The Case for Alcohol in Herbal Liquid Extracts

Author: Shelley Bennetts   Date Posted:28 February 2019 

There are many people who struggle to swallow pills, even capsules. Adults with swallowing difficulties, young children and the aged are groups for whom liquid formulations are the best way to take medicines. Liquids are readily absorbed, and well-suited to patients with immature or poor digestive systems. PFE Turmeric Plus Oral Liquid is a herbal extract formulated with the addition of Curcumin C3 Complex, which is also a concentrated herbal extract. There is a solid case for the use of alcohol in herbal liquid extracts.


Ethanol (alcohol) has been used for hundreds of years in herbal extraction. Old herbal texts discuss steeping herbs in wine over long periods and then using the liquid as medicine. However, ancient history doesn’t necessarily prove the point. Modern science has developed all sorts of extraction methods, but alcohol still remains the favorite for herbal extractions.


Ethanol (alcohol) is essential to fully extract all of the active components of a plant. This can’t be achieved using water alone. Although there are other natural solvents like glycerol, apple cider vinegar, infused oils and honey, ethanol remains the best choice for the widest range of herbs. It’s also a very effective preservative. Increased knowledge now allows modern herbalists to effectively choose the right alcohol to water ratio for each herbal extract.


The bioavailability of herbs is greatly increased when in an alcohol solution. Alcohol acts to keep the active components in solution after ingestion, helping to speed absorption into the bloodstream. And fast absorption means faster action.


There’s Even Alcohol in Ripe Fruit and Apple Juice.

Some people have concerns about the effects of alcohol in herbal liquid extracts, such as during pregnancy and in the very young. However, no adverse effects occur with the small quantities of alcohol involved. The alcohol in the blood must rise to a certain level for adverse effects to occur. The recommended 5 ml dose of Turmeric Plus Oral Liquid contains about as much alcohol as 1/6 of a glass of beer or wine. And, this 5ml is diluted in half a glass of water. A healthy liver is able to process such a small intake of alcohol very rapidly. Consequently, its effect on the blood alcohol level may not even be measurable.


Foods like apple juice or ripe bananas actually contain a some alcohol. Our biological systems are naturally conditioned to process small amounts of alcohol – from ripe fruit, and the natural fermentation of food.


A European Union review panel looked into the use of alcohol in herbal liquid extracts and medicines intended for young children. They found that the alcohol content in herbal medicines was of no risk at all. The expert panel agreed that concentrations of alcohol were within or below the levels found in fruit juices! It’s a big document, but check it out here.


So, for many people a liquid herbal extract is the best way to get the most benefit from a complementary medicine.