Eating raw plant material and using herbal teas have been some of the popular methods
to enjoy the benefits of herbs for millennia. While modern processes and techniques
have allowed us to maximize their healing properties, many are conflicted when
choosing between herbal extracts vs tinctures. Explore our analysis of the difference
between a tincture and an extract and how they can benefit you.
What is the Difference Between Extracts & Tinctures?
Tinctures are prepared by soaking herbs in a solvent to draw out active ingredients. Specific instructions on how to properly prepare a tincture are described in the well-respected pharmaceutical texts The United States Pharmacopeia and National Formulary. These texts describe a tincture preparation method with a specific ratio for each plant; while this ratio varies, it usually calls for 100-200 grams of dried herb equivalent per liter (approx. quart) of solvent.
Fluid herbal extracts
are initially prepared in a similar manner to a tincture but use a much higher ratio of herb to solvent (1 kg of dry herb equivalent plant parts to 1 liter solvent). This means a typical fluid extract is much more concentrated and offers a higher concentration of herb equivalent per serving than a typical liquid tincture of the same plant.
The Difference Between Tincture & Extract Production
Both tinctures and herbal extracts are prepared by soaking herbs in an extracting agent called a ‘menstruum.’ A common menstruum is alcohol, which is often used to free the constituents of the herb so it can become more bio-available to the body. However, many tinctures contain a very high percentage of alcohol, often 60-90%. One of the biggest differences between tinctures and extracts is that tinctures are often quite dilute due to this high level of alcohol and do not usually contain a high concentration of herbal constituents and supportive phytonutrients.
While many herbal product manufacturers simply soak the herbal material in the menstruum, a process known as maceration, Nature’s Answer®
takes it a step further. In addition, Nature’s Answer utilizes a unique additional cold-percolation process, which draws out more of the phytonutrients that the plant has to offer.
Extracts are more potent and contain less alcohol than tinctures, but they still may have more alcohol than many people would prefer. Here at Nature’s Answer, we have the unique capability to remove all the alcohol from our extracts with our proprietary Bio-Chelation® cold extraction method. We then add back only 12-14% certified organic alcohol in our low-alcohol products (and none in our alcohol-free products). The result is a liquid extract that is up to 5 to 10 times more concentrated than a tincture, which means you get the benefit of a much higher potency herbal product.
There are many reasons why people may not want to use herbs with a high alcohol content, such as disliking the taste or alcohol sensitivity. Alcohol can also stress a weakened or under-functioning liver in sensitive individuals and isn’t appropriate for young children.
Nature’s Answer alcohol-free extract formulas replace alcohol with natural vegetable glycerin, which helps bind certain plant constituents and is easily absorbed by the cells. Glycerin occurs naturally throughout the body and makes up a portion of cellular membranes. This gives glycerin an affinity for the body, making it an excellent carrier for herbs.
Both alcohol and glycerin act to protect and preserve the potency of the herbal extract in the bottle. Occasionally, once the bottle is opened, alcohol may evaporate and lose its effectiveness as a preservative as the amount of alcohol in the bottle decreases. Glycerin, on the other hand, aids in maintaining the freshness and potency of the herb for the life of the product. Glycerin also has the added advantage of acting as a sugar-free natural sweetener, making the taste of some bitter herbs more palatable with little insulin response.
Other companies may offer alcohol-free herbs in glycerin, but they usually use glycerin in place of alcohol as the original menstruum (extracting agent). This kind of extraction process produces an end product called ‘glycerite.’ Since glycerin is not as effective as alcohol to extract biologically active constituents, glycerites do not have the same quantity and quality of active phytonutrient constituents. However, glycerin is a good addition to an herbal extract that was originally produced with alcohol, including the unique low-alcohol, cold-percolation process herbal extraction method exclusive to Nature’s Answer.
Nature’s Answer’s standards go beyond even that! Our founder, Frank D’Amelio, Sr., has always believed in the benefits of the whole herb and has insisted from the beginning on capturing the full spectrum of the herb in his extracts. Every plant has a unique chemical pattern that can be identified, so Frank developed a process and test methods to scientifically identify these markers and confirm the plant’s identity. At Nature’s Answer, we call this process Advanced Botanical Fingerprint Technology®. This unique process utilizes state-of-the-art laboratory equipment, which we use to identify incoming plants as well as our finished extracts and packaged products to ensure that you get the best product available.
This is just one of the many steps we take to ensure that you’re getting the full spectrum and all of the benefits of nature’s phytonutrients direct from the herb in every Nature’s Answer herbal extract. Just as nature intended.
Shop for Herbal Extracts from Nature’s Answer
Interested in Herbal Extracts? Shop our herbal extract category. From immune support
supplements to sleep support supplements
, we have an extract for you!