All tinctures are extracts, but not all extracts are tinctures!! Tinctures are where one is using alcohol as the solvent or medium. If you are using water, vinegar, glycerin or any other type of medium or solvent, then the preparation is an extract.
Tea vs. Tincture?
Teas and tinctures are made from the same combination of herbs. It's just a different way of taking them. Some people enjoy teas and enjoy the relaxing aspects of taking a time-out to drink a cup of tea. Others may not care for tea or do not have time to brew and drink a cup of tea. For these people, a tincture is perfect. Tinctures are also very convenient, as nothing needs to be brewed. You simply take the drops of tincture and you're done. You can easily carry a bottle of tincture in your purse and have it available to you at all times. When you want an immediate response, such as herbs for relaxation or sleep, a tincture may give you more immediate results. For nutritive herbs, either a tea, a tincture or a capsule would be fine. It comes down to personal preference.
What is a Tincture Dropperful? Why won't the glass tube fill all the way when I squeeze the dropper top?
Tinctures are usually taken by the dropperful (also known as a squeeze). A dropperful is the amount of liquid that fills the glass tube of the dropper when the bulb on the dropper top is squeezed and released. The liquid may fill the glass tube only a small portion of the way, but that is considered a "dropperful". A dropperful equals approximately 30 drops.
FYI -- On all dropper tops, no matter how large or small of a tincture bottle it comes with, the bulb (the thing you squeeze) is the same size on them all. The bulb is what determines how much liquid fills the tube, not the length of the tube itself.
With this standard dosing suggestion (for adults) of two droppersful three times a day, tincture bottles typically last this long:
- 1oz. tincture bottle will last about one week
- 2oz. tincture bottle will last two weeks
- 4oz. tincture bottle will typically last about a month.
Are Tinctures Safe for Pregnant or Nursing Women? How About Children and Babies?
Yes, tinctures are fine for pregnant and nursing women, even the alcohol-based versions. One dose of an alcohol-based tincture has approximately the same alcohol content as eating a very ripe banana. Non-alcohol tinctures are good for children, those with alcohol sensitivities, or for those who simply prefer a non-alcohol product. If you are pregnant or nursing consult an herbalist you trust. For babies, we recommend that nursing mothers take the tincture, which will then pass on to their babies through the breast milk.
For some herbs, such as roots, barks, berries, and non-aromatic seeds, it takes a powerful liquid such as alcohol to extract the medicinal properties from the herb. Extracting with a less-powerful liquid will only result in a less-effective product - really, a waste of your time and money. For those who prefer a non-alcohol product and there's not one available, you can put the drops of tincture into a small amount of hot water (the amount is not important), and this will dissipate the alcohol content, leaving only the herb matter behind. (Be careful not to have your water so hot that you burn yourself though! It doesn't have to be that hot!)
Herbs and herbal products should not be given to babies under 6 months of age, as their digestive systems are not mature enough to handle much more than breastmilk (or formula if its necessary). To give herbs to an infant, its best for the breastfeeding mother to take full dose of the herb (see Note: below) and it will pass to the baby through the breastmilk. If a baby is in acute distress, such as from gas or colic, or if the baby is not breastfed, a small amount of non-alcohol tincture or diluted tea can be given directly to the baby on an occasional basis. The chart below will give you recommendations of how much to give to a baby or child.
Note: a typical adult dose is 1 cup (8 oz.) of tea, and two droppersful (or squeezes, which is 60 drops) of tincture. The information below is based on this information.
When the adult (age 12 and over) dose is 1 cup (8 oz.) of tea, the following is recommended for children:
Age -- Dosage
Younger than 2 years -- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon
2 to 4 years -- 2 teaspoons
4 to 7 years -- 1 tablespoon
7 to 11 years -- 2 tablespoons
When the adult dose is 2 droppersful (60 drops), the following is recommended for children:
Age -- Dosage
Younger than 3 months -- 2 drops
3 to 6 months -- 3 drops
6 to 9 months -- 4 drops
9 to 12 months -- 5 drops
12 to 18 months -- 7 drops
18 to 24 months -- 8 drops
2 to 3 years -- 10 drops
3 to 4 years -- 12 drops
4 to 6 years -- 15 drops
6 to 9 years -- 24 drops
9 to 12 years -- 30 drops
Other ways to determine dosage:
Young's Rule - Add 12 to the child's age. Divide the child's age by this total. Example: dosage for a 4 year old: 4 divided by 16 (4+12) = .25, or 1/4 of the adult dosage.