The aqueous extracts are prepared based on medicinal herbs, processed to extract the active ingredients through the water. Based on the extraction technique, they are divided into different types.
What are they?
The extraction of phytocomplexes of medicinal plants takes place through different processing techniques. When it is possible to extract the active ingredients, without dispersing precious substances, through the water, we speak of aqueous extracts. When all this is not possible, it is necessary to use solvents, which mixed with water strengthen the extraction, in this case we will talk about alcoholic and glyceric extracts. Depending on the type of plant from which to extract the active ingredients, we will proceed with a specific extraction technique, in some cases we must use a mix of different techniques for preparing plant extracts. It is essential to know the medicinal plants and their components very well in order to understand what type of processing to make without losing the phytocomplexes.
Decoctions and infusions
The aqueous extracts are divided into decoctions, infusions and macerated. The different distinction is given by the way in which the active substances are extracted and by the use that is decided to make of the final product.
Herbal teas are a very well known and easy to prepare product, because it is enough to boil the dry part of the plant in the water. The dry extract to be really effective should always be used whole or chopped if necessary, because the pulverized parts disperse the active ingredients over time and are less effective. In addition to the single herbal tea you can also create mixes using complementary plants with similar properties, but you should never try to use more than four or five extracts at a time, because you risk canceling the benefits of the product. Based on the time that the drug passes into the water and based on the part that is used, the herbal teas are divided into decoctions and infusions.
The decoctions are obtained by macerating solid parts of the plant, fresh or already dried. Roots, parts of bark and whole leaves are usually used, all elements that are not affected by the long preparation process. The whole parts are placed in a container of cold water, which must reach boiling very slowly, once reached do not turn off the heat, because the preparation should be cooked until it is reduced by at least a third of its initial volume . Only at this point can it be turned off, cool and finally filtered. For solid parts, such as branches and roots, cooking times must be at least ten minutes longer than soft parts, such as leaves and buds. It is therefore a very long type of extraction, which can last up to several hours and must be carried out with plants not affected by excessive changes in temperature. You can prepare a decoction of nettle to purify the body, or a decoction of birch to assist a slimming diet. With the ginger roots you can prepare a decoction to cure sore throats and colds.
The infusion is made with plants that cannot stay in the water much, because they easily disperse their volatile substances. Boiling water flow, pour into a container, where the plant extract is present and leave to infuse only for a few minutes before filtering. Normally for every 100 milliliters of water you should use 5 grams of drug, but it also depends very much on personal taste, if you want to have a more intense or lighter infusion. On the market, the infusions are also sold in convenient single-dose paper bags weighing about 2-3 grams. Compared to the decoctions for which it is preferable to use whole parts of the plant, in the case of infusions the vegetable parts should always be pulverized or minced as much as possible, in order to allow a greater penetration of the water in the compound. Among the most popular infusions there is that of chamomile, which has calming and relaxing properties, or that of fennel, which helps deflate and drain excess fluids.
Macerated and hydrolated
The macerated activates the extraction of phytocomplexes through water at room temperature. Generally the drug is made of vegetable mucilage, which remains unchanged for many hours. Maceration can last a variable time, depending on the plant, some types of maceration are done in glass containers left for several days in the sun. Not all macerates extract the active substances in a water-soluble manner, for some there is a need for extraction through other addition solvents.
Macerates can also be classified as hydro-glycerines, because although they fall into the category of aqueous extracts, they need the addition of glycerine to be able to work the plant better. When the plant does not release the active ingredients directly into the water and they do not dissolve, a solvent based on vegetable glycerine is needed. Once the part of the solvent has been prepared with water and glycerine, the fresh drug is placed inside, possibly the most tender parts of the plant and left to rest for a certain period of time. In order to promote greater conservation, in some cases even a minimum quantity of alcohol, which acts as a preservative, is inserted into the solvent. Usually the proportion ratio between slat and solvent is 1:20, for a gram of drug it takes 20 grams of water and glycerine mixture. After twenty days we move on to filtering and storage. This preparation can then be used for oral intake or to form the basis for other types of preparations such as creams or herbal products. For example, the centella asiatica parchment, which is obtained from the processing of the powdered leaves of this plant in water and glycerine, is widely used. The extract is used as a base for creams and phytotherapeutic treatments for circulation, against cellulite and localized adiposities.
Hydrolates, on the other hand, are a liquid derivative of plant extracts, obtained through steam. The water-soluble parts of the plants in contact with a stream of vapor release their perfumed essence. This process occurs during the distillation of essential oils, but is difficult to reproduce at home without the right equipment. The hydrolates are highly thermolabile, they must be conserved with care, but they are also very rich in active and curative principles. Hydrolates are excellent as a base for beauty creams or simply as a skin tonic.
Advantages and disadvantages
Aqueous extracts are very easy to prepare at home, you just need the drugs and simple water. Herbal teas and decoctions help to alleviate small annoyances, moreover they moisturize and facilitate the drainage of liquids, eliminating waste. They can be drunk hot or cold and are a drink to replace simple water. A disadvantage of these products is, however, their perishability. Herbal teas and decoctions easily oxidize and should be consumed if necessary, kept for a few hours only in ceramic or porcelain containers, never in plastic and metal.
Macerates have a good curative function, but should never be mixed together. Another disadvantage of this preparation is represented by the presence of a percentage of alcohol inside, indispensable for conservation. For this reason it is not particularly suitable for sensitive subjects or those who have liver problems. As such, preparation at home is not recommended without proper hygiene precautions.