Botanical Preparations-Tincture Series
Botanical Preparations-Tinctures part 1
This article is the first in a series giving an overview of some of the most common botanical preparations made at home and found in the marketplace.
Tinctures are plant-based medicines in which ethanol (drinking alcohol) is used as a solvent to extract a plant's constituents. The words alcohol and ethanol are used interchangeably here.
There are two major types of tinctures, macerations, and percolations. A maceration is made by soaking (macerating) the herb in ethanol for a particular amount of time. Percolation is a method where alcohol is poured over dried powdered herbs in a cylinder with the alcohol slowly seeping through (similar to a coffee percolation).
This article will focus on macerations.
Ginkgo biloba tincture
There are a few reasons why tinctures are a popular form of herbal medicine, and there are some drawbacks as well.
- Tinctures are stable. Along with liniments (made with isopropyl alcohol and used externally), they are the most long-lasting botanical preparation.
- Alcohol is very good at pulling out most of a plant’s constituents.
- Alcohol prevents most microbes from growing in the medicine.
- Other ingredients mix freely in tinctures, such as essential oils and glycerin.
- Tinctures are easily absorbed, which may increase their effectiveness.
- They are convenient, easy to carry around and administer.
- Alcohol is not very expensive and readily available.
- It is easy to have many individual tinctures and put them together to make an individualized formula.
Feverfew tincture (Tanacetum parthenium)
- Many people abstain from the use of alcohol. Whenever offering anyone a tincture, it is helpful to explain that the medicine contains alcohol.
- Alcohol does not extract all the constituents from plants.
- Large doses may impair judgment and awareness.
- There are age limits in purchasing alcohol to prepare medicines
- Tinctures have a strong flavor, which many people find disagreeable.
- Alcohol can be hard on the body, particularly the liver and kidneys.
- Alcohol is contraindicated with many pharmaceuticals.
- Alcohol is more expensive than other menstruums, such as water.
Coming up next: different ways to prepare tinctures
Taylor Rae Tate preparing Kava tincture (Piper methysticum).
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