The Next Generation of Tinctures
What Is a Tincture?
At its core, a tincture is a liquid herbal extract. They are made by combining medicinal herbs (including plants, fungi/mushrooms, and other substances) with a solvent. Most typically the solvent used is alcohol. Tinctures are an important and common method for extracting, preserving, and using medicinal herbs.
What Are the Benefits of Tinctures vs. Whole Herbs and Powders?
Fast Acting and Easy to Digest
Alcohol based tinctures (we exclusively offer alcohol-based tinctures at RAW Forest Foods) are incredibly easy for the body to assimilate, making them fast acting for everyone and ideal for those with digestive issues. This is because tinctures do not need to be digested by the body as whole herbs and powdered extracts do (including capsules and tablets). Due to tinctures being alcohol solutions, and due to the inherent nature of alcohol, tinctures passes directly through the epithelial cell lining of the digestive system and into the general blood supply (for more information on how alcohol passes through the epithelial lining of the gut, see figure 1.3 here).
When tinctures are made correctly and all inputs and outputs are measured and recorded and the actual amount of herbs is known, dispensing and using tinctures offers a reliable method for therapeutically taking (dosing) medicinal herbs.
As an example, because we follow stick protocol in manufacturing, we can reliably state that each dropperful (1 mL) of our tinctures (1:2 extraction ratio) contain exact equivalence of 500 milligrams (1/2 gram) of whole herbs.
Convenient to Use
In addition to tinctures being easy to digest and assimilate and in addition to them offering a reliable method of therapeutic dosing and administration, tinctures are plain and simple easy to use. The liquid can be added to water or other beverages and can be taken straight. The droppers used measure exactly 1 mL of tincture—so you know how much you’re taking without needed to use a scale or another measuring device. It’s all contains in the bottle itself.
Long Shelf Life
Lastly, when tinctures are produced properly and in a base of alcohol strong enough to inhibit fermentation and rot (approximately a 37.5% ethanol concentration and above), tinctures are preserved almost indefinitely (we can see this from archeological digs where tinctures that are centuries old have been found and analyzed, showing their potency remains intact).
Simply put, tinctures are one of the most important tools in the toolbox of the herbalist, and they are indispensable in using the herbal medicine at home.
But of course, for all of the above to be true, the tincture must be made with knowledge, expertise, professionalism, and care.
What Is a Tincture?
There are two basic components used in producing tinctures:
- The substance being extracted (e.g., medicinal herbs);
- And the liquid (e.g., alcohol) it is being extracted into.
For example, in making a Yarrow tincture (Achillea millefolium), one would combine Yarrow leaves and flowers with a 40/60 blend of alcohol and water.
All that goes into the tincture are the herbs that are being extracted and the liquid—the solvent—used to extract them (while alcohol is the most common solvent used, some applications cause for other liquids to be used, such as vinegar).
How Are Tinctures Different Than Extract Powders?
Unlike powdered extracts (hot water and ethanol), where the targeted compounds in the herbs are extracted into the solids and the liquid is precipitated out, with liquid extracts, those compounds are dissolved into the liquid and the solids are removed. This is the major differentiator between liquid extracts (tinctures) and powered extracts: With tinctures, the targeted compounds become part of the solution of alcohol.
This means that the solids are discarded and that when taking the tincture, it passes through the cells of the lining of the digestive tract rather than having to pass through the stomach and into the small intestine for digestion and assimilation, as is the case with whole herbs and powdered extracts.
As the alcohol passes through the cell membranes, plant compounds that are now dissolved into the alcohol freely pass, too.
How Do You Make a Tincture?
RAW Forest Foods offers only Clinical Grade Tinctures, a nomenclature that refers to the quality of the ingredients used (including the herbs, alcohol, and water), the facility where the tinctures are produced, the FDA cGMP compliance of the facility where the tinctures are products, and—perhaps most importantly—the potency of the final extracts.
We don't just make tinctures at RAW Forest Foods, we produce clinical grade tinctures.
Gathering Herbs and Preparing for Extraction
Before the extraction process starts, the raw materials for the extraction and the documentation of the extraction begins. cGMP compliance stipulates strict documentation and record collection when producing tinctures. This includes full COA and source verification of the herbs being used in the tinctures.
The Collection of Inputs
This includes the plants, fungi, et cetera, that are to be extracted (wild-harvested, cultivation) and the alcohol and water used to extract them into.
Herbs must be sorted, selected, and cleaned, then cut, sifting, or powdering to increase extraction.
Selecting an Extraction Ratio for the Final Extract
FDA cGMP guidelines stipulate continually documentation the production of all tinctures, where measurements are taken and recorded, ensuring that each tincture contains exactly what is stated on the label.
What Are Tincture Extraction Ratios and Concentrations?
All tinctures worth purchasing should have a listed extraction ratio. This ensures the amount of herb present in the extract—both how much of the whole herb went into production and the equivalent of that whole herb in the final extract. Extraction ratios are listed in ratio form, where the first number represents the amount of herb in relation to the amount of liquid used (represented by the second number.
Here are several demonstrative examples:
- 1:10. A 1 to 10 tincture has 1 part of herbs for every 10 parts of liquid;
- 1:5. A 1 to 5 tincture has 1 part of herbs for every 5 parts of liquid;
- 1:2. A 1 to 2 tincture has 1 part of herbs for every 5 parts of liquid.
- A 1:2 tincture is five times more concentrated than a 1:10 tincture. With a 1:2 tincture, there is an equivalent of ½ gram of whole herbs per dropperful (1 mL) of tincture.
Step One: Combining and Extracting
Producing liquid extract is a practice of patience. Once the raw ingredients are combined, they must sit for a minimum of fourteen days, being agitated daily. The combination of time and agitation ensures a full extraction.
In stage one, the herbs are combined with a solvent. While different solvents may be used, a blend of ethanol (alcohol) and water is the most common. Ethanol and water are unique solvents in that they are widely accessible, effective, and relatively non-toxic, and product full spectrum extracts. RAW Forest Foods uses a blend of pharmaceutical grade (USP) ethanol (alcohol) and filtered water in tincture production.
What determines the final extraction ratio is the ratio of the weight of the herbs used to the volume of alcohol.
Once the herbs and liquid have been combined, they are stirred to allow full dispersion and are stored. The storing of the tincture is often called percolation. The combination of herbs and liquid is often called a menstruum.
Stage Two: Pressing the Tincture
Once the menstruum has been allowed to sit long enough for a full extraction to take place, the menstruum is pressed to separate the solids from the liquids. At this time, all of the targeted compounds in the herb have been dissolved into the liquid, and the solids that remain are mostly just plant cellulose and is a waste material. That waste material is called the marc.
In the professional setting, pressing is usually done by either hydraulic pressure or by vacuum. The final liquid can be further filtered after pressing, removing traces of the marc. It is a common misconception that the more sludge in a tincture the stronger the potency, but that sludge is largely just detritus of the marc and add no value to the final product.
After pressing and filtering, the liquid (containing the dissolved, targeted compounds from the herbs) is then bottled, labeled, and stored.
Dual Extraction: The Next Generation of Tinctures
Different compounds will be extracted from the plants using different extraction methods, and with tinctures, using different solvents (e.g. alcohol, vinegar, and glycerin). To maximize the extraction and provide a stronger, more potent product to our customers, we have taken an extra step in our tincturing process: Decoction. This is just part of the RAW Forest Foods difference.
Typically, when using decoction to extract herbs, the herbs are combined with water and then cooked over low heat (barely a simmer). This provides a very thorough extraction, but the resulting liquid is not shelf stable and the base of water does not pass through the epithelial cell wall lining of the digestive tract as alcohol does.
When preparing our tinctures, we take the menstruum (the combination of herbs, alcohol, and water) and decoct it. This allows us to gain the benefits of decoctions and tinctures in one product, producing a more comprehensive, more thorough extraction than simply using the traditional tincturing process or using traditional decoctions.
This is the RAW Forest Foods difference, and one of the defining characteristics of what sets our tinctures apart from others on the market. We are proud of this difference.
Tincturing: Just One of Several Extraction Methods
Tinctures are just one of several extraction methods used in the products offered by RAW Forest Foods. In addition to tincture, we provide products that are:
Together, these three extraction methods represent those methods used to produce concentrated and standardized extracts, where the exact amount of herbs used and present in the final product are known.
They are important methods both for using herbal medicines, but also in researching the medicinal potential and therapeutic uses of herbs. Research using liquid (tincture) and powdered (hot water and ethanol) extracts can be found in authoritative, research based articles which you can find through NCBI's PubMed or Google Scholar.
The information provided on this page and throughout our website is offered strictly as educational. This content is not intended as—and nor should it be taken or assumed as—medical, or any other type of diagnostic, recommendation or advice.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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