Every now and then we get a customer who asks, “Why is there alcohol in your tinctures?” That is a great question! In this blog we’ll discuss every frequently asked question about the alcohol in our tinctures, including; what a tincture is, why tinctures use alcohol, what a dual-extract tincture is and much more!
What Is A Tincture?
A tincture is defined as, “a solution of a medicinal substance in an alcoholic solvent,” however, many different products are colloquially known as tinctures, even if they don’t fit the definition. For example, some people mistakenly refer to glycerites, “a medicinal preparation made by mixing or dissolving a substance in glycerin,” as tinctures, simply because they are also sold in an amber dropper bottle. In order for a product to be a tincture, by definition, the product must contain alcohol. Usually tinctures have alcohol concentrations ranging from 20% (the minimum needed for preservation) all the way up to 90%, depending on the product and brand. Birch Boys Tinctures contain 22% alcohol and the remaining 78% is a concentrated hot-water extract.
So why use alcohol at all? Because some compounds need to be extracted by alcohol in order to become available for the body to use. In fungal preparations, the alcohol’s purpose is to break down the chitinous cell wall of the fungus. This allows the beneficial compounds that are locked inside the mushroom cell to be dissolved into the overall mixture and become bioavailable (able to be used by your body). Some beneficial compounds, like antioxidants or polysaccharides, don’t need alcohol to become bioavailable and can be extracted with hot water. Not all compounds are water-soluble though. Some of the most interesting health-boosting compounds found in mushrooms are only soluble in alcohol. These compounds are Triterpenes, Sterols, Lignin and more. When you brew a mushroom tea (AKA: hot water extraction), you leave the alcohol-soluble compounds behind in the mushroom mass itself. Using a tincture ensures that your body gets access to the alcohol soluble compounds. Without alcohol extraction, many valuable compounds would be wasted. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating alcohol or hot water extracts, they are both very valuable to your body!
What Is A Dual-Extract Tincture?
A dual-extract tincture is a tincture that contains both hot-water extract as well as alcohol extract. Dual-extraction is our preferred production method when we make our mushroom tinctures. With a dual-extract tincture, both water-soluble and alcohol soluble compounds are made bioavailable. This means that your body will have access to the water-soluble compounds (antioxidants, polysaccharides, fungal melanin, essential amino acids and more) as well as the alcohol-soluble compounds (triterpenoids, sterols and lignin). Not only is this the best way to get ALL of the benefits from fungi, it also prevents valuable compounds from being discarded with the mushroom mass.
Can Tinctures Make You Drunk?
The simple answer is no, if tinctures are used properly, they will not get you drunk. The amount of alcohol in tinctures is typically very low, especially when you abide by the recommended serving size. For example, a shot of alcohol is typically 1.5 oz. In comparison, an entire 4oz bottle of any Birch Boys Tincture only contains .88 oz of alcohol, just a bit more than half of a shot total. A single, 4mL, serving of Birch Boys Tinctures contains only .029 oz of alcohol, which is not enough to make you inebriated. What if you use the whole Mushroom Tincture Bundle each day? Don’t worry, if you take 4mL of each of our 5 tinctures daily, that is only .15 oz of alcohol total. This means that you will not become inebriated by taking mushroom tinctures individually or otherwise. However, if you or a loved on is in recovery from addiction, please read on to the next paragraph.
Can People in Recovery Use Tinctures?
It is generally recommended that those who are in recovery from alcohol addiction avoid true tinctures that contain alcohol. This is because any amount of alcohol may retrigger addictive pathways in the body. That doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from mushrooms! Instead of tinctures, opt for mushroom teas or our super-concentrated ChagaNOW (instant chaga tea) instead.
Can Gluten-Free People Use Tinctures?
This answer depends on the exact product itself. At Birch Boys, we are proud to use organic cane alcohol in our tincture formulations. Cane alcohol is a high proof ethanol derived from sugar cane, which is naturally gluten-free. However, not all tinctures are made gluten-free, some brands use alcohol or myceliated-grain (mycelium) that may contain gluten. If you are using a different brand than Birch Boys, make sure to read the ingredient label and follow up with the company itself regarding gluten content. The best way to check is to contact the company, any reputable company will be happy to answer this question for you.
Why Doesn’t Birch Boys Use Glycerin?
If you really know your herbalism, you’re probably wondering why we haven’t mentioned glycerin yet. Some preparations use glycerin in place of alcohol. While glycerin can make an alcohol-free product, there are a few reasons that glycerin is not ideal for what we make here at Birch Boys. Firstly, glycerin is simply not as good at extracting beneficial compounds as alcohol is, especially in regard to fungi. Second, glycerin-extracted products (glycerites) have a shorter shelf life than tinctures. In addition to those reasons, alcohol also keeps the beneficial compounds more stable than glycerin does and alcohol prevents those compounds from changing/decomposing over time. That’s not to say that glycerin is useless in herbalism, it is actually very ideal for products that require a lower concentration, such as products specifically for children. We are loud and proud about our product’s concentration and efficacy, so glycerin simply doesn’t make sense for our goals. For mushroom enthusiasts who are alcohol-free, we recommend using teas (hot water extracts) rather than glycerites as hot water extracts have been shown to be more concentrated in beneficial compounds.
I hope this blog has provided you with a well-rounded view as to why we use alcohol in our tinctures. If you have any more questions, reach out or comment below!
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Glycerite definition & meaning. Merriam-Webster. Retrieved December 20, 2022, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/glycerite
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Tincture definition & meaning. Merriam-Webster. Retrieved December 20, 2022, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tincture
Noveille, A. (2018, May 21). Glycerin vs alcohol for the best herbal extracts. indie herbalist. Retrieved December 20, 2022, from https://blog.indieherbalist.com/which-is-better-glycerin-vs-alcohol-for-the-best-extracts/
Posted by WISHGARDEN HERBS · June 10. (2021). Why herbalists use alcohol in tinctures: Curiosities & concerns answered. WishGarden Herbs. Retrieved December 20, 2022, from https://www.wishgardenherbs.com/blogs/wishgarden/why-herbalists-use-alcohol-in-tinctures-curiosities-concerns-answered#:~:text=We%20do%20not%20recommend%20that,any%20vulnerable%20or%20addictive%20pathways.