What are Tinctures?

Tinctures are an infusion of herbs in alcohol and water that is meant to be taken internally to treat or prevent ailments.

a solution of alcohol or of alcohol and water, containing animal, vegetable, orchemical drugs1


Tinctures have been around for quite some time but they haven’t been used for medicinal purposes the way we do today for very long.

Over 1,500 years ago the Chinese began the practice of steeping herbs in wine to create medicine. These Medicinal Wines were used to treat things like arthritis, infertility, chronic skin diseases, injuries, fractures, colds, asthma, loss of voice, and much, much more. The wines are more often used to treat older adults, though there are some treatments for younger adults and children.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, a lot of ailments were first treated with decoctions and if that failed to improve the condition they would then administer a medicinal wine. Medicinal wines became very popular as they had a good taste, could treat various ailments and was also found to be a good preventive.

The dosage for these medicinal wines is much different than the dosage we take today with modern tinctures. The recommended dosage amount for a medicinal wine is about 1.5 ounces, equivalent to a shot glass. Sun Simiao said, “it was essential to consume a quantity that was sufficient to feel the effect of the alcohol2” as the alcohol in the wines were as much part of the treatment as the herbs, but also warned against taking too much.

Early on, these medicinal wines were made by adding the medicinal plants in with the mashed grapes and then left to ferment. Later, they began infusing already made wines with herbs. These wines were known as “dew.”

The popularity of Chinese medicinal wines decreased and is only now regaining in popularity. Colleges, hospitals, and various institutes are researching these wines and a few are available commercially.

Wine, the essence of grain, harmonizes and nourishes the spirit and qi. However, since it is swift and fierce by nature, it may work in a precarious way. It is capable of perfusing and disinhibiting the stomach and intestines and is good at conducting the force of (other) medicinals.~exert from the Tia Ping Sheng Hui Fang

Chinese medicinal wines helped lead to the creation of the Western tincture. In the Western world, many plants don’t stay fresh for very long, unlike the hardy spices of the east, and so people began storing plants in alcohol to preserve them. From there the modern tincture was born.

What are tinctures used for today?

Today, tinctures are used for treating various ailments but are also used as a preventative and to boost the immune system. They are more potent than tea.  Two droppers full of a tincture is equivalent to one 8 ounce cup of tea.

Common ailments tinctures are used for:

  • Colds
  • Flu
  • Asthma
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Joint Issues
  • Increase Libido
  • Male/Female Care
  • Immune System Boost
  • Insomnia/Sleep issues
  • Vitamins and Mineral deficiencies
  • Stomach Issues
  • Digestion Issue

There are many, many more things tinctures are used for.


One problem with taking tinctures is taking too much or too little. Too much and you can experience some issues and hurt your body, too little and you may not see any improvement.

Tinctures today are taken based off of drops or dropper fulls. I prefer going by drops because not every dropper will fill up with the same amount every time nor are they all the same size. A typical dropper full is equivalent to 30 drops.

Most tinctures are taken by quantities of 30 drops, 3 times a day. However, this is not true for every tincture. Some tinctures can be so strong that you may only need 1-2 drops. Always do your research on the plants and how much of should be taken in tincture form.

Here’s a measurement reference key:

-1 Dropper Full = 30 Drops
-¼ teaspoon = about 25 drops
-½ teaspoon = about 50 drops
-1 teaspoon = about 100 drops

Some tinctures are taken as prevention so it may require lower doses. As you can see, tinctures today have a much lower dosage than Chinese medicinal wines. Today alcohol is not considered part of the treatment so it doesn’t necessarily require such a high dosage.

When it comes down to it, always check and make sure you are taking the right dosage. Always contact a trained medical professional about dosages, using tinctures, and how they may interact with your medications or conditions.

Who and Where?

Anyone can use a tincture. However, for pregnant women and children, the dosages can be different.

For the most part, pregnant women can take tinctures, even alcohol based ones. However, there are herbs that should not be taken when pregnant or nursing so tinctures with those herbs should be avoided.

For children, the dosages are much smaller than what an adult would take.

Herb Lore has a great chart of dosages for children:

Age — Dosage
Younger than 3 months — 2 drops
3 to 6 months — 3 drops
6 to 9 months — 4 drops
9 to 12 months — 5 drops
12 to 18 months — 7 drops
18 to 24 months — 8 drops
2 to 3 years — 10 drops
3 to 4 years — 12 drops
4 to 6 years — 15 drops
6 to 9 years — 24 drops
9 to 12 years — 30 drops

Always consult your doctor, midwife, doula, or trained herbalist on when you should administer tincture to young children or when nursing or pregnant.

When taking tinctures, it can be taken directly in the mouth, under the tongue, in water, juice, or tea. You can also add tinctures to gelatin capsules.

How to Make Tinctures

Learn how to make tinctures here!

-1 Dictionary.com Tincture
-2 Dosage and Form of Herbs
-3 Chinese Medicinal Wines & Elixirs by Bob Flaws
Tinctures – What are they and how do you use them?
-Children’s Dosage Guide
Guide to Making Tinctures

Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes only. I am not a doctor, veterinarian, dietician, or health expert. Licensing is not available in the United States for an herbalist to practice herbal medicine.  If you wish to have advice on a medical problem, please consult a doctor. Every person is different and I cannot guarantee that any information provided will work for everyone.  You are responsible for your own health and any decision to alter your health is your own choice. Please consult a doctor before making any serious health changes.

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