Herbal Tinctures.

Not too long ago, someone asked me what a naturopathic doctor would recommend for his or her cold. Most NDs would recommend some vitamin and/or mineral supplements, steam inhalation, cold socks (another hydrotherapy technique soon to be discussed), lots of fluids, some dietary changes, and some herbal teas to drink, but they most likely would prescribe an herbal tincture.

An herbal tincture is a mixture of alcohol (ethanol usually) and whatever herbs will help the patient's condition. When herbs are steeped in alcohol, their medicinal compounds are released and concentrated. A patient would take 1-3 teaspoons of the tincture daily depending on his or her condition. In a sense, herbal tinctures are very similar to allopathic medicines as they are taken several times a day and taken only until the condition is healed (and not long term like other naturopathic remedies). However, tinctures are more natural as they only contain plant-based ingredients and no synthetic compounds. Also, they help patient to overcome symptoms. Herbal tinctures are not meant to help the patient recover faster or cope with a particular illness, but aren't meant to a magical potion that cures everything.

Many naturopathic doctors have dispensaries in their own clinic from which they sell and prepare herbal tinctures. Some health food stores sell/prepare them too. If you live in a really big city, they are available at herbal stores too. CCNM has its own tincture dispensary. Fourth-year students spend a couple of their clinic shifts working in the dispensary in order to learn how to properly prepare tinctures.

Some herbal tinctures taste awful, others not so bad; it all depends on the herbs they contain. One common characteristic of tinctures is that they "burn the throat" but this is just because they all contain ethanol and we all know that alcohol gives-off somewhat of a "burning" sensation.

Side Note: while I love herbal tinctures, they can unfortunately give naturopathic medicine a bad reputation because they look like strange magic potions!


  1. I tried one of Becca's tinctures that she thought was yucky tasting - but I didn't feel it was so bad.

    Actually it is a good thing if it isn't appealling as folks will only want to use it if it is absolutely necessary unlike flavourful marketed meds that adults and children to frequently gobble up.



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