education

Fresh Herb Extracts: What They Are & What You Should Know

Most everyone is familiar with dried herbs. In almost every kitchen spice rack, you will find a variety of dried herbs such as Rosemary, Thyme, Parsley, Oregano and more.

Dried herbs are also what is used in the majority of herbal supplements. For many herbs, the drying process actually concentrates the polyphenols, which in turn makes the final product more potent and beneficial.* Dried herbs also typically retain their potency for longer periods of time: usually for at least one to two years.

However, there are some particular herbs where it is advantageous to extract them fresh versus drying the herbs first after harvesting.

What is a Fresh Extract?

Fresh extracts are made from new plant material taken straight from the field into processing without drying the herbs first. The plant material is typically utilized and processed within hours of harvest to avoid any deterioration or loss of active phytochemicals.

For these specific herbs, the value is in the fresh herb. It has been found that if they are dried first, they can actually lose many of their beneficial qualities. Some of the herbs and ingredients that benefit from the fresh extraction process include American Skullcap, Black Walnut, and Oats.

Harvesting Windows & Fresh Extracts

Gaia Farm Team member squeezing fresh Oats milky seed

On our 350-acre Certified Organic farm, we grow several herbs that are extracted fresh. These herbs have to be monitored diligently, as the ideal time for harvesting (when the plants are at their peak) can be as little as three to five days.

Oats are a perfect example. They are ready to harvest when they exude a milky sap when pressed firmly between the fingers, which is why we refer to them as Milky Oats in our formulas.

It is at this "milky" stage that the plant contains its highest level of minerals, such as potassium and magnesium, and its constituent profile is most beneficial to be used as a calming, restorative nervine herb.*

The milky stage is only present for a few days, leaving a narrow harvesting window, so our Oat fields have to be vigilantly monitored during the growing season. During this harvesting window, our farm crew hand-harvests our Milky Oats, as this is the best method to ensure that only the Oat tops are collected.

“Timing is critical, especially when harvesting the Milky Oats,” says Kate Renner, Assistant Farm Operations Manager. “We harvest the Oats first thing in the morning when the dew is still present on the Oat tops. This allows our team to gather them efficiently and to capture more of them. If the field is too dry, the Oats tend to fly from the rake that they use.”

Once harvested, our Milky Oats are sent immediately to our on-site production facility where they are extracted fresh to preserve the full spectrum compounds for optimal potency.*

As in the Milky Oats story shared above, for all "fresh" herb extracts, the goal is to complete the extraction process within hours of harvesting to avoid any deterioration or loss of beneficial phytochemical properties.

Gaia Herbs Supplements That Use Fresh Extracts

American Skullcap

Fresh American Skullcap in hand at Gaia Herbs Farm

American Skullcap is one of the herbs that can be found growing on our 350-acre Certified Organic farm in Brevard, North Carolina. These delicate purple flowers have a rich history in traditional herbalism.

American Skullcap is considered to be a Nervine, and more specifically, a Nervine Tonic. Nervines are herbs believed to support a healthy response to stress and to help calm the nerves.*

We harvest the aerial (above-ground) parts and extract them fresh to preserve all the full spectrum compounds for optimal potency.* This freshly extracted American Skullcap is used in our Skullcap, Certified Organic liquid extract, which promotes relaxation so you can get your body ready for a good night of rest, and in our award-winning Calm A.S.A.P.® formula that helps provide relief from occasional anxiousness.*

Are your children also feeling extra stress these days?  We offer a children's formula, GaiaKids® Calm Support, which was developed by a Pediatric Naturopathic doctor, and contains a blend of calming and relaxing herbs including our freshly extracted Gaia-grown® American Skullcap.*

Black Walnut

Black Walnut has been used for centuries in traditional herbalism and was highly prized for its astringent properties.

And even though it is called Black Walnut, this plant is actually extracted fresh before the green hulls turn black. This is to ensure that we capture the highest level of phytoconstituents in our extracts.

Our Black Walnut Green Hulls liquid extract can help support gut health and a healthy intestinal system.* Our Microbiome Cleanse formula contains Black Walnut plus a blend of other herbs that support digestive health and function and your body’s natural cleansing process, making it an ideal supplement to use while traveling and trying new foods.*

Milky Oats

Oats in hands at Gaia Herbs Farm

Milky Oats are one of the favorite plants that we grow on our farm. As described earlier, we extract our Milky Oats fresh for our Oats Milky Seed, Certified Organic liquid extract. This extract provides a convenient way to support relaxation on the go, and can help maintain emotional well-being.*

Milky Oats are also used in our best-selling Adrenal Health® Daily Support formula, which is a great choice for anyone feeling overwhelmed and rundown as it supports the adrenals and helps you better cope with stress.* This formula combines Milky Oats, Holy Basil, Rhodiola, and Ashwagandha.

Fresh Herbs Versus Dried Herbs

As you can see, there’s no simple answer — herbs should be evaluated on an individual basis. Some herbs benefit from a fresh extraction process, while for other herbs, the drying process actually concentrates the polyphenols, making them more potent and beneficial.*

As a reflection of our steadfast commitment to purity, integrity, and potency at Gaia Herbs, we do not follow one processing method for all of our herbs. Instead, we carefully select the method that will produce the strongest and most beneficial formulas for our supplements, which in turn will provide you with the maximum health-supporting benefits.*