Another side of the coin!! Homeopathy - Mother tinctures – Methods & Classes of preparation

The word tincture is derived from the Latin word tinctura  which means 'dyeing’. It was used during the early 17th century as a noun meaning  'imparted quality', like to a tint imparted by a dye.

The present times shows the era of emerging and re-emerging diseases, with the modern system of medicine offering limited scope of treatment. Homeopathy can be looked upon as an alternative to the suffering patients and has been leading more number of patients every year aware about the homeopathic treatment. Homeopathy being based upon prescribing on the basis of symptoms becomes a suitable choice for patients to opt in cases of these newly emerging diseases.

The homeopathic prescribing can classified ranging from the known homeopathic dilutions to the Mother tinctures & Solutions. Homeopathic mother tinctures apart from serving as one of the base for preparation of subsequent potencies have been also used by number of homeopathic physician world over for treating all kinds of complaints including skin, respiratory, gastrointestinal, renal etc.

Mother tinctures refers to the alcoholic or Hydroalcoholic solutions prepared by treating the drug substance with alcohol or water according to the standard procedures mentioned in the Homoeopathic pharmacopieas.
Mother tincture contains the soluble part of the drug.
Mother tinctures are denoted by the symbol Ø.

In Homeopathis pharmacies Mother tinctures serves as one of the base or foundation stone from which the subsequent attenuated potencies are prepared (others being mother solutions and Mother substances).
Mother tinctures are prepared for the drug substances which are soluble in alcohol. For substances soluble in water mother solutions and for insoluble substances trituration are the standard method.

Preparation of Mother Tinctures

Preparation of mother tinctures can be divided into the old method as given by Dr Hahnemann and the new Modern method.

Old method of prepartion of Mother tincture

Dr Hahnemann mentions about the method of preparation of mother tinctures in the Organon of medicine, Sixth Edition in Aphorism 267-268 for the drugs soluble in alcohol.
Substances belonging to the animal and vegetable kingdoms possess their medicinal qualities most perfectly in their raw state.1
1 All crude animal and vegetable substances have a greater or less amount of medicinal power, and are capable of altering man's health, each in its own peculiar way. Those plants and animals used by the most enlightened nations as food have this advantage over all others, that they contain a larger amount of nutritious constituents; and they differ from the others in this that their medicinal powers in their raw state are either not very great in themselves, or are diminished by the culinary processes they are subjected to in cooking for domestic use, by the expression of the pernicious juice (like the cassava root of South America), by fermentation (of the rye-flour in the dough for making bread, sour-crout prepared without vinegar and pickled gherkins), by smoking and by the action of heat (in boiling, stewing, toasting, roasting, baking), whereby the medicinal parts of many of these substances are in part destroyed and dissipated. By the addition of salt (pickling) and vinegar (sauces, salads) animal and vegetable substances certainly lose much of their injurious medicinal qualities, but other disadvantages result from these additions.
But even those plants that possess most medicinal power lose that in part or completely by such processes. By perfect desiccation all the roots of the various kinds of iris, of the horseradish, of the different species or arum and the peonies lose almost all their medicinal virtue. The juice of the most virulent plants often becomes inert, pitch-like mass, from the heat employed in preparing the ordinary extracts. By merely standing a long time, the expressed juice of the most deadly plants becomes quite powerless; even at moderate atmospheric temperature it rapidly takes on the vinous fermentation (and thereby loses much of its medicinal power), and immediately thereafter the acetous and putrid fermentation, whereby it is deprived of all peculiar medicinal properties; the fecula that is then deposited, if well washed, is quite innocuous, like ordinary starch. By the transudation that takes place when a number of green plants are laid one above the other, the greatest part of their medicinal properties is lost.

We gain possession of the powers of indigenous plants and of such as may be had in a fresh state in the most complete and certain manner by mixing their freshly expressed juice immediately with equal parts of spirits of wine of a strength sufficient to burn in a lamp. After this has stood a day and a night in a close stoppered bottle and deposited the fibrinous and albuminous matters, the clear superincumbent fluid is then to be decanted off for medicinal use.1 All fermentation of the vegetable juice will be at once checked by the spirits of wine mixed with it and rendered impossible for the future, and the entire medicinal power of the vegetable juice is thus retained (perfect and uninjured) for ever by keeping the preparation in well-corked bottles and excluded from the sun's light.2
1 Buchholz (Taschenb. f. Scheidek. u. Apoth. a. d. J., 1815, Weimar, Abth. I, vi) assures his readers (and his reviewer in the Leipziger Literaturzeitung, 1816, No. 82, does not contradict him) that for this excellent mode of operating medicines we have to thank the campaign in Russia, whence it was (in 1812) imported into Germany. According to the noble practice of many Germans to be unjust towards their own countrymen, he conceals the fact that this discovery and those directions, which he quotes in my very words from the first edition of the Organon of Rational Medicine, § 230 and note, proceed from me, and that I first published them to the world two years before the Russian campaign (the Organon appeared in 1810). Some folks would rather assign the origin of a discovery to the deserts of Asia than to a German to whom the honor belongs. O tempora! O mores!
Alcohol has certainly been sometimes before this used for mixing with vegetable juices, e.g., to preserve them some time before making extracts of them, but never with the view of administering them in this form.
2 Although equal parts of alcohol and freshly expressed juice are usually the most suitable proportion for affecting the deposition of the fibrinous and albuminous matters, yet for plants that contain much thick mucus (e.g. Symphytum officinale, Viola tricolor, etc.), or an excess of albumen (e.g., Aethusa cynapium, Solanum nigrum, etc.), a double proportion of alcohol is generally required for this object. Plants that are very deficient in juice, as Oleander, Buxus, Taxus, Ledum, Sabina, etc., must first be pounded up alone into a moist, fine mass and the stirred up with a double quantity of alcohol, in order that the juice may combine with it, and being thus extracted by the alcohol, may be pressed out; these latter may also when dried be brought with milk-sugar to the millionfold trituration, and then be further diluted and potentized (v. § 271)

The other exotic plants, barks, seeds and roots that cannot be obtained in the fresh state the sensible practitioner will never take in the pulverized form on trust, but will first convince himself of their genuineness in their crude, entire state before making any employment of them.1
1 In order to preserve them in the form of powder, a precaution is requisite that has hitherto been usually neglected by druggists, and hence powders, even of well-dried animal and vegetable substances could not be preserved uninjured even in well-corked bottles. The entire crude vegetable substances, though perfectly dry, yet contain, as an indispensable condition of the cohesion of their texture, a certain quantity of moisture, which dose not indeed prevent the unpulverized drug from remaining in as dry a state as is requisite to preserve it from corruption, but which is quite too much for the finely pulverized state. The animal or vegetable substance which in its entire state was perfectly dry, furnishes, therefore, when finely pulverized, a somewhat moist powder, which without rapidly becoming spoilt and mouldy, can yet not be preserved in corked bottles if not previously freed from this superfluous moisture. This is the best effected by spreading out the powder in a flat tin saucer with a raised edge, which floats in a vessel full of boiling water (i.e. a water-bath), and, by means of stirring it about, drying it to such a degree that all the small atoms of it (no longer stick together in lumps, but) like dry, fine sand, are easily separated from each other, and are readily converted into dust. In this dry state the fine powders may be kept forever uninjured in well-corked and sealed bottles, in all their original complete medicinal power, without ever being injured by mites or mould; and they are best preserved when the bottles are kept protected from the daylight (in covered boxes, chests, cases). If not shut up in air-tight vessels, and not preserved from the access of the light of the sun and day, all animal and vegetable substances in time gradually lose their medicinal power more and more, even in the entire state, but still more in the form of powder.

Classes of preparation of Mother Tinctures

Dr Samuel hahnemann divided the process of preparation of mother tinctures into class I, II, III and IV depending upon the sources, solubility and moisture content of the drug substances.

The plants under class I are the most juicy plants. The tinctures of these plants are prepared by mixing equal parts by weight of the drug juice and alcohol. The drug power thus becomes 1/2. Dr Hahnemann mentioned about the method of preparation of this class under Belladonna in the Materia Medica Pura.

(Atropa Belladonna)
(The freshly expressed juice of the whole plant at the commencement of its flowering, mixed with equal parts of alcohol.)

The plants under class II are the medium juicy plants, containing small quantity of Juice. The tincture in this class is prepared by mixing upto two-thirds of the weight of alcohol to the drug substance. The loss of medicinal substance during preparation in I c.c. equals to 1/3 cc, making the drug power to be 1/2 c.c. This method is mentioned under Thuja in the Materia Medica Pura.

(Arbor vitoe.)
(From vol. v, 2nd edit., 1826.)
(The green leaves of the Thuja occidentalis are first bruised to a fine pulp themselves, then stirred up with two thirds of their weight of alcohol, and the juice then expressed.)

The plants under class III are the least juicy plants.  The tincture is prepared by mixing double the quantity of strong alcohol to the medicinal substance. The loss of medicinal substance in the process is 2/3 c.c. And loss of solvent equals 1/3 c.c. Thus the drug power becomes 1/6 c.c. Dr Hahnemann mentioned about the method of preparation of this class under Squilla in the Materia Medica Pura.
(From vol. iii, 2nd edit., 1825.)
In order to make the solution of squill in alcohol the simplest and best mode is to cut out a fresh piece of 100 grains weight from a very fresh squill-bulb, to pound it in a mortar, gradually adding 100 drops of alcohol, till it becomes a fine uniform pap, then to dilute and thoroughly mix it with 500 drops of alcohol; to allow it to stand for some days, to decant the clear supernatant brownish tincture, and to mix 6 drops of this 94 drops of alcohol by means of ten succussions, so as to form the first dilution (1/100).
The observations recorded below may be much added to; but they already suffice to enable us to estimate and correct the employment that has hitherto been made of this root; this I have partly done in some notes.

The plants under class IV includes the dry plants and the fresh and dry animal substances. The tincture is prepared by mixing five times the weight of strong alcohol to the medicinal substance. The drug power after loss of drug substance and vehicle is 1/10. The method is mentioned about the tmethod of preparation of this class by Dr Hahnemann under Staphysagria and Spigelia in the Materia Medica Pura.

(From vol. v, 2nd edit. 1826.)
(A drachm of the seeds of Delphinium staphisagria is pulverised, along with an equal quantity of chalk (for the purpose of absorbing the oil), and macerated, without heat and daily succession, for a week in 600 drops of alcohol, in order to form the tincture.)

(From vol. v, 2nd edit., 1826.)
(The tincture is made by macerating for a week, without heat and with a daily shaking fifty grains of the powder of the whole plant of Spigelia anthelmia in 500 drops of a alcohol.)

Modern method of preparation of Mother Tinctures

As we can notice above the drug power differs for each of the four classes of preparation mentioned above. This variabilty arises due to the variable amount of moisture content between same plant in different seasons, condition of growth, procurement time and storage and also due to the variable amount of moisture content in solvent. These variabilities causes great uncertainity in the strength of the tinctures and their dilutions.
The  Homoeopathic pharmacopiea of United states (HPUS)  overcomes these variabilities by prescribing a uniform standard of 10 % drug strength for most of the medicinal substances, known as the modern method of prepartion of drugs. According to the modern or new method dry crude drug substance  is taken as the starting point. This method is also followed by the Homoeopathic Pharmacopiea of India (HPI).

According to the new method after calculating the amount of moisture contained in the drug substance, the drug substance is subject to the process of maceration or percolation as suited, with the required quantity of vehicle.


Maceration is suited in cases where the drug material requires ample time for the extraction of the medicinal properties. It is suited to gummy and mucilagenous substances and those having much viscid juice which do not allow alcohol to permeate the mass readily.

The drug substance is reduced to pulp or if not reducible in natural form and is placed in the macerating vessel, preferably of stainless steel or glass As per the Homoeopathic Pharmacopiea of India. The precalculated amount of drug substance is added to cover the whole mass of the drug substance and the vessel is kept sealed in a cool dark place away from dust, odour, heat or direct sunlight. The whole mass is kept for a period of two weeks and agitated once evry day. After the required period the supernatant liquid is decanted and the residue is  pressed out with a press or piece of clean linen cloth.
The whole fluid is measured and if less than the calculated quantity, fresh menstrum (alcohol) is added to the mass and pressed again to make the required volume.
Homoeopathic Pharmacopiea of India mentions that when alcohol fails to act fully on the mucilaginous and viscid drug substances, half the quantity of the solvent is added to the pulp and kept for 3-7 days, after which tincture is pressed out. The remaining mass is triturated with green glass powder and added to the remaining vehicle, which is then pressed again.

This method is used for dried drugs and animal drug substances. It is relatively a short process than maceration.
The drug substance is reduced to powder form and placed firmly over the layer of powdered glass/sand in the percolator. The mass is covered with filter paper and a thin layer of powdered glass/sand. The solvent is carefully poured over it to cover the whole mass of the drug. The lid of the percolator is closed and allowed to stand for 24 hours or longer as suited to the nature of the drug. The valves of the percolator are opened afterwards and the liquid is allowed to percolate drop by drop. The process is continued till the required amount of solvent has passed through the percolator and the last drop is received in the receiver.
After the collection of the last drop sufficient amount of mentrum is poured to cover the mass in the percolator and is allowed to stand for 6 hours. After 6 hours the cork is opened and the fluid is allowed to percolate into the receiver. The mass is removed and pressed to extract the remaining tincture. Sufficent quantity of menstrum can be added to make the required volume of extract.

The mother tinctures thus prepared act as the source material for the subsequent potencies.

The other sources for preparation of potencies include the mother solution and mother substances.
 Mother solutions refer to the solution of the crude chemical or mineral drug substance prepared with water or  alcohol according to the standard Homoeopathic Pharmacopieas. These come under class Dr Hahnemann mentions them under Class V and VI of the old method of preparation. Dr Hahnemann mentions about mother solutions under the medcine Guaiacum in the materia medica pura.

Mother substances refers to the triturated drug substance alongwith sugar of milk. Mother sunstance are prepared for the remaining drugs which are insoluble in alcohol as well as water. These are mentioned in class VII, VIII, and IX according to the old method of preparation.

Uses of Mother tinctures
·         Mother tinctures can be used as medicines in various kinds of ailements like from skin, gastric, respiratory etc.
·         They are used as a source material for preparing the higher subsequent potencies.
·         They are used for preparation of external applications.

Mother tinctures, Mother solutions and Mother substances forms the basic foundation of the homeopathic pharmacy from which the potencies relating to the various scales (C, X, K, LM)  are prepared and thus its genuineness and quality is a matter of utmost importance. It is required that it is prepared according to the standard procedures and with the finest quality raw materials for assuring the required actions of drug’s effect on the patients.


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