herbal tincturesWater extractions can get out some of the medicinal components – molecules that plants manufacture for self-protection, in herbs, but to get the most concentration, use ethyl alcohol. These extracts are generally intended for internal use, taken a few drops at a time, several times a day. Some tinctures can also be applied directly to wounds or skin infections. Tinctures made with at least 80-proof ethanol (40% alcohol) don’t spoil, maintain their potency for a long time, properly stored, and stored in small dropper bottles, are easy to take along while traveling. They are meant to be used as medicine in small amounts. [1]

The preferred alcohol for producing a tincture is vodka. It is colorless, odorless and mostly flavorless. Choose a glass container. Avoid metal or plastic as they may react with the tincture or leach dangerous chemicals over time. Make sure it is clean and sterilized prior to use. Herbalists love tinctures because they keep nutrients from the plants in a stable, soluble form and they retain the volatile and semi-volatile ingredients that can otherwise be lost in heat extractions. [2]

You can use fresh, powdered or dried herbs, seeds, stem, or roots.

  • When using fresh plant material, chop or bruise them in a mortar and pestle. Add enough to fill the jar loosely and cover with alcohol. [3]
  • When using powdered herbs, add 4 ounces with 1 pint of alcohol. [4]
  • When using dried herbs, add 7 ounces to 35 fluid ounces of alcohol.

All plant materials should be covered with alcohol. Nothing should be exposed to air to prevent molding. Stir well to eliminate any trapped air bubbles. Screw lid on tightly. Label jars with herb and type of alcohol as well as the date. Store in a cool, dark place.  Check it once a day for two weeks, shake the jar gently to stir the plant material around in the alcohol. Sometimes the herbal material will absorb the alcohol, add extra to keep things covered. Allow to sit another two weeks.

Strain through cheesecloth , squeezing the remaining material to remove all tincture. Using a funnel, pour the liquid into amber colored glass dropper bottles. Label bottles with herb name, alcohol used and date pressed. Herbal tinctures kept in a cool environment and out of direct sunlight can be expected to last three to five years, or longer. [5]

Next step, learn to use them safely. The first thing is make sure you know the herb you are using. A misidentified plant can be real trouble.  Know the properties of the particular herbs you’ve used. Follow the guidance of the recipe you used in terms of how long to keep the tincture. Consult a qualified herbalist or health professional if you need more information.

Tincture Recipes

Wilderness College  includes recipes for burdock root, dandelion and stinging nettle tinctures.   Fresh Bites Daily  published a migraine remedy that uses feverfew, lemon balm and peppermint leavesWellness Mama  uses a tincture made from peppermint, ginger root and dried fennel seeds to combat nausea and tummy aches.  She also has a recipe using chamomile that can be used with children dealing with stuffy noses, teething pain and colic. Used in adults, it can improve sleep, ease menstrual cramps, relieve headaches and soothe frayed nerves. Yarrow tinctures have been used for wounds since the Roman era.   

1. https://www.almanac.com/blog/natural-health-home-tips/making-herbal-tincture
2. https://www.wikihow.com/Make-an-Herbal-Tincture
3. James Wong, Grow Your Own Drugs, p. 34, (2009), ISBN 978-1-60652-119-9
4. Humbart Santillo, Natural Healing with Herbs, p. 39, (1987), ISBN 0-934252-08-4
5. https://thesurvivalmom.com/make-herbal-tinctures/

Billie Nicholson, Editor
March 2018

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