What is a Tincture?

May 3, 2022 | By
Selection of essential oils

Humans started making tinctures in the 12th century, and the Ancient Egyptians steeped herbs in alcohol to make tinctures as a method of preserving the best qualities and active benefits of various plants and herbs. The Canon of Medicine (The Al-Qanun fi al Tibb) explained medical topics that included herbal tinctures and formed the basis of medical school in the West. Keep reading to learn more about tinctures in today’s world.

How Are Tinctures Made?

A tincture is a concentrate made from herbal extracts and made by immersing parts of plants and herbs in alcohol. Initially, tincture makers used brandy or vodka to steep the ingredients. Alcohol breaks down the plant’s cell wall, releasing the bioactive compounds into alcohol.

Step 1: Activation

Some botanical and herbal compounds must be activated by decarboxylation (or heat) before they can be effectively used for oral consumption; otherwise, these compounds would be digested and passed without your body receiving most of the benefits. 

Different plant materials and compounds will have different nominal temperatures for activation, and you will need to carefully monitor this to prevent burning and waste. If decarboxylation is required, it can be done with the plant material prior to soaking in ethanol, or with the

concentrate created from the extraction process.

Step 2: Extraction

Certain botanical tinctures are best made utilizing cold temperatures while others are better made at room temperature. If the botanical you’re working with does benefit from cold temperatures, start by putting your plant material and your ethanol, while still separate, in the freezer for 24 hours before combining them.

To start the tincture, pour enough ethanol over the plant material to cover it fully, ideally with a little extra headspace. This mixture is sealed in an air-tight container and allowed to soak. Every botanical will have its optimal range of times for the plant material to sit with the ethanol, ranging from minutes to months. Our equipment doesn’t influence these times. The part our equipment speeds up is evaporating off the ethanol and recollecting it. Other methods for completing this step include letting it sit out and evaporating the ethanol. This method takes forever, and you lose the ethanol. Lastly, this step can be completed with heat, which takes a long time. You don’t recover the ethanol, and it could be excessive heat for your plant material.

Step 3: Final Product

After the necessary time has passed, the botanical and ethanol mixture is strained through a fine filter to remove any solids. You can remove much of the ethanol from your tincture, just leave a little bit, or you can remove virtually all the ethanol to make a pure concentrate, then mix this with a carrier oil of your choice. This comes down to preference and whether you want some amount of ethanol in your tincture or not. The tincture is now ready to be used or packaged and stored. 

Alcohol-based Tinctures:

After filtering your initial alcohol tincture, you can reduce this in our equipment to recover some of the alcohol and increase the strength of your tincture. This method would result in an alcohol-based tincture. These are effective to be taken sublingually or mixed into drinks.

Oil-based Tinctures:

Though not a traditional “tincture” and technically an “infusion,” Oil Based tinctures are becoming commonplace. Using ExtractCraft equipment aids in removing all the ethanol from your tincture, leaving you with a “concentrate” that is considered an “absolute oil.” You will then mix this concentrate with your choice’s carrier oil, such as MCT or Olive Oil. This method is the perfect option for those who do not wish to have any alcohol when consuming their concentrate.

If doing it this way, you can create your concentrate first, then decarboxylate it before mixing it with the carrier oil. Decarbing the plant material first or the concentrate after extraction will both work. You can also remove most of the ethanol from your tincture, leave just a little bit in, and mix this with a carrier oil of your choice. It simply comes down to preference and whether or not you’re alright with there being some amount of ethanol in there or not. 

Why You Should Try Tinctures

Tinctures can be a purified way to consume the benefits of various plants, as an alternative to other traditional methods, and can have many advantages over other botanical products, including:

Lower Calories: You can get the same experience as edibles by adding the tincture to organic and natural foods instead of consuming cookies and gummies.

Discreet: Tinctures usually have little or no odor and often come in dropper bottles for easy application or consumption.

Fast Onset: When taken sublingually, the effects come faster and last longer.

Precise Dosage: The dropper bottles most tinctures come packaged in offer reliable dosing with individual drops.

Simpler: If smoking or vaping botanical oils doesn’t fit your lifestyle, tinctures can offer a less cumbersome method of consumption.

How to Use Tinctures

Tinctures can be used in various ways, from direct oral consumption to food and drink blends.

A tincture’s dosage depends on the herbs used and the tolerances of the individual. The only way to tell if the dosage is enough is by paying attention to your body and how you feel after the dose. If that dose does nothing for you, you can change the tincture formula or increase the dosage. Keep records of all the dosages plus the recipes and effects you felt, which allows you to create a formula that works for you.

Use the tincture sublingually to feel the effects quickly; apply the desired dosage under your tongue, wait thirty seconds, then swallow. Alternatively, you can simply drop tincture doses into your mouth and swallow, though you might not feel the effects as fast as when used sublingually. 

You can also use the tincture with your food or beverage, which can take as long as an edible to take effect.

Shop Botanical Extraction Machines

Tinctures are not a new phenomenon, and you can use extraction machines like the Source Turbo for home use or the EtOH for larger extraction batches. ExtractCraft has more features than other extraction machines on the market and can offer purer extractions for high-quality tinctures. These machines will allow you to evaporate and recollect as much ethanol as possible, allowing for a more concentrated tincture. Contact us today to learn more about how you can use extraction machines to take charge of your botanical extractions.

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