A herbal tincture is an extraction of the active component of a herb, usually with alcohol but sometimes with vinegar such as cider apple vinegar. Tinctures provide a stable and well-preserved way of administering herbs. Making tinctures is especially effective in extracting the active components of woody herbs, roots and resins. Tinctures retain ingredients that can be lost in heat treatment like making teas, and in the processing of dry herbal extracts. Tinctures are highly potent so only a small quantity is required for an effect, and the tincture is more readily available in the gut so will work faster than giving the whole herb. Some herbal tinctures will be absorbed in the mouth before they are even swallowed.

To make a tincture, the dried or fresh herb is chopped and covered in alcohol (or vinegar) in an airtight container. Typically, a 40% ethanol alcohol is used. Alcohol is more effective than vinegar at extracting the active components, and alcohol tinctures are more potent than vinegar tinctures. The mixture is stored for two to three weeks (longer, with vinegar), during which time it is shaken periodically to help the extraction process. The alcohol (or vinegar) extracts the active component, and the mixture is then strained. The ratio given after the description of a tincture e.g. echinacea tincture 1:2 refers to the weight of herb to volume of alcohol that has been used to make the tincture.

Tinctures are extracts that concentrate the active component of a herb.
Tinctures are extracts that concentrate the active component of a herb.

The amount of alcohol that is taken in with a tincture at the recommended dose is tiny, and would not be enough to cause any health problem or liver challenge. It has been said that the amount of alcohol in a human dose of herbal tincture is the same as in one ripe banana.

Tinctures are made from a wide variety of herb leaves, roots, bark and seeds.
Tinctures are made from a wide variety of herb leaves, roots, bark and seeds.

The alcohol base means that the shelf life of tinctures is several years, and they keep their potency. Vinegar-extracted herbal tinctures have a shorter shelf life and should be used within a year of being made. Tinctures are a useful and effective way of administering herbs to horses.

This entry was posted in News by Clare MacLeod. Bookmark the permalink.

About Clare MacLeod

Clare MacLeod MSc RNutr is one of the UK’s few registered independent equine nutritionists who also has expertise in health and fitness. She advises private and commercial clients in all sectors of the horse world and is a hands-on horse owner herself. Clare is passionate about correct nutrition as a foundation for good health, without which peak fitness is not possible. She states “Good nutrition isn’t everything, but there’s nothing without it”.