Tinctures, Tincturing Extraction Methods, Dissolved Powder Extracts

by Jason Duke - Owner/Artisan

Fresh Content: May 25, 2022 23:11

A Tincture is a Concentrated Liquid Supplement

A tincture is an easy-to-take concentrated liquid supplement of any combination of vitamins, minerals, spices, herbs, botanicals, and/or superfoods.

Tincturing is the overall process of making a tincture by macerating herbs through extraction methods into the menstruum and then discarding the marc.

  • Herb
  • Extraction
  • Macerate
  • Menstruum
  • Marc

An herb is any edible plant or plant part, including animals, bugs, seaweeds, probiotics, and minerals.

Extraction is the process of taking out the constituents and nutrients of herbs into the menstruum.

A menstruum is a liquids used to macerate herbs or dissolve a powder extract.

To macerate is to soak and soften herbs in a liquid over a period of time by extraction.

The marc is the leftover herbs after extraction which are discarded after all extraction steps.

Two Main Methods of Making Tinctures

  • Extraction
  • Dissolved

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Extraction Tincture

An extraction tincture goes through a process of macerating and extracting spices, botanicals, and/or superfoods, which are collectively known as herbs in herbalism, directly into a liquid menstruum through a variety a methods that are either single, dual, or full-spectrum.

Fresh and Dried Herb Processing

Both fresh herbs or dried herbs or a combination of both fresh and dried are used in extraction tinctures.

(Go To Maceration Duration)

Fresh Herb Processing

Fresh herbs are harvested within the last few days before extraction, or weeks when refrigerated. Depending on the plant parts the herbs are are bruised, cut, smashed, crushed, or sliced before extraction:

Fresh flowers, leaves, and stem parts are placed in a tightly tied cheesecloth and rolled under palm pressure on a dedicated wooden cutting board. Afterwards, they also may be be cut into 1cm size pieces to assist extraction.

Fresh berries are processed separately with a lighter touch so as not to release their liquid. Contain any juices released so that it may be added during extraction.

Fresh roots and seeds are either smashed by hand equipment or crushed with a mortar and pestle or thinly sliced with a sharp knife very carefully.

Dried Herb Processing

Dried herbs are easily purchased in bulk from many suppliers in whole form, cut-and-sift, sliced, and powdered.

Whole dried is when the size of the herb and their parts are less than 1cm so they may extracted without further processing.

Cut-and-sifted is when any herbs and their parts are cut with blades in cutting machines to form whole small pieces, any powder or dust is sifted away from the cut pieces with a mesh screen.

Slicing is used for large and/or long leaves or roots that have been thinly sliced diagonally for maximum surface area during extraction.

Powdering may be done to any herbs by slow cutting/grinding to prevent heat degradation, but will still incur some degree of degradation and loss of potency in the volatile constituents. Herbs with tough cells walls, such as chitin, are best extracted by powdering to release more viable constituents.

Cut-and-sift quality is generally best for extraction tinctures since the volatile constituents will be better preserved from evaporation and oxidation while in cut-and-sift form so that an extraction will yield a potent and viable tincture.

Any powdering of an herbs will release these volatile constituents which are quickly evaporated and oxidized when they come into contact with air.

Liquid Extracts

Liquid extracts are the finished step of the fluids which are used for the extraction of herbs into a tincture.

Types of Liquid Extracts:

  • Hydroalcohol
  • Glycerin and Water
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Oil

Hydroalcohol Liquid Extracts

Hydroalcohol is a menstruum of edible alcohol (ethanol) and distilled water used in extracting herbs. Hydroalcohol tinctures are superior for extraction methods, since they easily extract nearly all of constituents while also becoming a carrier of the constituents for quick and complete absorption.

Understanding Alcohol and Water Usage in Tinctures

Alcohol preserves and easily extracts the volatile constituents from the macerated herbs without being oxidized, therefore best to use whole, cut-and-sifted, and sliced quality herbs in the making of hydroalcohol tinctures.

Distilled water is used with alcohol so that the pure water can extract the greatest concentration of constituents and nutrients from the macerated herbs into the menstruum.

Alcohol Content Measurement in the Menstruum

The alcohol content of a hydroalcohol menstruum is commonly and commercially measured in proof which can be converted directly to alcohol by volume abbreviated ABV.

Alcohol proof is the content of alcohol in the menstruum which is double the alcohol content by volume (ABV).

Alcohol proof to ABV examples:

  • 50 proof alcohol = 25% ABV
  • 80 proof alcohol = 40% ABV
  • 100 proof alcohol = 50% ABV
  • 150 proof alcohol = 75% ABV

Types of Hydroalcohol Tinctures

The alcohol content by volume (ABV) of the menstruum may vary depending on:

Low Alcohol
18% - 25% ABV

Larger Dosages
1-3+ droppers

Used for more nutrient dense tinctures, such as superfoods, tonics, and adaptogens, while being easier-to-take by sensitive people

Moderate-low Alcohol
30% - 35% ABV

Large Dosages
1-3 droppers

Used for larger doses that can be taken on a consistent basis, while promoting some of the medicinal benefits

Moderate Alcohol
40% ABV

Medium Dosages
20-60 drops

A common standard for potency in making homemade and commercial tinctures that is used for well rounded tinctures of any herb and herb part

Moderate-high Alcohol
45% - 60% ABV

Small Doses
10-40 drops

Used when more of the immediate medicinal effects of the benefits are desired in relation to the nutrients, as with barks, roots, and tubers

High Alcohol
65% - 75% ABV

Smallest Doses
10-30 drops

Specifically used only for medicinal herbs where the immediate effects of the benefits are to be the main purpose, as with flowers, leaves, and stems

Test the Dropper
1ml dropper = 20-40 drops
Average 1ml dropper is 30 drops

Preparing the Alcohol Content of the Menstruum

To achieve any degree of alcohol desired when making homemade tinctures, use high content alcohol, such as 190 proof (95% ABV), and dilute with distilled water.

Example Equation:

  1. (VOL Alcohol Proof) x
    (% ABV) =
    (Total Alcohol VOL)
  2. (Total Alcohol VOL) ÷
    (Total Menstruum VOL) =
    Total ABV

VOL = volume

Example Math Work:

  1. (20 oz. 190 proof) x
    (95% ABV) =
    19 oz. alcohol 
  2. (19 oz. alcohol) ÷
    (Menstruum 32 oz.) =
    59% or ~ 60% ABV

oz. = ounce

Glycerin and water 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 or those abstaining from any alcohol consumption.

Powder extracts may be diluted in glycerin tinctures with greater success of use and delivery, see dissolved tinctures below.

Apple cider vinegar tinctures are least effective overall, but may be used for specific herbs for their specific effects of recognized singular constituents medicinally, 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. And edible oil such as extra-virgin olive oil is used.

Types of Extraction Tinctures

There are three types of extraction tinctures:

  • Single-step
  • Dual-step
  • Full-spectrum

Single-step Tinctures

Twist Press for Single Step Tinctures

Single-step tinctures are effective remedies that are the traditional do-it-yourself homemade medicinal tinctures, which can be commercially manufactured and sold. They may be made by using a tincture press or by percolation method with whole herbs, cut-and-sift quality, and/or powdered herbs.

Single-step tinctures work by the herbs main studied active constituents which have specific benefits. Generally single-step tinctures have very little nutritional value in the form of vitamins, minerals, because they focus on the active constituents.

Maceration Duration - Herb Extraction Time

The time it takes to tincture an herb during maceration depends on how it is processed.

(Go To Herb Processing)

When doing homemade tinctures the bottle containing the macerated herbs should be flipped over back and forth gently several times daily to disturb the herbs and assist extraction.

Fresh herbs tend to extract faster than dried herbs and smaller and thinner cuts tend to extract faster than larger and thicker cuts; powders extract fastest.

Fresh Herb Maceration

Fresh flowers, leaves, and stem parts will macerate and finish extraction with in 1-3 days depending on their thickness.

Fresh berries will macerate in 2-5 days depending on the overall surface area.

Fresh roots and seeds will macerate in 3-7 days depending on the size of the pieces of the parts.

Dried Herb Maceration

Whole dried will macerate in 10-21 days depending on how fibrous the parts are before extraction.

Cut-and-sifted will macerate in 5-14 days with leaves taking the least amount of time, berries taking a moderate amount of time, and bark and roots taking the longest.

Slices of roots will macerate in 5-14 days depending on the thickness.

Powder will macerate in a very short period of time of 1-3 days.

Dual-step Tinctures

Dual-step tinctures are when a second step is added to single-step tinctures where the herbs are used again to produce an extract that contains more water soluble nutrients and constituents. Making dual-step tinctures is a commonly done do-it-yourself process with homemade tinctures to increase the potency of tinctures made with medicinal mushrooms and tonic herbs.

Full-spectrum Tinctures

Full-spectrum tinctures are multi-step extractions that are produced in a specific order of different stages to best achieve maximum concentration of the many various constituents found in herbs, including their vitamins, minerals, plant pigments, etc. Full-spectrum tinctures use various types of extraction equipment and are best used in processing tonic herbs for maximum potency.

Full-spectrum tinctures are best done with alcohol and water since nearly all constituents are readily extracted into either alcohol and water. The stages of full-spectrum extraction may vary depending on the herb used, therefore requiring knowledge of the spectrum of nutrients and unique constituents for an effective tincture.

Any of the various stages that may be used in full-spectrum tinctures:

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

Examples of Full-spectrum Stages

Heat Stage

A heat stage is applied to constituents to make them more absorbable and effective.

A heat stage is used on the polysaccharides in medicinal mushrooms to increase digestibility.

Cold Stage

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

A cold processing stage is done with deer antler velvet to preserve the peptides and lipids so that they do not denature during extraction.

Flash Steaming Stage

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

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

Liquid Extract Ratio

A liquid extraction ratio is a numerical representation, which may include unit measures, that denotes the potency of a liquid extract by comparing amount of herbs to liquid used, the herb to menstruum, and is necessary for referencing serving size and dosage.

There are two methods to determine the ratio of a liquid extract.

  • Standard
  • Non-standard

Standard Extraction Ratio Method

The standard extraction ratio method of determining the potency of an extraction tincture that is homemade or manufactured uses either the traditional English unit measure of same ounce units weight to volume or metric unit measure of grams to milliliters.

Standard extraction ratio unit measuring methods for tincturing:

  • English Unit Measure
  • Metric Unit Measure

English Units Extraction Ratio Standard

The English unit measure for tincturing has been used for hundreds of years by matching units of 'herb weight' extracted into matching 'liquid volume', i.e. ounce(s) herb weight extracted into ounce(s) liquid volume.

For example: 8 ounces of an herb is extracted into 1 quart (32 ounces) of water and alcohol to make a 1:4 tincture which is read as "1 ounce of herb into 4 ounces of liquid".

Metric Units Extraction Ratio Standard

Metric unit measure for tincturing uses relative relation of the size of herbs to the space of liquid by using the weight of herbs in grams that are able to be extracted into a relative volume of milliliters.

For example: 250 grams of an herb is extracted into 1000 milliliters of water and alcohol to make a 1:4 tincture which is read as "1 gram of herb into 4 milliliters of liquid".

Standard Extraction Ratios Based on Herb Grading

Different types of herbs and/or any specific type of plant parts are best suited for certain types of extraction ratios.

Generally medicinal remedies range from 1:5 to 1:2, whereas tonic herbs range from 1:3 to 1:1.

Medicinal Grade Ratios

  • ~1:5
    • Flowers; tops/small leaves
      • 5.5 oz. weight per 1 qt.
      • 167g per 1000ml
  • ~1:4
    • Spices; leaves/stems; berries
      • 8 oz. weight per 1 qt.
      • 250g per 1000ml
  • ~1:2
    • Roots; seeds
      • 16 oz. weight per 1 qt.
      • 500g per 1000ml

oz. = ounce; qt. = quart
g = gram; ml = milliliters

Tonic Grade Ratios

  • ~1:3
    • Flowers, leaves
      • 10.5 oz. weight per 1 qt.
      • 333g per 1000ml
  • ~1:2
    • Berries
      • 16 oz. weight per 1 qt.
      • 500g per 1000ml
  • ~1:1
    • Roots
      • 32 oz. weight per 1 qt.
      • 1000g per 1000ml

oz. = ounce; qt. = quart
g = gram; ml = milliliters

Non-standard Extraction Ratio Method

Non-standard extraction ratios are used for batches sizes or an increment thereof, or for marketing to make tinctures seem more potent than they actually are by using non-matching units of 'herb weight' extracted into non-matching 'liquid volume', i.e. pound(s) herb weight extracted into gallon(s) liquid volume.

For example: a manufacturer may use an increment of their extraction process by stating that their tincture is 8:1, which reads, by their own batching and marketing method as "8 pounds into 1 gallon". This actually converts to a standard liquid extract ratio of 128 ounces weight extracted into 128 liquid ounces, thereby making it a 1:1, which reads "1 ounce of herb into 1 ounce of liquid".

Another example: a manufacture may use to make their micro-batches of "1 pound into 1 quart". This actually converts to a standard liquid extract ratio of 16 ounces weight extracted into 32 liquid ounces, thereby making it a 1:2, which reads "1 ounce of herb into 2 ounces of liquid".

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Dissolved Tincture

A dissolved tincture has a determined amount of a vitamin powder, mineral powder, and/or powder herb extract dissolved into a liquid, which is then recorded as a measure of weight per serving and listed as an ingredient on the supplement label in the facts box section.

A dissolved tincture of an powder herb extract is best made with a glycerin and water liquid base since alcohol is unnecessary for the extraction of volatile constituents. Alcohol and water may be used, but without the benefits of an extraction tincture to directly capture and preserve maximum potency of the volatile constituents. 

Powder Extract of an Herb

powder extract of an herb starts by making a liquid extract which is then spray dried in a vacuum to form a powder, that may be used by themselves or in formulation, for making supplements, such as pressing it into tablets and capsules, or dissolving it into liquids and tinctures.

Powder Extract Ratio

Powder extract ratio is a numerical and unit representation of 'starting herb weight' liquid extracted and finally dried into a 'powder weight'.

For example 4 pounds of an herb is liquid extracted and then dried into 1 pound of powder extract, thereby creating an powder extract ratio of 4:1 which is read as "4 pounds into 1 pound".

Standardized Powder Extracts

Panax Red Ginseng Standardized Ginsenoside Powder

Standardized powder extracts come from modern technology that focus the extraction process on an active constituent in the herb as a marker for potency which is designated by a percentage (%) of content within the powder.

For example: Ginsenosides are a main constituent of ginseng that are used marker constituent to standardize the powder extract which may come in 2%, 3%, 5%, 10% or more of the powder.

Glycerin Dissolved Tincture Recipe

Dissolved tinctures are made by easily adding a powder extract into a glycerin and water liquid, since no extraction is being accomplished.

Glycerin Dissolved Tincture Recipe

Making a dissolved tincture that has ~240mg powder extract per dropper.

What you need:

  • 4 oz. (125ml) distilled water
  • 4 oz. (125ml) glycerin
  • 2 oz. (60g) powder extract
  • Large sanitized mixing bowl with pour spout
  • Fine wire whisk
  • Fine wire mesh strainer
  • 12 - 16 oz. (375ml - 500ml) liquid storage jar with air-tight lid
  • Measuring cup with pour spout
  • A 1 oz. (30ml) or 2 oz. (60ml) tincture bottle with dropper
  • Optional funnel for tincture bottle

oz. = ounce
g = gram; ml = milliliters
1 gram = 1,000 milligrams

Recipe steps:

  1. Mix distilled water with  glycerin in a sanitized mixing bowl
  2. Add power extract to the glycerin and water mixture.
  3. Slowly dissolve the extract, coaxing the mixture with a whisk.
  4. Once dissolved as much possible pour mixture through the strainer into the storage jar.
  5. Seal jar with lid.
  6. Add some of the gently shaken dissolved tincture into a measuring cup and then pour, with a funnel if you have one, into a tincture bottle.

Spagyric Tinctures

1800's Natural Healer Preparing A Tincture

Spagyric tinctures are an old-fashioned method of doing a single-step extraction tincture and then calcining the leftover herbs after extraction into white ash, which is then dissolved into the single-step extraction.

Spagyric was specifically accomplished by using the leftover herbs and spices from single-step extraction or oil distillation. The marc was calcined, by being burnt to white ashes, The ashes are minerals, oftentimes containing minerals salts, which were then dissolved into the tincture.

Nowadays, scientific research has shown that mineral ashes are unabsorbable by the body, so this method is ineffective for the purpose of obtaining the minerals of herbs. But modern full-spectrum extraction methods can be used to include minerals and salts into tinctures without calcining them into ashes. Minerals and salts found in herbs are extracted, concentrated, and simply added as an ingredient to the tincture without calcining the herb into unabsorbable ashes.

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