herbalist At its most powerful, most effective, and most healing, complementary or alternative medicine makes use of complex formulations as opposed to single nutraceuticals or herbs. You've probably had someone recommend that if you're anxious, you should take kava kava, or if you have a cold, take echinacea. That's right out of traditional medicine -- turning alternative remedies into drugs. And it's just plain ineffective.

Intelligently designed formulas, on the other hand, not only address particular symptoms, they also support the body as a whole. In addition, they make use of the synergistic effect inherent in many ingredients. For example, many of the more powerful herbal formulations incorporate cayenne, not just because of its remarkable healing properties, but because cayenne is a potentiator for many other herbs, helping to energize, stimulate, and "drive" them into the bloodstream. (Bioperene®, a standardized black pepper extract, is now used in many commercial nutraceutical formulas for the same purpose.)

But only more experienced formulators, such as Jon Barron, are aware of these synergies and know the proper proportions to use. Like the professional chef creating a brand new award winning recipe, designing nutraceutical formulas is much more art than science. Yes, this "artistic" approach to formulation drives conventional doctors crazy, but it is what transforms the best formulators into miracle workers -- and the best chefs into legends.

On the other hand, there are many so-called formulators who don't have the slightest idea what they're doing, but are good marketers and convince people to buy nearly useless formulas. Their errors generally fall into one of three categories:

Bad Math

Have you ever looked at a so-called miracle formula and seen every ingredient you could possibly want in an all-in-one pill? The next time you see one of those, do the math. For example, if the dosage for the miracle pill is 500 mg and it contains fifty different ingredients, simple math says that if the ingredients are all present at equal weight, the most you can have of any one is just 0.01 gram. Invariably, the ingredients are not present in equal amounts and are weighted to the first two or three ingredients on the list. That means that the bottom 20–30 ingredients in the formula may be present in amounts as small as 0.001 g. How little is that? The ink used to print the ingredient's name on the label weighs more than the actual ingredient used in the formula. If we're talking about an herb used at that level, professional formulators would call that "pixie dust" because it has no effect on the body and is present merely to be listed on the label (to make you think it's doing something).

Self Defeating Formulas

Another major problem comes from people who have no direct experience with the ingredients they are using and create their formulas from a book. (When medical doctors produce herbal and nutraceutical formulas, this is how they usually do it.) They create formulas by opening a reference book and looking up every ingredient they can find that's recommended for a particular purpose and throwing it into a formula. Many formulas on the market are created in this manner, which leads to some very bizarre combinations. Have you ever seen an intestinal formula that contains both probiotics and goldenseal? There are actually a number of them. If you look up those ingredients on the Internet, you will find that both are listed as being beneficial in promoting intestinal health. However, probiotics achieve their benefit by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract. Goldenseal, on the other hand, is an excellent antibiotic and produces its benefit by killing harmful bacteria in the intestinal tract. Unfortunately, with continual use, goldenseal also kills beneficial bacteria. By ingesting formulas that contain both ingredients for intestinal maintenance, you are both promoting and killing beneficial bacteria at the same time! That's kind of like using diet root beer and high-fat ice cream when making a root beer float. What's the point?

Formulas With No Clear Purpose

Have you ever seen a digestive enzyme formula with added herbs? Why? Herbs are fine things, but they are not digestive enzymes and just take up room in an enzyme formula. Or what about a colon formula with added antioxidants? Again, antioxidants are great, but they don't help with elimination, and they don't clean out your colon. Or weight loss products with acai berry. Again, acai is a great antioxidant, but has nothing to do with weight loss. Such formulas have lost their sense of purpose and are merely including ingredients because they sound good on the label. Those ingredients are not harmful; but they do take up room in the formula so that you end up with less of the ingredients that actually matter.

At Baseline Nutritionals®, all of our formulas are designed by Jon Barron – generally recognized as one of the greatest formulators in the world today. All of our formulas are intelligently designed to maximize the synergistic effect of the different ingredients, use only those ingredients that actually contribute to the purpose at hand, incorporate those ingredients only at meaningful doses, and put it all together in the perfect combination so that the formula actually works as intended. This is intelligent formulation design; and if your health matters to you, you should settle for no less.