Tinctures and Elixirs 1

Creating Tinctures & Elixirs #1
by Irene Lewis


Here are some plant constituents found in plants and how best to extract them.


Alkaloids: They end in the letters ine; i.e., caffeine, morphine, nicotine. They are very potent and some like cicutine or coniine found in Hemlock can be toxic. Few alkaloids directly affect the heart however some are used to raise or lower blood pressure because of the effect they have on the central nervous system. They effect the circulation and respiration as either excitants or depressants. The action on the nervous system can be antispasmodic, analgesic and narcotic or as a local anesthetic and also antiparasitic. They are also used in chemotherapy. Alkaloids generally have a bitter taste. Alkaloids are also antiviral and anti cancer.

Plants that contain alkaloids that are commonly found include lobelia, goldenseal, Oregon grape, motherwort, spilanthes, poppy, coffee, tobacco, cocoa, cayenne, ephedra, butterbur, and comfrey

Caution because some alkaloids may be very toxic in excess, a 1:10 extraction is recommended, especially if using an acid such as vinegar in the menstrum. Use low doses.


Tannins: Most herbs contain some tannins. Tannins are compounds, the active constituent in this group of plants is a phenol combined with sugars. tannin has the ability to precipitate gelatins; in this way it is used to clarify wine. They also bind up proteins and in doing so provide the property of being astringent. Interestingly Tannins (in the correct dose) can also be used in some cases of alkaloid poisoning as it precipitates the alkaloids and renders them harmless. If, however the dose is increased, an excess of tannin releases the toxin again and produces a second crises. Tannins are found in the bark of the trunk and roots and occasionally with in leaves. Tannins are astringent, anti-septic and homeostatic. They are commonly found in oak barks and leaves, black tea, black walnut, witch hazel, bayberry, cascara, blackberry, yellow dock, sarparilla, comfrey, peppermint, uva ursi, and cleavers.


Saponins: Glucosides that form a soapy foam. Saponin’s chemical composition is similar to hormones parts of which are choline steroids. They stimulate digestion, are diuretic, natural soap, and stabilize fatty and resinous emulsions. Plants include; Soapwort, Soap root, Ceanothus, American Ginseng, Yucca root, Horse chestnut, Figwort, Chickweed, Sassparilla, American wild yam. Huckleberry leaf. Use 50% alcohol when you make a tincture.


Plant resins: Essential oils are the aromatic volatile compounds in plants that can be obtained by distillation. In some plants, such as conifers, they can oxidize to produce resins. Plant resins can be warming, antiseptic, expectorants and relaxants and can reduce inflammation. Examples include Myrrh, Frankincense, Pine, Calendula, Benzoin gum, Grindelia and Rosemary.


Some constituents are not easily extracted in alcohol and prefer water. Examples include; mucilage, Polysaccharides, and gums.