How to make TINCTURES
Tinctures are another way to enjoy the medicinal quality of herbs. Their concentrated nature allows them to act quickly. Learn how to make your own.
Tinctures are a popular way of using medicinal herbs. They are easy to carry around as you only need a small amount of them to be effective – sometimes as little as a drop – and they are easily administered on the tongue.
Tinctures are made by soaking plant material in a solvent, usually alcohol, to extract the active constituents. Alcohol is very effective at extracting these constituents, though vegetable glycerine and apple cider vinegar can be used (but they are not as strong as alcohol-based tinctures). The solvent is also effective as a preservative, so tinctures have a long shelf life. Tinctures are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, making them useful for acute conditions.
You can use dried or freshly picked herbs, though the best tinctures are made with fresh herbs. For home herbalists, vodka can be used as a solvent. Use the highest proof vodka you can find, at least 80 proof (or 40 per cent alcohol).
To make a tincture, harvest fresh herbs and sort through them to ensure none are damaged or diseased. Chop your fresh herb very finely, though flowers can be left whole. If using dried herbs, grind them to a coarse powder.
Place the herbs in a clean and dry wide-mouthed jar with a tight-fitting, non-metal cap. Fill the jar until it is about three-quarters full. Completely cover the herbs with vodka. Screw on the cap and put the jar in a warm spot out of direct sunlight for 4-6 weeks. Shake the tincture at least once a day. The herbs must remain covered in the alcohol. If it looks like they have soaked up the alcohol, add more alcohol. Fresh herbs that are not completely covered in alcohol may develop mould.
After 4-6 weeks, strain the liquid through cheesecloth. Squeeze the cheesecloth and herbs to get all the liquid out. Pour the liquid into a dark bottle, label and store in a dark cabinet.
This is a very simple and effective method of making a tincture. However, if you wish to be more precise with your measurements (exact ratio of herbs to alcohol), there is another method that you can follow. See instructions, right.
Instead of alcohol, you can make your tinctures with vegetable glycerine. These formulas are known as glycerites. They are ideal for children, or for those who do not wish to or cannot consume alcohol. Vegetable glycerine is sweet, so children are likely to favour these.
Glycerine tinctures do not last as long as alcohol ones. If stored in a dark cupboard in a cool room, they will last 1-2 years. Alcohol tinctures last 4-6 years.