How to make a herbal tincture

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Extracts are concentrated herbal preparations where the active compounds of the plants are extracted using a liquid medium, or menstrum.  Technically speaking, extracts made with alcohol as the medium are referred to as tinctures, whereas if you are using water, vinegar, glycerin, or any other liquid medium, your preparation is an extract.  I’ve never been a real technical person, so I call all my extracts tinctures, which most people do anyway.

There are many advantages in using extracts including their ability to preserve the properties of the herbs, convenience and ease of use, and their long shelf life.  Also, I love that you can use them in so many different ways:  by adding them to water, tea, juice, or they can be taken directly.  I’ve also mixed them with healing salves and used them with wraps for injuries.  I use tinctures on a daily basis.

 

HOW TO MAKE TINCTURE: (use this method if you are using alcohol or apple cider vinegar for the menstrum)

  • If using fresh herbs:  Finely chop or grind clean herb to release juice and expose surface area.
  • If using dried herbs:  Use finely cut herbal material
  • Fill jar with herbs (a good guideline is 1/2 to 3/4 with herbs OR 1/4 to 1/2 with fresh roots, 1/4 to 1/3 if dried).
  • Add your alcohol*, and cover the herbs completely- 100 proof Vodka (50% alcohol) is ideal for most applications. Your jar should appear full of herb, but herb should move freely when shaken.
  • Secure the lid, and place the jar in a dark, cool place- a shelf in a cupboard works great.  Leave it there for at least 2 weeks.  Make sure you shake it at least once a day to mix up the tincture and check alcohol levels.  If the alcohol has evaporated a bit and the herb is not totally submerged, be sure to top off the jar with more alcohol. Herbs exposed to air can spoil and ruin your tincture.
  • When the appropriate time has passed, strain your tincture and discard the herbs.  A side note about straining:   you can use an ordinary strainer but this wastes a lot of extract. Cheesecloth, or thin type of cotton or muslin works pretty good but it can be messy.  I have found putting it through a centrifugul juicer works well- it’s not as messy and you get most of your tincture out.
  • Label your tincture and store in a cool, dry place.

The proportion of herb (marc) to liquid (menstrum) is known as the weight/volume ratio of the tincture, and will differ depending on what kind of herbs you are tincturing (fresh or dry, leaf or root, etc.).  The standard ratio is 1:5 meaning, that for every ounce of herb you’ll use 5 ounces of liquid.  Below are some general ratio guidelines:

  • 1:2 ratio: for fresh herbs
  • 1:4 ratio: for dry herbs, a stronger tincture. Use with roots, barks and seeds.
  • 1:5 ratio: the dry herb standard ratio.  Good for dry portions of plants: leaves, flowers, stems and soft (i.e. water soluble) roots
    and barks
  • 1:10 ratio: for dried, intense botanicals like cayenne, lobelia, poke root; or for herbs that take up a lot of volume (fluffy) like
    mullein, yarrow, and red clover.

 

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