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How to Use Herbal Extracts

Updated: Jan 15, 2022

Gazing into bottles varying in color formulated for wellness can be daunting!

In this post, we'll discuss what herbal extracts are and how you can use them.

"What is that?", "Do I eat it?", Can my dog taste it?" are a few of the questions I've heard repeatedly over the years in regard to herbal extracts.

The advice provided below will help you in your herbal journey, no matter where you are, as this is a lifelong learning process.

Extract vs. Tincture

You may hear herbalists use these terms interchangeably. The way I interpret the two terms is that extracts are a general umbrella that defines oxymels (honey-based), decoctions (water-based), infusions (water-based), tinctures (alcohol-based), and vinegars. A tincture is one form of extraction using alcohol.

Store-bought vs. Personalization

One of the beautiful things about herbal formulations is the artist's expression in each product. This will differ from store-bought extracts and personalized extracts.

Typically, store-bought extracts come in two forms: a standardized extraction with a primary compound (i.e. curcumin for turmeric extract) and the whole plant.

One form is not better than the other! How you choose an extract is dependent on your wellness needs and goals.

Personalized extracts offer a more targeted approach when working with a clinical herbalist. In this case, an herbalist will determine and adjust the concentration of the extract for you over a certain period of time.

Each and every single bottle of herbal extract is unique, from the liquid base (i.e. vinegar, alcohol) to the source of the herbs (i.e. backyard, national herbal farmers). It's also important to inquire about the formulation process and testing of an extract. Some states require testing for quality assurance, and others don't so it all depends. If the manufacturer is transparent about the ingredients and processing, I believe that is just as equally important. Once you've done your due diligence as a consumer and have purchased an herbal extract, hopefully, you were informed with instructions as to how to use it.

How to Use

The label on a tincture will have suggested use guidelines unless otherwise advised by an herbalist or health care professional. In my clinical practice, I like to use tinctures in accessing how the client responds to a plant before creating their custom formula. This is done by dropping the tincture on the wrist, rubbing it in, and reading how the body responds! Within a few seconds, you will begin to see a response. It's a fascinating and simple tool to use for practitioners and clients alike.

I hope this information was helpful and deepens your herbal journey. Share your experiences with herbal tinctures in the comments below!


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The herbalist, chemist, and medicine maker at Asili Apothecary, Gloria created this space to facilitate healing and learning for yourself and those around you. The apothecary and homestead is based in Fayetteville, NC. Gloria enjoys time with her family and Mother Nature.

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