Ultimate Guide to Botanicals: Uses, Nutrition & More
As the use of natural, plant-based products in our everyday lives continues to increase, it’s no surprise that plant-derived botanicals are growing in popularity. With their uses in everything from supplements to skincare products to ingredients in food, you’re likely to see botanicals in more and more products you buy, and it’s worthwhile to know what they are.
Don’t worry, this guide to botanicals isn’t going to be long and boring. Learning about botanicals is fairly straightforward, although there is a lot of science behind their uses.
What Is A Botanical?
Botanicals are plants that are used in traditional and herbal medicine to treat ailments because they are thought to have therapeutic properties. Consumed as whole foods or as isolated components in supplements, botanicals have been used for tens of thousands of years and still play an important role in supporting general health.
Humans have likely used botanicals for their healing properties for as long as we’ve existed. In fact, archeological excavations of medicinal plants date back 60,000 years ago and one of the oldest written records on medicinal plants dates back to 1500 BCE in ancient Egypt. Now, modern research is starting to build a body of evidence to support many of these historical functions.1
What Are Some Examples Of Botanicals?
There are hundreds of botanicals that have been used throughout human history that range from roots, bark, berries, leaves, and more. Any plant that is used to treat an ailment can be considered a botanical.
- Aloe vera
- Black Cohosh
- Green Tea Extract
- Marshmallow root
- Milk Thistle
- St. John’s Wort
Can Botanicals Be Classified As Dietary Supplements?
In America, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has a fairly simple definition of dietary supplements: “products taken by mouth that contain a ‘dietary ingredient.’”6 The FDA considers dietary ingredients to include herbs or botanicals, as well as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and more. So, in short, yes, botanicals can be classified as dietary supplements.
There is one important distinction of dietary supplements, that being that manufacturers of dietary supplements cannot, by law, claim that they treat, prevent, or alleviate the effects of diseases, only that they supplement the diet.
What Are Some Common Uses Of Botanicals?
People commonly use botanicals to support health and treat symptoms for the following conditions:7
- Cardiovascular and circulatory functions
- Digestive, gastrointestinal and liver functions
- Endocrine and hormonal functions
- Genito-urinary and renal functions
- Reproductive functions
- Immune functions
- Skin, muscular and skeletal functions
- Neurological, psychological, and behavioral functions
- Metabolic and nutritional functions
- Respiratory and pulmonary functions
Although botanicals are used to target a variety of health issues, more research needs to be done to support these uses. There is, however, good research to support the usage of some botanicals to maintain health. For example,8
- Echinacea has been shown to strengthen immune functions.
- Antioxidant botanicals, such as green tea, may slow aging and maintain cardiovascular functions.
- St. John's wort may alleviate common psychological symptoms, such as anxiety.
- Valerian can support sleep health and help with insomnia.
- Ginger is used to treat a variety of gastrointestinal problems, such as nausea.
How Are Botanicals Commonly Sold And Prepared?
Botanicals come in a wide range of forms, as both fresh and dried plant materials, in capsules, whole foods, liquids, and more.
Take ginger, for example. You can find ginger as a whole food as fresh ginger root, dried ginger root as tea, or ginger capsules in the dietary supplement aisle. Oftentimes, there is a single chemical in a botanical that has been identified as having the most potent health properties, so manufacturers may isolate this and sell it as a dietary supplement, usually in tablet or capsule form. For ginger, that chemical is called gingerol, and research shows it has antioxidant, anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory properties.9,10
Botanicals can be prepared and consumed whole or either fresh, crushed, dried, or as a powder. They can be further processed as botanical extracts by soaking the botanical in a solvent that’s able to retrieve certain chemicals or beneficial parts of the plant to be used in a product.
Different preparation methods can extract different bioactive components of the botanicals. For example, alcohol best extracts essential oils, water extracts sugar, and glycerin is a great way to extract mucilage.11
Botanicals and botanical extracts can be prepared via:
- Alcohol extraction
- Wine extraction
- Vinegar extraction
- Glycerin extraction
Botanicals are often sold as:
- Alcohol tinctures, when a botanical is soaked in a solution of alcohol and water.
- Extracts, when the botanical is soaked in a liquid solvent, such as water or alcohol, to extract the desired constituents.
- Tea, when a fresh or dried botanical is steeped in hot water.
- Infused oil, when a botanical is added to an oil to extract oil-soluble compounds.
- Syrup, when a botanical is processed into a concentrated sugary extract.
- Salve/balm/cream, when botanical extracts are added to oil-based creams.
- Capsules/tablets/lozenges, when botanical extracts are processed into common supplement forms.
What Botanicals Are In OLIPOP?
OLIPOP isn’t your average soda. We carefully crafted OLIPOP with a blend of scientifically-backed ingredients that work together to support microbiome and digestive health.
In addition to 3 prebiotic fibers that feed your beneficial gut bacteria, we also include 4 botanicals that have been historically used to treat digestive issues. While more research is needed to examine the effect botanicals have on microbiome and digestive health, there is evidence that plant-based diets that are rich in nutritional diversity are beneficial for the gut microbiome.12,13 We hope that drinking a can of OLIPOP with our blend of 7 prebiotic fibers and plant botanicals can be a friendly reminder to expand your diet diversity so you can reap the benefits of a nutritionally varied diet.
Specifically, OLIPOP’s OLISmart blend features 3 prebiotic fibers—Jerusalem artichoke, cassava root, and chicory root—as well as 4 botanical extracts. These botanical extracts have been used medicinally for hundreds of years to soothe digestive issues, and they also add to OLIPOP’s nutrient diversity. These include marshmallow root, calendula, kudzu root, and nopal cactus, each of which has been carefully selected for its health-supporting properties.
No, we don’t use that candy in OLIPOP, but this botanical is linked to the confectionery! Marshmallow root was used to make marshmallows back in the day, but before that, it was used as an herbal remedy for its soothing mucilage—an antioxidant-rich, sap-like substance.
The petals of this beautiful yellow flower have been used as a dye for fabrics, foods, and even cosmetics, but this botanical also has been utilized for its medicinal properties. Rich in antioxidants, calendula petals are commonly used as an herbal remedy for their healing effects.
Kudzu root has been used in Chinese herbal medicine for over 2,000 years as a remedy for various ailments, like stomach upset, treating liver damage, and combating inflammation.
Also known as prickly pear, nopal cactus is a good source of the soluble fibers pectin and mucilage, which have historically been used to support intestinal health due to its soothing effects.
Guide Book Complete
So now you know all about botanicals and their uses–why not explore this new interest of yours and give the botanicals of OLIPOP a try!
- McKenna, Dennis. “How Long Have Humans Used Botanicals?” University of Minnesota Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing, www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/how-long-have-humans-used-botanicals. Accessed 28 Feb. 2022.
- “Botanical Extracts.” Wholesale Supplies Plus, www.wholesalesuppliesplus.com/additives/application/botanical-extracts.aspx. Accessed 28 Feb. 2022.
- Loria, Kevin. “A Guide to 10 Popular Botanicals.” Consumer Reports, 30 Oct. 2019, www.consumerreports.org/supplements/guide-to-10-popular-botanicals.
- Blumenthal, Mark. The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs. 1st edition, American Botanical Council, 2003.
- Smith T, Gillespie M, Eckl V, Knepper J, Morton-Reynolds C. Herbal Supplement Sales in US Increase by 9.4% in 2018. HerbalGram. 2019;123:62-73. http://cms.herbalgram.org/herbalgram/issue123/files/HG123-HMR.pdf Accessed February 28, 2022.
- “FDA 101: Dietary Supplements.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 15 July 2015, www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/fda-101-dietary-supplements.
- McKenna, Dennis. “Is There Good Scientific Evidence?” University of Minnesota Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing, www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/botanical-medicine/-there-good-scientific-evidence. Accessed 28 Feb. 2022.
- “Why Do People Use Botanicals?” Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing, www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/botanical-medicine/why-do-people-use-botanicals. Accessed 28 Feb. 2022.
- “Botanical Dietary Supplements - Background Information.” National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, 11 Dec. 2020, ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/BotanicalBackground-Consumer.
- Mohd Yusof, Yasmin Anum. “Gingerol and Its Role in Chronic Diseases.” Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 2016, pp. 177–207. Crossref, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-41342-6_8.
- Green, James. The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual. Crossing Press, 2000. https://organicgrowersschool.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Herbal-Extractions-and-Preparations.pdf
- Singh, Rasnik K., et al. “Influence of Diet on the Gut Microbiome and Implications for Human Health.” Journal of Translational Medicine, vol. 15, no. 1, 2017. Crossref, https://doi.org/10.1186/s12967-017-1175-y.
- Heiman, Mark L., and Frank L. Greenway. “A Healthy Gastrointestinal Microbiome Is Dependent on Dietary Diversity.” Molecular Metabolism, vol. 5, no. 5, 2016, pp. 317–20. Crossref, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.molmet.2016.02.005.
- There are hundreds of botanicals that have been used throughout human history that range from roots, bark, berries, leaves, and more.
- Any plant that is used to treat an ailment can be considered a botanical.
- Botanicals come in a wide range of forms, as both fresh and dried plant materials, in capsules, whole foods, liquids, and more.
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