Tinctures or Essential Oils, which one and when?

January 15, 2018



How do you know what kind of alternative remedy to take? You have heard the term tincture. You have probably also heard about essential oils. So what makes these different and how are they used? We are going to go over that in this article.



     The definition of a tincture is that it is a liquid, concentrated extract of a medicinal plant in some base, usually alcohol. The alcohol pulls the medicinal qualities from the herbal leaf, stem, flowers or root so that you can consume the tincture without having to eat the plant or make a tea. Tinctures can be made with any part of a plant. They are left in an alcohol base for about a month (30 days) to ensure potency and then the plant matter is removed. The majority of herbalists seem to agree with this method of extraction for making tinctures.




     An essential oil is the living plant essence that has been extracted by means of pressing the volatile oils (medicinal properties) from the leaves, stems, roots and flowers of any plant. This is usually not in a base, though some oils are diluted so we, as consumers must read the labels carefully to ensure purity of the oils we purchase. These plant essences work in just the same way as though you used the whole plant matter in its fresh, most alive and vibrant state. The major difference is concentration. These preparations are so highly concentrated, that one drop of pure peppermint oil can equal pounds of the leafy material that has been pressed down.

      It’s incredible how much it takes to produce the smallest amount of oil. That is why these kinds of oils were prized in the ancient world. Nowadays we have so much technology available to us that pressing the volatile oils from these plants has become commonplace. It is easy to misuse them when they are so readily available. A little truly does go a long way.


Which one and why?


People use both of these herbal preparations to maintain health.

They are used very differently.


     Tinctures are most often used when immediate results are desired as this liquid concentrated extract goes directly into the bloodstream and can work its magic without passing through the digestive system, waiting to be absorbed through the colon. This is especially valuable when the colon is congested or has other health issues that would prevent it from absorbing nutrients well. Tinctures are made with plants that would otherwise be encapsulated or added to your diet via smoothies, condiments, etc. You can also take certain plant tinctures in large doses over extended periods of time. Some herbalists have people use tinctures both in the morning and at night for several months at a time depending on their specific needs. Mighty Mushrooms from Southwest Herbs, for example is used to maintain the Immune system as a daily tonic. This prolonged use has accumulative effects on the body which promote health and longevity.


Basic Tincture Recipe:

1 cup Alcohol (Vodka will do, but higher quality yields a smoother taste)

1/4-1/2 cup dried plant material such as Usnea, Dandelion, Rosemary or other herb


Place plant material in a glass jar. Pour alcohol over it and seal it tightly. Date your jar so you know how long it sits. 30 days is a good minimum on tincture making. You may choose to let it set longer. Shake your jar periodically during the process. This will help extract the properties into the alcohol. You will notice the clear liquid become darker over time. Homemade tinctures are very easy to make and last almost indefinitely.



 Essential oils are wonderful for most topical applications. They work quickly and for specific issues and are commonly used as a need arises. Since these oils are made from large quantities of plant material, it is best to dilute them before using, even topically. Essential oils are made from sources that span outside of medicinal herbs into floral essences. Scrapes, bruising, arthritic conditions anxiety, depression, congestion, flu, colds, digestion and as an ingredient in pastes for your feet are some of the applications for essential oils. They have also been known to work well for shock (lavender), to fight infection and bacteria (tea tree) and relieving sore muscles and joints (basil). Our skin in our largest organ and can absorb essential oils for your body to use. There is a lot of controversy over the internet surrounding the use of these oils internally. Companies will claim that their oils are perfectly safe for internal use, and they probably are. We have to be the smart consumers and understand that potency is the reason we should observe caution. It is always important to remember to go sparingly if you choose to use essential oils internally.

     I have used select oils internally but only with research, much dilution and great care. Thyme oil for respiratory complaints, Oregano oil for digestive and gut support, Lavender for shock or stubborn infections, Tea tree for fungal and bacterial issues names only a few of the oils I have ventured to take orally. Though I have taken oils for internal use I do not recommend it for anyone who has not researched it thoroughly. Many times, essential oils applied topically to the affected area are strong enough to do their work via osmosis.


Happy Roll on Blend:

10 Drops each of, Lavender, Orange, Ylang Ylang in a roller bottle. Fill with your favorite carrier oil (Olive, Almond, Coconut, Avocado or other)


This simple essential oil staves off mood swings and keeps you level headed in times of stress. It can put a smile on your face when you feel like scowling. Keep it in your purse for those trying moments.


Spring Garden:

10 drops each of Lavender, Orange, and Vanilla in a roller bottle. Fill with your favorite carrier oil as above.


The tangy orange mingled with soft and soothing vanilla will carry you away to a lavender field in May. Sultry and soothing, this blend is great for women and little girls who just want to feel fun and lovely. Good for tea parties, sleepovers and any time you need to feel more girly.



Final Thoughts:

     In deciding, figure out if you need immediate relief from an internal remedy that you might need to take for extended periods of time (tinctures) or an external application that you may only need to use once or twice to clear up a specific issue (essential oils). In the end it is your body and you will have to make the final decision. I hope this article has been helpful and answered a few questions about the differences between these herbal remedies.

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