Q. Why does this bottle of St. Francis Herb Farm product have different ingredients from what you have listed on your website?
A. As most consumers of health care products are well aware of, the last few years have seen dramatic changes in regulatory oversight in Canada when it comes to such goods. St. Francis Herb Farm has been at the very forefront of those complying with the government’s mandate to license all health care products sold in Canada, requiring them each to have a Natural Product Number (i.e. NPN) as reflected on the label. This has been a slow and arduous process with many complicated twists and turns. In the instance of many of our products, issuance of an NPN has been relatively recent, which means that there may be product in your cupboard or on the store shelf that pre-dates the definitive NPN. If such is the case, what you have in hand may not reflect the latest version of our product in terms of ingredients and quantity. At the same time, it is the latest version of the label information for any given product that we are opting to post on our website. To post multiple versions of product labels on our website or in our catalogues such as to include pre-NPN historical renditions, would, we feel, only add to the confusion and not be particularly illuminating in terms of the larger picture. We have decided therefore that the easiest and most expedient solution is for us to encourage our customers to be aware of this possible discrepancy, which will work itself out over time, as older stock is depleted and NPN versions of our products become the undisputed norm. If you have any further questions or require further enlightenment about a particular product, please do feel free to contact us.
Q. What is a herbal tincture?
A. A tincture is a liquid extract made from soaking fresh or dried herbs in alcohol.
Q. Why use herbal tinctures?
A. Herbs are a natural way of dealing with health of body and mind and have been used from time immemorial in all cultures in order to:
- Prevent and alleviate disease
- Enhance the immune system
- Remove toxins from the body
- Maintain the body's self-regulation and balance
Even in our own day, an astonishing 75% of patented prescription medicines are based on herbs. Nonetheless, scientists and pharmaceutical researchers have been unable to isolate and name every single chemical component of herbs. In many respects, the constituent parts of the plant remain a mystery, beyond the scope of scientific analysis. This means that most often they cannot be synthetically reproduced.
When all is said and done, herbs remain a complex mixture of vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates, as well as trace elements and healing agents. In a dynamic, inexplicable way all these components work together synergistically to produce healing. Which is why it can truly be said of an herbal remedy that it is greater than the sum of its parts.
Q. Are St. Francis Herb Farm® herbal tinctures safe?
A. When used properly, herbal remedies are very safe. All the same, you need to remember that they're a form of medicine. You should never use them to treat serious medical problems or lingering symptoms without first consulting a health care professional.
Q. What are the benefits of herbal tinctures?
A. In our pill-popping world, capsules, soft gels and tablets are very popular. Tinctures, however, have many advantages over these modes of delivery. The bio-availability of tinctures is very high in comparison, because unlike pills tinctures don't rely on digestion to break them down. Tinctures are readily absorbed by the body, beginning their work in the bloodstream almost as soon as they enter the mouth. Which is a very significant benefit.
It should be added here that, given the factors of convenience and ease of use, as a company we are offering more and more of our tinctured herbs in dry capsule form as well. Unlike many of the capsules available on the market today, by a special process of drying, ours are unique in preserving all the key aspects of bioavailability that are a hallmark of tinctures.
Note also that:
- Tinctures can be applied externally as well as internally.
- Tinctures can be stored for long periods of time, even years, without loss of effectiveness.
- Tinctures can be taken relatively accurately because they are administered in drops.
"We are thoroughly enjoying using your tinctures and have had very good results. It can sometimes be difficult to convince people to use a tincture instead of a capsule. But the results convince them shortly. Thank you.” - Debbie McIntosh and Sabine Crackle, Arborg Wholistic Center
Q. Why are herbal tinctures alcohol-based?
A. Not only is the alcohol in our tinctures indispensable for extracting the active ingredients of an herb, it is also needed to stabilize and preserve them. As well as limiting microbial activity, alcohol has the ability to inhibit enzymatic or hydrolytic reactions in plant extracts.
Alcohol plays the role of a carrier substance conveying active ingredients within the body. Beyond that, it has been scientifically proven that small amounts of alcohol actually enhance the immune system and its defenses.
Should one desire, however, the alcohol in a tincture can be almost completely removed by simply adding the required drops to some water that has been brought to a boil. Because alcohol evaporates very easily, almost all of the alcohol will be removed by this method without harm to the medicinal properties of the tinctured herbs. The resulting mixture can be taken as soon as it cools enough to be consumed.
Q. Your tinctures contain alcohol. Where does the alcohol come from? Is it gluten free?
A. Not only is the alcohol in our tinctures indispensable for extracting the active ingredients of an herb, it is also needed to stabilize and preserve them. If ingested in the form of a raw herb without the benefit of an extractant like alcohol, these active ingredients would be rendered less bioavailable and hard for the body to assimilate. Most of our finished tinctures contain between 30 and 50 percent alcohol, depending on the plant and which part is being used. Typically, resin-containing materials (e.g. propolis, myrrh) require more alcohol for the process of extraction—up to 95 percent in some instances. As well as limiting microbial activity, alcohol has, moreover, the ability to inhibit enzymatic or hydrolytic reactions in plant extracts. In addition,with its circulatory stimulant and vasodilating properties, it plays the role of a dispersive carrying agent and helps convey the active ingredients of a herb to wherever they are needed within the body. Beyond that, it has been scientifically proven that small amounts of alcohol actually enhance the immune system and its defenses. To give you a concrete example of the amount of alcohol we’re dealing with, the suggested dosage of our Ashwagandha Tincture calls for 2.66 ml 3 times daily, rendering a daily total of about 8 ml of tincture. Since the tincture consists of 45% alcohol, this gives a daily alcohol intake of 3.6 ml. A typical shot of liquor amounts to 44.4 ml of total liquid. If, as is standard, the beverage is 40% alcohol, this amounts to 17.76 ml of alcohol in one drink. Hence, it would take almost five days of ingesting the maximum daily dose of ashwagandha to achieve the equivalent of one alcoholic drink. To give you a further basis of comparison and context, researchers at Indiana University found that a standard glass of orange juice contained between 0.2 and 0.5% alcohol. Thus, at 0.5% alcohol, an average 10 ounce glass of orange juice has 1.5 ml of alcohol. In other words, a full daily dose of Ashwagandha Tincture has as much alcohol, roughly, as two and a half glasses of orange juice. Should a person wish, however, the alcohol in a tincture can be almost completely removed by simply adding the required drops to a cupful of water that has been brought to a boil for 10 minutes or so. Because alcohol evaporates very easily, almost all of the alcohol will be removed by this method with minimal degradation of the medicinal properties of the tinctured herbs. The resulting mixture can be taken as soon as it cools enough to be consumed.
At the beginning of November, 2014, however, as part of our ongoing commitment to painstaking product improvement, we began using Certified Organic alcohol from cane sugar exclusively. Because we tend to make many of our tinctures in large batches in the fall after the end of summer and harvest, it will take several months for this Certified Organic alcohol to cycle through to all our products as they make their way onto store and dispensary shelves.
Q. How should a person store herbal tinctures?
A. You can store them at room temperature, but out of direct sunlight.
Q. What’s the shelf life of a herbal tincture?
A. When properly stored, a tincture can last for years even well beyond the official expiry date.
Q. Is it safe to continue using herbal tinctures after their stated expiry dates?
A. Safety is not an issue in this case. It’s the medicinal effectiveness of the tincture that eventually becomes problematic at a certain point, but usually not until a fair while beyond the official expiry date.
Q. Why is there, in some bottles, a very small amount of sediment?
A. A normal aspect of most tinctures is precipitation, which is a naturally occurring event that happens more often than not after the product has been filtered and bottled (its occurrence after the fact is outside of our control since it has already been bottled). Precipitation is simply the process by which a substance is separated out of a solution as a solid and occurs either by the action of gravity and/or through a chemical reaction that forms particles out of the soluble compounds. If the product is shaken, these particles can also result in an appearance of cloudiness. All of our tinctures are manufactured by traditional means, the upshot being that this sedimentary matter is a totally normal, naturally occurring condition.
Q. What’s the best way to take a herbal tincture?
A. The simplest way is just to add the required drops to a few ounces of warm water. If you prefer, you can use herbal tea or diluted juice in place of water. Alternatively, you can administer the drops directly into your mouth, under your tongue being the best.
Q. Why do herbal tinctures have such a bad taste?
A. Although such is not invariably the case, many people comment on the sometimes unpleasant taste of tinctures. This is a result of the herbs themselves, which can have a sharp, robust flavor. Often it seems that, the stronger and more effective the herbal tincture is, the more pronounced the taste will be. Sometimes the best way to take the recommended dose of a tincture is to put the drops in a bit of water and gulp the whole thing down quickly.
In fact, the taste of a tincture is an important factor in its overall effectiveness, as the body learns to associate the taste with the healing effects specific to the remedy. It does not take long for the body to register a remedy's taste, which in turn triggers a response in the body, predisposing it and making it receptive to the positive healing properties of the remedy, whether it be a single herb or a synergistic combination of herbs. Understanding this process may make taking tinctures a little easier to get used to!
Many tinctures may add to the effectiveness of a herbal tea, and this provides a very pleasant way to take a herbal tinctures. For example, in order to enjoy the benefits of a herbal tea, a person must often consume rather a lot of it, sometimes five or six cups! However, a dose of Lemon Balm Single Tincture in a cup of Lemon Balm tea, let’s say, boosts the effectiveness of the tea.
Q. How is the dosage determined?
A. When we establish the recommended dosage of a herbal tincture, we consider a number of factors. Primarily we look at the tincture's level of concentration relative to the potency of the herb itself and its specifically intended use. Often the dosage is given in the form of a range. This allows for differences in body weight and physical constitution.
Q. The labels on some of your tinctures do not have a children's dose. How would I determine a children's dose?
A. Assuming that the product is not contraindicated for children, the following is a dosing schedule table that provides typical proportional dosing:
- Adults and adolescents 15 and over: adult dosage
- Children and Adolescents 10-14 years: 1/2 of adult dosage
- Children 5-9 years:1/4 of adult dosage
- Children 2-4 years: 1/6 of adult dosage
Note that there is no provision in this table for children under the age of two. The reason for this is that it is a matter of policy with Health Canada to disallow any label dose for children under the age of two, whether the product be a tincture or a topical product or whatever the case may be. We suggest you consult a health care practitioner regarding the appropriateness of administering these products to children in that age category.
Q. Should I be taking herbs when pregnant or breastfeeding?
A. Except for culinary herbs, no you shouldn't take herbs or herbal remedies without the go-ahead from a qualified practitioner.
Q. Can I take herbal remedies with prescription drugs?
A. Often this does not pose a problem. It is most advisable to consult a professional health care practitioner before taking more than one remedy at a time.
Q. How long should I take a herbal remedy, if I suffer from an ailment or condition?
A. It all depends on the nature and seriousness of your ailment. In the case of an acute or superficial condition, you may end up taking the herbal extract for less than a month, perhaps even a day or two. For a chronic ailment, your period of treatment may last months. In the case of some products, there is a Duration of Use statement on the label that establishes formally how long the product may be used. If there is no Duration of Use statement on the label and you've been using a product for a month, the first question to ask yourself is whether you're feeling better. If you are feeling better, we recommend you follow a dose break schedule. After the first month, take a 1-day break then continue taking the product. Once you've finished a second month of taking the product, take a 2-day break. After the third month, take a 3-day break and so on, gauging the state of your health after every discontinuation. Continue this sequential monthly regime of dose breaks until you reach a point where symptoms return. If they do, return to the previous month's break period. Here's how it works practically. Let's say you're taking a product and that at month 10, after a 10-day break, you notice an increase of symptoms. In the next month, namely, month 11, go back to taking a 9-day break. If you feel no increase in symptoms, continue on with this 9-day break regimen for a further 3-6 months. After the 3-6 months, you can try extending the break period once again. If that doesn't work, return to a 9-day break. The upshot here is that you should stay at a break that works for 3-6 months and then retry the process, aiming all the while for an increase of the break period. Note, however, that our suggestions for how long certain St. Francis topical products should be used differ slightly from the above. With the exception of Tea Tree Oil, Castor Oil, and St. John’s Wort Oil, St. Francis topical products, including Ear Oil, contain plants of the Asteraceae (aka Daisy) family, notably calendula. Herbs in the Asteraceae family can be sensitizing for some people. This means that, after 8 months or more of continuous use, in rare instances, such herbs have been found to cause the skin to begin reacting with some minor itchiness. For topical products of this kind that are used for prevention or maintenance (e.g. Mastos Breast Oil), we recommend their use for a period of 6 weeks twice a year (spring and fall might be good occasions for this). If there is a therapeutic need to use such topical products and there is no formal Duration of Use statement, we recommend a dose break schedule that is slightly amended from the generally applicable dose break schedule we give above. Which is to say that, after the first month, you should take a 2-day break then continue taking the product. Once you've finished a second month of taking the product, take a 4-day break. After the third month, take a 6-day break and so on, gauging the state of your health after every discontinuation. Continue this sequential monthly regime of dose breaks until you reach a point where symptoms return. If they do, return to the previous month's break period. Here's how it works practically. Let's say you're taking a product and that at month 5, after a 10-day break, you notice an increase of symptoms. In the next month, namely, month 6, go back to taking a 8-day break. If you feel no increase in symptoms, continue on with this 8-day break regimen for a further 3-6 months. After the 3-6 months, you can try extending the break period once again. If that doesn't work, return to an 8-day break. The upshot here is that you should stay at a break that works for 3-6 months and then retry the process, aiming all the while for an increase of the break period.
Q. What if I am healthy and am taking a herb for preventative reasons? How long should I take it?
A. A. Adaptogen herbs, i.e. herbs for adrenal function, fatigue and stress, like SFHF’s “Strest®” combo, are ideal for all people to take at all times, i.e. throughout life. We’re all susceptible to the effects of stress, and these herbs help us to weather these storms without succumbing to the health-negating effects of a stressful lifestyle, experience, or condition. In our view, the ideal approach to using adaptogen herbs is to cycle them off and on, as follows: 1) The first approach is to take an adaptogen formula like Strest® for 3 weeks, followed by a 1-week break, on an ongoing basis. This approach also holds true for single-herb adaptogens like ashwagandha, rhodiola, and such. 2) A second approach is designed for individuals who have a greater need for adaptogens, i.e. those recovering from adrenal fatigue or high-intensity athletes and the like. In these instances, we suggest added support as follows: Use the primary formula, for example, Strest®, in alternation with a secondary formula, for example Deep Immune® or EchinAce®, on a 3-week cycle, i.e. 3 weeks of Strest®, followed by 3 weeks of EchinAce® and so on, in continuous alternation. 3) Another option is a variation on the first option, namely to take an adaptogen formula like Strest® for 3 weeks, followed by a 1 week break, and to continue this for the summer months. After this, there can be a switch to an immune-focused adaptogen formula like Deep Immune® for the winter months, again for 3 weeks on and 1 week off. There are numerous variations on these themes, but this is the general rule for the use of herbal formulas by otherwise healthy people. To reiterate, however, if the individual suffers from a stress-related condition (for example, an auto-immune disease), the preferred option is to cycle the product as per the FAQ, “How long should I take a herbal remedy, if I suffer from an ailment or condition”.
Q. Can I take two or more herbal tinctures concurrently?
A. Usually this does not pose a problem. Oftentimes, it's actually the preferred course of treatment.
Q. On many labels, particularly in the case of tinctures, the recommendation is that the product be taken “on an empty stomach”. Must I fast before or after or while taking this product?
A. Most tinctures are more readily absorbed by the body on an empty stomach.“On an empty stomach” means the tincture should be taken anytime right up to meal or snack time, even immediately before. Similarly, it also means that ideally the tincture should be taken two hours or more after a meal or snack. If at times this “empty stomach” instruction is not possible, don’t worry about it overmuch. Just take the tincture whenever you can. There are, however, exceptions, such as bitter tonic herbs (e.g. our Canadian Bitters formula), which are meant to be taken exclusively before a meal because of the nature of their action. Digestive formulas like Kolesist and Acidux, on the other hand, should be taken two hours or more after a meal. Then there are herbs for sleeping, which are quite often taken in one dose before bedtime. Typically, we try to make it clear on the label which way a herb should be taken.
Q. What does the herbal tincture ratio mean (e.g. 1:4, 1:5, 1:1, etc.)? How does this relate to the conversion of the recommended tincture dose in drops/ml to milligrams?
A. In the case of single herb tinctures, the conversion is dependent on the strength or ratio of the herb relative to the liquid in which it is soaked, which is to say macerated (this soaking/macerating liquid is also called the menstruum, which is usually alcohol and water, but sometimes includes glycerine as well). The most common ratio is that of 1:4. This signifies that 4 ml of the final tincture preparation contains 1 gram (i.e. 1000 mg) of herb, usually dried. Which means in turn that 1 ml of tincture contains 250 mg of herb (i.e. 1000 divided by 4). Similarly, with a 1:5 tincture, the ratio signifies that 5 ml of the final tincture preparation contains 1 gram (i.e. 1000 mg) of herb, which means that 1 ml of tincture contains 200 mg of herb (1000 divided by 5). With the new Health Canada labeling protocols, the amount of herb per 1 ml is typically listed on our label.
It’s worth noting here that, in the language of herbal medicine, stronger preparations with a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio are called extracts rather than tinctures and are often made by a process of percolation rather than maceration or soaking.
Things get a bit more complicated with combination tinctures, where multiple herbs, oftentimes with different herb to menstruum ratios, are mixed together for synergistic effect. Even in this case, however, the individual amount of raw herb in milligrams is indicated on the label, allowing you to make your calculations.
Q. Are the herbs you use in your tinctures fresh or dry?
A. More often than not, the herbs we use in our tinctures are dry rather than fresh. Sometimes, however, when the evidence supports the therapeutic use of fresh herbs, we do indeed use fresh plant material for our tinctures. We are well aware of the sometimes medicinal ramifications of the use of fresh vs dry herbs. In a number of cases, the use of fresh herbs is logistically impossible, since the herbs come to us by a long journey from distant parts of the world.
Q. You have replaced your ginger 1:5 tincture with a 1:1 fluidextract? As well, you’re using this 1:1 fluidextract in all the combination products where the formula calls for ginger. Why is that?
A. With its digestive and anti-inflammatory qualities, to name just a couple, ginger is a classically valuable herb that has been used for millennia as both a foodstuff and medicinally. For years we had been making ginger as a standard 1:5 tincture, a process characterized by soaking the raw dried herb in alcohol and water, in order to capture the therapeutically active metabolites. The result is that every ml of 1:5 tincture contains 200 mg of ginger. It’s this 1:5 tincture that we used as well in all our combination formulas that required ginger.
In recent years, however, in collaboration with a biopharmaceuticals lab at a prominent Canadian university, we began to explore the realm of fluidextracts. By definition, fluidextracts imply a 1:1 ratio. This means that every ml of extract contains 1000 mg of unprocessed dried herb—a much more potent end product than is the case with a 1:5 tincture. Such a ratio is, however, impossible to achieve by any kind of standard tincturing process. In this case, we ended up devising and perfecting our own unique extraction method. It involves a process that uses minimal heat and works by evaporating the excess liquid (i.e. alcohol and water) of the soaking herbal mixture through vacuum distillation. When all is said and done, not only is there more ginger in every ml of liquid, but analysis has shown that, in the case of our product, the resulting ginger extract has a very significant gingerol content of about 20%, gingerol being an important marker constituent of this vitally useful herb. Compare this with many other “standardized” extracts on the market, where the gingerol content is around 6%. Many of these other extracts, it should be noted, are also high in shogaols, which are a by-product of ginger extraction where heat is used (e.g. by way of steam distillation). Shogaols may signify, in fact, a poorer quality product.
We’re quite proud of what we’ve achieved. We invite any and all to sample our new ginger fluidextract. We’re sure that you’ll be impressed!
Q. What is the difference between Respirafect and Respiracleanse? How do I know when to use one rather than the other?
A. In most instances, these two products are complementary and work together to achieve respiratory balance. There are, however, points of emphasis particular to each of them.
As you might gather from the name, Respirafect is geared more to lung infections. Respirafect combats the infection, offering soothing action that reduces inflammation and helps the lungs expel sticky, glutinous mucus. In the minority of cases, where infections are simply associated with loose, easily-expectorated mucus, Respirafect can be used on its own.
More commonly, infections are accompanied by more harsh, dry and irritating coughs or with difficult to expectorate mucus, in which cases the ideal approach is to pursue a strategy that combines these two lung products. This being the case, we often recommend a regimen of treatment that involves taking these two products alternately—sometimes on the hour at the outset of a bout of respiratory illness.
Q. Your Sage Tincture has the following Duration of Use statement on the label: Consult a health care practitioner for use beyond two weeks. Why is this?
A. This limitation on the duration of use of sage tincture is based on its thujone content. The monograph put out on this herb by the EMEA (European Medicines Agency) includes the following statement: “Thujone is reported to be neurotoxic and chemotypes with low content of thujone should be preferred. A daily intake of 5.0 mg/person is acceptable for a maximum duration of use of 2 weeks.” We have determined that the leaf (i.e. the plant part that we use in our tincture) contains 1-2.5% essential oil, which consists in turn of 35-60% thujone. This is a 1:4 tincture, which means there are 250 mg of sage leaf in every ml of tincture. Given a dose of 1.5-2 ml (45-60 drops) three times per day for a daily total of 4.5-6 ml, the resulting thujone content would cover a range from 4-22.5 mg. It is quite conceivable, therefore, that, in terms of thujone, the fully daily dose could exceed the 5 mg threshold established by the EMEA. Hence the two week cautionary note may indeed be warranted. That having been said, we are not aware of any accounts of thujone toxicity reported in the literature, as it occurs in products containing sage. All the same, we cannot confirm with confidence whether this margin of error is excessive or not.
Q. What does the individual herb ratio (typically 5:1) in the herbal combination capsules (e.g. Deep Immune, Strest, Vitex Combo) mean?
A. Capsules are a kind of concentrated, dehydrated, de-alcoholized version of our liquid herbal tinctures. By a uniquely gentle process, all the superior therapeutic facets of the tincture are captured and condensed into a dry capsule form that is convenient, compact, and easy to use. In effect, this process reverses the dilution of the tincture and results in its polar opposite, which in turn produces a mirror opposite in terms of herb strength ratio. In such a case, the first part of the herb strength ratio is invariably higher to reflect this dynamic. Thus, for example, in the instance of a 5:1 ratio, every mg of raw dry herb in the capsule is equivalent to 5 mg of herb as it might be found in a liquid tincture. This raw herb equivalent conversion is reflected in the label texts of our capsules.
Q. Your herbal capsules contain magnesium stearate as a non-medicinal ingredient. Isn’t magnesium stearate supposed to be bad for you?
A. There has been much unnecessary controversy about magnesium stearate and its supposed ill effects on health and bioavailability. The scientific research, however, has often been misconstrued and does not support the argument that it is somehow harmful.
A small amount of magnesium stearate is included in our capsules as an excipient. In other words, it’s a lubricant that facilitates the flow of powdered herbal extract and makes it possible to properly fill the capsule. Magnesium stearate is the magnesium salt of stearic acid, which is a saturated fatty acid that occurs abundantly in vegetable and animal oils and fats. To give you an idea of scale here, 1 tbsp of olive oil has 266 mg of stearic acid, 1 tbsp of coconut oil has 381 mg of stearic acid, and a hamburger patty has 1599 mg of stearic acid. Meanwhile, one of our capsules typically has 1-10 mg of magnesium stearate, the latter consisting of 96% stearic acid.
One 1990 experiment, written up as a study titled “Molecular basis for the immunosuppressive action of stearic acid on T-cells,” has often been cited as primary evidence of the harmfulness of magnesium stearate. In this experiment, scientists found that a stearic acid bath destroyed the isolated T-cells of mice. On several counts, this study does not support an indictment of magnesium stearate. It is not likely, for one thing, that your T-cells would ever undergo such an immersion in stearic acid unless you consumed insanely huge amounts of coconut oil or olive oil, for example. Furthermore, human T-cells differ critically from those of mice in that they are able to de-saturate fatty acids and maintain membrane function in the face of any such challenge.
Another argument against magnesium stearate is that it diminishes bioavailability. Once again, the science does not sustain this argument.
In fact, there is a growing body of research that suggests that a diet rich in stearic acid affects atherogenic and thrombogenic risk factors in males in a positive way. It also has a beneficial effect; it has been shown, on blood lipids and factor VII coagulant activity. The research is so compelling, in fact, that the food industry is moving towards enriching fats with stearic acid instead of hydrogenation precisely because of these positive effects on thrombosis and lipids.
Chris Kresser, a well-known practitioner of functional, integrative medicine who has appeared as a guest on the Dr. Oz Show, summarizes the controversy quite aptly:
“Overall, I haven’t found scientific evidence to substantiate the claims against magnesium stearate, and the small amounts found in supplements shouldn’t be a problem for the majority of the population.”
Q. How does the dose of essential oil of oregano in your Oreganum Plus Gelcaps compare with the dose in your liquid versions, i.e. Oreganum Plus 1:1 and Oreganum Plus 1:3?
A. Our Oreganum Plus 1:1 contains 11.6 mg (undiluted) essential oil of oregano per drop. Our daily dose according to the label is 2-3 drops, 3-4 times daily. This gives a daily range of 6-12 drops per day, which gives a dose in turn of 70-140 mg per day.
Our Oreganum Plus 1:3 contains 6.25 mg (undiluted) essential oil of oregano per drop. Our daily dose according to the label is 4-6 drops, 3-4 times daily. This gives a daily range of 12-24 drops per day, which gives a dose in turn of 75-150 mg per day.
Our Oreganum Plus Gelcaps contain 75 mg (undiluted) essential oil of oregano per cap. Our label dose is 1-2 gelcaps twice per day, which in turn gives a daily dose of oregano oil that ranges from 150 to 300 mg per day.
Q. Can I take Deep Immune while I’m breastfeeding?
A. This is a question that is often posed to us. The label instructions for Deep Immune suggest consulting a health care practitioner in the case of breastfeeding. As with so many of our tinctures, this is a government-mandated caution that arises from the absence of relevant clinical studies. In a healthy woman, a practitioner will likely allow for its use. More so than safety, the practical issue with Deep Immune in this instance is the stimulatory effect of some of the herbs in the formula, which may inhibit sleep and cause restlessness in the infant. When it comes to women who are breastfeeding and who want at the same time to maintain their immune function, we typically recommend the use of our Deep Immune Kids formula, which is a child-friendly, simplified version of the adult formula. Instead of the eight herbs of the adult formula, it contains only astragalus and codonopsis, both of them gentle and safe in their action. Please do note, however, that the Deep Immune Kids has a similar government-mandated caution in reference to breastfeeding as a situation that requires consultation with a health care practitioner.
Q. Some of your tinctures also include vegetable glycerine. Where does the vegetable glycerine come from?
A. Our vegetable glycerine comes from soy and is GMO-free.
Q. Can I use Butter Ghee if I am dairy sensitive?
A. Our Butter Ghee is free of milk proteins, but may nonetheless contain traces. It should therefore be avoided if you have life-threatening anaphylactic-type allergies to dairy products. Typically, however, our Butter Ghee does not contain lactin or casein and can be used by people who have less severe allergies to milk products (lactose intolerance).
Q. Can I use Mineral Matrix® and Go Pro Matrix® if I am dairy sensitive?
A. Both these products are sourced from goat’s milk. Roughly 75% of people who are allergic to cow’s milk (lactose intolerance) can tolerate goat’s milk. These products should, however, be avoided if you have life-threatening anaphylactic-type allergies to dairy products.
Q. Can products containing black walnut (i.e.Black Walnut Single Tincture, Black Walnut Combo, or Red Clover Plus Salve) be used if you have a nut allergy?
A. We have had our Black Walnut Single Tincture, which occurs as a component of Black Walnut Combo, tested at the lab of the University of Guelph, where it was found to be allergen-free to detection limits of 2.4 parts per million (ppm). Also tested was our Black Walnut Oil, which is an ingredient in our Red Clover Plus Salve. It was also found allergen-free to detection limits of 2.4 parts per million. Even so, just to be on the safe side, we caution people with life-threatening anaphylactic type allergies to nut products to avoid any of our products that contain Black Walnut.
Q. What products are safe for children?
A. Apart from obvious exceptions (e.g. Fountain of Life Tea, Mastos Breast Oil), most of our nutritional products, as well as our topical creams, oils, and salves, can be used by children. In the case of tinctures, we have products, of course, that are specifically intended for children. These include Deep Immune Kids and TiliaCalm, for example. Otherwise, use by children is generally indicated by the ages listed in the dosage instructions on the label.
Q. What does Organic Certification Mean?
A. Surprisingly enough, this is a tangled question, and the answer to it has many layers of bureaucratic complexity. It needs to be said at the outset that we were pioneers in recognizing the need and desirability of sourcing plant material and foodstuffs organically. Our paramount concern has always been to source only materials of the absolute highest quality, convinced as we are that this is the most significant factor in securing the quality of the finished product. Regulatory compulsion has never been our primary motivator in this area. Rather the driving force has been our own unwavering concern to produce nothing but the best—the reason for our motto, “Quality Conscientiously Achieved”.
Q. What are the distinguishing characteristics of SFHF organic ghee? Does it come from grass fed cows?
A.It goes without saying that our pure, organic ghee is free of additives, artificial flavours, and preservatives. It’s also, however, allergen-free. The organic designation for our SFHF ghee means that the cows from which the ghee is derived are housed in a clean, healthy, organic farm environment and are fed exclusively on a diet of certified organic, GMO-free foodstuffs. Nor are they exposed to synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. The designation means, moreover, that they are grass-fed at least four months of the year, normally in pasture season, during the late spring and summer. The upshot is that buying our ghee during certain times (e.g. fall and winter, taking into account the lead times for processing) entails a much higher likelihood of its coming from grass-fed cows. For the remainder of the year, however, the cows are given conventional organic feed. This may include silage, which contains non-GMO corn and possibly other grains, as well as hay, which typically contains grass, clover, and alfalfa. It should be noted that the organic dairy farms that provide the milk for our ghee participate collectively in dairy production and receive a farm gate Producer Premium for the organic milk they ship. This means that more money goes to the producer. Our organic ghee comes primarily from Ontario dairy farms, with supplementation from Quebec when there is a short supply. Because the milk is channelled through the Canadian Dairy Pool, there is no way of telling whether it comes from one farm in particular rather than another.
That being said, our products generally fall into either of two categories. They are either foodstuffs (e.g. Coconut Oil, Butter Ghee) or else natural health products (e.g. our tinctures). Foodstuffs come under the regulatory authority of the Canada Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which recognizes Pro-Cert, one of the chief organic certifying bodies in Canada, whose name we list on the labels of our foods and nutritional products. Natural health products like tinctures, however, take up a far larger proportion of what we sell and come under the authority of Canada’s Natural Health Products Directorate (NHPD), but do not come under the direct oversight of an organic certification body. Rather, all our herbs, for example, come from reputable growers and/or brokers who supply us with what is called a Certificate of Analysis, which attests to the quality of any given plant that we are receiving. It should be added here that we accept only plants that are Certified Organic (by far the majority) or else wildcrafted, that is to say, harvested in the wild.
The upshot is that, where applicable, you will find Organic Certification logos on our products. Otherwise, the Organic Certification of the ingredients will be listed on the side panels of the product label.
Q. Where do your Goji Berries come from?
A. Our goji berries come from the foothills of the Himalayas in the remote and unspoiled Ningxia region of south-central China. We have worked closely with our supplier to ensure that our goji berries are of unparalleled quality and meet our highest standards. In fact, our owners have actually visited China in order to make a firsthand appraisal of the area where our goji berries are grown and harvested.
Q. Where does your Rhodiola come from?
A. Many people believe mistakenly that rhodiola is native exclusively to Asia. In fact, this marvelous adaptogenic herb is indigenous as well to the colder regions of North America and other similar north temperate climatic zones. Our rhodiola comes from a couple of sources, depending on availability, namely, either the pristine Altai region of Asia or else Canada, where it grows in profusion in many places, but tends to be cultivated commercially on a wider scale in the prairie provinces.
Q. Is your Rhodiola standardized? What is its Rosavin content?
A. Our rhodiola tincture is “standardized by input,” which is to say that there are 250 mg of authentic rhodiola in every ml of the tincture, which is made to a 1:4 ratio. This means that we can guarantee that the tincture contains Rosavins, but we cannot guarantee a minimum concentration or level of them.
The rhodiola in our Strest Capsules and Fémance Menopause Capsules, on the other hand, is standardized to 1% Rosavin, Rosavin being the marker compound that is most unique to authentic, medicinal rhodiola. There are other rhodiola products on the market that standardize to the multiple Rosavin-type compounds that occur in rhodiola. Oftentimes this percentage is higher than that of Rosavin alone, as much as 3.6%. It should be stressed that this does not mean these products are “stronger” than ours, but merely that they are standardized to a wider, more ambiguous range of compounds that may not, in fact, assure the same level of medicinal and herbal authenticity as our more accurate, restrictive Rosavin standard.
We are often asked by customers to compare the potency of our rhodiola (as well as other herbs that are apt to occur in standardized format, such as St. John’s wort and black cohosh, for example) with standardized versions of this herb produced by other manufacturers. Unfortunately, these kinds of comparisons can be complicated and need to be made on a case by case basis, as they are very much contingent on the product’s brand name, its extract ratio, and which constituents it is standardized to. If you find yourself in a quandary about this issue, please do not hesitate to contact us for our input.
Q. Where does your Oregano Oil come from?
A. Our Oregano Oil comes from plants that have been wildcrafted in the highland regions of the Mediterranean.
Q. What is the carvacrol content of your Oregano Oil?
A. The minimum carvacrol content of our pure oregano oil is 72%, although once diluted (Certified Organic Olive Oil in our Oréganum Plus 1:1, for instance) this then becomes a minimum of 37.5%. Most companies dilute their oil to a ratio of 1:4 or 1:5, but still list a carvacrol content of 75 or 80% without explaining that this carvacrol content percentage refers to the crude oil and not the final product.
We don't guarantee a percentage, because each batch is slightly different. Note that a wild harvested plant will naturally concentrate chemicals differently from season to season and relative to growing area depending on climactic conditions such as rainfall, temperature, etc. Nevertheless, thus far our oil has always been at least 72% carvacrol.
Note too that studies find that it is oregano essential oil in its total synergy that is best at preventing and treating chronic infections. Which is to say that its effectiveness is not a function of its carvacrol or isolated constituents, but rather the harmony of all constituents as they naturally occur in oregano. So an oregano oil with 90+% carvacrol is not demonstrably superior, as is claimed by certain companies.
A recent research article elaborates on this point in compelling terms: “The antimicrobial activity of a given essential oil may depend on only one or two of the major constituents that make up the oil. However, increasing amounts of evidence indicate that the inherent activity of essential oils may not only rely exclusively on the ratio in which the main active constituents are present, but also on interactions between these and minor constituents in the oils and oleoresins.” (Singh et al. “Composition, In Vitro Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Activities of Essential Oil and Oleoresins Obtained from Black Cumin Seeds (Nigella sativa L),” BioMed Research International 2014, p. 7)
Q. Is your St. Johns Wort standardized?
A. Our St. John’s wort tincture is “standardized by input,” which is to say that there are 250 mg of authentic St. John’s wort in every ml of the tincture, which is made to a 1:4 ratio. This means that we can guarantee that the tincture contains Hypericin, but we cannot guarantee its minimum concentration or level.
Q. Where does your coconut oil come from?
A. Our Coconut Oil comes from a USDA certified organic coconut plantation and processing plant in the Phillippines.
Q. What are the distinguishing characteristics of SFHF organic ghee? Does it come from grass fed cows?
A. It goes without saying that our pure, organic ghee is free of additives, artificial flavours, and preservatives. It’s also, however, allergen-free. The organic designation for our SFHF ghee means that the cows from which the ghee is derived are housed in a clean, healthy, organic farm environment and are fed exclusively on a diet of certified organic, GMO-free foodstuffs. Nor are they exposed to synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. The designation means, moreover, that they are grass-fed at least four months of the year, normally in pasture season, during the late spring and summer. The upshot is that buying our ghee during certain times (e.g. fall and winter, taking into account the lead times for processing) entails a much higher likelihood of its coming from grass-fed cows. For the remainder of the year, however, the cows are given conventional organic feed. This may include silage, which contains non-GMO corn and possibly other grains, as well as hay, which typically contains grass, clover, and alfalfa. It should be noted that the organic dairy farms that provide the milk for our ghee participate collectively in dairy production and receive a farm gate Producer Premium for the organic milk they ship. This means that more money goes to the producer. Our organic ghee comes primarily from Ontario dairy farms, with supplementation from Quebec when there is a short supply. Because the milk is channelled through the Canadian Dairy Pool, there is no way of telling whether it comes from one farm in particular rather than another.
Q: What is the difference between gentian and gentian violet?
A: Gentian and gentian violet are entirely disparate substances and are as different from one another as apples are from oranges.
Gentian is a naturally occurring herb that is used primarily as a bitter, to aid digestion. It is a key ingredient of our Canadian Bitters formula.
Gentian violet, on the other hand, is far from being a natural substance. It is in fact a toxic triarylmethylane drug that is used for thrush in infants and breastfeeding mothers. It has the epithet “violet” only because its colour resembles that of the petals of the flower of the gentian plant. Needless to say, we do not make or sell gentian violet.
Q. Ear Oil does not smell as much like garlic as it used to? What has changed in the formula?
A. Our Ear Oil formula has always included garlic as a key ingredient. Initially, we were using fresh garlic, but found, however, that this led to spoilage and problems with shelf life. For this reason, we now use dried garlic instead of fresh.
Q. Are your products gluten-free?
A. All of our products are gluten-free.
Q. What is the shelf life of the Coconut Oil?
A. Unrefrigerated, the shelf life of the Coconut Oil is at least two years. Refrigeration extends this period of shelf life.
Q. Is your Coconut Oil cold-pressed and is it allergen-free?
A. Our Coconut Oil is cold-pressed and filtered with no chemicals or preservatives being added. This process retains the enzymes, lauric acid, and all the other nutrients. You get only pure, unadulterated, virgin Coconut Oil.
Our Coconut Oil is made from 100% coconut with machinery that has been used to manufacture coconut products only. It contains no traces of soy, eggs, or milk products.
Q. What is the shelf life of the Butter Ghee?
A. Butter ghee is a foodstuff with origins in India, where the warm climate dictated the invention of modes of food preservation that could be used in default of refrigeration. Like other pure oils, butter ghee is a foodstuff safe at room temperature for the life of the product as established by the "Best Before" date stamped on the container. However, to maintain optimum quality and prevent any drying of the product, refrigeration is recommended.
Q. What is the shelf life of the Coconut Butter Ghee?
A. Because this product consists for the most part of Coconut Oil, the shelf life of Coconut Butter Ghee unrefrigerated is one year. As is typical, refrigeration extends this period of shelf life.
Q. Is the Butter Ghee from Grass Fed Cows?
A. All we do in fact guarantee is that the cows that produce our ghee are organically fed. At this stage there exists no regulatory criterion for exclusively grass-fed cows here in Canada (or elsewhere for that matter). A big part of the problem is that our Canadian climate is not conducive to the year-round grass pasturing of cows. The organically fed designation does, however, mean that the cows must be grass-fed at least four months of the year. The upshot is that buying our ghee in the summer months entails a much higher likelihood of its coming from grass-fed cows.
Q. What is the difference between your new Butter Oil product and Butter Ghee?
A. To begin with, although both are made from the milk of cows and are free of milk solids, a key difference is that, unlike Butter Ghee, Butter Oil is a supplement rather than a food and undergoes an entirely distinct process. Butter Oil is made without heat by centrifuge that separates the components of the milk according to molecular weight and retains the high vitamin portion. By way of contrast, Butter Ghee is not a supplement, but has culinary uses.
Q. What is the difference between our Mineral Matrix® and Go Pro Matrix®?
A. Essentially, these are complementary products. Mineral Matrix® is a 100% all-natural powdered mineral/electrolyte supplement sourced from all natural goat milk whey, which is the watery component of goat milk. Go Pro Matrix®, by way of contrast, is an all natural protein powder made from unseparated goat milk.
Q. Does your Mineral Matrix contain sugar?
A. As can be seen from the Nutrition Facts table on the label, our Mineral Matrix does indeed contain a certain amount of lactose, which is a naturally occurring sugar.
Q. Is there a minimum amount required for orders?
A. There is in fact no minimum amount required for you to place an order, so long as you are prepared to pay the additional shipping and handling costs we charge, if you do not meet certain thresholds. For further information, check out the “Terms and Conditions” section of your current store or professional catalogue.
Q. How can I obtain your products if I do not live close to a store that carries St Francis Herb Farm™ products or if I do not live in Canada?
A. In such a case, your best bet is to use one of several online vendors that carry our products. In some instances, these will ship to the U.S. and worldwide (e.g. www.wholisticresponse.com).