Herbal Tincture Varieties – Telling the difference
A tincture is an extraction process for herbs and is just one of the many different types of herbal extracting methods used today. The standard method of tincture which has been used for many centuries involves using an alcohol base, usually vodka as this has very little taste, to extract the herb’s nutrients and healing properties.
Tinctures can be added to water which may then be used for tea or to create an ointment or salve and basically can be used for any form of herbal treatments as long as the tincture was done correctly.
Tinctures are stronger than water based extractions like infusions or decoctions as some of the active ingredients in the plant may not be water soluble, but will dissolve in alcohol.
More and more herbal remedial treatments are being developed each year and accordingly more advanced and different ways to use tinctures are also being created. When you choose to make your own tincture you should be aware that they last many years, some with a shelf life of up to 20 years and sometimes longer if stored properly. Tinctures are incredibly easy to make at home and it can really be a satisfying experience.
There are different types of tinctures but don’t let that confuse you.
Examples of what you can expect to find on the shelf include concentrated liquid extraction, double extraction and standardised extraction.
Concentrated Liquid Extract. This is a tincture that has had most of its water and alcohol removed, making it a thick, semisolid liquid that can be blended into pills or reconstituted with glycerin or alcohol into a liquid preparation. This is one way to make alcohol-free tinctures.
Double Extraction. This is a double-strength tincture that is made by making a regular tincture, straining out the herbs, then combining that tincture with a fresh batch of herbs to make a second tincture. Because twice as much time and twice as much work are required to make a double extraction, only a few herb companies bother with this method.
Standardized or Guaranteed Extract. This product, usually a tincture or pill, is guaranteed to contain a specified quantity of the herb’s main active compound. Laboratory tests are used to determine the amount of an active ingredient in an herb. If that quantity is lower than guaranteed on the label, that herb is rejected and one that meets this requirement is used in its place. In a few cases, such as with the herb Ephedra (restricted in Australia), a purified amount of the active ingredient is added to increase potency to the stated level. To achieve this, certain important compounds are isolated and others are often discarded. Some herbalists refuse to use herbs that have been altered in this way, but many laboratory scientists prefer them for their consistent strength. Since Herbology advocates making your own tinctures (read Make your own Tinctures) and some of the above can not be made at home anyway, we suggest finding a formula that works and stick to it. This can be a singular or a double extraction.
Throughout Australia many people are trying simple home made tinctures to create herbal remedies. Using tinctures as teas is a fun and easy way to ease yourself into the world of herbs and herbal remedies and to experience what a simple tea can really do for you if you use ingredients to their full potential. Although these recipes are easy to use and the herbs are often completely harmless it is always important to remain safe. Some people react poorly to alcohol, or have a moral or ethical objection to its presence. These individuals should use teas or capsules; when tinctures are made, they need a proper proportion of alcohol and water or else the vital ingredients are not extracted. There is a way of extraction by using glycerin instead of alcohol. This method results in a glycerite which is not quite as strong as a tincture and which should not be taken by people with sugar intolerances/diabetics.