Ask an HerbalistFeb 2, 2022

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

We love talking about herbs and herbalism, and we especially love answering your questions about those topics. That's why we brought in our team of herbal experts to respond to some of the most common questions and concerns we hear.


Our herbalists have decades of combined experience working with herbs — and the people who take them. They answer your most pressing questions, in our regular column “Ask an Herbalist.”

 

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.


Extraction essentially predigests the herb, separating the desired phytochemicals from the structural matrix of the plant that produced them. This allows the phytochemicals to be thoroughly and easily absorbed without further extraction of the herbal material in the gut.
Extracts are also much more convenient for regular use. Many herbs have extremely strong tastes and may be tough or woody, making their direct consumption unpleasant and even impractical.