Posted on: January 8, 2019
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’s the difference between Liquid Herbal Extracts and Herbal Tea?

Herbal teas have always been one of the foundational preparations in herbalism. They are a perfect adjunct to other liquid extracts like tinctures. The key differentiating feature with teas is that they are skewed heavily towards water-soluble constituents. Tinctures, in contrast, skew towards alcohol-soluble (fat-soluble) constituents. One caveat is that the alcohol content can be adjusted from very low to very high to suit the herb at hand. This flexibility allows for a very broad extraction range for properly made tinctures. Herbs high in alcohol-soluble constituents are poorly water-soluble. This is the reason that high alcohol is used to extract certain herbs and create tinctures rich in these often critical plant constituents.

A fun way to demonstrate this difference is to add a dropper full of a predominantly alcohol-soluble herbal tincture to water and watch the reaction. Tinctures like Milk Thistle, Kava, Myrrh, Propolis and many others will react very strangely when the hydrophobic phyto-constituents contact water. They can appear to churn and swirl in the water and will often have a milky appearance.

Another differentiating feature is that teas, unlike tinctures, must be made extemporaneously. Even kept in the fridge, teas do not last more than a few days. Tinctures, however, are self-preserving. This gives them a long window of use. And where a fresh, undried herb is superior to the dried version, tincturing can be used to extract the fresh herb for year-round use.