Tinctures, what are they anyway? And Can I give them to my children?


Written by: Lost River Naturals| Owner of Lost River Naturals

One question I get quite often is this “Is it ok to give my child a tincture?” The short answer is yes, but let’s explore this, shall we!? Take a look, then you decide!

First, let’s talk about why tinctures are so wonderful and learn a bit more about what they are!

What is it?

Tincture definition: A concentrated herbal extract made by soaking (macerating) herbs in solvents like alcohol and water and then pressing the liquid out for medicinal use.

Herbalists commonly use alcohol as medicine making medium because it is so effective at extracting herbal constituents. We also use water (when making herbal teas) and vinegar sometimes to extract certain herbal compounds, as well as honey and vegetable glycerin. A tincture made with vegetable glycerin as the menstruum is known as a glycerite. Glycerites are popular for children and pets because they are mild and sweet, and there is no alcohol involved. Glycerites are nice and useful, but they are not as potent as a tincture made with alcohol.

Why use it?

These other mediums are acceptable and useful in certain situations, but nothing beats alcohol as a menstruum (the solvents or solvent used to make a liquid extract, usually a blend of alcohol and water).

Using alcohol as the menstruum extracts fat soluble and water soluble herbal constituents, including resins, minerals, and vitamins. No wonder alcohol is the preferred method in tincture making!

Another benefit of using alcohol in tinctures is this – alcohol is a fast delivery system! Not only is an alcohol-based extract (aka tincture) a convenient, shelf-stable medicine, our bodies absorb a tincture very quickly and effectively. Tinctures can be taken under the tongue, but as a rule, most experienced herbalists recommend taking a tincture dose in a shot of warm or room temperate water (or in juice – in the case of giving to young children). Taking supplements sublingually can be done, but when using an alcohol-based tincture, this may not be a good idea because it can burn the delicate tissue under the tongue, no matter your age! In a pinch, take on the tongue, not under it if this concerns you.

What’s the shelf life?

Tinctures have a very long shelf life, usually 5 years or more if it’s made properly, so you can keep a tincture in your cupboard for years and years, and when you’re ready to use it again, it will still be potent and fresh, thanks to the alcohol.

Tinctures travel well. Since they need no refrigeration, you can simply toss a bottle in your bag whether making a trip across town or across the country. Tinctures aren’t “fussy” so take them with you wherever you go if needed. One other thing I find lovely about tinctures is you can leave your favorite ones on your bedside table without the worry of refrigeration. This comes in really handy if you are sick and cannot easily get out of bed to go after your herbal medicines. They do just fine on the nightstand, and I always leave a bottle of my Dream Faerie Tincture right there because I take it every night before bed and once again if I wake up in the middle of the night.

Now that you understand what a tincture is let’s move on to the question of alcohol being given to children.

Foods containing ethanol (alcohol):

Are you aware that many foods that kids eat regularly have measurable amounts of alcohol?

Bread and other baked goods, ripe bananas and fruit juices in particular. Some foods, per serving, contain more ethanol (alcohol) than a child’s dose of herbal tincture. Reference: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Alcohol is a naturally occurring constituent of fermented foods such as bread, yogurt, kefir, vinegar and kombucha and non-fermented foods as well such as fruit juices.

Orange, apple, and grape juices had the highest amount of ethanol. Some of these foods tested contained 2-4 times more ethanol than exposure to herbal medicines.

We don’t worry about these low levels of alcohol in popular children’s foods, (you probably didn’t even know it existed!) so there is no need to worry about it when using an herbal tincture on occasion. We can provide this information to you, but ultimately, you decide what is right for you and your family.

Ethanol is even present (in low concentrations) as an endogenous substance in the blood of humans, probably produced in the intestinal tract!

Now let’s discuss dosage and hear from some experts!

Tincture Dosage for Children and Adults: Tincture dosage can vary widely from person to person, but the general rule (as stated by acclaimed herbalists and natural health professionals) for children is this:

  • Age 9 months to 3 years: 2-5 drops per dose
  • Age 4 to age 10: 5-15 drops per dose
  • Older children and teens can usually take an adult dose.

*An adult dose varies but 30-60 drops is a typical adult dose, titrating up or down as needed. Experimentation is often called for when using plants as medicine.

There is no hard and fast dosage for everyone!

We always take into account the age, weight, and overall health of the individual when giving herbal tinctures and other medicines. But using this guideline, you can feel comfortable using herbal tinctures at home.
Many herbalists and others familiar with these types of medicines, use tinctures with children without hesitation.

But if you are new to this idea and are unsure, let’s hear what Dr. Aviva Romm has to say on the subject. Dr. Aviva Romm is not only an experienced herbalist of many decades, but she is a medical doctor (Yale-trained), midwife, and educator!

Dr. Romm states,Used appropriately, liquid herbal extracts—tinctures—are among the most valuable and effective botanical tools for treating children’s health concerns. They are very concentrated, so only small doses are required. Tinctures can be hidden in water or juice with practically no detection for most herbs that you’d use with kids.

Dr. Romm is my go-to expert when I need correct advice on herbal medicine, particularly for women and children… she has it all!

In conclusion: Alcohol-based herbal tinctures are an effective, time-tested method of delivering remedies to children of all ages. (Adults in the AA program and other sober individuals may also enjoy these plant medicines without the worry of compromising their health or sobriety!)

The dosage of a tincture is equal to or much less than the alcohol found in commons baked goods, some fruits, fruit juices, and fermented foods.

Many well-known, revered herbalists and health care professionals recommend alcohol-based herbal tinctures to kids of all ages.

If you still aren’t comfortable using herbal tinctures with your kids, there are other preparations to consider…herbal teas being the most common and easily accessed. (but that is a whole other blog post!)

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