Herbal preparations are available in many different forms. They can be found or purchased as bulk herbs, teas, tinctures, fluid extracts, and tablets or capsules. It is important for doctors, pharmacists, consumers, and anyone else who routinely recommends herbs to understand the differences between these preparations, as well as methods of expressing strengths of herbal products. The following is a guide to help you better understand herbal medicines:
There are two basic ways of preparing an herbal tea, by infusion or decoction. A third method, known as maceration, is also included here. The usual dose is 1 to 2 teaspoons of the herb to a glass or cup of water (approximately 150 milliliters). Unless otherwise directed, teas are best taken fairly hot, on an empty stomach, away from meals.
There are three different types of extracts that may be encountered:
Tinctures are made by soaking the herb in the appropriate solvent (liquid), usually alcohol or water. This mixture is soaked for a certain period of time. The liquid is then strained or pressed, to yield the tincture. The usual concentration of a tincture is 1 part plant to 5 or 10 parts liquid, expressed as 1:5 or 1:10, respectively. Dosage varies according to the active principles in the herb.
Capsules have made using herbal medicines more convenient. They are generally small gelatin containers for swallowing and holding powdered extracts or oils that might otherwise not taste good. Dosages may be different from one company to the other. Ask your caregiver what may be best for you.