Taking Tinctures, the TCM Secret to Glowing Health
Originally published in Urban Wellness Magazine
A global pandemic means a world wide shift in how we approach life — from now on we’ll sing while washing our hands — a piercing through of those ideas that make us the fittest for survival.
One such solution that’s been resurfacing in popularity since before the news broke this year is herbal tinctures.
An herbal tincture is a form of relief distilled in alcohol to break down the cell walls and store the bio-active compounds of the plant for a longer shelf-life. In other words, it’s perfect for a busy person.
It seems counterintuitive to use alcohol. If the proportion is incorrect, it could destroy the healing properties of the herb, and in general, using alcohol is still so taboo in the West since Prohibition that we tend to associate its consumption more with illness than healing.
However, the practice of taking tinctures has endured since at least 1000 A.D. and is worth revisiting even with all of the superfood powders and pills on the market.
Dara, founder of Ayla Beauty, recommends Arcana Love as one of her “best in wellness” brands. She and her team of expert “Guides” search the world for health products that are both nontoxic and effective, and she came across a real gem with this collection curated by Dr. Anna Gold and facialist Kristina Holey. Each of their “potions” is designed to comfort anxious moods, woman-specific problems like PMS, and deep-treat skin disorders ranging from acne to eczema and psoriasis.
We sat with Dr. Gold to learn more about how it’s effective, and why we should be taking tinctures.
UWM: First thing’s first: can I put it in a smoothie?
Dr. Anna Hsieh Gold: It’s recommended that you put the dropperfuls of tincture in a small amount of hot water (and eighth or quarter cup) but I’ve had patients put it in smoothies, if they don’t like the taste.
Yeah, it feels like it’s working faster when the water is still warm. What's up with the alcohol in it? Science says alcohol is bad for skincare.
The amount of alcohol in each dose of tincture is negligible, especially if you drop the medicine in hot water, which burns off the alcohol content after a few minutes.
Alcohol allows us to extract compounds and active ingredients from raw herbs to make potent and concentrated tinctures. The delivery system is much quicker getting into the bloodstream than taking a capsule or drink that needs to be digested in the stomach before you feel its effects. It also is a natural preservative that is shelf stable for many years.
When you're in the rush of your day, it's difficult to remember to take a moment to drink a tonic 3-5 times. What's your favorite way to infuse self-care reminders into your daily routine?
I personally carry a bottle of BALANCE tincture in my purse. When I am feeling stressed or irritated, I just reach in there and squeeze a few dropperfuls directly into my mouth and within minutes I feel much calmer and more centered. I also keep a bottle on my desk at work so I have a visual reminder if I need to take it.
An easy way to remind yourself to take the tincture three times a day is to set a regular alarm reminder on your phone or Fitbit.
You mentioned on your blog that liquid form is easier to take than a powder, are there any other benefits to taking a tonic, instead of a pill or a superfood powder?
Yes! This delivery system (alcohol) is faster acting because the herbs start getting absorbed through the capillaries in the mouth rather than taking a powder or capsule, which has to be digested in the stomach to get to the bloodstream.
Ooooh. That’s why I saw my skin calm within 2 days of taking the CLEAR tincture. Thanks! You're a yoga teacher, you've studied western medicine and TCM (amazing). What's the strangest wellness practice you've ever tried (something you were, perhaps, at first skeptical about)?
I’d say that would be my beloved neti pot. I had to learn to irrigate my sinuses when I was in yoga teacher training back in 1999.
Word. I still squirm before neti, but it gets easier :) What's the story behind the name "Arcana Love"?
The word “Arcana” means mystery. An arcana is a deck of tarot cards. I originally named the company Arcana because East Asian medicine has certain stigmas to it and I wanted to demystify and modernize it.
We like that metaphor. Leaning in is our favorite way to work through something. What's your fave "feel better" song on your playlist right now?
Lizzo, “Good As Hell”