QUESTION: What form of an herb is the most effective, tea, capsules or liquid extract?
ANSWER: This answer depends on several factors. One of the factors is you. Are you willing to make a tea? Clean up is involved after preparing tea, you will have to taste the herb and possibly have to drink the tea on a regular basis for a while. While this fits into many herb user’s (like myself) lifestyle, it may not fit into yours. The remedy cannot do any good to you, if you will not drink enough of the tea.
Capsules and liquid extracts require little effort and are easy to carry with you. Capsules are very popular these days. You do not even have to smell or taste the herb. I feel that just powdered herbs in capsules are not always as effective as liquids like tea and extracts. Liquids require little or no digestion and are assimilated into your system much easier than an herb powder in a capsule. That herb powder is like a fibrous food item in your stomach. It requires digestion. Digestion of something like this can take hours to complete. Sometimes the digestive system itself is faulty and then you may not receive all the benefits that the herb could offer. A powdered herb has been exposed to more air, light and sometimes heat, than an herb that has been left in bigger pieces. Air, light & heat reduce the potency of herbs. I feel that herbs are already subtle in their effect and they need to be kept in as good condition as possible in order to retain their potency. Quality is everything with herbs. So having said all that, I want to also assure you there are times that powdered herbs in capsules can be a very effective way of using herbs. Some powdered herbs in capsules, are very effectively used for digestive complaints. It makes sense to be digesting those herbs. Some herbs are so powerful that they serve their purpose very well in any form, including powdered herb capsules. Some kinds of ginseng are an example of this. Like I said before, quality is vital to the success of your herbal remedy. A very high quality powder will do what you expect it to do and an herb capsule filled with an average quality powder, quite possibly exposed to a lot of air and which has sat on a shelf for a while, may not do the trick for you.
Liquid extracts are a very concentrated form of the herb. Usually they are 5 – 10 times stronger than the herb itself. I often tell newcomers that extracts are like very concentrated teas. Most extracts are made with the liquid solvents of distilled water, grain alcohol and vegetable glycerin. The herb material is soaked or infused in the solvents for a period of time before the herb is strained out and the liquid has taken on the properties of the herb. Both extracts and tinctures are made in this way. Tinctures generally have a higher alcohol content. That is why you will usually find a higher dose with a tincture. Doses are usually achieved by counting drops or taking a dropperful. Drops can be taken directly into the mouth or under the tongue and liquid consumed afterwards or drops can be put into a cup of water. If you are sensitive to alcohol, consider what Jeff does. He mixes drops of the extract into a cup of water just off the boil, lets it sit for 5 minutes and he experiences no problems. Liquid extracts usually come in eye dropper bottles and are very effective and easy to use.
Powdered extracts are an example of modern technology put to good use, in my opinion. The liquid extract is made in the traditional way and then spray (or vacuum) dried. This powder becomes an instant powder meaning it dissolves in any temperature liquid. You no longer have to have boiling water to make a tea. This wonderful powder is extract strength and can be either put into capsules or used to make a convenient instant tea. It is still an extract so it also requires no digestion and can enter your system very rapidly. Some people just aren’t willing to taste even the liquid extracts, much less make and drink tea and these extract powders in capsules are a fantastic alternative for them.
It has been interesting to note that sometimes we have experienced better results from drinking a tea of a particular herb rather than the liquid extract form. You would assume the concentrated extract form would surely bring better results than just the simple tea. We have also experienced the opposite where the extract works better than the tea. It just depends which herb is being considered. I think people are very individualistic and some people may do better with a certain form of an herb over another form. You just have to see what is the best for you. Remember though, that quality dictates much of an herb’s success.