“So, what’s the problem? Have you ever tasted a can of frozen orange juice or juice from a container that even comes close to the taste of good fresh squeezed? (Don’t bother answering this question if you think that SunnyD® tastes better than real orange juice.) While standardization can make one batch virtually identical to the next, it can never make any batch as good as really good non-standardized fresh squeezed. The reasons are simple. First, for the most part, standardized orange juice starts with mass-produced, lower grade oranges. Standardization is required because you’re starting with an inferior product. Second, the taste of orange juice is governed by far more factors than sugar and acid. It is the result of the interplay of dozens of natural flavors, esters, and oils that are beyond the ability of any manufacturer to control. It is a symphony of taste, a symphony that we cannot duplicate by tweaking one or two ‘active’ ingredients. In fact, tweaking is actually often deleterious because it destroys the natural balance of all those factors that are not standardized.)
The process for standardizing herbs is a bit different. With herbs, the active biochemicals are extracted from the herbs in liquid form and then ‘sprayed’ back onto a neutral plant base until the desired concentration of active biochemicals is realized. The net result, however, is the same.
The problem with standardization is that it lowers the bar of what we can expect from herbal formulations. Standardized formulas will never match the quality (and healing power) of a non-standardized formula made from the highest quality herbs, because the standardized formula seeks to control a few ‘identified’ active ingredients to a level found in inferior quality herbs at the expense of all the other ‘active’ ingredients. Standardization distorts plant synergy, and it disrupts the natural ratios of ingredients inherent in the plant itself and replaces them with arbitrary ratios.
In addition, our attempt to identify active ingredients is fundamentally flawed. The procedure used is right out of standard drug testing: isolate individual chemical components and test their effects one at a time in a test tube. If a particular biochemical from an herb tests as ‘non-active,’ we can eliminate it from standardization of that herb. But what if that component has a different value in the grand scheme of things? What if, although it may do nothing by itself, its presence makes another component truly effective? In that case, you could have a standardized herbal extract that is virtually useless. Green tea is an interesting case in point. Check any label for standardized green tea and it will state the percentages of polyphenols it’s standardized for, but what about theanine? Theanine is an important biochemical found in green tea, but it’s an amino acid, not a polyphenol. What green tea extract is standardized for that important marker along with the polyphenols?
An obvious question might be: ‘If what I’m saying is true, then why is ‘everybody’ standardizing their herbs?’ The answer is that standardization is the herbalists’ answer to traditional medicine’s complaint that herbs are unpredictable. Another way of saying this is that standardized extracts make herbs more like drugs. But herbs are not like drugs. They are not single chemicals but rather a synergistic blend of natural compounds. Once you acknowledge this, the whole idea of standardization is revealed for what it is – co-option.”