Medicinal herb tinctures are potent liquid extracts made from single herbs, or the combination of several herbs. They are a more concentrated way of getting herbal medicines into your body than by taking a tea. Once a tincture is prepared, it has an extremely long shelf life. Tinctures should be kept in a cool, dark cupboard to maintain their potency. Dried herbs, on the other hand, lose their potency as they sit on a shelf. Having tinctures on hand takes up less space and just makes more sense.
Make Your Own Herbal Tinctures
It can be expensive to buy tinctures at the health food store. Depending on the herbs involved, and the brand, they can cost $15.00 an ounce. They are quite simple to make yourself, and you don't need a lot of equipment. If you grow your own herbs for your teas, medicines and tinctures, the cost will be even less.
Rather than saying "solvent", many herbalists will use the word, menstrum. Generally alcohol is the solvent of choice for making herbal tinctures. The medicinal properties of the herbs easily steep into it, and it assimilates quickly into the body. Since alcohol also has preservative qualities, it helps the tincture to stay fresh for a very long time. Everclear is the best base to choose for your tinctures. Dilute it by half with water before using to make your medicines. Glycerine is also a good base, and works well in tinctures for children. There are times that pure cider vinegar is used as the menstrum, especially if the tincture is going to be for daily, long term use.
Therapeutic doses are considerably less than that of herbal teas; only about one teaspoon two to three times a day. You can take the dose straight, or add it to six ounces of water. If you don't wish to ingest the alcohol then mix the dose with a cup of boiling water and allow it to sit for a few minutes. The alcohol will dissipate.
Medicinal Herb Tinctures for Emergencies
Herbal tinctures are available both on the Internet and in most health food stores. While they are more expensive to buy than to make yourself, the variety of what is available in the store is almost endless. Since the tinctures do last for such a long time, it is good to stock up on those that you know you will need, or those that would be useful in an emergency.
Some of the best tinctures to have on hand in case of an emergency are:
- Shepherd's Purse- Shepherd's purse is used to stop excessive bleeding. Use it to stop bleeding from a nose bleed, a major wound, or hemorrhage after childbirth. It is also used as a liver cleanser, helping with diarrhea and urinary tract infections.
- White Willow- White willow is the original source of salicylic acid in aspirin. Use this medicinal tincture to relieve pain, reduce fever and reduce inflammation. It is helpful in cases of arthritis pain.
- Valerian Root- Valerian smells really nasty, but it is the one that you will reach for most often. Like white willow, it treats pain. Valerian is a powerful antispasmodic, muscle relaxer, and helps to promote restful sleep without narcotic side effects. It is good for heart palpitations. This tincture has been used for menstrual cramps, childbirth afterpains, muscle cramps and spasms, headaches and arthritis pain.
- Garlic- Garlic doesn't just keep vampires away! It is a fantastic antibiotic, and the chemical in it acts in a similar way to penicillin or tetracycline. A remedy for strep throat, bronchitis, and infections of all types, tinctures of garlic oil are often placed in the ear to combat ear infections.
- Plantain- Plantain is used for poisonous bites and stings, boils, inflammation, eczema, thrush, blood poisoning, ulcers, wounds, diarrhea, cuts and scratches, burns, scalds, poison ivy and bruises. This tincture can be used externally as well as internally with good results.
- St. Johns Wort-St John's Wort is used for depression and anxiety. It takes about six weeks of use to begin to see a difference when used as an antidepressant, much like the commercially available anti-depressant medications.
- Bloodroot -Bloodroot tincture is good for fighting gingivitis, plaque, and dental decay, and has been approved by the FDA for use in some commercially produced toothpastes.
- Celery Seed - Celery seed is one of the least known medicinal herbal tinctures. It is one of the best remedies for arthritis as well as beneficial for treating muscle spasms, high blood pressure, gout, sleeplessness, depression, and anxiety.
- Chamomile - Chamomile is a gentle herb that is relaxing and soothing. The tincture is calming for babies colicky tummies, helping to reduce pain and inflammation in the digestive tract. It is great for anxiety, and has been used to treat asthma and other lung problems. The tincture can be added to a vaporizer to be inhaled as steam.
- Echinacea/ Goldenseal - While the benefits of Echinacea have been news for quite some time, the Echinacea/Goldenseal combination is an excellent, all around medication for external, as well as internal, use. It builds the immune system, and fights fungal, viral, and bacterial infections. Each of these herbs is potent on its own but together is an herbal powerhouse.
Wherever you get your medicinal herb tinctures, whether locally or online, make sure that the product is organic. Also, tinctures that are stored in dark bottles retain their potency for a much longer period of time. Be sure to follow directions carefully and consult your naturopath, or homeopath, if any minor ailment lasts longer than about three days. .