What is a Tincture?
A tincture is a form of herbal medicine used to treat a wide variety of ailments. In a nutshell it is a concentrated liquid extract made from herbs. Alcohol is used as the solvent to extract the medicinal properties of the herbs (typically 80-140 US proof, though with some herbs higher proof is used). They can be made with fresh or dried herbs. The herbs are added to the alcohol and left to steep in a sealed jar for 2-3 weeks. It is a great way of extracting and delivering the oils and essence of the herbs. Tinctures are convenient and easy to use.
“Extracts” of herbs are made from vegetable glycerine, apple cider vinegar or even honey and made into a syrup.
Alcohol based tinctures have the longest shelf life (several years), compared to extracts that are made with apple cider vinegar and must be stored in the refrigerator and last 3-6 months.
Tinctures and Extracts are easily assimilated by the body and play an important role in preventative medicine.
**All tinctures are extracts, but not all extracts are tinctures!
How to Use an Herbal Tincture
If making your own be sure to pay attention to dosage. Dosage depends on the kind of plant or plants used to make the tincture, what tincture method was used and how strong the tincture is. If buying from a company, they will most likely have the dosage listed on the bottle.
The standard adult dose is 1/2 to 1 teaspoon (30-60 drops or 1 dropper) up to three times a day as needed. Kids usually get 1/4 to 1/3 of the adult dose.
Tinctures can be used in many different ways, most commonly used internally but can be used externally.
Here are some ways to use a tincture:
- as is on or under the tongue
- mixed in hot water
- mixed in food
- mixed in honey
- added to salves/lotions
To dilute the alcohol from the tincture for children, pregnant women, or those simply not wanting to consume alcohol, it can be poured into a hot liquid like tea to evaporate the alcohol before consuming.
History of Tinctures
Tinctures date all the way back to when alcohol was first distilled, around 1000 AD, although the ancient Egyptians were thought to have made cordials before then. Cordials and tinctures are similarly made but cordials are made with under 80 proof alcohol and typically brandy is the alcohol of choice. Plant medicine is as old as mankind itself and once distilling alcohol became a common practice, using alcohol to preserve plants and making medicine out of it came shortly after. In Europe distilling wasn’t commonly used until the 1400s and didn’t become widespread until around 1500, however the Irish and Scottish peoples used distillery much earlier. Tinctures were common in the Victorian era, mid to late 1800’s, amongst anglocentric cultures. They were used in western medicine up until recently when pharmaceuticals started focusing more on pills. (Source)
Fun Facts on tincture use in the US:
Cannabis Indica tinctures were sold in your average pharmacy up until the 1920s.
Landanum, an opium tincture, was used over the counter commonly with children until the 1970’s
Warberg’s tincture was sold as a secret, proprietary medicine for over forty years. It was a common medicine used in the treatment of all types of fevers as well as a prophylactic until the 1980s. Its key ingredient was quinone in addition to various purgatives, aromatics and carminatives.
Check out Native Nectar Botanicals for a wonderful variety of great herbal tinctures!!