Tinctures are herbal extracts that are extremely popular in folk remedies, Ayurveda, and homeopathy. They are produced by soaking the bark, dried or fresh leaves, berries, rhizomes, or roots of one or more plants in alcohol or vinegar for a specific time. It is believed that the alcohol (or vinegar) pulls out active substances from the parts of a plant, and the resulting filtered extract can be used for treating various conditions. Tinctures contain about 25-60% alcohol, making them risky for consumption by children and pregnant women.
Most tinctures come under the “supplement” category for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Most of these tinctures are not studied intensively for safety and effectiveness; hence, exercising caution is prudent.
The alleged benefits of tinctures are the ease of dosing through a dropper, lesser doses required, a shelf life of many months, and supposed “natural” origin of most of them. However, it is important to remember that all “natural” remedies are not necessarily “safer.”
The cannabidiol (CBD; cannabis) tincture is popular in the United States. It is primarily used for relief from anxiety, pain, cramps, and diarrhea. The habit-forming property of CBD and its effect on the brain cells are the main concerns associated with the CBD tincture.
What are the known adverse effects associated with tinctures?
Following are the known adverse effects associated with tinctures:
- Interactions with other medications (that may either render the medications useless or exaggerate their actions)
- Allergies (including fatal anaphylaxis)
- Rashes, hives, and swelling of the airways and tongue
- Swelling of the kidneys or liver due to long-term use of herbal tinctures or their alcohol content
- A steep drop in blood sugars, blood pressure, or clotting problems due to certain tinctures
- Headache, light sensitivity, and giddiness may be observed with dandelion tinctures
- Goldenseal and milk thistle tinctures can be highly toxic in high doses and even cause death
- Tincture burns (ulcerations in the mouth or stomach)
- Milk thistle may act like estrogen hormone and is dangerous in women who have cancers of the breast and uterus
- Bloating, gastritis, heartburn, constipation, gas, and nausea may also be caused by some tinctures
How to use tinctures?
Some tinctures come with a dropper. Place the drop under your tongue, hold for 30 seconds, and then swallow.
Some tinctures such as benzoin are inhaled and not swallowed.
Iodine tinctures are applied to the skin.
Always use tinctures as directed and after consulting your doctor. Never give tinctures to kids and pregnant women. Be mindful of the doses and frequency.
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