Tinctures: The alternative medicine touted for amazing health benefits without the added side effects that are associated with other forms of medicine. Tinctures have been used for hundreds of years as one of the primary forms of herbal medicine due to the simple ingredients, ease of use, and effective and natural form of relief from common ailments.
Tinctures are the concentrated form of herbs and their active constituents that have been extracted in a liquid medium to form a potent extract. The final product is then used as needed as an alternative to pharmaceuticals. Tinctures support the body and its ability to heal itself through cleansing and strengthening the tissues and organs. They also catalyze certain body actions and act as a powerful preventative medicine.
Although tinctures sometimes take longer to work in the body than most drugs, but they are natural alternatives that often don’t bring with them many of the nasty side effects that conventional medicines are notorious for. I understand that everyone is busy and looking for quick fixes, but if you want to break away from conventional drugs and lab-derived chemicals, tinctures are a wonderful substitute! And so easy to make! 😉
The solvent most often used to extract the herbal compounds is vodka, brandy, or gin. The alcohol should be in the 80 – 100 proof range for maximum extraction and effectiveness. If looking to make tinctures for children, the elderly, or someone who can’t have alcohol, other solvents may be used such as apple cider vinegar or food-grade vegetable glycerin. Although, just note that these substitutions are often not as potent and do not store as long. People often call these preparations extracts rather than tinctures.
What can tincture preparations extract from plants?
- Active constituents such as tannins, organosulfur compounds, mucilages, polysaccharides, fatty acids, and much more!
- Essential and volatile oils
- Vitamins and minerals
- Polyphenols, flavonoids (a sub-class of polyphenols), and other phytochemicals
How to make a tincture:
- Place herbs of choice in a wide-mouth glass jar. When using dried herbs, fill glass 1/3 of the way full of herbs. If using fresh herbs, fill jar halfway with herbs. Make sure you chop herbs and roots into small pieces to increase surface area for maximum extraction.
- Pour your liquid medium of choice on top of the herbs, filling to the top. If using dried herbs, allow a little room at the top for expansion. Put the lid on the jar and allow to steep.
- Steep tinctures in a dark place for 1 month, inverting regularly.
- Once done steeping, strain out the herbs and bottle up your liquid in dark, glass tincture bottles.
- Label bottles with the date, herbs used, medium, and the ratio of herbs to liquid. Also estimate the expiration date, which may range between 5 – 6 years for alcohol based tinctures, 2 – 3 years for glycerine based tinctures, or 1 year for vinegar based tinctures. Those made with vinegar often last longer when stored in the refrigerator.
Tincture dosage varies based on herb and the reason of use, but often doses call for a dropper-full of tincture under the tongue one to three times daily, or as needed. You may also mix them into water, juice, or other liquids. Make sure to research all herbs carefully and fully, and discuss with a trained healthcare professional before use.
Why are tinctures an effective alternative medicine?
- Some plants are poorly water soluble and often require some form of alcohol to break down their cell walls and make their constituents easier to dissolve in the extract. Other times plants contain both alcohol and water-soluble compounds which require a double extraction with water after the initial alcohol extraction.
- Alcohol is a preservative which allows you to make a big batch to keep on hand for years without having to worry about it going bad on you. You can make batches of tincture for any ailments you or your family commonly face and keep them stored away for the day you may need them.
- The process used to make tinctures concentrates the medicinal properties into a small volume of liquid, allowing you to get the desired effect with only a small amount of concentrated drops.
- Tinctures are easily assimilated by the body and are metabolized to make useful compounds our bodies require for support and strengthening of tissues and organs.
- Tinctures are stronger than infusions (tea made from soft plant matter such as stems, flowers, or stems) or decoctions (tea made from roots, bark, or berries). Thus, only a small dose is necessary.