According to herbalist and acupuncturist Christopher Hobbs, some herbs are more potent in tincture form than in teas or capsules. These herbs include:
• Dong quai (Angelica sinensis)
• Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
• Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
• Kava (Piper methysticum)
• Milk thistle (Silybum marianum)
• Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens)
• Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
The constituents in the above herbs are more soluble in alcohol than in water, so you’re more likely to get the active ingredients from your herbs if you use alcohol-based tinctures.
Tinctures generally are made by steeping the dried or fresh herb in a mixture of alcohol and water. Besides extracting the plant’s active ingredients, the alcohol acts as a preservative, allowing tinctures to be kept for up to two years.
Tinctures should be taken diluted in water, unless you have a taste for strong medicine.
The Herb-Drug Connection
One in four prescription medications was discovered originally through the study of traditional cures and folk knowledge of indigenous peoples, called ethnobotany. As the discoveries of aspirin, digitalis and quinine bear witness, the ethnobotanical approach to drug discovery has been spectacularly successful. This table lists only a handful of the drugs prescribed in North America and Europe derived from ethnobotanical research.
Source: Balick, Michael and Paul Alan Cox. Plants, People, and Culture. New York: Scientific American Library, 1996.