Tinctures, extracts, tonics, elixirs are all different names for the liquid resulting from the extraction process of the active ingredients of a herb. The most common method of preparation uses alcohol. Other methods use water, vinegar or glycerin.
Herbie’s Herbs tinctures are alcohol-based preparations. There are many reasons why alcohol is preferred over other solvents. Compared to other methods, alcohol helps extract nearly all active constituents from a herb. This way the tinctures are stronger and require a lower dose to attain beneficial effects. Alcohol eliminates the growth of bacteria and mold while preserving the valuable constituents resulting in a much longer shelf life. Alcohol based tinctures, if stored in proper conditions, can easily last for years.
Why use tinctures over other herbal preparation methods?
Herbs can be ingested whole, in powdered form (capsules) or boiled and made into tea. The liquid nature of a tincture adds to its advantages. Liquids do not need to be digested, therefore making them more absorbable. Tinctures do not require any daily preparation (as teas do) and have a much higher concentration resulting in lower dosages. Tinctures of different herbs can also then be mixed not only to create a personalized tonic, but to target individual’s needs. They can be taken alone, diluted in water or other teas, lozenges; drops can be applied in compresses, oils, ointments, suppositories, foot soaks or enjoyed in a hot bath!
Bottles are labeled with a ratio of weight to volume. The first number represents the weight of the herb, or marc, and the second number represents the volume of alcohol solution, or menstruum. They are most commonly seen in 1:4 or 1:5 ratios. At Herbie’s Herbs we sell tinctures at a 1:2 ratio macerated in 50% distilled cane sugar alcohol, one of the highest concentration ratios on the market.
Herbal medicine extracts can be made from fresh or dried herbs, and from any part of the plant. Varying alcohol percentages are matched with different constituents of interest.
To create a tincture, herbs are ground into small pieces to increase the surface area of extraction. Once the appropriate menstruum is added to cover the marc completely, the jar is sealed tight and placed away from extreme light or temperatures. Slightly shaking the jar once or twice a day helps the menstruum reach the untouched parts of the marc. Extraction time is generally in the duration of weeks.
Alternatives to alcohol
Tinctures are most commonly made in alcohol so it may be a concern for individuals of young age, with religious beliefs or with health conditions. Alternatives such as vinegar or glycerin do exist. Glycerin-based concoctions are favorably given to children due to its sweet taste. It is colorless, odorless and viscous in texture. Its extraction abilities is between that of water and alcohol and can preserve fresh plant juice in a proportion of 1:1 of juice:glycerin. However the shelf life is much lower and the extraction process is not as efficient (yielding a less potent tincture) as in alcohol based tinctures.