Synergy, in its literal definition, refers to the scientific belief that the culmination of all the parts of an element adds up to more than just the 'whole'. i.e. that if you get a group of elements, in specifically compatible amounts and formats, that their combination will 'synergise' and produce a better result than the individual elements, say, I larger doses, or in different combinations.
This idea is important when it comes to nutrient and plant or herbal ingredients and their formulation for use for health benefit. It is essential to combine these different ingredients carefully and specifically in order to maximize the benefit that will be received.
"When you combine different herbs, the result can be a great deal more powerful (and sometimes different) than any of the herbs taken individually or separately. A well constructed formula will therefore be harmonized so that your body will not respond negatively to individual herbs but instead be able to fully accept the desired actions." (Sean Russel, Chinese Herbalist)
Synergy is enhanced when absorption and bioavailability of an herb is increased in the body.
It should also be noted that while herbs can work very effectively in combination, due to their synergistic effects, alone they can be far less effective and sometimes produce opposite actions. For example, Ginger has an anti-ulcerogenic action which is considered to be the work of a zingerberene compound within it. This compound was isolated and tested to measure its results. It was found that the whole ginger extract was 66 X more effective than the zingerberene compound.
The synergy of herbal remedies can actually be quantified because less of a herb is required to achieve the same effect when it is enhanced by the action of other appropriate herbs. For example, when 60mg of Valerian is combined with 40mg of Hops the results are the same as if the patient had been given 400mg of Valeriana on its own. This can be an important example as Valerian can cause stomach pain to many people in large doses, therefore the lower the dose of Valerian with the same result would be optimum in herbology.
We are often asked by customers why the mg doses in our ingredients is far less than other products on the market, resulting in customers believing that our products will be less effective. The above synergistic effect is essential for any long-term longevity supplement, and that is what our supplements aim to do. Ingredients taken in higher or mega doses should only ever be suggested for acute, and short-term need. Longer-term in such doses these could produce side effects and actual opposition to the effect we want to achieve, as has been exampled above.
Good examples of a well-formulated synergistic formula can include our Total Balance and Neuro Natural ranges. These formulas contain 10s of ingredients to make up the synergistic and bioavailable 'whole'. If the ingredients were not dosed as specifically as they are the result would be less effect and less actual long-term resolution. This is what is termed as 'negative synergy'.
Negative synergy can apply to any herbal or nutrient combination. For example, the combination of Echinacea and Andrographis enhances the immune system and is very beneficial in acute infections, however, Echinacea and Astrogalis / Huang Qi in combination can only be used in chronic conditions requiring immune stimulation and will exacerbate an acute condition. This is why where herbal preparations are concerned it is wise to consult with an experienced and qualified nutritional expert rather than trying to self-prescribe.
Each herb enhances the ability or action of the other ones. If you combine Echinacea and angustifolia root you will achieve an immune enhancing result greater than taking Echinacea on its own. If you take Echinacea Purporea on its own you will receive an immune enhancing result. However, if you add the two types of Echinacea together you will obtain at least three times that effect, not twice the effect. Putting them together gives a greater benefit than the two of them separately would give. This is the essence of synergy.
Another good example of this is our Bone-Support formula, where we combine 3 types of glucosamine. Glucosamine (and Chondroitin) are well known to have good initial effect in helping joint aches and pains and the beginning signs of arthritis. However, it is also well known that this effect is only limited if they are taken in these individual doses and in single formats. After a short time the positive effects will lessen as the body becomes used to these forms of ingredients and their higher doses, and as the ingredients become less active in the body. In Bone-Support we combine 3 different forms of the glucosamine family. Each have subtle molecular differences to maximise their efficacy. The different forms are Glucosamine sulphate, Poly-N-acetyl-Glucosamine, and D-Glucosamine hydrochloride. These 3 forms of ingredients in lower dose will provide a complete synergy and bioavailability that will not lessen effect with time.
Synergy also lowers the cost of a product because this type of formula reduces the amount of expensive herbs required to achieve the same result in larger doses.
Synergistic nutritional and herbal medicine creates natural formulas that promote healing and healt protection in the best, and most naturally compatible way for your body. The synergistic benefits of herbal and nutritional combinations suggest an enormous amount of enhancement to their performance in the right combinations, and this is an important aspect of natural healing.
Yet this is not to say that the market of single herb or nutrient products is unnecessary in any way. These are just as needed, for shorter-term, or more acute abilities that may be needed in some conditions, or as a 'top-up' to certain ingredients that may already be in formulation, due to the nature of the condition or disease. These have just as much worth, just for different purposes, and should be considered together, under expert nutritional advice.