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Since ancient times, plants have been used as herbal medicines. Ayurveda has a 5000 years old rich heritage of the use of plants in the treatment of various human ailments as alternative medicines. Herbal extracts are primarily added to the cosmetic formulations due to several associated properties such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antimicrobial properties. Even today, people in rural and urban areas depend upon herbs for traditional cosmetics.
Ancient alchemists like Philippus Aureolus Paracelsus knew the power, plants have for improving our lives. They understood how the nutrients could be concentrated with the five elements of nature - water, earth, air, fire, and ether. Since that time, many have attempted to recreate their processes and unlock the full healing potential of herbs.
A Herbal Extract is a substance made by extracting a part of a herbal raw material, often by using a solvent such as methanol or water. The process of Herbal Extraction is usually designed to maximise a certain portion of the original chemical compounds found in the plant, many of which have a therapeutic action. Extracts may be sold as tinctures, absolutes or in powder form. Herbal Extracts are now used as a major part of alternative medicine in both Ayurveda and homeopathy.
Although herbal extracts come in many forms, they have one common feature. Extracts represent naturally occurring phytochemicals (plant produced compounds) that have been removed from the inert structural material of the plant that produced them. The main advantage of using extracts over raw herb is that once extracted from the plant matrix, the phytochemicals bypass the need for digestion and are far more readily absorbable. Liquid extracts also offer greater convenience than consuming an herb in its raw form.
Extracts are typically categorized by the solvent used to make them and/or by their form. Some of the more common solvents that are used include water, alcohol, glycerin, and vinegar. The inherent qualities of each of these solvents will attract different phytochemicals in an herb. Watery extracts made by infusion or decoction are used as teas, rinses and the base for syrups and other products.
Tinctures are liquid extracts made with alcohol and may include other food-grade solvents. Alcohol extracts a wide range of phytochemicals and is an excellent preservative. It may also be diluted with water to adjust alcohol content and glycerin may be added to curb excessive precipitation of the finished extract.
Food-grade glycerin is a low glycemic index sweetener often used as a solvent to make alcohol-free liquid extracts. While most glycerites lack appreciable alcohol, intermediate extraction may be carried out with alcohol on occasion. In this case alcohol is used to form the initial extract, and is then removed from the finished product with glycerin added in its place.
Vinegars are not common, but are experiencing a bit of resurgence in popularity. These are made by extracting herbs directly in vinegar. Apple cider or other plant based vinegars are most desirable in this case.
Oils are fatty oils that have been infused with herbs for topical use and may be called herbal oils or infused oils. The fatty oil used as a base is commonly from olive, sesame or coconut, although many other sources may be used.
Essential oils are the volatile components that have been separated from an aromatic herb. Quality essential oils are either steam distilled or, in the case of herbs like citrus peel, pressed directly from the fresh herb. Essential oils are very strong preparations and are well diluted for internal use.
Powdered extracts are formed by drying liquid extracts including tinctures and water extracts, often under vacuum.
Supercritical extracts are made by extracting herbs with a gas, usually carbon dioxide, at low temperature and high pressure to bring it into the supercritical state. These are semi-solid extracts representing the fat-soluble components of an herb.
There are more than 45,000 plant species that are present in the Indian sub-continent. The dependence of people on plants for various health benefits has significantly evolved the herbal extracts market of the country over the past. Being the largest supplier of ayurvedic medicines and herbs in the world, the herbal extract manufacturers in the country cater to the requirements of the companies, which majorly operate in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and food and beverages industries across the world.
Companies in the pharmaceutical, F&B and cosmetics industry realized the importance of using natural herbs as ingredients in various products. This was not only done to drive the growing demand, but it also benefitted the companies in procuring raw materials from extensive species of plants in India.
Various technological processes including Supercritical Fluid Extraction, Thin Film Distillation, Spinning Cone Column, Supercritical CO2 and other Conventional extraction processing techniques were used to meet the current demand. Market players also launched new products to assist the production and sales of companies in pharmaceutical, cosmetics and food and beverages sectors. New herbal extracts will boost the overall revenues of the market due to the introduction of varied products manufactured using such natural extracts.
Do I need vitamin supplements?
Most people do not need to take vitamin supplements and can get all the vitamins and minerals they need by eating a healthy, balanced diet.
Vitamins and minerals, such as iron, calcium and vitamin C, are essential nutrients that your body needs in small amounts to work properly.
Many people choose to take supplements but taking too much or taking them for too long could be harmful. The Department of Health and Social Care recommends certain supplements for some groups of people who are at risk of deficiency.