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Why use the highest grade of herbs?

Herbs - they’re beautiful and they’re powerful, but they’re also misunderstood. It’s easy for shoppers to assume that if it says ‘peppermint’ on one box of tea and ‘peppermint’ on another, both options must contain the same quality of peppermint. The choice between the two is just a matter of what flavour combination, brand, or price you, the customer, prefers – right? Unhappily, it’s not quite that straightforward.

The quality spectrum

The herbal teas or supplements on offer today vary greatly in quality. Sure, they might contain actual peppermint, but the full make up of that peppermint - such as the tasty essential oil content - may be lacking. As a result, the tea or supplement may not be as powerful (or tasty) as it could be; it might even be completely ineffective or have no nutritional value at all.
The reason for the difference is down to the long road herbs can take from being grown or collected, to reaching you. Herbs need to be produced with care from the start, and standards vary enormously around the world. Herbs need to be carefully harvested and dried before they can be safely stored and transported. Too harsh drying can rob the herb of its best qualities; too little can leave moisture in which mould can build. In most cases, herb crops pass through a number of buyers or middle men – the ‘supply chain’: at each stage there is the potential for stockpiling or poor storage, so that initial quality can be further compromised. Most commercial herb suppliers are also not organic.
Fortunately, most of the herbs you buy in supermarkets, health food shops and pharmacies will be safe. They are also graded according to their quality, reflecting the amount of extra care and costs that go into assuring standards. There is a spectrum. At one end are ‘food grade’ herbs; at the other are herbs that may be used for medicines. Medicinal herbs have to meet tightly defined high quality standards, which are defined by an official ‘pharmacopoeia’.

What is a pharmacopoeial standard?

A pharmacopoeia (a word from the Greek for ‘knowing medicines’) is a major official reference text. It contains a collection of standards to assure the quality of the medicines you can get from a doctor or pharmacy. For example, there is the European Pharmacopoeia, the British Pharmacopoeia, the United States Pharmacopoeia, and the Indian Pharmacopoeia. Many herbs are used as medicines and their medicinal standards are published here. These standards are the highest available.

How can herbs meet pharmacopoeial standards?

To meet pharmacopoeial standards, the identity of the species must be verified using microscopes and specialist ‘fingerprinting’ equipment, such as chromatography. Many of you will have done something similar to this in school chemistry lessons, using blotting paper to separate out the different elements of a substance.
Next, the quality of the species must be checked to ensure it has the right level of important constituents, such as the level of essential oils in herbs such as chamomile, fennel and peppermint. As well as providing benefits, these compounds also bring levels of sweetness or intensity of spiciness, or the textures that add ‘body’ and richness to our teas. In other words, good quality also translates as great taste!
Then, of course, the herb is checked for hygiene, ensuring it complies with the strictest standards of purity. Meeting pharmacopoeial standards ensures the herbs are the purest of the pure; they are, what we call, ‘pukka’ herbs – herbs that look, smell, taste and feel at their best.

Pukka’s ‘practitioner grade’

At Pukka, we apply pharmacopoeial standards to our quality control. This means we use the highest mark of quality available for our suppliers to meet.
Our high standards also mean all our herbs are grown organically and harvested sustainably from the plant’s favoured habitat.
We are also proud to have leading experts and herbal practitioners in our team; between us, we deliver not only the best combinations of herbs in our blends, but also quality standards which are routinely checked in our Pukka Herbal Laboratory. We keep innovating and bringing out new creations that suit different tastes, preferences and lifestyles, but always with an eye on what really impacts upon human health.
So we have come up with our own definition of quality that combines all these elements: ‘practitioner grade’, the grade our practitioner experts would insist on. This means our herbs combine pharmacopoeial-level quality with certified organic and fair sourcing standards. All our products are 100% organic, vegetarian, dairy-free and free from synthetic colour, flavourings and additives.

Pukka – your guarantee of the best herb quality

So, the next time you pick up Pukka Three Mint tea, for instance, you can be sure that the peppermint, spearmint and fieldmint blended expertly inside is the very best quality nature can offer you. Nothing has been lost. Nothing has been substituted. Nothing is unnatural.

That’s the way it’s always been, and it’s the way it will always be. You have our Pukka word.

Meet the author

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Sebastian Pole, Sebastian Pole, Co-founder and Master Herbsmith

Hello There. I’m a Co-founder and the Master Herbsmith at Pukka Herbs. As well as having the most amazing job of formulating all our organic teas and supplements I am a passionate environmentalist – that’s why we are 100% organic, pioneers in sustainably sourcing herbs with FairWild, and we give 1% of our turnover for rejuvenating the Planet. I also run my own herbal practice in Bath which I’ve done since 1998. I practise an eclectic blend of Ayurvedic, Chinese and Western Herbal Medicine and am a registered member of the Ayurvedic Practitioners Association, Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine and the Unified Register of Herbal Practitioners. I love using the principles of Ayurveda (aka the ancient art of living wisely) – coupled with insights of traditional healing and modern science - to help create the best of health. Inspired by my time in India, I love cooking a vegetarian feast and rely on regular yoga practice with lots of herbal teas and tonics to keep me well. I am passionate about running a business that inspires positive change and brings the benefit of the incredible power of plants to everyone we connect with – from our farmers, collectors, Pukka team to you. I live on a two acre garden-farm in Somerset where I grow a rainbow spectrum of medicinal and nourishing plants for my bees and family to thrive on.

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