Have you ever roamed the supplement aisles at your fave health food store and been mystified by those rows of tiny amber glass vials? Here’s the lowdown: Tinctures are potent plant extracts made from medicinal herbs that can do some pretty magical healing — if you use them properly. Read on for details on how tinctures work and what you need to know before you try.

Herbs tied on string

Made by soaking or percolating plant matter in ethyl alcohol, tinctures are packed full of active phytochemicals that are more powerful — and can be more convenient to take — than the ones in a cup of herbal tea, says herbalist and acupuncturist Irina Logman, founder and CEO of Advanced Holistic Center in New York, NY. While some medicinal parts of the herb (AKA the active constituents) seep into the hot water when you brew, certain others can only be extracted in alcohol. But don’t worry, you won’t feel a buzz: Tinctures are concentrated, so the dosage is quite small, ranging from 1/2 to 2 teaspoons two to three times per day, depending on the herb and condition being treated.

Due to the extraction process, tinctures are readily absorbed by the body and can work quickly by going right to the bloodstream without relying on digestion. “Because tinctures are so condensed, they’re likely to give a more immediate response,” says Logman. To administer a dose, use a dropper to add 1 teaspoon (about 30 drops, or one full dropper’s worth) to a small amount of water or tea and drink. The key to taking medicinal herbs? Consistency. You’ll notice better effects with regular dosing than by just dropping some ginger tincture into your morning lemon water once in a while. Below, find a few of our favorite wellness-boosting formulas.

Note that before starting any new supplements or tinctures, check with your primary care provider or a holistic healthcare professional such as a naturopath or trained herbalist, Logman suggests. This is especially important if you’re taking other medications, notably SSRIs. Your provider will need to cross-reference for any herb-drug interactions. Some herbs are also unsafe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding; consult with your doctor before use.

For Colds

Poppy and Someday Ginger Tincture ($18): Ginger is a warming herb that improves circulation, supports digestion, and boosts the immune system. It’s especially good for coughs and colds, says Logman. Take this at the first sign of illness.

Naturopathica Reishi Immune Tincture ($29): An adaptogenic mushroom, reishi is “tonifying and nourishing and calming,” says Logman. Reishi is a powerful immune supporter and can actually work to increase the body’s natural killer cells to fight off chronic inflammation.

For Sleep

Poppy and Someday Peaceful Easy Feeling Tincture ($18): The combination of lemon balm, skullcap, chamomile, and lavender in this formula is incredibly soothing and promotes good rest. Take just before bed.

Avena Botanicals Passionflower Tincture ($14): A nervous system tonic that helps with sleep, passionflower is specifically indicated for calming an overactive mind.

For Skin

Naturopathica Burdock Radiant Skin Tincture ($29): Burdock root is incredibly liver-supportive and helps the body naturally eliminate toxins, which means your skin will get a brand-new glow.

Herb Pharm Gotu Kola Tincture ($15): Gotu kola’s effects are two-fold: it can increase collagen synthesis to smooth fine lines and helps protect skin from sun damage. Talk about a one-two punch.

For Anxiety

Extract Labs Raspberry CBD Tincture ($60): The research around CBD for anxiety is very promising. Take a dropper-full daily of this raspberry-flavored tincture to quell mild spells and improve your stress response.

Gaia Herbs Holy Basil Tincture ($15): Holy Basil is a gentle adaptogenic herb with a flavor that’s a cross between basil and clove. Try adding a dropper full of this to a glass of seltzer for a herby mocktail. It’s stellar for relieving stress and taking the edge off after a looong day.

Have you tried a tincture before? Tweet us your thoughts @BritandCo.

(Featured Photo via Getty)

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