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A tincture prepared from white willow bark and ethanol, containing salicin (from which salicylic acid-based products like aspirin are derived) Whitewillowtincture.jpg
A tincture prepared from white willow bark and ethanol, containing salicin (from which salicylic acid-based products like aspirin are derived)

A tincture is typically an extract of plant or animal material dissolved in ethanol (ethyl alcohol). Solvent concentrations of 25–60% are common, but may run as high as 90%. [1] In chemistry, a tincture is a solution that has ethanol as its solvent. In herbal medicine, alcoholic tinctures are made with various ethanol concentrations, which should be at least 20% alcohol for preservation purposes. [1] [2]


Other solvents for producing tinctures include vinegar, glycerol (also called glycerine), diethyl ether and propylene glycol, not all of which can be used for internal consumption. Ethanol has the advantage of being an excellent solvent for both acidic and basic (alkaline) constituents. A tincture using glycerine is called a glycerite. Glycerine is generally a poorer solvent than ethanol. Vinegar, being acidic, is a better solvent for obtaining alkaloids but a poorer solvent for acidic components. For individuals who choose not to ingest alcohol, non-alcoholic extracts offer an alternative for preparations meant to be taken internally.

Low volatility substances such as iodine and mercurochrome can also be turned into tinctures.


Tinctures are often made of a combination of ethyl alcohol and water as solvents, each dissolving constituents the other is unable to, or weaker at. Varying their proportions can also produce different levels of constituents in the final extraction. As an antimicrobial, alcohol also acts as a preservative.

A downside of using alcohol as a solvent is that ethanol has a tendency to denature some organic compounds, reducing or destroying their effectiveness. This tendency can also have undesirable effects when extracting botanical constituents, such as polysaccharides. Certain other constituents, common among them proteins, can become irreversibly denatured, or "pickled" by the alcohol. Alcohol can also have damaging effects on some aromatic compounds.

Ether and propylene glycol based tinctures are not suitable for internal consumption, although they are used in preparations for external use, such as personal care creams and ointments.


Bottle for holding ipecac tincture Bruine stopfles met label "TINCT. IPECAC.", objectnr 40295-A-B.JPG
Bottle for holding ipecac tincture

Some examples that were formerly common in medicine [3] include:

Examples of spirits include:

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alcohol (chemistry)</span> Organic compound with at least one hydroxyl (–OH) group

In chemistry, an alcohol is a type of organic compound that carries at least one hydroxyl functional group bound to a saturated carbon atom. Alcohols range from the simple, like methanol and ethanol, to complex, like sucrose and cholesterol. The presence of an OH group strongly modifies the properties of hydrocarbons, conferring hydrophilic (water-loving) properties. The OH group provides a site at which many reactions can occur.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ethanol</span> Organic compound (CH₃CH₂OH)

Ethanol is an organic compound with the chemical formula CH3CH2OH. It is an alcohol, with its formula also written as C2H5OH, C2H6O or EtOH, where Et stands for ethyl. Ethanol is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid with a characteristic wine-like odor and pungent taste. It is a psychoactive recreational drug, and the active ingredient in alcoholic drinks.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Azeotrope</span> Mixture of two or more liquids whose proportions do not change when the mixture is distilled

An azeotrope or a constant heating point mixture is a mixture of two or more components in fluidic states whose proportions cannot be altered or changed by simple distillation. This happens because when an azeotrope is boiled, the vapour has the same proportions of constituents as the unboiled mixture. Azeotropic mixture behavior is important for fluid separation processes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tincture of cannabis</span> Alcoholic extract of cannabis

Tincture of cannabis, sometimes known as green dragon, is an alcoholic cannabis concentrate. The solubility of THC in ethanol is greater than 1 g/mL.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Glycerol</span> Chemical compound widely used in food and pharmaceuticals

Glycerol, also called glycerine or glycerin, is a simple triol compound. It is a colorless, odorless, viscous liquid that is sweet-tasting and non-toxic. The glycerol backbone is found in lipids known as glycerides. Because it has antimicrobial and antiviral properties, it is widely used in wound and burn treatments approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Conversely, it is also used as a bacterial culture medium. Its presence in blood can be used as an effective marker to measure liver disease. It is also widely used as a sweetener in the food industry and as a humectant in pharmaceutical formulations. Because of its three hydroxyl groups, glycerol is miscible with water and is hygroscopic in nature.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Denatured alcohol</span> Ethanol with additives to discourage recreational consumption

Denatured alcohol is ethanol that has additives to make it poisonous, bad-tasting, foul-smelling, or nauseating to discourage its recreational consumption. It is sometimes dyed so that it can be identified visually. Pyridine and methanol, each and together, make denatured alcohol poisonous; and denatonium makes it bitter.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rubbing alcohol</span> Alcohol used for germ protection

Rubbing alcohol is either an isopropyl alcohol or an ethanol-based liquid, with isopropyl alcohol products being the most widely available. The comparable British Pharmacopoeia (BP) is surgical spirit. Rubbing alcohol is denatured and undrinkable even if it is ethanol-based, due to the bitterants added.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Diethyl ether</span> Organic chemical compound

Diethyl ether, or simply ether, is an organic compound in the ether class with the formula C4H10O or (C2H5)2O, sometimes abbreviated as Et2O. It is a colourless, highly volatile, sweet-smelling, extremely flammable liquid. It is commonly used as a solvent in laboratories and as a starting fluid for some engines. It was formerly used as a general anesthetic, until non-flammable drugs were developed, such as halothane. It has been used as a recreational drug to cause intoxication.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ethyl butyrate</span> Chemical compound

Ethyl butyrate, also known as ethyl butanoate, or butyric ether, is an ester with the chemical formula CH3CH2CH2COOCH2CH3. It is soluble in propylene glycol, paraffin oil, and kerosene. It has a fruity odor, similar to pineapple, and is a key ingredient used as a flavor enhancer in processed orange juices. It also occurs naturally in many fruits, albeit at lower concentrations.

<i>tert</i>-Butyl alcohol Chemical compound

tert-Butyl alcohol is the simplest tertiary alcohol, with a formula of (CH3)3COH (sometimes represented as t-BuOH). Its isomers are 1-butanol, isobutanol, and butan-2-ol. tert-Butyl alcohol is a colorless solid, which melts near room temperature and has a camphor-like odor. It is miscible with water, ethanol and diethyl ether.

Rectified spirit, also known as neutral spirits, rectified alcohol or ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin, is highly concentrated ethanol that has been purified by means of repeated distillation in a process called rectification. In some countries, denatured alcohol or denatured rectified spirit may commonly be available as "rectified spirit", because in some countries the retail of rectified alcohol in its non-denatured form is prohibited.

Chloral, also known as trichloroacetaldehyde or trichloroethanal, is the organic compound with the formula Cl3CCHO. This aldehyde is a colourless liquid that is soluble in a wide range of solvents. It reacts with water to form chloral hydrate, a once widely used sedative and hypnotic substance.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ethyl sulfate</span> Chemical compound

Ethyl sulfate, also known as sulfovinic acid, is an organic chemical compound used as an intermediate in the production of ethanol from ethylene. It is the ethyl ester of sulfuric acid.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Extract</span> Category of substance

An extract is a substance made by extracting a part of a raw material, often by using a solvent such as ethanol, oil or water. Extracts may be sold as tinctures, absolutes or in powder form.

Glycol ethers are a class of chemical compounds consisting of alkyl ethers that are based on glycols such as ethylene glycol or propylene glycol. They are commonly used as solvents in paints and cleaners. They have good solvent properties while having higher boiling points than the lower-molecular-weight ethers and alcohols.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fragrance extraction</span> Separation process of aromatic compounds from raw materials

Fragrance extraction refers to the separation process of aromatic compounds from raw materials, using methods such as distillation, solvent extraction, expression, sieving, or enfleurage. The results of the extracts are either essential oils, absolutes, concretes, or butters, depending on the amount of waxes in the extracted product.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Everclear</span> Brand name of rectified spirit

Everclear is a brand name of rectified spirit produced by the American company Luxco. It is made from grain and is bottled at 60%, 75.5%, 94.5% and 95% alcohol by volume. Due to its market prevalence and high alcohol content, the product has become iconic with a "notorious reputation" in popular culture. Sale of the 190-proof variant is prohibited in some states, which led Luxco to start selling the 189-proof version.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Acetic acid</span> Colorless and faint organic acid found in vinegar

Acetic acid, systematically named ethanoic acid, is an acidic, colourless liquid and organic compound with the chemical formula CH3COOH. Vinegar is at least 4% acetic acid by volume, making acetic acid the main component of vinegar apart from water and other trace elements.

This glossary of winemaking terms lists some of terms and definitions involved in making wine, fruit wine, and mead.

Isopropyl alcohol is a colorless, flammable organic compound with a pungent alcoholic odor. As an isopropyl group linked to a hydroxyl group it is the simplest example of a secondary alcohol, where the alcohol carbon atom is attached to two other carbon atoms. It is a structural isomer of propan-1-ol and ethyl methyl ether. They all have the formula C3H8O.


  1. 1 2 Groot Handboek Geneeskrachtige Planten by Geert Verhelst
  2. Ullian, Naomi (2016-09-19). "How To Make A Medicinal Mushroom Double-Extraction Tincture". Herbal Academy. Retrieved 2021-01-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. The Pharmacopoeia of the United States, 1850 ed.