What is an Herbal Tincture?
In herbalism, we use two primary methods for utilizing the power of plants. One of the really common ways to ingest herbs is as an herbal tea infusion known as a tisane. Learn more about the history of tea and making herbal tea infusions here.
The other primary method we use to ingest plant medicine is tinctures. Tinctures are alcohol-based extractions of plant parts – everything from turmeric root to rose flowers to hawthorn berries to tulsi (holy basil) leaves can be extracted using alcohol. The alcohol pulls certain constituents of the plant out of the plant matter, giving us powerful, concentrated, and shelf stable medicine.
Our practice uses diluted certified organic pharmaceutical grade 190 proof alcohol as the solvent for the extraction. Some herbalists use glycerine or vinegar as the solvent, but these are technically extracts, not tinctures. Only extracts using alcohol as the solvent are considered tinctures.
The different solvents extract different constituents from the plants, so they are not replacements for each other. Rather, the solvent chosen is dependent on the type of plant and which constituents need to be extracted.
The tincture needs to macerate for the proper amount of time, and this usually takes about 4 weeks. Once the preparation is done macerating, the plant matter is pressed out, and the resulting tincture can be bottled. When properly prepared and stored in brown glass jars, most tinctures will last 10 years on the shelf!
Usually tinctures are taken using glass droppers, and the dose is measured in drops. This can be taken directly on the tongue, but not immediately swallowed to avoid coughing or added to water or tea to dilute the taste of the herbs and alcohol.
Individual plants will have different flavors, and many of them are quite bitter or strong tasting, especially if you are new to this type of preparation. See our article here to learn more about how to take tinctures.
Image from Natural Alternatives