Supplement confusion: Which one is right for you: Herbal Tincture, Phytocap or Ferment?Katolen Yardley, MNIMH – Medical Herbalist
February 9, 2017
Herbal medicine comes in many forms; depending upon the unique delivery system of each product, you will receive more benefit from the contents contained within. How do you choose the most ideal product for your specific needs? When do you choose a tincture versus a liquid phytocap versus a herbal ferment? Here are some considerations to assist with the decision making process.
Option 1: Herbal Tinctures
Why take it: versatility, easy digestion, customizable dose, long-term potency
Liquid herbs typically refer to either tinctures or liquid extracts. Liquid herbs offer great versatility for both internal and external use. This is my main reason for appreciating tinctures – they are versatile and offer numerous modes of application. (Personally, I am sure to pack some multipurpose tinctures whenever I travel. Echinacea tincture, for example, offers immune boosting properties and is an antimicrobial and antiseptic aid for both internal and external use.) Some additional considerations:
Tinctures can be easily blended together and are convenient to take, simply mix in water. Tinctures can also be applied directly to the skin or mixed into creams or salves and used to boost the effectiveness of a topical application.
One of the important considerations for ingesting a liquid is that the medicine is not pressed into a tablet – containing added fillers, therefore requiring extra work and time for the digestive tract to break down and assimilate. Liquid tinctures are quickly absorbed into the body without extra effort.
The administration is by drop dose so it can be adjusted for the elderly or children or those who are highly sensitive.
For consistent potency over time, look for a liquid herb tincture made using spagyric processing. This approach is advanced and time-consuming but the end result is a tincture which is more concentrated and bioavailable than the original raw material yet maintains the plant actives and mineral components taking fullest advantage of all the beneficial properties of the whole herb.
For more information on liquid tinctures, refer to the previous blog post on Tinctures: Why Liquid Herbs? The Benefits and How to Take Them
Option 2: Herbal Phytocaps
Why take it: concentration, whole herb, tasteless
The phrase “phytocap” means plant capsule (or veggie cap as you’ll sometime hear.) Liquid phytocaps are highly-concentrated, alcohol-free extracts inside vegan-friendly, fast-dissolving encapsulation without gelatin.
Phytocaps offer the potency of the whole spectrum of chemical constituents that naturally occur inside the plant. They are ideal for those who don’t want to swallow many pills – the phytocaps are a highly-concentrated two per day dosage for adults. The phytocaps are first prepared as a tincture – and then go through a process of removing the alcohol and water. Imagine, for a moment, how concentrated the final product would be if the liquid (water and alcohol) are removed from a tincture; the end result is a very concentrated syrup like liquid which is then encapsulated.
Many supplements use extracts of individual compounds rather the whole herb. Rather than isolating one chemical constituent, a holistic approach ensures access to all the health benefits herbs have to offer. For example, in Botanica’s turmeric phytocap, turmeric is known for its remarkable and numerous medicinal benefits in the body, from antioxidant and anti-cancer properties to anti-inflammatory, digestive and liver support. Rather than focusing solely on curcumin, known for its anti inflammatory benefits, the turmeric phytocap uses the whole herb to ensure the full spectrum of chemical constituents including carotenoids, volatile oils, ascorbic acid (nature’s vitamin C), quercetin and many other curcuminoid compounds, such as demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin.
This one is clear and simple, if you don’t like the taste of an herbal tincture or ferment, phytocaps are the clear choice.
Option 3: Fermented Herbs
Why take it: Absorption, Additional nutrients, Customizable dose
Fermented herbs, in comparison with liquid tinctures and photocaps, are a relatively new and one of a kind approach, utilizing the health benefits created during the entire fermentation process. With the increasing popularity and multitude of health benefits, it’s no surprise that fermented herbs are gaining momentum.
Anything fermented will be partially predigested, therefore is easier for the body to break down and assimilate. As fermentation begins the process of breaking down the food source thereby lessening the energy and effort required by our body to digest and complete this process; I recommend herbal ferments for those with digestive impairment, inflammatory bowel conditions, weak or challenged absorption, and those benefiting from additional liver clearance and detoxification.
During fermentation, new nutrients are created including antioxidants, B vitamins, amino acids, probiotics, and enzymes thus offering additional benefit for digestion, microbiome support and digestion. Trace amounts of organic acids, can aid the bodies’ assimilation of nutrients and support liver detoxification.
Take just the amount you need alone as a shot or mixed in a favourite drink. Try the Immune-Boosting Sparkling Mocktail on a warm day.
Unlike popular fermented beverages like kombucha – which are often noticeably sweet and sometimes carbonated, Botanica uses the fermentation process for maximizing the therapeutic value; continuing fermentation until all sugar have been used up and the liquid taste slightly tart – the end result is a zero-calorie enhanced herbal ferment with the benefit of easily assimilated nutrients.
Ultimately your choice comes down to personal taste. Regardless of the form of herbs you choose, look for a product that is certified-organic, dairy-free, gluten-free, and non-GMO. If you have specific health concerns, are taking numerous medications it is always advisable to consult a practitioner highly trained in the use of herbal medicine to provide you with the specific guidance for your unique health picture.