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.