Bulk Herbs or Capsules?

Traditionally, all natural medicine, for thousands of years has centered around taking fresh or dried herbs and making teas &/or poultices. When herbs are used this way, the herbs release their medicinal properties into the warm water for the body to absorb easily and readily. Patients do not need to have a functioning digestive system, yet they receive the fullness of the herb regardless of how sick or stressed they might be. The patient was urged, in most cases, to drink freely of the tea, and encouraged to drink as much as they could to aid in their recovery.

Today, most people want convenience first. This puts quality and cost second and third. Unfortunately, they do not take the time compare the effects of their new choices with the effectiveness of the old ways.

When you buy herbs in capsules you are usually paying $80 or more per pound for a herb that would likely cost you $3-$10 per pound in bulk. And when you are paying this much for capsules many people do not take the amount of herb they need to receive a therapeutic effect. Herbs are not chemicals synthesized in some pharmaceutical laboratory. They are like food grown in the wild. In most cases, if you make lots of tea you only make yourself healthier. Most herbs are hard to overdose on. But you can take too little of the herb and not see any significant improvements.  With capsules this is, unfortunately, the tendency.

Bulk Herbs:

Bulk herbs in general will be fresher and more potent than herbs packaged in capsules from a commercial packager, who then sells them to distributor who sells to a wholesaler, who sells to a retailer. Capsules from the health food store or ordered at most places on line, though convenient, are often made from substandard herbs, and usually, by the time they are purchased are several years old. They cost far more that the original fresh dried herb, and they are lower in quality. Once ingested the capsule must first be dissolved by digestive juices, then those digestive enzymes start in on the herb or root that has been encapsulated. Because of the high amount of cellulose and other non digestible fibers, only a certain amount of the medicinal properties of the herb will actually get digested and into the blood stream. All too soon the contents of the small intestine are moved on into the large intestine and out of the body. How much of those medicinal properties you receive will depend on how healthy your body is, how efficient the digestive tract is, and the type of herb or root you have taken.
Herbal teas or poultices, on the other hand have the medicinal properties already extracted for you. There are no fibers or other things to hinder digestion or hold back nutrients that your body might need. The tea will be absorbed right into the blood stream requiring little digestion, and will immediately have an effect.

To infuse the medicinal properties from roots (which often have the highest concentrations of medicinal properties) you need to simmer the roots for 20 minutes and for some roots it is best to heat them to boiling in water, let them set and then re-boil a few hours later, giving them time to give up their healing and helpful nutrients. This process, though it takes a while, will make very potent teas from the woodier parts of the plant. Now in contrast if you take these roots by capsule much of the plant material just passes through the system and is eliminated.

Making Teas:

Teas made from bulk herbs (leaves) are simply made by steeping the herbs in boiling water to infuse their medicinal properties. Usually boiling water is poured over the leaves and left to “steep” for 15-20 minutes. These types of teas, too, are easily and quickly absorbed with little work required by the digestive system.
There is such a small amount of herb in a capsule (measurable only in milligrams) that you have to take quite a few capsules to get the enough of its medicinal properties. When you make a tea from bulk herbs you use approximately 4 tablespoons of herb for each quart of tea you make. You would have to take a large amount of capsules to equal 4 tablespoons of herb.

Making Capsules:

Capsules are more like taking medicines. They are convenient because you can pop them in your mouth as you rush to work. They are more acceptable because that is how most allopathic medicine is administered. Teas on the other hand require some time to make. They are more natural and more similar to drinking and eating. Many people prefer the capsule route because there is not time involved and no taste. But often times they are spending too much money and/or are not taking enough to be a therapeutic dosage, they are not getting the full food/medicinal value out of the herbs they are taking and the herbs they are taking are not freshly dried or very potent.

When you have bulk herbs on hand you can use those herbs for teas, for salves, poultices, medicinal oils, shampoos, lip balms, and all kinds of things. You can have your own homemade medicine chest that is safe and very effective. We much prefer our salves and other products to anything the drugstores or the physicians have to offer. See our “How to use herbs” section for recipes.

If you still prefer capsules, then I would recommend that you buy a pound of freshly dried herb, capsule filling machine and a bag of capsules and encapsulate the herbs yourself. We do this for some herbs and have found we often get over a thousand capsules out of one pound. If you are taking this herb at a therapeutic dosage then you will find this much more economical.

For those of you who still want the prepackaged capsules, we do offer some fresh herbs in capsules here,  and some good herbal formulas in capsules here and they are probably fresher than you will find any where else.


We recommend Wilderness Family Naturals products because of their integrity and quality. However, other online retailers and natural food stores may also carry similar goods. Whenever, possible we have tried to give you information on how to recognize superior products. Wilderness Family Naturals products can be found at: www.wildernessfamilynaturals.com or by calling (800) 945-3801.