Tincture bottles scaled

Different Types of Herbal Extractions and How to Understand Your Tincture Strength

Different Types of Herbal Extractions and How to Understand Your Tincture Strength


As I’ve been setting up my herbal dispensary I have been thinking a lot about what information that is needed in the health world for people interested in herbal products. This is one of many blogs that will be written to help shine some light in the herbal medicine world.


The focus of this blog will be different types of herbal preparations and understanding alcohol tincture extract strengths.


Different Types of Herbal Extractions:


–           water infusion

–           water decoction

–           alcohol extract

–           vinegar-based extract

–           vegetable glycerin extract



Water infusion –  this is your typical tea where you place the herbal tea blend into hot water and let it steep for 15 to 30 minutes.  There are a lot of techniques in this process that can be elaborated on including: covering your tea while it steeps, overnight infusions and different lengths of times to get different strengths of tea.


Water decoction –  a decoction is often used with harder plant materials like roots and bark.  In this process we place the herbal blend directly into a pot and bring the water to boil.  We then simmer the water with herbs for up to 30 minutes to an hour and then pull it off and let it cool for another 15 to 20 minutes.  This will provide a stronger extract of the plant constituents from these harder plant parts.


Alcohol extract –  this is by far herbalists favourite method of dispensing herbs.  Alcohol extracts can take anywhere from 14 days to 40 days to properly extract all of the plant constituents.  Alcohol extracts pull out more plant constituents than any other method.  The only stronger method is to do capsules ingesting the whole plant material but can often require lots of capsules throughout the day.


Vinegar-Based extracts –  this is another method that is used to extract plant constituents and can often be seen in the very popular and extremely powerful Fire Cider.  Vinegars extraction capability is somewhere between a strong decoction and an alcohol extract in regards to its potency.   Another highlight with vinegar-based extracts is that some plant constituents do better in a vinegar base rather than an alcohol base.


Vegetable glycerin extracts –  this method tends to be reserved for extracts that don’t necessarily need to be as strong. This preparation is often used with young children and people who abstain from alcohol.  The biggest drawback with this method is vegetable glycerin is not as strong of an extraction method as alcohol or vinegar which means for the average person they would need a bigger dose.


Alcohol Tincture Strengths:


This is quite often the most misunderstood part of herbal medicine when it comes to people in search of tincture extracts.  Working with an herbalist will be the fastest and easiest way to understand herbal tincture extracts and what your proper dosage is.   This blog will act as a quick reference guide in helping you understand the strength of your herbal tincture extract.


Most often when you purchase a tincture at a store or inside of a herbal shop the strength of the tincture will be noted somewhere on the bottle.  The tinctures you find in an herbalist dispensary are quite often much stronger than tinctures you find at a grocery store.  This is not a hard fast rule but herbalists know the therapeutic dosage range of their herbs and can fit more in their formulas with stronger extracts.





The tinctures at the grocery store tend to be at a strength of 1:4, 1:5 or 1:6


The tinctures you find an herbalist dispensary can range from 1:1, 1:2, 1:3, 1:4, 1:5, 1:8 all the way to 1:10


(1:1 and 1:2 strengths are often fresh plant extracts)       (1:8 and 1:10 are restricted herbs)


For our example we will use:  Black Cohosh     1:3    60%


  • For every 3 milliliters of this specific tincture you take you are getting the dried herb equivalent of 1 gram of Black Cohosh root.


  • If the strength of the tincture above was 1:4,  it would require 4 milliliters to achieve 1 gram of plant material.


(Dry herb)       1:3       (Alcohol extract)


Herbalists are specific when they choose the strength of their tinctures. Some want as strong as possible while others want what is most versatile, and often they want both.  Plants like Lemon Balm should almost always be fresh plant extracts and should be at the strength of 1:2.  Some herbs are so strong herbalists prefer a more diluted extract.  Cedar is one of these herbs.  Cedar is so strong that having a 1:4 or 1:5 extract blends better in a formula when compared to a 1:1 or 1:2


Knowing this if you find a tincture extract at 1:2  and you’ve been using 1:4,  you can half the dose you’ve been doing and still have the same therapeutic effect.


(a simple rule the lower the numbers paired together the stronger the extract)  ← This does not always equate to better though..



This is a really short explanation of what I learned in college and it can help someone understand further the strength of their tincture. If you ever have any questions or comments or thoughts please feel free to reach out to our online herbal dispensary. our goal is to help connect people to herbalists so that we can teach you how to use the plants. Sovereignty and health  for each person is part of the mission of Errant Empire Herbal Medicine.  We want to  teach the community how to reconnect with the plants again.


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