Extracts vs Capsules... Which one should you choose?
Ever stood in the middle of the health food store, looked at the rows and rows of medicines and supplements, and wondered which one to choose? You’re not alone. It can be very confusing. There’s herbs in pill form and herbs in liquid form (and more options than that!) How do you decide which one to buy?
Herbs can be used in so many ways. You could get the whole dried herb, teas, oils, tinctures, powders, extracts, or capsules. The many different options are nice, but sometimes it can be hard to know what choice is best for you. Two pretty common ways people take herbal supplements are through extracts or capsules. And that is the topic of today’s article.
Today we are diving into which form of herbal supplement is better, extracts or capsules. Dr. Christopher sells both, and as stated before it can be hard to know which one to get. We will look at all the deciding factors between extracts and capsules, the pros and cons for each one, and the best time to take each of them.
A side note here, the name “tincture” and “extract” are often used interchangeably, though they are a little different. The main difference is that extracts are typically more concentrated and more potent than tinctures, but for purposes of this article we are comparing the pill (also known as” tablet” or “capsule”) form of herbs with the liquid form of herbs (whether that is technically an extract or a tincture.)
Without further adieu, let’s dive right in.
How are extracts and capsules made?
Extracts are made by placing the fresh or dried herbs into a menstruum (typically water, oil, vinegar, glycerin, or alcohol) and leaving it for a while. This allows the medicinal part of the plant to be extracted into the solvent. After a couple weeks you can remove the plant and you have the extracted result.
When making tinctures or extracts, alcohol is typically the best menstruum. Some herbs, such as milk thistle, myrrh, and frankincense. Many people prefer extracts because you can smell and taste the flavor of the herb, and digestion starts with our taste.
Extracts are meant to be taken multiple times a day.
Capsules are made by taking the herb, grinding it into a powder, and encapsulating it. The empty capsules are most commonly made from a vegetable base that is vegan and easy to digest. Less common are capsules made from an animal or glycerin base. Dr. Christopher’s capsules are all vegetable based.
With a capsule you can’t really taste the herbs so much and it’s just like swallowing any other pill.
All of Dr. Christopher’s formulas, whether in capsule form or extract form are made from wholesome organic ingredients. We use the whole plant, unlike some herb providers who extract single ingredients. High quality herbs are Dr. Christopher’s first priority. You can read more about the Dr. Christopher process here.
You can get already made extracts or capsules or you can make them yourself.
There are a few factors that go into choosing the right herbal supplement for your needs. These include:
- Potency of the herb
- Shelf life
- Customizable dosages
- Personal choice
First, potency of the herb. Extracts are generally more potent than capsules are due to how they are made. There is a higher concentration of herbs with a smaller dose in extracts. Whereas with capsules there is a smaller concentration of herbs per dose.
Both extracts and capsules have their place, but when it comes to needing a more potent, stronger, and faster acting herb supplement, extracts are the way to go.
When it comes to convenience in taking herbs, capsules are a winner. It’s easy to swallow a pill, and they are super easy to handle and transport. Extracts usually are in glass bottles and can be more of a hassle when it comes to transporting them. It’s also more of a mess if the bottle spills.
Next, absorption. Unlike capsules, liquid extracts bypass digestion and can immediately enter into the bloodstream. Your body can absorb the herbal constituents and properties and begin using them in mere minutes. Capsules, on the other hand, take 20-30 minutes to digest and begin working, sometimes longer.
The difference between the absorption rates can be helpful for different reasons. If you are taking specific herbs to help with your gut or stomach, then maybe you want something slower-acting, so you can let your body have more time to digest it.
But if you want something that absorbs more quickly and starts the healing process faster, then extracts might be the better option.
Something to note here is that there are certain herbs that work better in different forms. For example, Dr. Christopher’s Liver & Gallbladder formula is meant to be taken in a liquid form, so you can taste it. When the bitter taste hits the tongue it stimulates bile production and kick starts the gallbladder.
We offer the Liver & Gallbladder in capsules, but it may be more effective as an extract.
Every herb is a little different, and some may be better in an extract vs a capsule then others. Talk to an herbalist to know how specific herbs are best taken.
The fourth deciding factor is shelf life. While herbs don’t really expire or go bad,(at least not in the moldy milk sense,) they can lose their flavor, potency, and ability to work as quickly as when they are more fresh.
Herbs in the capsule form can last for 2-3 years. Extracts can last a little bit longer, especially ones made with alcohol, 5+ years.
Another benefit to tinctures or extracts comes with how easily customizable they are. If you want to take more of an extract or less of one, it’s easy to add or subtract the drops you take. Whereas capsules aren’t as easily customizable.
If you want to take more or less of any whole capsules that is easy, but if you want to take half of a capsule, it can be very messy and not as precise to do that. In that sense capsules aren’t as easy to customize as extracts.
While most often you can just take the recommended dosage and should be fine, sometimes you may need or want to customize your dose, and because of that extracts might be better.
Last, and possibly most important, is personal choice.
The herbal extracts don’t always have the most pleasant taste. Sometimes they can taste really bitter and strong. While this may not be a problem, and you really only take a few drops at a time, it may not be your first choice if you don’t want to taste the herbs.
(Dr. Christopher does sell a Kid E line with extracts that are made for kids and have a better taste as well.)
Pills or capsules are tasteless and easy to swallow. Although some people do feel nauseous after taking pills, the capsule route may be the one you want. While there are both pros and cons to taking either extracts or capsules, the main purchasing rationale is personal choice and which one will be easier for you to take.
Here is a one glance chart of all the pros and cons for both.
So, what’s the bottom line? Are extracts or capsules better? Both have their places and both can help your body. Some herbs are better taken in a certain form than another, but most often either works great.
The most important thing to keep in mind when picking a form of herb is to pick the one that is easiest for you to take consistently.
You need a consistent schedule of taking herbs to see results. A big deciding factor in choosing whether to use capsules or extracts depends on what will be easiest for you to take and what will best fit your lifestyle.
Based on the pros and cons it really is up to you on whether capsules or extracts are better. Do you have a preference? Let us know in the comments below.