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Types of Herbal Medicines

Eat It? Drink It? Smell It? How to use herbs

Use the most effective types of herbal medicines. Our primer on herbal preparations
explains six different ways to use herbs.

There is more than one way to take an herbal preparation. A short primer on the types of herbal medicines will educate you on the methods available.

All herbs start out as plants, of course. Once they are harvested they may be processed in different ways to create different products.

Green Drinks

Sometimes the herbs are taken as a "Green Drink." These are popular with people who grow their own herbs as they are easy to make.

Half a cup of the green, leafy plants are placed in a blender with about one cup of pineapple or other fruit juice. The mixture is liquefied.

While the final product does not usually look terribly attractive, it is a fairly tasty way of ingesting green plants.

Caution here: if you have orthodontic braces on your teeth, you might want to check your smile after ingesting a green drink. You really won't win any points at a job interview if it looks like you have pieces of seaweed caught in your teeth!

Herbal Tea

Herbal teas are more common than the green drinks. They are also more available for some plants since they are dried and can be kept longer.

There is considerable variety in how much active ingredient is digested with teas, because the amount will vary with the recipe used and the duration of steeping.

For pregnancy teas, two to three teaspoons of the dried plant is added to 8 oz of water that has boiled, and left to steep for 10 minutes.

Sometimes, a midwife or herbalist will use larger amounts of the herb and steep it for longer if the goal is a particularly strong tea.

Herbal Extracts

With an extract, the active ingredient is extracted from the plant and dispensed in liquid form which is then swallowed. Most people are familiar with over the counter cold medicines which are dispensed as liquid extracts. Herbal extracts are similar. Only a few teaspoons are taken at one time.

Herbal Tincture

A tincture is another one of the types of herbal medicines that are ingested as liquids. With a tincture, alcohol is used in the extraction process and is present in the tincture.

Tinctures are often 10-15% alcohol. The tinctures also have less of the active ingredient than extracts, so more are swallowed to get the same effect.

Many people prefer the extracts or tinctures because a smaller quantity is needed than with a tea or green drink, making it more convenient. It is also much easier to ensure that a particular amount of active ingredient is actually ingested.


Tablets or capsules are another common form for dispensing herbs, and certainly make it the easiest to determine how much of the herb is actually swallowed. In many cases, this form is also the most economical.

In our society, we have become quite used to "taking pills," so this is one of the most commonly used forms of herbs.


Some herbal preparations also come in powder form, in which case they can be added to almost any liquid the mother may wish to take. Fruit juices, water, and teas are common substances used to dissolve powdered herbal preparations.

Herbs in Pregnancy

Here are other articles and tips on the use of herbs in pregnancy.

  • Safety of Herbs
  • 7 Guidelines for Use of Pregnancy Herbs
  • Herbs for Induction of Labor

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    By Karen Newell Copyright 2003 - 2012 Better Childbirth Outcomes - All Rights Reserved
    Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, USA