The gold standard for delivery of herbs, tinctures present the best of both worlds. They are highly absorbable, and highly concentrated. A tincture is made by grinding up raw herbs and then adding them immediately to alcohol or water. The dosage typically ranges from 1-1/2 to 2 teaspoons taken 3-4 times daily. Tinctures are taken by diluting a measured dose in some warm water.
Pros: Ease of use, absorbability
Cons: Cost, taste (depending upon formula)
Pills are effective, but have their limitations. They are typically made using the decoction method (see below), before being evaporated to remove the water. They are then mixed with a binder and coated to form the pill. Because they are mass-produced, they are often less expensive to take, especially long-term.
Pros: Convenient, low cost, long-term use, no taste
Cons: Pill-adverse people, absorption, not customizable
For internal use, decoction is a highly effective method of herb delivery. It involves boiling raw herbs in a clay pot for 20 minutes to an hour. This “tea” is then parsed out over the course of a day and taken 2-3 times/day. For an additional cost, some practitioners will “pre-cook” your formula for you.
Pros: Formula can be custom-designed, highly effective, low cost
Cons: Time-consuming preparation, strong odor, bad taste, ½-1 cup dosage
Many of the high-quality powders used today come from Japan. These formulas are made according to traditional methods and are called Kampo. Kampo powders come in traditional doses, which are smaller, and are thus more subtle in action. These are most suited, as are pills, to long-term use for chronic conditions.
Pros: Viable alternative to other methods, taste
Cons: Powders difficult to absorb or irritating for people with weak digestion