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Herbal Tinctures – A New Way of Looking at Supplements

Herbal tinctures are alcohol/water preparations made with dry herbs and have an herb strength ratio of 1:5 or weaker.

First developed thousands of years ago, precisely derived liquid extracts called tinctures have recently grown in popularity. Tinctures’ ability to preserve the active components of plants, their lengthy shelf life, and their vitalizing effects on health make them an excellent way to treat a range of symptoms.

It is now known that many conventional drugs are derived from plant sources, including aspirin from willow bark, digoxin from foxglove, quinine from cinchona bark, and morphine from the opium poppy.i Each has healing value. What is unique about tinctures, though, is their ability to deliver the health benefits of plants in liquid form.

While both fluid extracts and tinctures are technically “extracts”, or herbal preparations, the difference between the two lies in their herb strength ratios or concentrations. Herbal tinctures are alcohol/water preparations made with dry herbs and have an herb strength ratio of 1:5 or weaker. Liquid extracts, on the other hand, use an alcohol/water base with a dry herb strength ratio of 1:4 or stronger (sometimes even as strong as 1:1).ii This indicates that the dosage of fluid extracts is usually much smaller, often given in drops, whereas dosages of tinctures are mostly given in milliliters.iii

While it’s true that many tinctures are dissolved in alcohol, they can also be extracted in distilled water, vegetable glycerin, apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar. If making a tincture without the use of alcohol, make sure to use 100% vegetable glycerin or food grade distilled white vinegar. Never use rubbing alcohol or wood alcohol, as this would create a highly poisonous substance.iv

It is recommended that one consults a physician prior to the purchase of a desired tincture. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended dosage and directions for its application.

Tinctures are often added to water, tea, or juice, but they may also be taken directly by mouth. If a tincture is alcohol-based, drop it into a cup of boiled water and wait a few minutes—this will help the alcohol evaporate before consumption.

Popular herbal tinctures are:

  • Herb Pharm’s Valerian Root Extract for Relaxation and Restful Sleep
  • David Winston’s Lung Relief™ Cold/Damp (made by Herbalist and Alchemist)
  • Terra Firma Botanical’s Aller-Eaze-Herbal Allergy Relief
  • Herb Pharm’s Stone Breaker (Chanca Piedra) Compound for Urinary System Support
  • Herb Pharm’s Mullein/Garlic Herbal Ear Drop Oil

Different than traditional supplements in pill form, tinctures are a new way of treating one’s body with essential vitamins and minerals. Full of organic material from nature’s wide array of plants, tinctures have the potential of treating a variety of symptoms. As always, be sure to consult a physician before use.

Written by Nicole Kagan

Reviewed & edited by Dr. Jeffrey C. Lederman, DO, MPH and Julie A. Cerrato, PhD, AP, CYT, CAP