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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 packet 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 gap

The herbal teas or supplements on offer today vary greatly in quality. Sure, they might contain actual peppermint, but the phytochemical character - such as the tasty essential oil content - of that peppermint may be substandard. 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 whatsoever.

The reason for the difference is down to the fact that herbs are graded according to their quality, which affects their price.  Just as there are different grades of clothes, there are several ‘grades’ of herbs used to make teas and supplements: these include the cheaper ‘food grade’ herbs and more exclusive ‘pharmacopoeial grade’ herbs.

What are food grade herbs?

Food grade herbs are typically used in the supplements and teas you’ll find lining the shelves of supermarkets and natural health stores. They are supplements that are fine to use, but their contents and purity aren’t up to the pharmacopoeial grade. Which means they may contain a lower quality of a particular herb, for instance with less essential oils.

What are pharmacopoeial grade herbs?

Pharmacopoeial grade is the other end of the scale; it’s a standard that simply means ‘the very best quality’. A pharmacopoeia is a collection of quality standards for herbs (as well as vitamins and drugs) that ensures the herbs are of the right quality and can meet the criteria to deliver their expected effects. For example, there is a European Pharmacopoeia, a British Pharmacopoeia, a United States Pharmacopoeia, and an Indian Pharmacopoeia.

Here are some examples of the different quality if herbs available:



Herb Name

European Herbal Infusion Association

Food Grade

ISO 6571/1984

European Pharmacopoeia  

Chamomile flowers

Min. 0.2% essential oil

Min. 0.2% essential oil

0.4% essential oil

Apigenin Min. 0.25%

Fennel seed (Sweet)

Min. 1% essential oil

Min. 1% essential oil

Min. 2% essential oil (specifying that 80% of this must
be anethole with a maximum of 10% estragole and 7.5% fenchone)

Peppermint leaf

Min. 0.6% essential oil

Min. 0.6% essential oil

Cut Leaf Min. 0.9% essential oil

Whole Leaf Min. 1.2% essential oil

How do herbs become pharmacopoeial grade?

To be classed as pharmacopoeial grade, the identity of the species must be verified using various microscopic techniques and specialist equipment, such as chromatography (you will all have done something similar to this in school chemistry lessons, using blotting paper. At Pukka we use something called High Performance Thin Layer Chromatography).

Next, the quality of the species must be checked to ensure it has the right level of compounds, such as the active ingredients of essential oils, polyphenols or flavonoids. And it’s these compounds that are associated with certain tastes and effects; for example, levels of sweetness or intensity of spiciness, or even specific textures that add ‘body’ and richness to our teas.

Then, of course, the herb is checked for hygiene ensuring it complies with the strictest standards of purity. Pharmacopoeial grade herbs are the purest of the pure; they are, what we call, ‘pukka’ herbs – herbs that look, smell, taste and feel at their best.

For us, only pharmacopoeial grade will do

At Pukka, we’re passionate about sharing the remarkable power of herbs with you; we want you to taste and feel their remarkable difference. So food grade herbs, or worse – dusty synthetic flavourings, just won’t do.

Every herb we use is held to the highest standard and, where we can, we follow the pharmacopoeial grade. To us this also means our herbs must have been grown organically; harvested sustainably from a plant’s favoured habitat (because a plant’s provenance is essential for quality); and pass the rigorous quality standards of both external as well as our team of experts in  the Pukka Herbal Laboratory.

Only after graduating through this Pukka quality process, are herbs allowed into our Organic Wellbeing range and our herbal teas.

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.

Rencontrer l’auteur

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Sebastian Pole, Sebastian Pole, Co-fondateur de Pukka et Herboriste expert

Bonjour. Je suis le co-fondateur et maître-herboriste de Pukka Herbs. En plus de m’occuper de la création de tous nos thés, infusions et compléments alimentaires bios, je suis un écologiste passionné. C'est pourquoi nous sommes 100% bio, pionniers dans l'approvisionnement responsable avec FairWild et pourquoi nous reversons 1% de notre chiffre d'affaires annuel pour la protection de la planète. J’ai également depuis 1998 mon propre cabinet de Naturopathie à Bath. Je pratique un mélange éclectique de phytothérapie ayurvédique, chinoise et occidentale et je suis membre de l’Ayurvedic Practitioners Association’, ‘Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine’ et du ‘Unified Register of Herbal Practitioners’.J'adore utiliser les principes de l'Ayurveda (l'art de vivre avec sagesse) - associés à des connaissances sur la guérison traditionnelle et la science moderne - pour apporter les meilleures solutions naturelles aux problèmes de santé. Marqué par mes séjours en Inde, j'adore cuisiner végétarien et je pratique régulièrement le yoga. Je suis passionné par notre mission, d’apporter le pouvoir des plantes biologiques au plus grand nombre à travers une entreprise engagée, génératrice de bien. Je vis dans une ferme du Somerset au Royaume-Uni où je cultive de nombreuses plantes médicinales pour le plus grand bonheur des abeilles et de ma famille.

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