What is a Tincture? | The Basics
Put most simply, tinctures are a liquid form of herbs, homeopathics or other type of supplement or medicine. While tinctures can be found in traditional Western pharmacology, they are most prevalently found in botanical medicine (herbs, flowers and plant roots) and are used most often with naturopathic doctors and herbalists.
In botanical medicine and herbalism, there are many ways to take herbs. They can be mixed into capsules, taken as a tea, or taken as a tincture. Tinctures tend to be one of the easier ways to take botanicals, but they can pose issues for patients sensitive to alcohol or strong tastes. Because tinctures are usually made in an alcohol base they can taste very strongly of alcohol and the flavour of the herbs they contain can also be very offensive. However, after addressing issues such as alcohol dependance, religious views and medical conditions, tinctures can easily become a part of a natural approach to health.
Traditional tinctures are made by soaking plants; leaves, roots, rhizomes, or flowers in a grain alcohol until the active components are extracted. You can think of it like making a really strong tea! Each part of the plant, whether it’s the flowers, the leaves or the roots, contains a different type of compound. Some compounds are medicinal, some are toxic and others are just…there. They aren’t useful in medicine, but may be useful to the plant or animals / insects in the plant’s natural environment.
Tinctures allow therapeutic doses of herbs to be taken in a relatively small volume of liquid. As you can imagine, large doses of herbs can require plenty of capsules or cups of tea, but taking a liquid extract can mean the difference between 6-8 capsules and 2-3 millilitres of liquid.
What is the best way to take a tincture?
Often times tinctures will require you to count the number of drops or the pipette will contain marks showing volumes, like 0.5mL, 1.0mL etc… Based on your specific dosing, it’s easiest to put the volume needed into a small glass and add a bit of water. I find adding really cold water to be the best way of taking a strong tasting tincture.
The goal with adding water is to add just enough that you can drink it in one go- like a shot of alcohol. If you put too much water, you’ll have to swallow between shots and that can leave a bad taste in your mouth!
Some tinctures will taste better than others (or you may get used to the taste) and can be dropped under/ on the tongue, or simply squirted into the throat and swallowed.
Along with an alcohol base, tinctures can be made with a glycerine base. Naturally sweet, glycerine bases are often found in tinctures made for children but can also be useful for adults. The glycerine base won’t completely hide the flavour of the herb, but it does make a tastier medicine for those sensitive to alcohol and it’s flavour. It is important to note however, that not all herbs or mixtures will be available as a glycerine base. At this time, I only know of a single company called Clef Des Champs that makes readily available glycerine tinctures in Montreal, Canada!
As always, be sure that a new tincture won’t interact with any medication you are already taking!
If you have any questions, leave them below!