The principle behind making tinctures is to obtain the spiritual and physical quintessence of the plant. This is done by using the powers of ethyl alcohol to dissolve and preserve the herb you are using.
The material used to extract the herbs is known as the menstrum. The herbs you are tincturing are called the mark. Tincturing will extract and maintain both the water-soluble and alcohol-soluble properties of an herb.
Many people are making their own tinctures from dried and fresh herbs in an interest to be more involved in their health. Tinctures of fresh herbs have proven to be more vitalizing and longer surviving than dried herbs. Dried herbs tend to get moldy or be eaten by insects, tinctures will not. Tinctures will keep for as long as two years and sustain their potency if stored properly. Creating your own tinctures will save you quite a bit of money. If you obtain tinctures at a retail shop you might get a few ounces but if you create them yourself you can yield a quart.
When purchasing herbs, be sure you are buying from a trustworthy source. Worthier yet, cultivate your own herbs to be confident of the best possible quality. When growing your own you can make any number of combinations to produce your tinctures. I have further found that when growing my own herbs I get the greater gratification, knowing not only did I brew the tincture but I grew the herbs. I am part of the process from starting point to the development of the tinctures.
There are numerous items that you will require to cook up your own tinctures. Number one you need either powdered herbs or fresh cut herbs. Vodka, brandy or rum, 80 – 100 proof to pour over the herbs. Mason jars complete with lids, Muslin or Cheesecloth that is unbleached and of course, labels.
Have on hand 7-10 ounces of chopped fresh herbs for every quart of vodka, brandy or rum. I always try to utilize fresh herbs when creating my tinctures. When using powdered herbs, I use 4 ounces of herbs to one pint of the spirit used. If you are making a tincture from bitter herbs it is best to use rum as it will disguise the flavor of the herbs. To knock out a non-alcoholic tincture, use distilled water, glycerol or vinegar. Just remember if you use the vinegar you must keep it in the refrigerator.
Put your herbs in the mason jars and then drizzle the spirit used over them so that it comes up to about an inch above the herbs. Close the lids tightly and tag the jars then put them in a very dark, balmy section of your home. Keeping them in a paper bag has worked fine for me. You must shake the tincture everyday, several times a day if you can manage it. If you put it by the door you use most often every time you go in or out just shake the bag.
At the beginning inspect the tincture daily to be sure the vodka, brandy or rum still is covering the herbs. Allow the brew to steep for at least two weeks and up to three months. When you get to the allotted waiting interval, line a sieve with the cheesecloth or muslin and pour the fluid thru the sieve into fresh bottle. Draw in the ends of the cheesecloth and press to derive all of the fluid. You can now fill small-scale bottles with droppers with the tincture for easy use. Be positive to tag the jar with the name of other herb, the day, the month and the year that it was produced.
To use the tincture drop one teaspoon into juice, water, or tea, three times per day.
There are no hard and fast rules for creating tinctures. Experiment with diverse combinations. Be sure you note down the recipe you used for each batch so when you come up with a winner you will have it on file.
Here are a few ideas for treating colds. Prepare tinctures from the herbs that follow:
- echinacea (leaves, flowers)
- elder (leaves, flowers, berries)
- eyebright (leaves, flowers)
- ginger (root)
- peppermint (leaves)
- yarrow (leaves, flowers)
- catnip (leaves)
Copyright © 2006 Mary Hanna All Rights Reserved.
Mary Hanna is an aspiring herbalist who lives in Central Florida.