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What Is a Tincture?

In pharmacology, a tincture is an alcohol-based derivative or extract taken from a fresh herb or any other plant material. Tinctures are often used in alternative medicine or as a dietary supplement. Only few pharmaceutical companies still manufacture medicines in the form of tinctures. But the practice of making tinctures is still being performed by homeopaths and herbalists.

Tinctures came about as a solution to the problem of drug potency. Usually drug compounds were hand mixed at the drug store and then sold to patients. Drugs made in powdered form would often lose most of its potency after some time, usually a few days or weeks. Tinctures were an answer to this because its contents remain potent even after several years.

The substances used in tinctures – usually alcohol, glycerine or vinegar – add stability to the chemicals that are found in herbs and plants. Hundreds of herbs and plants can survive the process of making tinctures though some of the most common formulas usually involve chemicals like mercurochrome, iodine and laudanum.

Many people who are practitioners of homeopathy still make their own herbal tinctures to this day. The reason for this is the relatively easy way of making tinctures because only a few ingredients are needed and the process itself is simple. All one has to do is to put the herbs inside a jar and pour enough alcohol (for example, vodka or rum) to cover the herbs completely. Continue pouring until the liquid reaches the halfway mark of the jar then close the lid and store it in a cool, dark place for a few weeks. The jar should be shaken at least once a day. The alcohol will extract the essence of the herbs. After a couple of weeks strain the liquid through a cheesecloth and store the liquid in the medicine cabinet.

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