Liquid Herbal Extracts (Tintures) Liquid Herbal Extracts (Tintures)

Posted on by Carol Wu

Plants and herbs store many beneficial compounds inside the plant and by using different methods of extraction, we are able to extract the beneficial compounds out of the herb fiber and transform into liquid concentrate.  Some customers would ask if it is the same if we eat the plants?  It’s one possible way, but it is not quite practical to eat kilograms of plants.

So, what are extracts?  There are many kinds and forms of herbal extracts, they can be from different part of plants, flowers, roots, barks, leaves, buds, resins…etc, and each extract has its own benefits.

Herbal extracts can also be extracted using different methods,

  • Alcohol Extraction
  • Glycerin Extraction
  • Oil Extraction
  • BG-PG Extraction
  • Active Plant Cells Extraction
  • and more...

Most customers are confused with the different extraction methods, and I will go over the most common ones in cosmetic industry.  Keep in mind when buying extract you should know its solubility.  In general, alcohol, glycerin, and BG-PG extracts are water soluble while oil extract is water insoluble.

Alcohol Extraction

Alcohol is an excellent solvent for extracting and preserving many herb constituents.  The amount of alcohol in an alcohol liquid extract can vary from 20% - 90% depending on the herb and the alcohol concentration (In general 25% - 60% at 90% alcohol concentration).  The advantages of using alcohol in extraction are, it is able to dissolve herb constituents that are poorly soluble in water and vice versa, it acts as a preservative, and it is a good carrying agent.  The disadvantage of using alcohol are that it may denature some of the organic compounds of the herb, and some people are sensitive to alcohol.

Glycerin (Glycerol) Extraction

Glycerin is a clear, colorless, odorless viscous liquid that is widely used in many skincare products as humectant and moisturizer.  When glycerin is used in extraction, it is a good solvent for extracting herb constituents. In general, a glycerin extract has a mixture ratio of 60% or more glycerin to 40% or less water, and preservatives. The advantages of using glycerin in extraction are, it is a good alternative to alcohol for pets, children, or people who are sensitive to alcohol, and it is less likely to denature the organic compounds of the herb.  The disadvantages of glycerin extract are, it is less efficient in preservation than alcohol, and some argue that it is less potent than the alcohol extract thus requiring a higher dosage when using glycerin extract.

Oil Extraction

Oil extraction is commonly known as oil infusion (infused / macerated oil).  It is an extraction of oil soluble components through the soaking of plant material in vegetable based oil such as sunflower oil, soybean oil, olive oil, or jojoba oil.  Usually it is done by using dried herbs because moisture will cause the oil to go rancid.  Given it is 100% oil based the advantage of using the oil extraction method is it does not need the addition of preservative, however you may add antioxidant to extent the shelf life.

Hydroglycolic Extract

Hydroglycolic extracts are created using Butylene Glycol (BG) or Propylene Glycol (PG). BG & PG are both byproduct of petroleum.  They are both used as solvent in the extraction process.  PG or BG extracts were most popular in the past with a general mixture ratio of 50% water and 50% PG or BG.  The advantages of PG-BG extracts are it is thin and light, it quickly dissolves in water, and it is cost effective for the manufacturer.  The disadvantage of PG-BG extract is, today there is a growing popularity of glycerin extracts over PG / BG extracts.

Active Plant Cells Extract

Unlike conventional herbal extracts we have discussed above, active plant cells extract is a biotechnology.  It starts from obtaining plant cells from the plant and growing the “mother cells” in the culture medium.  Then the mother cells produce the active plant cells, and filtered out the excess materials.  Active plant cells may come in 2 forms, liquid form and powder form.  The liquid form is similar to glycerin extract and hydroglycolic extract but at a higher rate of actives, and the powder form is 100% active.

The advantages:

  1. The active ingredients are “Pure” without environmental contamination.
  2. The active plant cells are not genetically-modified.
  3. It is independent to season, crop, nor location, and therefore quality is completely controlled.
  4. As it is more concentrated than conventional extracts, dosage can start from 0.5% in formulation.

The disadvantage of using active plant cells extract is it is very costly.

For informational purposes only. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Plants and herbs store many beneficial compounds inside the plant and by using different methods of extraction, we are able to extract the beneficial compounds out of the herb fiber and transform into liquid concentrate.  Some customers would ask if it is the same if we eat the plants?  It’s one possible way, but it is not quite practical to eat kilograms of plants.

So, what are extracts?  There are many kinds and forms of herbal extracts, they can be from different part of plants, flowers, roots, barks, leaves, buds, resins…etc, and each extract has its own benefits.

Herbal extracts can also be extracted using different methods,

  • Alcohol Extraction
  • Glycerin Extraction
  • Oil Extraction
  • BG-PG Extraction
  • Active Plant Cells Extraction
  • and more...

Most customers are confused with the different extraction methods, and I will go over the most common ones in cosmetic industry.  Keep in mind when buying extract you should know its solubility.  In general, alcohol, glycerin, and BG-PG extracts are water soluble while oil extract is water insoluble.

Alcohol Extraction

Alcohol is an excellent solvent for extracting and preserving many herb constituents.  The amount of alcohol in an alcohol liquid extract can vary from 20% - 90% depending on the herb and the alcohol concentration (In general 25% - 60% at 90% alcohol concentration).  The advantages of using alcohol in extraction are, it is able to dissolve herb constituents that are poorly soluble in water and vice versa, it acts as a preservative, and it is a good carrying agent.  The disadvantage of using alcohol are that it may denature some of the organic compounds of the herb, and some people are sensitive to alcohol.

Glycerin (Glycerol) Extraction

Glycerin is a clear, colorless, odorless viscous liquid that is widely used in many skincare products as humectant and moisturizer.  When glycerin is used in extraction, it is a good solvent for extracting herb constituents. In general, a glycerin extract has a mixture ratio of 60% or more glycerin to 40% or less water, and preservatives. The advantages of using glycerin in extraction are, it is a good alternative to alcohol for pets, children, or people who are sensitive to alcohol, and it is less likely to denature the organic compounds of the herb.  The disadvantages of glycerin extract are, it is less efficient in preservation than alcohol, and some argue that it is less potent than the alcohol extract thus requiring a higher dosage when using glycerin extract.

Oil Extraction

Oil extraction is commonly known as oil infusion (infused / macerated oil).  It is an extraction of oil soluble components through the soaking of plant material in vegetable based oil such as sunflower oil, soybean oil, olive oil, or jojoba oil.  Usually it is done by using dried herbs because moisture will cause the oil to go rancid.  Given it is 100% oil based the advantage of using the oil extraction method is it does not need the addition of preservative, however you may add antioxidant to extent the shelf life.

Hydroglycolic Extract

Hydroglycolic extracts are created using Butylene Glycol (BG) or Propylene Glycol (PG). BG & PG are both byproduct of petroleum.  They are both used as solvent in the extraction process.  PG or BG extracts were most popular in the past with a general mixture ratio of 50% water and 50% PG or BG.  The advantages of PG-BG extracts are it is thin and light, it quickly dissolves in water, and it is cost effective for the manufacturer.  The disadvantage of PG-BG extract is, today there is a growing popularity of glycerin extracts over PG / BG extracts.

Active Plant Cells Extract

Unlike conventional herbal extracts we have discussed above, active plant cells extract is a biotechnology.  It starts from obtaining plant cells from the plant and growing the “mother cells” in the culture medium.  Then the mother cells produce the active plant cells, and filtered out the excess materials.  Active plant cells may come in 2 forms, liquid form and powder form.  The liquid form is similar to glycerin extract and hydroglycolic extract but at a higher rate of actives, and the powder form is 100% active.

The advantages:

  1. The active ingredients are “Pure” without environmental contamination.
  2. The active plant cells are not genetically-modified.
  3. It is independent to season, crop, nor location, and therefore quality is completely controlled.
  4. As it is more concentrated than conventional extracts, dosage can start from 0.5% in formulation.

The disadvantage of using active plant cells extract is it is very costly.

For informational purposes only. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.