Special edition: Ayurveda

How reductionism vs whole spectrum plays out in the real world

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Ayurveda

How reductionism vs whole spectrum plays out in the real world
Applying Ayurvedic principles can lead product formulators in different directions. Products from two brands—EuroPharma and Gaia Herbs—illustrate how these differences play out in the marketplace.

NutraIngredients-USA spoke with officials from both companies at the recent Expo West trade show.  The approaches these companies take toward bringing some of the benefits of Ayurvedic ingredients to consumers illustrate the ongoing tension between choosing standardized extracts with many of the plant components stripped away and using whole herbs that more closely approximate how these materials are presenting in traditional Ayurvedic formulations.

EuroPharma, a Green Bay, WI-based company founded by Terry Lemerond, has been a longtime supporter of the benefits of curcuminoids, the active compounds (whole herb advocates might insert here the ‘most studied’ compounds) found in turmeric. The root is one of the foundational spices for Indian curries, along with chilies and cardamom and cumin seeds, and was found in a recent study of Indian dietary patterns in the southern city of Hyderabad to be consumed daily in 100% of households​. This pattern of spice consumption was postulated to be one of the reasons that Indians of the lower castes were observed by colonial authorities when public health research was just beginning to be in general healthier than one might expect, given the challenges of poor sanitation and crowded living conditions. It’s a pattern that continues today, with researchers from the University of Wallongong in Australia concluding in a recent paper​: “It has been estimated that an adult in India can eat as much as 4 g of turmeric daily, which could provide 80–200 mg/day of the bioactive component curcumin.” 

Evidence for certain compounds

In Lemerond’s case, the interest lay in the evidence, not in the overall Ayurvedic system per se, said Cheryl Myers, chief science and education officer for EuroPharma.

“There is an incredibly history of the use of turmeric in Ayurveda,”​ Myers said.  The Australian researchers noted the Ayurvedic system can be traced as an oral tradition as far back as 5,000 years ago, and was first codified in Sanskrit poetry—in the Vedas—around 1500 BCE.

“It’s not that Terry said what is valuable in Ayurveda, but rather it’s that he looked at where the science is going. He launched our Curamed line of products because he loved the science on BCM 95,”​ she said.

BCM 95 is a standardized curcumin extract supplied by DolCas Biotech. EuroPharma features the BCM 95 ingredient in curcumin products aimed at pain relief and healthy immune response and healthy inflammation response support. Some of these products also contain ginger extract, another mainstay Ayurvedic herb.

Blended approach using Ayurveda

Gaia Herbs, based in Asheville, NC, takes a different tack, using whole turmeric root as the main ingredient in a new line of products it was launching at the show, a Daily Wellbeing line for both men and women.

“When we look at all the products offered at the show from the point of the consumer, we think, where would you start? How would you even begin to know what to take?”​ said Todd King, VP Marketing at Gaia Herbs. “We formulated this line as a place to start.”

The formulation of the products was guided by in part by Ayurvedic principles, King said. Company founder, CEO and chief formulator Ric Scalzo is a trained Ayurvedic practitioner. King said the products were formulated to address four pillars of health: inflammatory response, immune health, stress management, and gender specific issues. Turmeric, presented both as a whole root powder and as an extract, forms the backbone of the inflammatory response portion of the formula while ashwagandha, another Ayurvedic powerhouse noted for its adaptogenic properties, leads the stress management portion of the ingredient panel. But King said Scalzo wasn’t slavishly copying Ayurvedic formulas or whole-herb approaches with the new products. The company was also debuting a Golden Milk product, which is a powder blend to be added to milk to simulate how many Indians consume turmeric in a beverage, and a line of adrenal health products.

“He takes a holistic approach, a principle of applying both Western and Eastern medicine,” ​King said. For example, the portion of the men’s product specific to that gender uses an extract of saw palmetto berries, a plant native to the southeastern US that was unknown in south Asia.  And in the corresponding portion of the women’s product, Scalzo used chaste tree berry, which is a plant native to the Mediterranean region.

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