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A Question of Potency

By Tim Chrisman
Anti-arthritis | Anti-inflammation | Bromelain | Cayenne | Cinnamon | Curcumin | Freedom | Fully Human | Ginger | Science | Supplements | Turmeric

What is the difference between the turmeric, ginger or black pepper you buy at the grocery store and what you find in Freedom? The short answer is its potency. Fully Human uses the highest potency ingredients possible in order to maximize the speed our supplements work, and because it is just the honest thing to do. If you are paying for a supplement you expect it to actually contain the ingredients claimed, and those ingredients to be functional.

What is potency? Well, potency in the nutrition world is really just shorthand for purity, but lets be honest, potency sounds way smarter and more scientific than purity which sounds vaguely artsy or even like what a bad guy in a movie would say. The rest of this article will talk in more depth about potency, but if you don’t have time, don’t want to read more, or just like doing things fast, the main points you need to know are here:

  1. The FDA has standards for vitamin and mineral potency (such as those used in multi-vitamins); but does not have standards for herbal supplements.
  2. There are a bunch of different ways of measuring potency in herbal supplements, but most use ‘standardized extract’ as the measurement tool.
  3. Cayenne pepper isn’t actually terribly spicy
  4. High potency supplement ingredients absorb better than low potency ones
  5. Most people benefit from high-potency supplement ingredients, but a couple categories of people should be careful
  6. Fully Human uses the highest potency ingredients we can find…because you are worth it

Ok, summary complete – now lets get to the details

Overview of Potency

According to the FDA, vitamins or minerals that are 100 percent or more of the reference daily intake (a.k.a. ‘RDI,’ the measurement used to calculate appropriate daily intake of a nutrient) per serving can be labeled ‘high-potency.’ When there are multiple ingredients in a supplement (like in your multivitamin), at least two-thirds of them must offer 100 percent or more of the RDI in order for that supplement to be labeled ‘high-potency.’  When we’re not talking about vitamins and minerals, though, things get a little hairier, since the definition of ‘high-potency’ isn’t officially defined.

When these natural products are made into standardized extracts and concentrates in order to contain larger amounts of their beneficial compound, they might be labeled ‘high-potency’—but again, there’s no official definition here. Take turmeric or ginger for example, there is a huge difference between the turmeric spice, the ground ginger root that you can buy at the grocery store, and an extract. While you’d need to eat a tablespoon of turmeric spice to get about 130 milligrams of curcuminoids (the compounds responsible for turmeric’s benefits), a single capsule of a standardized extract might contain over 200 milligrams.

What Even Is Potency Measuring?

Before we can answer who needs high-potency supplements, let’s first look at how potency is usually measured in herbal supplements. The most common measurement is a ‘standardized extract’. An example is: Turmeric Curcumin standardized to 95% curcuminoids. This standardized extract formulation tells you how much of each active ingredient is in each milligram. For the 95% extract above, there are 95mg of curcuminoids in every 100mg of the turmeric in your supplement.

Another method of measuring potency is to use enzyme activity units. Proteolytic enzymes – the fancy way of describing any group of enzymes that break the long chain-like molecules of proteins into shorter fragments (peptides) and eventually into their amino acid components – can be standardized by using different activity-measuring units. GDU/gram – as used in Freedom to measure bromelain – is another measurement of protein digestion by an enzyme, and is a way to show how much protein an enzyme can digest in a specific time under specific conditions. Similar to extract percentage, these activity-measuring units are usually more potent the higher the number is.

The final metric for potency are Scoville heat units (often abbreviated to simply “heat units”), a unique measurement for spices and herbs that are…you guessed it…spicy. You might have seen the posters or images that show how hot the hottest peppers in the world are. Well, those are based on measurements of those peppers using heat units.

Who Can Benefit From High-Potency Supplements?

Experts suggest most people can benefit from high-potency doses of at least some vitamins and minerals. For example, the RDI for vitamin C is 90 milligrams, but vitamin C is a beneficial, powerful antioxidant, and  200 milligrams or more is widely recommended. B vitamins are a similar story: The RDIs for B vitamins are tiny—and these vitamins are rapidly depleted by stress, poor diet, genetic issues, and more.

Others who might benefit from taking high-potency supplements:

  • People with gastrointestinal issues, who may have trouble absorbing nutrients.
  • Strict vegans who have a hard time getting enough B12.
  • Women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant should take high-dose folic acid.
  • Those who’ve just finished a round of antibiotics should take a high-potency probiotic to help rebuild the good bacteria in their gut

Who Should Stay Away From High-Potency Supplements?

While high-potency supplements can be beneficial in many cases, more isn’t always better. For example, since exceeding the upper limit of vitamin A can lead to birth defects, it’s not recommended that pregnant women take high doses.

Meanwhile, if your vitamin D levels are already high enough, a high-potency supplement could be problematic, just as high-potency vitamin K could be an issue if you take blood-thinners. Even high-potency probiotics can do more harm than good if you have a common condition called small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), in which you have too many bacteria festering in the wrong place.

What Does Fully Human Use?

At Fully Human, we think of potency like cleaning supplies. It is fine to use household cleaner when you are wiping down the counter; but if you are disinfecting a doctor’s office, it is time to bring out the good stuff.

At Fully Human we use the same potency herbal ingredients that are used in clinical trials. We do this because we believe in following the science, because we want your supplement to work now…not after months or years.

In the most successful scientific studies of Freedom’s ingredients, researchers used the highest potency ingredients at a relatively low dose. These studies found that ultra-pure herbs were more quickly and easily absorbed by the body.

Higher potency ingredients also mean you need a smaller amount to get the same effect. As mentioned above in the example about turmeric, if you have turmeric that is 25% curcumin extract, it is going to take nearly 4 times as much turmeric to get the same dose as Freedom’s 95% curcumin extract.

Higher potency ingredients also work faster, take boswellia. Studies on the effect of boswellia on knee inflammation found that small doses of high potency boswellia extract was more effective and started working faster than high doses of lower potency version of the herb.

Anecdotal feedback from our customers indicate that you can start experiencing results as soon as the first week of taking Freedom at the recommended daily dosage. We attribute this to the potency of our ingredients. You wouldn’t use a watered-down antibiotic to fight an infection, would you? Try Freedom risk free today and take high-potency ingredients that actively fight chronic inflammation.

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