A tincture might sound about as effective as a poultice or a bloodletting. But unlike these old-school remedies, tinctures are being used to cure modern-day concerns like acne, dull skin or lack of sleep. What is a tincture, exactly? “A tincture is typically a combination of herbs that have been steeped in a liquid base, usually compromised of water, cane sugar alcohol or glycerin for four to six weeks,” says Barbara Close, herbalist and founder of Naturopathica. Think of it as tea on steroids, “it’s a more potent dose of herbal actives than tea yet it’s usually less aggressive than modern medications. Tinctures are a fairly natural and gentle way to treat wellness concerns,” says Sheila Kumar, a homeopath at The Organic Pharmacy. Generally, tinctures come in small opaque vials, with a dropper, so you can deposit them in water or tea.
And what can you use tinctures for? It all depends in what you’re trying to achieve. For example, if you are losing zzzs, a sleep-inducing blend of passionflower and kava may be helpful (try Urban Moonshine Hit the Hay Sleep Support, $19; urbanmoonshine.com). For problematic skin concerns like eczema, look for ingredients like chamomile, oats and neem. “Oats and chamomile create a calming effect on your system while neem has anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties that promote healing,” says Kumar (try the trio in The Organic Pharmacy’s Clear Skin Tincture, ($26; organicpharmacy.com).
Some things to keep in mind: While the formulas are fairly gentle, be wary that their alcohol base may not be suitable for ingestion by pregnant and nursing women. You may also want to check with your homeopath or doctor to make sure they mesh with any other medications you’re on.