What is the difference between a tincture, oxymel, and elixir?

What is the difference between a tincture, oxymel, and elixir?

By Shannon, Posted in Herbal Remedies

Our window sills are packed with jars, filled to the brim with different herbs and liquids. Being an enthusiastic apothecary, my love for herbs knows no bounds. While soaking in the sun with my herbs, I looked at my fine jars shining in golden rays, getting ready for the strain. 

As I laid out the labels for each preparation, my good angel knocked on my shoulder with a big question mark on its head. 

Of course, I knew what was coming!

People have been asking me a lot about how tinctures, oxymels, and elixirs are different from one another. All these preparations are quite a buzzword in the town and I thought why not write a blog and get to know them for good.

In this post, we will be talking about how tinctures, oxymels, and elixirs are different and which preparation adds value to certain herbs.


Tinctures are concentrated medicinal herbal extracts prepared by macerating fresh or dried plant materials in the menstruum. The menstruum we use is grain alcohol but there are other types of tinctures that employ vegetable glycerin or vinegar as their menstruum. 

Tinctures are hailed as the most potent form of medicinal preparation and require in-depth research before settling on its dosage of administration. There are certain tinctures, such as that of teasel, which require only a few drops to work as even a little more than that can cause detrimental effects. 

Being highly saturated, it is advised to not consume them neat. If you are accustomed to handling alcohol, you can take it straight in your mouth but the burn wouldn’t back down. They taste better when diluted in teas, coffees, water, and other beverages.


Oxymel is an ancient Greek word that refers to acid and honey. It is a sweet-and-sour fusion of honey and vinegar that served as a medicinal preparation in the old days. It serves as an alternative to tinctures for certain herbs. 

The herbs with active ingredients that are unstable in alcohol or tend to destroy in such a harsh medium are infused in oxymels to protect their integrity and medicinal value. 

Also, there are certain herbs (such as chickweed and nettle) that lend themselves easily and more readily to vinegar and honey which amps up their medicinal values as compared to tinctures. Though oxymels have less potency, their property of retaining silica, potassium, iron, magnesium, and other minerals is remarkable as compared to alcohol. 


Elixirs are hailed as the Love Spell or Magic potion in old literature. They are basically an infusion of alcohol and honey. It wouldn’t harm to call it a sweetened version of tincture and most people, especially children, enjoy and prefer elixirs over tinctures. 

Elixir preparations are mostly preferred for herbs that are too bitter to go with alcohol alone. To dial down their bitterness, they are sweetened with either honey or simple syrup to improve their palatability and patient compliance.

**Tinctures are the strongest and most potent form of medicinal preparation due to the high concentration of active ingredients. Oxymels, on the other hand, are prepared to protect certain ingredients, such as bioflavonoids, that are destroyed by alcohol. While elixirs are the sweetened version of tinctures that are created to improve the taste experience of extremely bitter herbs.