Tinctures and Teas: Sibling Potions
Often in my practice as an herbalist and nutritionist, I have found that many people would prefer to take a tea over using a tincture. Such a thing is understandable as tinctures tend to imply coming into more direct contact with the deeper tastes of a plant or group of plants. Many of my clients also injoy the tranquility accompanied by slowly sipping on a cup of tea. Despite their distinctions in both preparation and administration, tinctures and teas are sibling potions. Sibling potions?! Well, yes. Both of these concoctions are primarily composed of the same things: some form of liquid/solvent and plant material. Their "genetic information" is highly similar with a few distinctions, hence "sibling potions".
Tinctures are highly potent herbal extracts made by combining approximately 1-4 ounces of powdered or dry herb with 8-12 ounces of a solvent. The amount of liquid should be more than the herbs will absorb, so more should be added as need. Generally prepared in alignment with lunar cycles - started on the new moon and strained on the full moon - tinctures provide a quick way to administer herbal medicine. It is even the case that for some conditions, tinctures are much better suited to provide support than teas. My initial interaction with a tincture came through my father. In 2004, he traveled back to the Dominican Republic to receive treatment from a well-known naturopath in the country. Upon his return, he came home with a bag of nature-based medicines and amongst them was a tincture of Juana La Blanca - a powerful ally for healing the urinary tract, working through the kidneys, gallbladder, and liver in conjunction. Curious me, I decided to try it and to my surprise, I found that it began to help me with issues I didn't even know, then, could be addressed by treating those meridians. As one who had long dealt with unexpected and unbearable headaches, the work that Juana La Blanca did on my liver was highly notable. Later I came to learn that the healing of the liver is a healing that impacts many systems in the body and addresses many ailments - headaches included. This is in part due to the fact that the liver stores certain emotions, one of those being anger - an emotion which is heavily implicated in headache manifestations. Unexpectedly, my first encounter with a tincture turned out to be way more rewarding than I had initially intended or expected it to be. Years later, I am concocting my own potions and extracts, each time encountering more profound knowledge regarding the synergy of plant medicines.
Teas are usually made in two ways: as a decoction or as an infusion. Decoctions involve heavier roots and barks and substances in which the volatile oils are not essential to the herbal therapy. Aromatic herbs such as mints are not decocted, as the volatile oils will evaporate. A decoction involves bringing the water to a rolling boil, adding the herbal substances and covering. You allow the mixture to continue to simmer over a low flame for 15-30 minutes. Decoctions are usually very potent in essence and can be refrigerated to be sipped over a period of a few days.
Infusions are made either hot or cold. Hot infusions are made by steeping and covering about one ounce of herbs with a pint of boiling water, anywhere from 10-20 minutes and up to a couple of hours. In this method, no fire is used, and the aromatic principles of the herbs are thereby kept intact. Some infusion that may contain heavier plant material (barks and roots) can be simmered on low flame for 20 minutes to an hour. To make a cold infusion, you can allow the herbs to stand in cool water for at least an hour. Some people like to place the infusion in the sun to make what is called "sun tea". Others let the infusion stand overnight. Infusions are ideal for treatments that involve maintaining the delicate oils active.
In my personal healing practice, I have found that a combination of the potions is most effective for aiding me in dealing with whatever I may be confronting. For more surface emotional/physical situations such as low energy, for instance, I find that drinking a tea is highly effective; whereas when I am in need of a deeper therapy such as re-balancing my brain chemistry or treating long-term depression, tinctures have been the allies that have provided me with the most potent assistance.
Because certain therapeutic compounds of herbs are only released through certain extraction techniques, such as tinctures, it is highly recommended that you consider using a tincture when you are seeking to treat deeper imbalances within the body, mind, heart, and spirit. Teas serve the function of working more slowly over time, impacting first the surface and later moving into the more profound spaces that need healing. We always recommend following your intuition when selecting herbal remedies for your healing process, but it is also important to receive proper guidance when seeking aid from our plant friends. With this in mind, we invite you to tune into yourself for whatever it is you may need. You may or may not need a tincture or tea, but these two medicinal concoctions are also metaphors for how we can apply a healing process to our daily living. Do you wish to go as deep as a tincture would and reach the root of your being or is it enough for you to sip slow of the healing life brings and allow the healing to happen with a little less intensity?