What's a Tincture? - Duke's Materia Tonica

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A Tincture Is A Liquid Extract

Tinctures are easy-to-take concentrated liquids that are used as nutrition and medicinal remedies to maintain, support, and promote health, wellness, and well-being. Tinctures are made from water, alcohol, glycerin, oil and/or vinegar with a type of food known as a dietary supplement, such as vitamins, minerals, spices, herbs, superfoods, and various botanicals.


Types of Tinctures

Four main types of tinctures:

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1. Simple Extract Tinctures

Simple tinctures are a traditional do-it-yourself homemade and commercially available tincture that is an effective medicinal remedy. They may be made by using a tincture press or by percolation method with whole herbs, cut and sift quality, and/or powders. Sometimes a second step may be done on botanicals to extract more constituents; called double or dual-extracted tinctures.


Simple tinctures work by main constituents of a studied botanical which have various benefits to the functioning of organs, glands and tissues. Simple tinctures generally have very little nutritional value in the form of vitamins, minerals.


Simple Twist Method Tincture Press

Simple tinctures use 'water and alcohol' or 'water and glycerin' or 'water and apple cider vinegar' or 'oils'.

  • Alcohol tinctures are superior, since they easily extract the main constituents and has alcohol as a carrier of the constituents for quick delivery and absorption.
  • Glycerin tinctures are not as effective for extraction and delivery as alcohol, but is the recommended way for individuals with a sensitive stomach to alcohol tinctures. Powder-extracts may be diluted in glycerin tinctures with greater success, see Dilution Tinctures below.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar tinctures are least effective and are used for specific botanicals for specific effects of recognized singular constituents as a remedy, such as a digestive formula, known as bitters made with kitchen spices and various roots..
  • Oil tinctures may be made with certain botanicals, such as St. John's Wort, that are lipid based which may be extracted and preserved into oils. 
    • For example, St. John's Wort works by it's triterpenes which may be extracted into oil based tinctures.

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2. Spagyric Tinctures

Spagyric is an old-school method, more advanced than the 'simple' extraction method, which is used to preserve and concentrate additional constituents, such as the oils and salts.


Old-school Spagyric Oil Distillation

Spagyric is most known for the last extraction step of fermenting the leftover herbs and spices, known as the 'marc', and calcining them by burning them to ashes. The mineral ashes are added to the previous extraction steps and may contain a minute amount of mineral salts.


Nowadays, we know that ashes are unabsorbable by the body and current methods exceed spagyric for nutritional purposes of minerals and salts. Modern methods, scientific research and more advanced equipment has integrated the original spagyric ideas into making better and more effective tinctures.

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3. Dilution Tinctures

Modern technology can now focus on certain constituents that are extracted, separated and vacuum spray-dried into a water-soluble powder. Most often, the powders are encapsulated or used in various combination vitamin, mineral, and botanical capsule supplements for best cost effectiveness. Spray-dried extract powders may also be diluted into a tincture for better absorption.


Powders are standardized for a specific marker constituent which is recognized as a main constituent of the botanical.

  • Ginsenosides are a main constituent of ginseng that is used as a standardized marker constituent.

Panax Ginseng Standardized Ginsenoside Powder

These are often recognized by a percentage of standardization or large ratios such as 8:1, 20:1 or even 200:1. For example, 8:1 or 'eight to one' means eight pounds concentrated into one pound based on a specific marker constituent.


Dilution of spray-dried powders is best for glycerin tinctures since glycerin is a poor solvent for extraction. Water and alcohol dilution of spray-dried powders may be used for better absorption.


Many inferior quick-made tinctures use only a dilution of spray-dried powders diluted into a tincture as a way to create cheap and profitable dietary supplements.


4. Full-spectrum Extract Tinctures

The full-spectrum method is best used to extract the nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, along with plant pigments and other unique constituents into a concentrated combination tincture.


Full-spectrum uses alcohol and water, sometimes glycerin, with various multi-step stages of extraction to be combined and concentrated for up to 99.9% of the constituents found within the superfood, tonic, adaptogen or botanical.


Some Extraction Stages That May Be Used to Make Full-Spectrum Tinctures:

  • Double Boilers
  • Distiller Equipment
  • Pressurized Cookers
  • Flash Steam Equipment
  • Spectroscopic Analysis
  • Filtration Systems
  • Extraction Tanks
    • Cold Process
    • Heat Amplified

The stages of full-spectrum extraction may vary depending on the superfood and botanical used, therefore requiring knowledge of the spectrum of nutrition and unique constituents for an effective tincture.

Heat is applied to constituents to be more absorbable and effective.

  • For example, heat is used on the polysaccharides in goji berry.

Extraction in a cool environment, such as a fridge, is applied to preserve the pigments, vitamins, peptides and oils found in tinctures.

  • Cold processing is done with deer antler velvet to preserve the peptides and lipids.

Flash steaming is applied to crack tough cells wells for further extraction.

  • Flash steaming is done to medicinal mushrooms to crack the cell walls called chitin.

Tonic Tinctures are Full-Spectrum!


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