You’ve gathered your herbs, bought your alcohol, and have started on your adventure of home herbal tincture making. Congrats!
I know how exciting those first remedies can be. There’s a certain sense of satisfaction and empowerment when you are able to make your own herbal medicines.
One of the most common questions that we get at LearningHerbs is folks wondering what all that cloudy, milky, or white stuff is in their tincture (such as the Echinacea tincture in the Herbal Remedy Kit). Did something go horribly wrong? Do I have to throw out my cloudy tincture?
What you are most likely seeing is inulin.
Inulin: A Prebiotic with Benefits
This substance is common in many roots, especially in plants in the Aster family. Inulin is a polysaccharide, and people often call it a PREbiotic. It’s a starch-like substance that humans can’t digest, but it readily feeds healthy bacteria in the gut. Many probiotic supplements contain some level of prebiotics like inulin.
Inulin shouldn’t be confused with insulin (a hormone secreted by the pancreas that helps with metabolism and blood sugar control). However, inulin can improve blood sugar levels.1 It has also been shown to improve digestion in the elderly.2
Here’s a list of herbs that are high in inulin and that herbalists commonly tincture:
- Burdock root (Arctium lappa)
- Chicory root (Cichorium intybus)
- Dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale)
- Echinacea root (Echinacea spp.)
- Elecampane root (Inula helenium)
- Wild yam (Dioscorea spp.)
The amount of inulin may vary depending on when and where people harvested the plants. Some will contain more inulin than others. Some will not have any detectible inulin at all.
What to Do With Your Cloudy Tincture
If you make a tincture with an herb high in inulin and you notice a cloudy, milky, or white substance, that’s great news! Don’t strain it out. Instead, keep it in the solution and write a reminder note on the label to shake well before using.
For some people, excess inulin can cause gas and bloating. This is especially common when people eat inulin-rich foods in large amounts. Common culprits for this are sunchokes or Jerusalem artichokes, artichokes, asparagus, garlic, onions, leeks, and burdock roots or gobo.
- Pourghassem Gargari, Bahram, Parvin Dehghan, Akbar Aliasgharzadeh, and Mohammad Asghari Jafar-Abadi. “Effects of High Performance Inulin Supplementation on Glycemic Control and Antioxidant Status in Women with Type 2 Diabetes.” Diabetes & Metabolism Journal 37, no. 2 (April 2013): 140–48. https://doi.org/10.4093/dmj.2013.37.2.140. ↩
- Marteau, Philippe, Heidi Jacobs, Murielle Cazaubiel, Cathy Signoret, Jean-Michel Prevel, and Beatrice Housez. “Effects of Chicory Inulin in Constipated Elderly People: A Double-Blind Controlled Trial.” International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition 62, no. 2 (March 2011): 164–70. https://doi.org/10.3109/09637486.2010.527323. ↩