Tinctures vs just eating the plant

When you make a tincture, you just take a little dropper full of the herb since it is suppose to be very potent once it is extracted from the alcohol.

My question is, why not just eat the fresh herb instead? Wouldn't it be more potent to eat the whole fresh herb than extract it? (especially if it is about the same amount of plant material being eaten that is in the tincture. )

I am having a difficult time to understand how the same plant material would be more potent when it is soak in alcohol (and just a little dropper full which is mostly alcohol actually) vs just eating it. What am I not understanding?

I hope someone can clear this up for me. Thank you :)


  • naomi.kohlmeier
    naomi.kohlmeier Posts: 380 ✭✭✭

    Good question, @ashleyvann one pro that I know of is that a tincture will last for a lot longer than fresh herbs, so it can be used year round. Now if you have access to fresh herbs on a daily basis all year, that's wonderful, but here in the midwest, we only have fresh available through the spring, summer and fall months. Some of them I bring in, but they don't thrive as well indoors in the winter.

    I'm interested in knowing more about this subject, too.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,502 admin

    Preservation is one very good reason. We don't always have access to plants so having a preserved tincture is optimal. Plant material will decay even when it is carefully dried. Some plants deteriorate much more quickly than others; some having a shelf life of only a few months.

    Some plants have constituents that are water soluble. They are easily extracted by eating or infusing in water (tea).

    Other plants have constituents that are better (or only) extracted using alcohol (or vinegar).

    When you are ill, it is sometimes not possible to eat plant material, especially the large quantities that may be required; lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, dry mouth, etc. Tinctures are a convenient way to dose.

    When you make a tincture you are concentrating the medicinal properties. You might need to eat a lot of a plant to get all those properties.

    Some medicinal plants are so bitter, spiny, hard, etc. that it is impossible to eat them. They must be tinctured to get the medicinal benefits. Sure, you could chew on a willow branch but you'd need several to get any effect and your mouth would be a mess from the tannins.

  • MaryRowe
    MaryRowe Posts: 736 ✭✭✭✭

    Hard to add anything to that expert list, but it did also occur to me that if you wanted to blend two or more plants to get their combined qualities, using tinctures would make it a lot easier.

    But preservation and seasonality, already mentioned, are the big ones for me. The other day when the rooster pecked my hand and gave me a nasty bruise, there just happened to be a big patch of chickweed nearby. I took a handful of it, crushed it to get at the juice, and held it on my hand till the pain and bruise went away. But the season for abundant chickweed is short here: if it had been a few weeks earlier or later, I doubt I could have found enough fresh to do the job, and would have been very glad to have some preserved in salve or tincture.

  • jowitt.europe
    jowitt.europe Posts: 1,411 admin

    @ashleyvann welcome to the network! A very good question. The herbal expert dr Jones - my favourite one in many videos of the network academy said that the herb is the medicine. Not the extraction, etc, etc. This was an eye opener to me. Of course one has to preserve some plants. One can make tinctures or simply dry the plant and have it dried.

    if one needs herb as medicine, well, then, may be a tincture or oil, or vinegar, or tea. My policy is to consume herbs to stay healthy. I am using herbs mainly as food and many and daily, I eat them as fresh as possible. Well, sometimes they are fermented, sometimes, cooked, but mainly fresh. Let the food be your medicine and your medicine be your food. Nothing new since times of Hippocrates 2500 years ago. But a tincture can be a nice aperitif or Digestive or elixir. Something for fun and also healthy.

  • Lisa K
    Lisa K Posts: 1,838 ✭✭✭✭✭

    A difference that I have heard about is that tinctures are usually very concentrated and trying to eat enough of something to get the same concentration of the healing properties might not be feasible.

  • JodieDownUnder
    JodieDownUnder Posts: 1,482 admin

    All about convenience @ashleyvann If your unwell, you probably want an instant hit, so tincture is the way to go. Otherwise you’d have to go foraging and that’s not convenient or it may be the wrong season. Check out the Making Herbal Preparations course that is offered within TGN. Doc Jones is the teacher and he is very knowledgeable and funny too, which makes it a pleasure!

  • frogvalley
    frogvalley Posts: 675 ✭✭✭✭

    I find it easier for my kids to comply with taking herbs when it is tincture form as it can go in juice or another liquid if the taste is not to their liking. I can just give them a bottle and off they go and they can give it to their kids who are toddlers and can't eat the herbs.