Dear THT: No Alcohol Tinctures?

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Dear THT is a regular feature in which we answer your questions on the blog so everyone can benefit from the information.

Our question today comes from Marcy in Florida.

Marcy H:  I would rather not ingest alcohol and my husband complains about the strong taste of alcohol based tinctures and refuses to take them. Can't tinctures be made with cider vinegar or vegetable glycerin? 

THT: Tinctures are liquid extracts that are made with potable alcohol as all or part of the combined extraction solvent, known as the menstruum. Following the extractive process, the tincture is then separated from the spent herb and is filtered. From there it is bottled as a single herb extract or blended with other tinctures to form a compound product. Tinctures are convenient and easily dosed.

A good strong herbal tincture is some of the best medicine available.  The strong taste is largely due to the amount of herb that has been drawn into the liquid, and alcohol draws out more herbal properties than anything else.  While you can make tinctures out of alcohol, vinegar and glycerin alike, they will not be as strong and the vinegar will not have the same extended shelf life. A less powerful tincture means that you will have to take a stronger dose.  

Some useful tips:

  • Vinegar and glycerin are two substitutes for alcohol as a tincture menstruum.
  • Vinegar does not dissolve plant constituents as well as alcohol, but it is tolerable by most people ... including alcoholics and helps regulate the acid/alkaline balance in our bodies.
  • Vinegar tinctures are reported to have a shelf life of 2-3 years if stored in a cool, dark place although some authors state that they deteriorate in 6 months.
  • Vinegar extracts sugars, tannins, vitamins, some minerals, glycosides, and bitter compounds.
  • Warm the vinegar first, before using, to facilitate release of plant constituents.
  • Glycerin is diluted 1:4 with water to make tinctures. It is good for the mucus membrane linings in our bodies.
  • Although glycerine will dissolve sugars, enzymes, glucosides, bitter compounds, saponins, and tannins; it will not dissolve resinous or oily components, alkaloids or salts.
  • Glycerine is sweet which makes it a good menstruum to use when making tinctures for children.
  • Purchase only 100% vegetable glycerin for your tincture making.
  • When taking an alcohol based tincture, the alcohol per dose is so insignificant that you are getting more alcohol  than if using certain mouthwashes.
  • The amount of alcohol in the average dose of tincture is equal to the amount of alcohol in a ripe banana.
  • Tincture dosage has been tested on people, who are alcohol sensitive with NO adverse reactions.
  • A tincture dose is SAFE for anyone in a 12 step program or Alcoholics Anonymous.
  • If you're still concerned about the alcohol, you can place the tincture in a cup, pour boiling water into the cup, and the alcohol will evaporate within seconds.