Ask an herbalist: How can you tell how much herb is in an herbal extract?

You’re not the first person to have questions about herbs and herbalism. So, we brought in one of our experts to help answer some of the most common questions and concerns. David Bunting, Herb Pharm’s VP of Botanical Affairs, began studying herbalism in 1979 and has been making herbal medicines professionally since 1982.

Question: How can you tell how much herb is in an herbal extract?

You may be wondering how to figure out how much herb is in your extract. To get started, it’s actually helpful to first rephrase the question. This is because extracts, by their very nature, no longer contain the starting herb. Instead, they contain phytochemical extractives from the herb that are now separated from the structural material of the plant. This is what gives an extract its special properties. So, it might be better to ask, how much herb does the extract represent? Or put another way, how much herb is this extract made from?

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Gardening tips from our Certified Organic farms

Our gardens, yards and neighborhoods are ecosystems. The actions we take in our yards impact life all around us—from the microorganisms under the soil to the birds migrating overhead. So, we have an opportunity. What impact do we want to have on this life? What actions will we take to make a difference right here in our very own environment?

Sayaka, our Master Gardener, pauses for a breath while working in our Botanical Education Garden.

At Herb Pharm, we’ve spent decades learning how to best impact the nature around us. We grow more than 65 different species on plots across our Certified Organic farms in southern Oregon. And we grow more than 500 more species in our Botanical Education Garden. More than that, we’re on a mission to keep getting better at serving our environment.

With this in mind, here are a few tips we have to share that can help you use your garden to better serve your own environment. Continue reading “Gardening tips from our Certified Organic farms”

Ask an herbalist: Why extract herbs, why not just chew them?

You’re not the first person to have questions about herbs and herbalism. So, we brought in one of our experts to help answer some of the most common questions and concerns. David Bunting, Herb Pharm’s VP of Botanical Affairs, began studying herbalism in 1979 and has been making herbal medicines professionally since 1982.

Question: Why extract herbs, why not just chew them?

Some herbs can be and often are eaten directly. Most commonly, these are the herbs and spices used in cooking. These can help recipes taste great, but many of the phytochemicals in them have reduced absorption due to the matrix of the plant they are part of and the food they are eaten with. Powdered herbs are also used in smoothies and preparations like golden milk made with turmeric. Continue reading “Ask an herbalist: Why extract herbs, why not just chew them?”

Ask an herbalist: How do you take herbs?

You’re not the first person to have questions about herbs and herbalism. So, we brought in one of our experts to help answer some of the most common questions and concerns. David Bunting, Herb Pharm’s VP of Botanical Affairs, began studying herbalism in 1979 and has been making herbal medicines professionally since 1982.

Question: How do you take herbs?

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4 questions with Alexis the Herbalist

Alexis the herbalist

What is an herbalist?

Generally speaking, an herbalist is a person who grows, collects, or uses plants to promote health and healing. I think of us as historians, honoring and preserving an older way of life, and as connectors of people and plants. In my current context, it’s a wild job! I wear a lot of hats on any given day. I answer herbal questions from customers, healthcare practitioners, retail partners—anybody who might ask about our products and operations. I help with new product approvals, tasting formulas and looking at things from a regulatory and compliance perspective. I look at current and historical research on herbs and work on special projects. I also teach a series of medicine making classes for Herb Pharm’s Herbaculture Intern Program. I get to help cultivate young people’s relationship with plants, which is one of my greatest joys Continue reading “4 questions with Alexis the Herbalist”

Creating a sanctuary for Monarch butterflies

On hot summer afternoons, orange-black Monarch Butterflies (Danaus plexippus) often fly amid our rows of pink Echinacea flowers (Echinacea purpurea). Our farms are ecosystems, and the butterflies play an important role. Like bees, birds and other pollinators, they support our plants’ reproduction.

The health of our herbs depends on the health of their ecosystem. So on our Certified Organic farms, we do what we can to support our pollinators. That’s why we’ve become an official Monarch Butterfly Way Station by growing Milkweed and other plants that provide habitat. We also raise butterflies from eggs, releasing them in time for their annual migration.

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How our farming practices address climate change

We grow cover crops like Crimson Clover (Trifolium incarnatum) to support our soil health.

As greenhouse gases continue to trap heat at increasing levels in our planet’s atmosphere, a correlation between human activity and climate change continues to rapidly shift our attention towards a recent sharp increase in our Earth’s average temperature. “We are at the most critical moment in the history of our species, as man-made change to the climate threatens humanity’s security on Earth. In 2012, total annual global emissions of greenhouse gases were approximately 52 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e). These emissions must soon drop to a net of 41 GtCO2e if we are to have a feasible chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C, above which point we dare not pass.”Regenerative agriculture can help reverse this trend. This approach adopts the benefits of preserving and enhancing a farm’s soil biology associated with organic farming.  However, the crux of regenerative farming is based on a broad understanding of our earth’s carbon cycle and taking steps to sequester this element back into our soil. Continue reading “How our farming practices address climate change”

9 ways we get the farm ready

Matt opens the barn doors ahead of a long growing season.

Late February is always a busy time around here. It’s still winter in southern Oregon. That means cool temperatures, especially in the mornings. And before Spring arrives, this is the time to welcome back our farm crew and ready our Certified Organic farm for the long growing season ahead.

Here’s a short list of what we do during our farm’s opening week. Continue reading “9 ways we get the farm ready”

Ask an herbalist: When is the best time to take herbs?

You’re not the first person to have questions about herbs and herbalism. So, we brought in one of our experts to help answer some of the most common questions and concerns. David Bunting, Herb Pharm’s VP of Botanical Affairs, began studying herbalism in 1979 and has been making herbal medicines professionally since 1982.
Continue reading “Ask an herbalist: When is the best time to take herbs?”

Ask an herbalist: What is an herbal extract?

You’re not the first person to have questions about herbs and herbalism. So, we brought in one of our experts to help answer some of the most common questions and concerns. David Bunting, Herb Pharm’s VP of Botanical Affairs, began studying herbalism in 1979 and has been making herbal medicines professionally since 1982.

Question: What is an herbal extract?

Although herbal extracts come in many forms, they have one common feature. Extracts represent naturally occurring phytochemicals (plant produced compounds) that have been removed from the inert structural material of the plant that produced them. The main advantage of using extracts over raw herb is that once extracted from the plant matrix, the phytochemicals bypass the need for digestion and are far more readily absorbable.  Liquid extracts also offer greater convenience than consuming an herb in its raw form.

Extracts are typically categorized by the solvent used to make them and/or by their form. Some of the more common solvents that are used include water, alcohol, glycerin, and vinegar. The inherent qualities of each of these solvents will attract different phytochemicals in an herb. Watery extracts made by infusion or decoction are used as teas, rinses and the base for syrups and other products.

Tinctures are liquid extracts made with alcohol and may include other food-grade solvents. Alcohol extracts a wide range of phytochemicals and is an excellent preservative. It may also be diluted with water to adjust alcohol content and glycerin may be added to curb excessive precipitation of the finished extract.

Food-grade glycerin is a low glycemic index sweetener often used as a solvent to make alcohol-free liquid extracts. While most glycerites lack appreciable alcohol, intermediate extraction may be carried out with alcohol on occasion. In this case alcohol is used to form the initial extract, and is then removed from the finished product with glycerin added in its place.

Vinegars are not common, but are experiencing a bit of resurgence in popularity. These are made by extracting herbs directly in vinegar. Apple cider or other plant based vinegars are most desirable in this case.

Oils are fatty oils that have been infused with herbs for topical use and may be called herbal oils or infused oils. The fatty oil used as a base is commonly from olive, sesame or coconut, although many other sources may be used.

Essential oils are the volatile components that have been separated from an aromatic herb. Quality essential oils are either steam distilled or, in the case of herbs like citrus peel, pressed directly from the fresh herb. Essential oils are very strong preparations and are well diluted for internal use.

Powdered extracts are formed by drying liquid extracts including tinctures and water extracts, often under vacuum. Powdered extracts are most commonly used in capsules and tablets. Because the solvent is removed from the final product, some powdered extracts are made with solvents other than ethanol and water. Solvent labeling is not required on powdered extracts, but transparent labeling will include the solvent(s) used. Traces of solvents will remain in the extract, which should be tested.

Supercritical extracts are made by extracting herbs with a gas, usually carbon dioxide, at low temperature and high pressure to bring it into the supercritical state. These are semi-solid extracts representing the fat-soluble components of an herb that are generally seen in softgel form.