Herbs & Spices: Grocery Store or Supplement Capsules?

Question: What’s the difference between organic spices that come in a bottle that you see in your grocery store and ones found in capules, like Doctor’s Best curcumin, oregano etcThanks a lot. dt
To answer the question, let’s first examine what you are actually looking at in the grocery store. These spices are designed to be used as food or condiments. What are they? They are the herb after it has been dried, and chopped into small pieces or ground into a powder. That is all. In other words, it is a dried, or dehydrated herb, with no other modifications.
Could that be the same material found in a herbal capsule on the Health Food Store shelf? Yes, it could be. In some cases, the dried, powdered herb, and nothing else, could be put into a capsule and packaged in that manner. All you would gain, in this case, would be the convenience of taking the herb in a measured dosage form, usually in a higher quantity than you might if using it as a seasoning for your food.
The importance of this is not something, by the way, you should minimize. When taking an herb for “therapeutic” purposes, you often need a greater amount. It may not be easy to take that much of an herb by mouth. Herbs can have a very strong flavor, and you need some way to mask that flavor. I can eat raw ginger, but my wife cannot tolerate the taste. Unfortunately, she is the one who suffers from motion sickness, so the powdered ginger in a capsule if the only way she can take it.
So, even if the material was identical, preparing it in a form (capsule) that is palatable, convenient and measured, is a significant difference.
But there are other differences. Often times the herb in the capsule is enhanced with additional materials. Your question specified Curcumin from Doctor’s Best. This is an excellent example. Doctor’s Best has two products containing Curcumin. One is Best Curcumin C3 Complex® with BioPerine® and the other is Meriva® Phytosome Curcumins (500mg). These are excellent examples of the diffrerence between grocery store herbs and “therapeutic” herbal supplements.
First, if you read the label information (I will provide it at the end of these comments) you will see that the product does not just contain powdered, dehydrated herb. Instead, it contains a “standardized” preparation of Tumeric root (Curcuma longa), 1000 mg, standardized to contain not less than 95% Curcuminoids.
Thus, you have a product that is not only more potent than grocery store tumeric, but one that is also designed to be taken in higher (therapeutic rather than condiment) doses, standardized to a dosage that can be related to clinical study results, convenient and reproducible. You also have to consider the different standards–microbial purity, cleanliness, and other qualitative and quantitative standards that supplements and drugs must meet that foods, including grocery store herbs, do not.
Second, products such as the two Doctor’s Best herbal supplements containing curcumin, often offer other ehancements. In this case, one of the products also contains a natural substance called BioPerine®, which is an extract of black pepper. It is added in small amounts to enhance the absorption of the curcumin. The other product, the Meriva® Phytosome Curcumin utilizes a proprietary phosphatidylcholine complex to enhance the bioactivity of the curcumin.
In summary, then, it should be clear that there can be very significant differences between the herbs on the grocery store shelf and those in bottles of supplements. This is not to say that incorporating fresh and dried herbs into your diet is not beneficial. It is. These herbs certainly do contain the same beneficial components. But they are present in much lower amounts, and it is very difficult to achieve therapeutic levels in this manner.
You mentioned the Doctor’s Best brand in your question, but the same holds true for other brands. Solgar, for example, has a curcumin product as well. Theirs is called Standardized Turmeric Root Extract, with each vegetable capsule containing “Standardized Turmeric Extract (root), 400 mg,” standarized to 93% curcuminoids (372 mg). It also contains a small amount of natural antioxidants designed to “maintain the freshness of the ingredients.”
You also mentioned oregano, and the same explanation applies. You can buy oregano in a grocery store, but certainly you can see that that is not the same as Willner Chemists Phyto-Tech® Oregano Oil 70, which is standardized to 70% carvacrol, in liquid dropper bottles or liquid filled gelatin capsules.
Here is the descriptive information on the Doctor’s Best Curcumin C3 Complex with BioPerine Tablets:

Best Curcumin C3 Complex® with BioPerine® contains a potent standardized extract of Curcuma longa root, commonly known as turmeric. Turmeric is the yellow spice that gives flavor to curried dishes. The herb has been used in the Ayurvedic healing tradition for centuries as a folk remedy. The active ingredients in Curcuma longa are plant substances called curcuminoids, compounds that demonstrate potent antioxidant properties in scientific studies.* Curcuminoids may benefit the joints, brain, heart and the circulatory system by helping to neutralize free-radicals.*
Best Curcumin C3 Complex® supplies 95% total curcuminoids, including curcumin, bisdemethoxy curcumin and demethoxy curcumin. BioPerine® is an extract of Black Pepper fruit that contains 95-98% piperine. BioPerine® is added as a natural bioenhancer to promote absorption.*
Suggested Adult Use: Take one tablet two times per day, or as directed by a nutritionally informed physician, with or without food.

And here is the description information on the Doctor’s Best Meriva® Phytosome Curcumins Veggie Caps:

Curcumin nutrients (curcumin, demethoxycurcumin, bisdemethoxycurcumin) are usually poorly absorbed when taken by mouth. Phytosome proprietary technology solves this problem. In Meriva® Phytosome Curcumins, each curcuminoid molecule is individually complexed with molecules of the vital cell membrane nutrient phosphatidylcholine (PC). By facilitating curcumins’ entry into human cells and tissues, PC gives this product superior bioactivity over non-phytosome curcumin supplements.
Meriva® is a registered trademark of Indena S.p.A., Milano
Suggested Use: Take 1 capsule per day, preferably with a small meal. For better joint support, take 2 – 4 per day, or more, as recommended by a nutritionally informed physician.

About Don Goldberg

Hello. I am what you might call a Nutritional Pharmacist. After college, I worked in the Pharmaceutical and Nutritional Industry, first in Quality Control, and then in Manufacturing and Product Development. Increasingly, as the years passed, I became more involved with nutritional supplements. I spent many years detailing physicians, herbalists, and homeopaths about nutritional and herbal therapies and products. In 1992, along with my friend Arnie Gitomer, I bought Willner Chemists, a well-established nutritionally oriented pharmacy. For the first time, I had an opportunity to communicate directly with the consumer, the patient, and the customer. I love it. This blog is an additional way for me to extend my personal views and opinions directly to you. You can also hear me on the radio, every Sunday, from 2 to 4 pm on WOR radio in NY (710 AM), or WGKA in Atlanta (920 AM). Or check our website, www.willner.com.
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One Response to Herbs & Spices: Grocery Store or Supplement Capsules?

  1. Very interesting post! I have often wondered the difference (if there is one). Thanks!

    Tiffany Youngren
    Transfer of Health
    Healthy Living and Recipes

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