Do you ever wonder why there are so many different ways to take herbs? For instance, you can find Elderberry in at least five different variations to purchase. But are some better than others?
Gummies, capsules, and tinctures (also known as liquid extractions) are as unique as they look, which can make choosing one among hundreds of bottles of the same herbs overwhelming!
A quick note: Before you take any supplement — tincture, capsule, or gummy — check in with your practitioner. They know your body best.
Different Types of Supplements
Before you can pick the best supplement for you, you need to understand the unique pros and cons of the different forms.
Gummies are fun and delicious, but what happens to the herb's medicinal value when made into that yummy little chew? Most gummies get their texture from gelatin, an animal fat. Unlike collagen, gelatin thickens when cooled; however, both contain similar amino acid profiles. Vegetarian gummies are usually made from pectin and/or tapioca starch instead of gelatin.
Although gummies often retain the herbs' medicinal value from the original extraction method, the potency is limited in a single gummy. This means you'll have to consume several gummies each day to achieve any nutrient daily value. It could take six to twelve large gummies to equal a teaspoon of Elderberry!
Be on the lookout for citric acid and added sugar in some gummies, which can be harmful to both your teeth and your overall health, especially for children.
Capsules are great for people who find liquid extractions unpalatable, and you can measure the concentrated serving easily. Good capsule companies that standardize herbs will use raw plant material with alcohol or advanced fatty acid extraction methods. Basically, the plant material is extracted and made into concentrated compounds, then added back to the same unprocessed plant material. Other companies cut corners by spraying the plant extractions onto rice powders, which can cause problems within our bodies.
Tinctures and liquid plant extractions are made the old-fashioned way in herbalism. Good companies use solvents like alcohol and vegetable glycerin to capture a broad spectrum of plant compounds and preserve the finished product, which is then strained. No added preservatives are necessary because of the stable ingredients used during the extraction process. It's very similar to the old-world methods used to prepare herbal formulas.
Absorption Matters: The Importance of Bioavailability
The bioavailability in the supplements you take matters. You can spend hundreds of dollars on fancy supplements, but the nutrients won't be absorbed unless the body recognizes it. Taking capsules is like playing a pinball machine — the capsule will be bounced around until absorbed. Each organ will have to do its part in breaking down the capsule and the nutrients inside.
On the other hand, liquid plant extractions will start to be absorbed immediately when taken orally. The taste buds are like the doorbell of the digestive system, alerting it that there's something new to be absorbed. The nutrients in tinctures are quickly sent where they need to go. Most liquid extractions are absorbed directly into the bloodstream, although everyone is different.
Gummies are chewed up, therefore activating the digestive system through taste, but they are still not as potent as tinctures. As mentioned earlier, it takes 6 to 12 gummies to equal the about 3 milliliters of Elderberry. Herbs don't need to be taken with added sugar or other ingredients. Our bodies are super intelligent and can easily recognize herbs as food, therefore accepting the nutrients they have to offer.
Tinctures Are Affordable
When budgeting your monthly expenses, supplements are likely the last on the list. Good quality supplements can be expensive! Liquid extractions and tinctures are affordable, and you will likely need to take less than with other supplements. That can really add up when you're taking immune-supporting formulas all winter long!
Lauren Ann Nichols attended The Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism and received her certificate in medical herbalism. She is the owner of Herbal Vice, a small batch skin care company, and grows the herbs used in her products. She is currently a customer service representative at WishGarden Herbs.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or sell any product.