Most of us don’t give a second thought about alcohol content in some the foods, beverages, and medicines that we consume.   For us that are in recovery, this can be problematic.  Below is a discussion of those items that we may want to be more aware of.


Non- Alcohol Beer or wine: As part of the brewing of beer or formation of wine, the alcohol is removed after the beverage is made.  There is always a residual amount left.  For typical beer that is 3.2% alcohol, 1/6 of that alcohol content remains (.5%).  Meaning if you drank a “six pack” of the non-alcoholic beer, it would amount to one regular beer in terms of alcohol content.

Kombucha: fermented tea, .5% alcohol

Researchers at the University of Kaiserslautern looked into this in 2016 and published their results in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology. The aim of their study was to identify how much ethanol people – especially children – are exposed to in everyday food and drink.

Analyzing food and drink available on the German market, they found that the following foods and drinks contain amounts of alcohol in varying amounts. (Note that the study looked at the amount of alcohol in drinks and vinegar in grams per litre. Because they don’t specify the weight of each item, we can’t know the exact alcohol by volume – ABV. So I haven’t included it here.)

  • white wine vinegar– up to 2.64g per litre
  • apple juice– up to 0.66g per litre (but most brands they tested were around 0.2g per liter)
  • orange juice– up to 0.73g per liter
  • grape juice– up to 0.86g per liter

For comparison, a 330ml bottle of 0.05% beer contains just over 0.1g of alcohol; a 330ml bottle of 0.5% beer, about 1.3g of alcohol.   The study didn’t include soy sauce, which can come in at around 2% ABV.


  • burger rolls– up to 1.28g per 100g (1.28% ABV)
  • rye bread– up to 0.18g per 100g (0.18% ABV)
  • banana (ripe)– up to 0.2g per 100g (0.2% ABV)
  • banana (very ripe with dark bits)– up to 0.4g per 100g (0.4% ABV)
  • pear (ripe)– up to 0.04g per 100g (0.04% ABV)
  • cherry yoghurt– up to 0.02g per 100g (0.02% ABV)


For thousands of years, herbalists have been using some form of alcohol to extract the powerful and healing properties of plants to create tinctures.

But why do we continue to use alcohol, especially when we’re constantly being told to restrict our alcohol consumption? Is it bad for our health, and is it even safe to consume?

Here, we’ll take you through the powerful properties of alcohol and the reasons why it’s still the preferred solvent for tinctures.

Alcohol is a powerful (and safe) solvent

Alcohol is an excellent solvent for herbs because it can extract the compounds and active ingredients that aren’t water-soluble, such as essential oils, alkaloids and resins. It’s also the only edible solvent that can effectively extract the ingredients required.

The body can absorb alcohol quickly

Alcohol-based tinctures are extremely fast-acting, because alcohol can enter our bloodstream very quickly. Our tongue and cheeks contain lots of capillaries which quickly absorb the alcohol. This means that when we place some drops under our tongue, we’re not actually digesting the extract. Rather, it’s entering our bloodstream almost immediately to deliver the tincture’s potent properties.

Alcohol is a preservative

Alcohol gives herbal extracts a longer shelf-life – in most cases at least five years. Or think of an aged Whiskey.

Alcohol allows us to create potent tinctures

Alcohol-based tinctures are also highly potent and concentrated, meaning only a very small dose is required to reap the benefits. In fact, everyday food items such as an overripe banana and fermented fruit and vegetables contain approximately the same amount of alcohol as a single dose of a liquid extract.

Understanding ratios and alcohol percentages in tinctures

The formula of a tincture will most likely show the ratio of herb to solvent, and the alcohol percentage. Ratios in herbal tinctures help us to understand how much plant material is present relative to the volume of alcohol. In this way, ratios tell us how concentrated an extract is. For example, a tincture of 1:2 contains one part plant material to two parts alcohol. The amount of alcohol used will depend on the unique properties of the herbs and how much water they contain. The alcohol percentage refers to the percentage of ethanol in the tincture. Tinctures usually have 25% ethanol as a minimum.

Which alcohol is used to make tinctures?

Most tinctures use ethyl alcohol, which is a high-proof alcohol that is commercially available and very safe for consumption. Given that the amount of tincture taken is very small (usually between 20-40 drops) the amount of alcohol consumed is negligible.

Alcohol has been used as a solvent in herbal tinctures for centuries. It remains popular today for its fast-acting properties, its potency, and its ability to preserve the shelf-life of tinctures. Given that only a very small amount of alcohol is consumed when we use a herbal tincture, it remains a safe and effective way of delivering our favorite herbal remedies

Herbal/ Homeopathic medicines containing Alcohol:

  • Bach Flower Remedies
  • Gaia herbs
  • Echinacea
  • Turmeric
  • Essential oils

 If you are in recovery for Alcoholism or sensitive to alcohol, you may want to think twice before taking one of these.  A number of these products are available in  non- alcohol form.  It is always wise to look at the content description before taking one of these products to ensure safety.