When it comes to producing extract powders, the hot water extract method is commonly used for the majority of herbs. However, for specific applications, a second method called an alcohol extract is employed to create powdered extracts. Alcohol extract powders are very similar to hot water extract powders, but with alcohol extracts, the two distinct extraction processes happen almost in reverse. Similar to hot water extract powders, when extracting using alcohol as the primary substrate, all soluble compounds are captured.
Alcohol Extract Powders
Gathering Herbs and Preparing for Extraction Before the extraction process begins, several essential steps are carried out, including:
- Collection of raw materials (wild-harvesting, cultivation, etc.)
- Sorting and selecting high-quality raw materials, followed by washing
- Grinding the raw materials and sieving the resulting powder to increase surface area for better extraction
Once the herbs have been collected, sorted, cleaned, and ground, the extraction process can commence.
Stage One: Alcohol Processing
Alcohol extract powders are used when targeted compounds are more readily dissolved in alcohol (ethanol) than in water. For instance, while the polysaccharides present in Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) are more readily extracted using the hot water process, the equally important triterpenes in Reishi are more readily extracted using alcohol.
In the alcohol processing step, the herbs are combined with alcohol and allowed to percolate. The exact concentration of alcohol (as a percentage of alcohol to water) and the length of time left to percolate will vary depending on what is being extracted and the desired extraction concentration. After percolation, the combination of herbs and alcohol is concentrated using a vacuum pump to the proper extraction ratio.
Stage Two: Water Precipitation
Here, in stage two, the concentration of herbs and alcohol from stage one is precipitated using water. Water is added to the mixture, and everything is reduced. This process transfers those compounds that have been dissolved in the alcohol back onto the solids. This way, when all of the liquid is removed, all extracted compounds are present in the resulting extract. In short, stage two ensures a complete, full spectrum extract.
Stage Three: Spray Drying
Once the added water has been precipitated out, the mixture undergoes its final processing: drying. With drying, the extract is sprayed at a temperature of between 70°C and 100°C. When spray drying is complete, the resulting powder is further refined by crushing, agitation, and sieving.
Different Extraction Methods
When omitting the folk tradition of producing herbal extracts (including the usage of wines, medicinal oils and salves, and even foods like soups), there are three major methods for extracting plants, fungi, and other substances for their medicinal value. These are:
- Hot water extract powders.
- Ethanol/alcohol extract powders (discussed here).
- Tinctures (ethanol/alcohol) extract liquids.
Comparison of Alcohol Extract Powders and Hot Water Extract Powders
Alcohol extract powders and hot water extract powders are two distinct methods used in herbal extraction processes. While hot water extract powders primarily utilize water as the extraction solvent to capture a broad spectrum of compounds, alcohol extract powders involve using alcohol (ethanol) to extract alcohol-soluble, phyto and myco-chemical constituents, including
- certain alkaloids
- certain phenolic compounds
These compounds are more readily dissolved in alcohol, making alcohol extract powders particularly effective in extracting them. On the other hand, hot water extract powders excel at capturing water-soluble components like polysaccharides, flavonoids, and other heat-stable compounds. The choice between the two methods depends on the desired outcome and the specific properties of the plant material being extracted. Both methods offer their unique advantages and applications in herbal medicine, enabling the production of comprehensive and potent extract powders.
Alcohol extract powders, such as the ones offered by RAW Forest Foods, are an important tool in producing professional, clinical-grade powdered extracts. These extracts capture and concentrate the full spectrum of compounds contained within the herbs they are produced from. To learn more about how these extracts have been utilized in the scientific literature and within scientific and medical research, visit academic sites like NCBI's PubMed or Google Scholar.