What’s the best way to take herbs?
It’s the herbal supplement showdown…
Tea, infusion, capsule, extract, or tincture?
Julie F. has the same question: “I’m confused! I know I should be using herbs but I don’t know which form is best — tea, confusion, capsule, extract, tincture… ? What’s the best?”
Actually, all of these forms are powerful in delivering the benefits and nutrition of herbs to your body… but the right form for you depends on your goals and your preferences.
On today's episode, I'm answering Julie's question!
The Question: What's the best way to take herbs?
Julie F. wants to know:
I’m confused! I know I should be using herbs but I don’t know which form is best — tea, confusion, capsule, extract, tincture… ? What’s the best?
Let's talk about the different ways to take herbs, first.
Forms Of Herbal Supplements
There are 4 general ways to take herbs — teas, infusions, capsules, and tinctures/extracts. There are others, too, like lotions and gels and oils. We’re going to stick to the ones you take orally for now. 🙂
The tea is where you steep a small quantity of dried herbs in boiled water for 10 to 30 minutes, then strain and drink.
The infusion is where you steep a larger quantity of herbs in boiled water for several hours to overnight, then strain and drink. Obviously, the infusion is more concentrated than the tea.
The capsules are filled with dried herbs. You swallow them like any other pill. They are generally 4 times more potent than teas.
The tinctures/extracts are where you put the herbs in a solvent base (such as alcohol) for a number of weeks and the alcohol (or other solvent) extracts the nutritive properties of the herbs into itself. Then you strain, bottle, and take by the dropperful. These are the most potent and concentrated because the alcohol is a powerful extractor.
Which Form Of Herb To Take?
Which form to take can definitely come down to preference. However, it is a general rule that the tincture (preferably put under the tongue) gives a more immediate response because the herbs go directly into the bloodstream.
If you’re taking herbs for nutrition (for minerals, for instance), the tea, infusion, or capsules will work great (so will a tincture).
It’s really up to you — these days I prefer the herbal tincture. I make them myself — they’re not only easy but they’re much, much, much cheaper than buying ready-made extracts.
What If You Don't Like The Taste Of The Tincture?
You can combine your herbal extract with a bit of water. You can even add flavor in the form of lemon or honey.
Some extracts are quite bitter — like schisandra berry. Wowee! I can hardly stand that one.
What If You Want A Non-Alcoholic Tincture?
No need to use alcohol! You can make a non-alcoholic tincture using glycerin or apple cider vinegar as the base.
However, keep in mind that alcohol is the most powerful extractor. In fact, for some seeds and berries, alcohol is the best way to extract the nutrition at all.
Additionally, alcohol is the best preservative. Extracts made with an alcohol base have an unlimited shelf life when stored cool and dark. (The other style of tinctures last 1 to 5 years, depending on what base is used and how they’re stored.)
How To Make An Herbal Tincture (aka Herbal Extract)
Of course, you can buy herbal tinctures. We recommend Mountain Rose Herbs.
If you want to make your own, you’ll be happy to find that it’s really, really easy. (And cheap! You can cut your costs by like 20 times if you make your own!)
I have a step by step recipe for you here.
Basically, you steep herbs in alcohol for 4 to 6 weeks. Strain, bottle, and use.
For instructions on making an alcohol-based extract, go here.
How Long Do Herbal Supplements Last?
The storage life depends on the base. All should be stored cool and dark (not next to the oven or a warm place). If stored properly, here’s the shelf life you can expect:
- alcohol — unlimited shelf life
- glycerin — 3 to 5 years
- apple cider vinegar — 1 year
Interesting Facts About Tinctures
While putting together this #AskWardee, I ran into some interesting facts about dispensing tinctures… I’m including these just for fun. 🙂
- 1 dropperful (a squeeze) is the equivalent of about 30 drops.
- The pump is the same size on all droppers, so the amount is always about 30 drops — assuming you squeeze air out, fully deflate the pump and suck in all extract (no air).
- 2 droppers full is like having an 8 ounce cup of tea — very concentrated!
For More Information:
- How To Make An Herbal Tincture (aka Herbal Extract)
- Mountain Rose Herbs
- Free Traditional Cooking Video Series
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Have you ever made an herbal tincture? What is your preferred way to take herbs?
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