Alcohol vs. glycerin.

Botanical name: 

Newsgroup: alt.folklore.herbs
From: (Torrey Peacock)
Date: 18 Feb 1996 00:19:39 -08
Subject: Re: Liquid Herbal Extracts (Alcohol vs Non Alcohol)

> >Is there a difference in the effectiveness between alcohol based liquid herbal extracts and non alcohol based liquid extracts?
> I've got a related question. One of my friends says that you can tell the strength of an echinacea extract by how much it burns when you hold it in your mouth. I argued that it's the 70-100% alcohol that burns. But she says that a good non-alcoholic echinacea extract burns too.
> So, I'd like to know how a non-alcoholic echinacea extract compares to an alcoholic extract. Are the desired active principles of echinacea water-soluable? With only water as a solvent, it seems it may be somewhat lacking. Or perhaps alcohol is needed for preservation. Maybe non-alcoholic extracts go "bad" sooner. ????

My two cents: Compared with glycerine, the usual ingredient in "non-alcohol" extracts, alcohol is a far superior solvent of the active principles in the herbs. The best extracts are made by a precisely calibrated ratio of alcohol and water, depending on the particular herb and its chemistry. Echinacea is one herb that generally extracts much better with alcohol.

The "burning" taste - I prefer to think of it as "tingling" - is from certain constituents in the Angustifolia variety of Echinacea. There are very good Purpurea extracts that do not have this quality, but in my experience the best results come from an extract of the whole plant - root, seed, and flower - made from a combination of Echinacea Purpurea *and* Angustifolia.