Searching for a highly effective and incredibly simple means of administering herbal medicines? Tinctures are definitely the first place to look.
Tinctures are often overlooked as a method of administering herbal medicines – most people are not as familiar with their use as they are with teas and capsules. But tinctures are actually one of the most effective means of taking herbal medicines, especially for managing acute conditions.
How Tinctures Are Made
Tinctures are highly concentrated alcoholic extracts of an herb.They are made by macerating (soaking) the chosen herbs in alcohol (usually vodka or organic grain alcohol) at a ratio typically ranging from 1:1 (herb to alcohol) to 1:10, depending on the desired strength and recommended dosage of the selected herbs.
After macerating anywhere from 6-8 weeks, the tinctures are then pressed and the marc (left-over herbal matter) is discarded. The remaining liquid is the tincture used for medicinal purposes, as the beneficial constituents from the herbs have been absorbed into the liquid. Most tinctures are administered at a dose ranging from 15-60 drops, several times per day. (In most cases, less than 2-3 teaspoons of alcohol is consumed on a daily basis when using tinctures.)
Why Use Tinctures?
The use of tinctures to administer herbs has several benefits when compared to teas or capsules. First, tinctures are easy to use. They do not need to be prepared multiple times per day like a tea, and do not present difficulty in swallowing like a capsule. Tinctures often come in small dropper bottles, making them much easier to transport for dosing throughout the day than teas or capsules. Many herbs do not taste very pleasant as a tea—such as bitter herbs to enhance digestion—so people are more likely to take herbal medicine as tinctures.
Tinctures are the only way to get fresh plant medicine (unless one is out harvesting their plants on a daily basis). Certain herbs, such as milky oat seed, are most beneficial when taken fresh. Milky oat seed is one of the best restoratives for damaged nerve tissue, however its effectiveness is best when captured in the milky state of seed development, hence the need for a tincture.
Because tinctures are so concentrated, the amount of medicine that one needs to consume is much less. When administered as a tea, a person may need to prepare 4-5 cups of a certain herb every day, compared to the 2-3 “dropper squirts” of tincture that can carry the same therapeutic benefit.
Tincturing herbs also preserves their shelf life. Where teas and capsules generally have shelf lives of a year, the alcohol in tinctures acts as a preservative, helping them to last up to five years or more.
Use Tinctures for Acute Conditions
One of the most important features of tinctures is the speed with which the medicine is delivered throughout the body. The alcoholic solution of the tincture means herbs are absorbed much more quickly into circulation, and therefore begin to take effect faster than other methods, especially capsules. This is most important when dealing with acute manifestations of conditions (such as pain and anxiety), when immediate relief of symptoms is necessary.
Additionally, tinctures are easier to digest. If individuals have certain digestive disorders that impair their ability to breakdown tablets or capsules, they may only receive a fraction of the medicine available to them; using tinctures ensures the body receives the dosage taken.
Written By Betsy Miller, MS, CNS, LDN
Clinical Herbalist, Nutritionist and Health Coach at A Balanced Life Wellness
Betsy's practice focuses on integrating herbal medicines, nutritional counseling, and lifestyle coaching, that helps her clients move towards a new and positive state of well-being.Contact Betsy