How to Take a Tincture

When you start talking about herbs, especially how to use them, the word “tincture” inevitably comes up. There are many, MANY ways to use herbs to support wellness and a tincture is one of them. How to take a tincture?

Well, first do you know what it is?

What is a tincture?

A super easy way define tincture is alcohol with concentrated medicinal plant properties in it. That is as plain as it gets. More widely defined, tincture is an herb (the mark) left to soak in alcohol (the menstruum). After “tincturing” or soaking for six to eight weeks, you drain off the menstruum, this is your tincture. If you are using glycerine, vinegar, water, or any menstruum (solvent) other than alcohol, technically this preparation would be an extract rather than a tincture.

There are many reasons to use tinctures as a way to add herbal properties to your body to support wellness. Tinctures are concentrated, convenient to take, easily carried about, and have a very long shelf life. (in my estimation one of the PREMIER ways to preserve your herbal bounty!) They are easy to make and easy to take.

tincture of cleavers
the start of a tincture of cleavers – fresh herb

How to Take a Tincture

  • Shake the bottle Herbal tincture should be stored in dark glass dropper bottles. The dark glass helps to protect the liquid from light, which will degenerate its properties. It is common for sediment to form in the bottom of the bottle. This sediment is just as medicinal as the clearer part of the tincture, so be sure to shake it all together before you take it.
  • Understand your dosage The common dosage unit for a tincture is a “dropperful.” This is one a common causes of confusion for those who are new to using tincture.

What is a dropperful?

A “dropperful” can be confusing because, as you watch the tincture go up into the glass tube, it is never “full”. So, if your herbalist says “dropperful,” they actually mean the amount of liquid that is pulled into the glass tube when you squeeze the air out of the dropper at the top, then release the rubber top in your tincture, once. It will normally fill the glass tube somewhere around ½ full and not every dropperful is going to be the same – it will simply vary.

tincture dropper sizes
The example above is a 1 oz and a 4 oz dropper, the squeeze bulb is the same size regardless of the bottle size.

Because of this sometimes dosage is given in drops, such as: 30-60 drops 2-3 times a day. Most of us, as you can well imagine, are not going to count 60 drops out more than once, never mind, up to five times a day, but if you want to be sure you are getting the right dose, you can count out the drops a time or two to give yourself an idea. If there are 28 drops in the dropperful you count, and the suggested dosage is 30-60 drops, then 2 dropperfuls will be sufficient. If there are only 20 drops then you might want to use 3 dropperfuls.

My suggestion is to follow the dosage guidelines to the best of your ability, and allow for some variation in the dynamic dropperful. [1]

What's a dropperful? Learn how to take a tincture. Click To Tweet

Getting a Tincture in Your Body

You know your dosage, you’ve shaken your bottle, now what? I can hear you now, “Have you smelled that stuff? And you want me to put that in my MOUTH?” Yup! The ease of tincture taking, pull out the bottle, give it a squeeze and in you go… ok, OK, not the culinary idea, but, the strong taste of alcohol aside, did you know that part of what is making us sick(ly) is NOT tasting certain tastes? If you’d like to know about “Bitter Deficiency Syndrome” read Jim McDonald’s paper on bitters. (TRULY interesting paper on how taste affects our health!) Depending on the herb, you probably really need to taste the taste, it honestly only lasts a moment. Don’t follow it down with something sweet, it defeats the entire purpose.

If you honestly cannot stand to take a tincture this way, then (assuming it is not a necessary bitter) then you DO have options 🙂 You can just water it down in a small glass of water and will barely taste it… one good gulp should do. You can also mix it in a small glass of juice to mask the flavor.

Now I ask you, what could be easier than using tinctures to get herbal goodness in your body?

Be sure to store tincture at room temperature and away from degenerating sunlight and your tincture will literally last for years.

More on Taking Tinctures

Tinctures are considered generally safe. While tinctures are a very common way to take herbs, note that if you have a known sensitivity to say, the Asteraceae family of plants, then chamomile will probably NOT be a good idea. And you should always strive to know that the herbal tincture you are taking does not interfere with any medications that you are on.

Buy from someone you trust. Please, please make certain you are acquiring them from a person or company that you trust. Make certain that the botanical name is stated on the bottle. The menstruum to herb amount should also be listed, most often, as a ratio, like menstruum/fresh herb 1:5. The percentage of the alcohol should be stated a long with any other ingredients in the bottle. (There really should be nothing but the herb and the alcohol!)

Tinctures and Children If you are concerned about giving a child alcohol, make sure you understand amounts well. A children’s dosage of tincture is quite small.

The amount of alcohol one ingests when taking even a relatively large dose (such as a tsp) of tincture is quite small – a fraction of a standard drink. For example – most tinctures are between 30 and 90% alcohol and dosed between 2 and 5 mls. A standard “shot” of 80 proof liquor is 1.5 ounces, or 45 mls (20 mls of pure alcohol). One would give a reduced dose to children in relation to body weight, as well. However, if you wish to avoid alcohol completely, there are many other ways to ingest herbs. A common substitute for a tincture is a glycerite, which is similar to a tincture but made with vegetable glycerine. Vegetable glycerine tastes sweet, so it is great for children. Herbs can be taken in a multitude of ways: as tea, a syrup, a powder, in capsules, and eaten fresh! Tinctures are certainly not the only way to give herbs to children. [1]

“It’s all about the dose, but first you have to know what materials you’re dealing with! ” ~ Dr. E. Joy Bowles, PhD, BSc Hons


  • Holistic Clinical Herbalist, Elise Damilatis,

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