Tinctures are highly concentrated extracts, and are one of, if not the, best way to preserve your herbs, in my opinion. They can last for years without diminishing in strength when made in alcohol. There are ways to make tinctures with vegetable glycerin or apple cider vinegar if you are avoiding alcohol or giving to children, but they do not last as long and are not as strong. I will briefly describe that at the end of this post.
Alcohol based tinctures are one of the strongest herbal remedies you can make, and are taken in drops rather than drinking in cups, making them super easy to take. Tinctures can be pretty strong tasting, depending on what herbs and alcohol you use, so you may prefer to dilute some way before taking. You can add your drops to tea or water and drink that way if you prefer, or take it straight from the dropper. You will want a bottle with a dropper for your tincture, regardless. It makes life so much easier.
First off, 100 Proof vodka is your best friend. You can also use 80-100 Proof gin, brandy, rum, etc., but Vodka has the lightest flavor, making a more palatable tincture. Many people say to use something like Ever-clear, which is around 200 Proof, but it is unnecessary and actually doesn’t make the best tinctures.
Why, you ask? Because when you use something that is straight alcohol, you don’t get the water soluble parts of the plant in your tincture. 100 Proof Vodka gets ALL the good stuff out of your herbs, making the strongest and most beneficial tincture.
200 Proof alcohol is 100% alcohol, while 100 Proof alcohol is 50% alcohol, meaning the latter has water in it that brings out the water soluble plant goodness, making a more potent remedy.
If all you have is 200 Proof alcohol, you can add water to it. Use distilled water though.
MAKING A TINCTURE:
***You can use dried herbs, but the best for tinctures are full, fresh plants. If all parts of a plant can be used medicinally, use the entire plant in your tincture.
There are some herbalists that believe that fresh plants have a certain energy and vitality that dried plants do not. That is up for you to decide.
You do not have to necessarily wash your plants, but knock off any dirt and inspect for bugs before making your tincture.
-Chop your herbs. They do not have to be super small or blended. A run through with a pair of clean scissors is sufficient. Fill a clean glass jar with your herbs, 1/2-3/4 full.
-Fill the jar with vodka or your alcohol of choice. Herbs should be completely covered. Some will tend to float, so check back in a day or two after they have settled to see if you need to add more alcohol.
-Put on your lid. Alcohol evaporates, so you want an actual jar cap or similar, not a rag, or other porous material (which is good for making infused oils).
-Place jar in a warm spot, but not in direct sunlight and let the herbs soak for 4-8 weeks. Shake daily.
-When ready, strain liquid through cheese cloth or a clean rag. A strainer works well if you have large plant pieces, but small debris can slip through. Squeeze herbs to get all of your tincture out of the plant material. Compost spent herbs.
-Pour into a clean glass jar with an air-tight lid. Pour a small amount into a bottle with a dropper lid. Label, label, label. ALWAYS LABEL EVERYTHING! I don’t care how, just do it!
NOTE: Over time, tinctures can evaporate out of the dropper cap, so it is best to store large quantities in a jar with a regular lid, and fill up a smaller dropper bottle as needed.
-Store in a cool, dark spot.
Alcohol based tinctures will keep for many years. Glycerin based tinctures will only keep for 2-3 years, and Vinegar based tinctures will last about a year.
|TEASPOON MEASURE||DROPPER MEASURE||Milliliter Measure|
|1/4 Teaspoon||1 dropperful (35 drops)||1 ml|
|1/2 Teaspoon||2 1/2 dropperfuls (88 drops)||2.5 ml|
|1 Teaspoon||5 dropperfuls (175 drops)||5 ml|
You will want to warm your vinegar before pouring over herbs to help release the constituents in the plant, but it is made the same way in every other way. Remember that a vinegar tincture is not as strong as an alcohol tincture, but it can be incorporated into food stuffs like salad dressing, making it the most versatile tincture.
Glycerin is a thick, sweet substance that has many solvent properties. Glycerin tinctures are not nearly as potent as alcohol tinctures or as versatile as vinegar tinctures, but they are more kid-friendly and alcohol free. Only use food grade glycerin found in some pharmacies and most natural food stores. Dilute with water, 2 parts glycerin to 1 part water before pouring over herbs. Make the same way as an alcohol tincture.
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Emma Lee Joy