The term comes up again and again in books about herbal remedies, but what exactly is a tincture? While the herbs in decoctions and infusions are boiled or steeped in boiling water, tinctures are fluid herbal extracts prepared when the active ingredient of a herb cannot be heated and is not water soluble.

Although not widely available in shops, tinctures are favoured by professional herbalists because they are highly concentrated and long lasting, being made with a base of alcohol. The chopped herb is placed in a 40-50% alcoholic spirit and left in a warm place to steep. After a couple of weeks, the alcohol containing the herbal extract is decanted and stored in dark glass.

The required doses and dilutions of tinctures vary greatly from as little as a few drops to 20 mls at a time. Because of the concentrations involved, great care should be taken to follow the herbalist’s instructions which are usually written on the bottle.


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