Many years ago I was in bed with my wife. She had a sore shoulder. In fact, it was so sore it was making it really hard for ME to sleep. She was tossing and turning and fussing all night. At about three in the morning, she got up to use the restroom. I called out;
“Honey, take some valerian tincture while you’re in there….so I can sleep.”
I knew valerian was not only a good herb for helping folks get to sleep but also a really good pain killer in some cases. While I was lying there a lightbulb turned on in my brain. I said to my wife;
“Honey, rub some of that valerian tincture on your sore shoulder topically too.”
She did so. A moment later she exclaimed “Wow! That’s amazing!”
I opened a bleary eye. It seemed my bad night was only getting worse… a tossy-turny sweetheart, a lightbulb in my brain, and now…exclamations of joy.
“What’s amazing?” I asked.
She said “The minute I put that valerian tincture on my shoulder it stopped hurting. I didn’t know you could do that.” She was really excited. I opened my other eye and mumbled something about how excited I was too and then, promptly fell asleep.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this story is that the next morning I actually remembered what had happened. So, I started experimenting with using tinctures topically. It turns out, many plants contain chemicals that are small enough to easily penetrate tissues. The penetrating nature of alcohol in a tincture also helps them to pass through the skin to address deeper tissues. Many of these plants have been used for years as poultices, plasters and liniments but no one ever talks about just spraying the tincture on. It’s ridiculously handy and lots less work and mess than the more traditional approaches.
Over the years I’ve taken advantage of topical tinctures for a number of issues especially in cases involving wound healing, pain or dental issues. For open wounds, I use my Poultice tincture. In these cases, I dilute the tincture by adding a teaspoon of the tincture to 2-4 oz of water. I do this because spraying alcohol into an open wound isn’t all that comfy. For any condition where the skin is unbroken, I just use the undiluted tincture in a spray bottle.
Have a look at this list to see some of the tinctures that I’ve successfully used topically over the years. Put a few in your bathroom medicine cabinet. Maybe they’ll help you get some sleep some night too.