This is fundamental to Traditional Herbal Medicine, where it is necessary to combine different herbs to enhance their overall action. We use the whole herb, rather than extracts or active ingredients, which maintains their natural balance and prevents unwanted side-effects or adverse reaction.
Herbs have been used safely for thousands of years in their whole form, which encompasses a complex mixture of many different compounds. Their synergistic effects maintain balance within the body whilst taking potent effect.
For example, the plant Meadowsweet contains salicylic acid, which is closely related to aspirin. In isolation this compound can cause internal bleeding from the stomach wall (a well-known side effect of aspirin) but Meadowsweet contains compounds called polyphenols, which protect and are healing to the stomach.
Pharmaceutical companies are unable to patent plant extracts because they are natural products. Therefore, they isolate only the most active chemical from a plant and manufacture it synthetically. They can then patent this new chemical for use in a prescription medicine. When an isolated component of a plant is changed into a pharmaceutical drug, the synergy is lost and the risk of side effects is greatly increased because the other balancing compounds in the plant have been removed.