Custom Herbs: All About Tinctures

One of the services that we have always offered for clients is custom herbal formulas. These can be given for a whole host of health problems. The way we used to do this was with a third-party pharmacy, and lately that has been far too cumbersome because patients needed changes made to their formulas more quickly than the pharmacy could turn them around. So we switched to making herbal formulas in-house, and we dispense them as tinctures. When I started telling people about tinctures, I would get a blank stare and then something like “tin-what?” So today we’re going to talk all about tinctures.

A tincture of astragalus.A tincture is a way of dispensing herbs. The herb or herbs to be taken are dried and ground up. After this, they are steeped in alcohol for a set period of time. During the steeping, all the medicinal properties of the herb leach out into the alcohol. The remaining herbal matter is filtered out, and what’s left is the medicine.

Tinctures are versatile. They can be easily modified when your health changes. Tinctures are often also stronger than herbs taken in a capsule. You don’t have to take a lot for them to be effective (usually about a teaspoon in one dose). And the extra alcohol in them can be boiled off or evaporated for kids or people who have problems with alcohol (eg alcoholics).

So what kinds of patients do well with herbs?

We wrote a few years back about a few things that respond well to herbal medicine. Tinctures help these same kinds of people just as well as they would get help from herbs taken in a powder or capsule form. The main benefit is that an herbal formula can be more quickly modified by the herbalist, which is important for complex or rapidly changing cases. This is most valuable for people where the cause of their condition isn’t always well known – fibromyalgia or IBS sufferers, for example – and where minute changes in the prescription can make a difference.

In our practice, ultimately anything that can be treated with acupuncture can also be treated with herbal medicine. The way of approaching a person’s health is the same in both cases, but the only difference is the tool used to help them.

If you’ve been taking herbs but can’t find something that’s worked, you might need a more customized solution. Call for a consult and give tinctures a try!