individual’s skills. This is synergy in action.
When deciding which herbs best combine to create powerful herbal formulations, our process is similar. When creating our Strest formula, the project was crafting an herbal medicine that could improve our ability to handle stress overall and function better during stressful periods.
Project tasks included:
- Reduce fatigue and anxiety
- Increase motivation and energy
- Promote mental and physical calm
- Restore mental, emotional, and physical balance
We knew that many herbs could effectively handle these tasks. To narrow it down, we looked at their individual past experience: what did the scientific research say about each herb? How had the herb been used for centuries in traditional herbal medicines around the world?
We also explored herbal synergy: which herbs had been proven to work well together, and bring out each other’s most potent medicinal qualities? Which herbs don’t play well together in a formulation? Just like in a project team, it’s not always easy to say why some herbs work better together. Sometimes there is a clear reason. The curcumin in turmeric can be hard for the body to absorb. But combine it with black pepper, and its piperine compound increases how much curcumin we take in.
There is a certain undefinable quality to synergy – but that doesn’t mean that it’s not real. That’s why the earliest herbal medicine texts are full of herbal formulation recipes. Ayurvedic Medicine (a traditional medicine from India) provides the oldest written evidence of herbal medicine use: a 5,000-year-old Sumerian clay slab containing 12 herbal formulations. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), we find a book written in 2,500 BC by Emperor Shen Nung, featuring 365 medicinal roots and grasses used in combination. The 68-foot-long Ebers Papyrus from Egypt (written circa 1,550 BC), contains over 800 herbal formulas.
Although we have centuries of herbal data based on traditional uses, there are few valid scientific studies on herbal formulations. Modern research tends to study one or two main ingredients of an herb in isolation instead of the herb’s full spectrum of constituents. It would be prohibitively expensive to research thousands of different herbal combinations, which makes it less attractive to researchers.
We rely on both scientific research and traditional use when designing our formulas, which gives us the best of both worlds. In our Strest formula, each herb addresses a different aspect of stress resilience, forming a synergistic team with broad-spectrum effects.
Are you ready to find your herbal support team? Go to our Products page and search by product category to find formulas like Hepato DR for full-spectrum liver support and Deep Immune to strengthen and balance the immune system.
Bonus: formulas mean buying just one herbal product instead of several. Not sure if a formula is for you? Always follow label directions, including consulting a health care practitioner if needed.
Ancient herbalists understood that each herb in a formulation has a job to do. In TCM for example, herbs play four roles in a formula:
- The King herb has the strongest medicinal activity.
- The Vassal herb helps the King by increasing synergy and supporting his actions.
- The Assistant herb detoxifies, nullifying any harmful effects.
- The Delivery Servant ensures that the medicinal constituents of the King and Vassal get to the target organs.