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Herbal Extract Information

What Are Herbal Extracts?

An herbal extract is a preparation (usually liquid) of herbs made with a solvent that releases the active compounds from the cellulose, or plant material. Solvents used are often either alcohol (a tincture) or glycerin (glycerites). There has been research done to suggest that liquid herbal extracts are more effective and much stronger than pills or capsules that contain the same herbs. A high quality extract should preserve the scent and taste of the herb or herbs from which it was made. Vanilla extract is a commonly used herbal extract.

Single herbs may be used for herbal extracts; however, multiple herbs with complementary properties that benefit specific conditions are often combined in the same extraction to make a tincture blend. A more specific method, giving more controllable results, is to extract individual herbs and then combine them in exact proportions.

Why is there alcohol in liquid herbal extracts?

Alcohol is the best food grade solvent for the extraction and preservation of many herbal properties that are poorly soluble in water, such as essential oils, resins, balsams, and many of the alkaloids we use. Alcohol is also an excellent preservative, which will prolong the shelf-life of the extracts with proper storage and care. It is also helpful in the absorption of the herbs into the bloodstream.

How much alcohol is in liquid herbal extracts and how much alcohol am I really consuming?

The actual amount of alcohol in each extract varies and is clearly labeled on each bottle. Depending on the herb, the amount of alcohol can be anywhere from 20% to 90%, but the amount you actually consume is very small. For example, taking 30 drops of Echinacea liquid (45% to 50% of alcohol content) amounts to consuming roughly 1/85th of an 8 oz glass of wine. If you add those same 30 drops to 2 oz of water, the mixture will only contain .59% alcohol.

Are the extracts made from fresh herbs better than the extracts made from dry herbs?

This will actually depend on the unique herbs being extracted. While some herbs are indeed much more effective when extracted while still fresh (e.g. Shepherd’s Purse), there are also a great many herbs that are better extracted when dried (e.g. Hops). Also, some other herbs are best when semi extracted or fermented. Others may be overly strong when fresh and must be dried and aged at least a year before being extracted. Keep in mind that each herb has its own unique properties and must be treated accordingly. There are no universal rules when it comes to herbal extraction and handling.

How many drops of the extract are in a 1 oz bottle?

The amount of drops in a 1 oz. bottle of a liquid herbal extract will vary depending on the extract. Some extracts are thicker than others. For example, the Echinacea extract contains only about 1,184 drops, while Marshmallow extract, which is much thicker, contains only 1,000 drops. For the most part, most extracts will contain between 1,000 to 1,300 drops per ounce.

How do I take my liquid herbal extract?

You should always put the extracts into water or juice before drinking them. Taking them straight from the dropper not only could possibly introduce outside pathogens into the dropper, but may cause a burning sensation in the mouth and throat. Mix the number of drops found on the side of the bottle into 1 to 2 oz. of water or juice unless directed otherwise on the bottle or by your health care professional. You may also add the drops to warm (not boiling) tea. Always follow label instruction and the instructions of your healthcare provider.

What is the shelf-life/how do I store them?

In general, the herbal extracts we sell have a shelf life of between 3 and 5 years. The dosage form (alcohol or glycerin) will impact the shelf-life, with alcohol based extracts having a longer life than those in a glycerin base. For best results, store your herbal extracts in a cool, dry place away from heat and direct light. Please make sure to shake your bottle before use as some extracts will separate after sitting for a while.

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