Herb Basics: Best Herbal Extracts

Content Tools

When deciding to purchase an herbal extract, is it best to purchase one made from fresh herbs or dried herbs? In his book, Therapeutic Herb Manual, herbalist and Herb Pharm co-owner Ed Smith writes that many people assume that a fresh herb extract is superior, but that this is not necessarily true. Rather, the quality of the extract depends upon the unique biochemical, biophysical and energetic properties of the herb being extracted.

For example, some herbs—such as shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) and corn silk (Zea mays)—do make superior extracts when used fresh. However, other herbs, such as hops (Humulus lupulus) and grindelia (Grindelia spp.) make a better extract after the herb has been dried. Some herbs are best extracted when semi-dried, such as saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), or when fermented, such as wild cherry (Prunus serotina). Still other herbs, such as buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) and cascara sagrada (Rhamnus purshiana) are toxic when fresh and must be aged for one year before they can be used safely.

Source: Smith, Ed. Therapeutic Herb Manual. Williams, Oregon: Ed Smith, 1999.