History of tinctures
Water but also ethanol are in plentiful supply in nature. Ethanol is constantly being produced in nature or purposely by man. Medieval beer was nothing more than a way of preserving water from decay. The ethanol acted as a sterilizing agent while also extracting some taste (bitters). The use of ethanol in producing decoctions of bitter tasting herbs ('kruidenbitters') for stomach problems (nowadays turned into an art with nice tasting digestives/appetizers) can be seen as an example of early (complex) tincturing.
The ancient art of making Tinctura (latin for coloured liquid) has developed into products for 'traditionally used' herbal medicines (complementary medicines). Each culture or region in the world has its own variations depending on plants available.
Benefits of fresh plant tinctures
- Water and ethanol offer a natural liquid environment in which many plant-ingredients readily dissolve. So the synergy of dissolved plant contents in its natural occurrence is largely kept intact.
- Just as important the ethanol will preserve these plant-ingredients in such a way that many of them are still found unaltered years after the production of the extract (given proper storage circumstances). Its shelf life extends many years, often more than five years, more than of the for instance the dried herb.
- As a consequence the quality of dried plant tinctures can be compromised if it is not made from dried material within months of it being dried (so after the fresh harvest). With a fresh plant tincture there cannot be any doubt about the quality of the plant material used (there is no quality loss due to storage as will be the case with dried botanicals).
- The entire composition of a tincture consists only of natural ingredients in a liquid form, as a consequence its contents are readily absorbed.
- Even in our current age, with an oversupply of synthetic drugs/medicines, herbal extracts are still, or even increasingly used as remedies for the human body. Examples are the antiviral passive and active immune-enhancing use of echinaceas/uncaria, digestive stimulating use of mentha, flagwort, absinth and antidepressive use of passionflower, valerian, hypericum.
- Many tinctures are suited for over the counter (prescription free) purchase. Apart from there being also strong-acting tinctures (mainly curative purposes and only as prescription medicine) tinctures great significance is in preventative use or for treating chronic complaints. Compared to non-herbal (synthetic) treatments they generally show less adverse side effects.
- Tinctures also prove to be very suited for use in food-supplements, beverages, cosmetics and wellness products. Especially for organic certified processors of cosmetics, herbal wine etc where it is often complicated to add herbs without introducing bacterial contamination, tinctures offer a 'contamination-free liquid herb ingredient'.
A tincture is a liquid extract usually derived by maceration of plant-parts (and in some cases animal parts) in a water/ethanol base. We only produce botanical tinctures.
Parts of the plant generally used are root (radix), bark (cortex), aboveground part before or at flowering stage (herba, herba cum flos), the leaves (folium), the flowers (flos), the fruit (fructus), seed (semen), or entire plant (planta tota). The plant-part used depends on tradition, scientific research but also personal preference of a practitioner.
Phytotherapy uses plantbased preparations in a holistic way: using the plant substances as they are represented in the plant. Tinctures are phytotherapeutic products by definition given the effort to copy the plant as a whole in liquid form. Refined or isolated plantingredient extracts are not genuine phytotherapeutic products.
The variation in preparation of tinctures is enormous. Basically extraction is by way of maceration in which the liquid is stagnant in the production vessel and the plant-material is stirred or by percolation in which the plant-material is stagnant in a column and the liquid is slowly moving through. Apart from variation in recepy and equipment used, variation in quality of the botanical used can be significant. Region of origin, cultivation method (organic or conventional, irrigation etc.) seasonal influences all cause a certain variation in quality of the plant material.
The strength of the ethanol/water solvent is normally prescribed/chosen depending on plant species and part used, as is the use of dried or fresh plant material.
Although currently more and more producers only make dried plant tinctures probably out of convenience. Dried-plant tinctures can be easier in production because of the year-round availability of dried botanicals. This is an explanation for the scarcity of fresh-plant tincture producers in current times.
Tinctures are classified as herbal (botanical) medicines. Apart from the use in herbal homeopathic or phytotherapeutic remedies, tinctures are also part of allopathic/conventional treatments.
Over 40 different tinctures are mentioned in the European Pharmacopee.
Depending on local legislation tinctures can be categorized as traditional herbal medicine, medicine, food supplement, food-ingredient or even feed-ingredient (f.i. our tincture complexes for animal husbandry).