On the medicinal herblist in Sep00,
>In your opinion, and to your knowledge, WHAT is the most effective method to wring the broadest spectrum of medicinal constituents from a plant?
Well, what effect do you want out of the herb? If you want -all- the plant has to give you:
Eat the fresh herb. Unless, of course, the fresh herb is caustic, in which case, dry it first.
The best way that's actually feasible is to tincture the herb. Alcohol combined with water beats the crap out of any vinegar tinctures and out of any glycerites - except for a very few plants. You don't want to tincture any herb which depends on mucilage, as alcohol destroys that. Do a tea instead. And lobelia does very well with vinegar, but it's one of the few herbs that does.
The "official" tinctures, ie. 1:2 95 % for fresh herb and 1:5 50-70 % for dried use alcohol percentages that have been worked out over a few decades if not centuries by people who made a _lot_ of tinctures, and used them therapeutically. (In north America that's the Eclectics.)
If you want to use, say, Agrimony, for the purposes stated in Michael Moore's Herbal Repertory, your best bet is to use it the way he states in his Materia Medica. That's either tea or tincture.
If you want to use it for the purposes stated in any of David Hoffman's works (books, online library, CD or correspondence course), your best bet is to use it the way he says.
If any given source says "tincture it", but _doesn't_ tell you percentages, ratios and dosages, then that source is suspect. That author has never made tinctures him/herself, otherwise he/she'd know the importance of ratios (1:2, 1:3, 1:5) and alcohol strength to dosages. Or that author thinks that tinctures are the same strength everywhere, completely ignorant of the fact that American (and Finnish, and Swiss) tinctures are far stronger than British.
>I mention "integrity" because I often wonder how much damage HEAT does through processing, in terms of molecular rearrangement. In most food, heat is HELL and volatile to the majority of nutrients. So I wonder what role heat plays in terms of chemical stability when it comes to herbs. I've never seen or read much on this consideration.
Heat doesn't mean too much in teas. If a herb has been used for centuries as a tea for a given complaint you can be sure that the loss of volatiles and the breakdown of cell walls and such is therapeutically insignificant. For that particular complaint. For other complaints maybe a tincture is the way to go.