What is a Tincture and How to Make Your Own

by | Oct 22, 2020 | Herbals, Recipes

What is a Tincture?

DIY – Homemade is always better… cuz it’s infused with LOVE!!  ?

Tinctures are an herbal remedy made with drinking alcohol. When herbs are added to the alcohol and placed in an airtight container overtime the alcohol breaks down the cell membranes of the herbs and release its beneficial properties into the solvent. The solvent in this case is alcohol.

Some call Apple Cider Vinegar and Glycerin extractions, tinctures. Yet, a tincture by definition is an herb extracted in alcohol. But the method using apple cider vinegar and glycerin is the same, resulting in a solvent that now contains the extracted beneficial properties of the herbs. Apple cider vinegar and glycerin extractions are not as potent as alcohol extractions, but for some these options are preferable.

In the case of children, glycerin is often used to extract the beneficial properties of an herb because of its sweet flavor. That sweetness makes the medicine go down more smoothly. And apple cider vinegar can also be used with children and adults who want to avoid any type of alcohol.

In most cases, an alcohol extraction will give you the best concentration of the beneficial properties from the herbs.

How to make a tincture

There are a number of ways to make tinctures. Sometimes the methods can be taught in an overly complicated way, but the process doesn’t need to be. If you’re making herbal remedies at home for yourself and your loved ones, you can keep things very simple. Let’s look at two methods.

Folk Method

If you have fresh herbs on hand, simply fill your jar almost to the top (no need to wash them unless there’s a lot of dirt. In that case, wipe off the dirt with your hands. Do a quick rinse if you’re unable to remove the dirt by wiping it off). If you rinse your herbs, be sure to let them dry for a couple hours. If you live in a humid area, let them dry one day. You don’t want excess water in your tincture. Cover the herbs with alcohol, bringing the alcohol to the top of the jar leaving just a little bit of room at the top.

Use 80 -160 proof alcohol (Vodka is the most common choice of alcohol, but you can use whatever you prefer). With fresh herbs, I recommend using a higher concentration of alcohol because there’s still water in fresh herbs; using higher concentrations of alcohol will produce a stronger product. Stronger isn’t always better, but it’s something to be aware of. Cover the jar with an airtight lid & give it a good shake, and then label it.

Labeling (so important)!

It’s important to put a date on your jar and the name of the herb and the type of alcohol, so you can remember your process. If you like, you can even keep a notebook with the details of how you made your tincture and how it worked for you. I highly recommend this. It’s so nice to have a record of the steps you took when making your herbal preparation, especially when you and others absolutely love the end result, so you can recreate it time and time again!! ?

If you’re using a dried leafy herb, fill your jar to 2/3 full, and fill with alcohol almost to the very top of the jar. And just like before, cover with airtight lid. And then shake well. Remember to label your jar.

If you’re using dried roots, berries or bark, you can fill the jar to ½ full and follow the same steps listed above.

On the second day, check to see if you need to add more alcohol. Sometimes, the herbs will absorb the alcohol and it will be necessary to top it off. For the first week, you’ll want to keep a close eye on your tincture. Check it every day, and make sure the herbs are completely submersed under the alcohol. You don’t want your herbs poking above the alcohol because they can grow mold and contaminate your product. If you shake your jar daily, this is very unlikely to happen. The first week is exceptionally important, so please make sure you shake the jar every day. After the first week, you’ll want to shake your jar at least 3-4 times a week, or everyday if you like.

As time goes on, into the second & third month, you can shake it less often because by now the herbs are fully saturated in the alcohol and they won’t grow anything icky!!

Intentions/Prayers 

I like to add an intention to all my herbal infusions. You can say a prayer for healing (or something like this) over yours or add an intention like me. Write it on your label, so every time you shake your jar, you remember to add your intention/prayer.

How Long Should My Tincture Infuse?

There are many different methods for making tinctures, and you’ll get different explanations from any number of herbalists. So, it’s important to find what works for you and stick with that.

I recommend dried herbs sit in the jar for at least four weeks, or one moon cycle. And fresh herbs really should be tinctured for at least eight weeks.

For roots, medicinal mushrooms, and some dried berries, I let these sit for at least three months.

Store your jar in a cool dark place while it’s ‘macerating/infusing/steeping/tincturing’. All of these terms work. The technical term is maceration. Again, no need to overcomplicate things… Choose the word that you like the best. Keep it simple.

Decanting

At the end of the maceration period, get a measuring cup that is large enough to hold the contents of the liquid in your jar, place a mesh strainer on top of the measuring cup, and then layer in some fine mesh cheesecloth or muslin. Open your jar and pour the contents into the cloth-lined strainer. Let it sit for at least ½-1 hour and let gravity do its work. After that, gather up your cloth, twist it at the top, and give it a good squeeze. This step is known as ‘decanting’. If you plan to sell your tincture, it’s a good idea to use sterile gloves in this step.

Some herbs like berries and thick leaves, will retain a lot of the liquid, so you want to squeeze it tight to get the most liquid extracted from the herbs as possible. You worked hard for this and you want to get as much tincture as you can for all your hard work. I have a fruit press for this reason, it’s very difficult for me to squeeze as tightly as is sometimes needed, so the fruit press in many cases will give me an extra 4 to 8 ounces from a tincture or elixir. It’s definitely worth it to me to have the fruit press on hand, but it’s not necessary, especially if you’re just starting out. In fact, I didn’t purchase mine until recently. When I saw how much I had been wasting though, I knew my fruit press was worth its weight in gold.

Weight to Volume

The method I just described is known as the folk method and is a very effective method for making tinctures. This is how herbalist over the centuries made tinctures. However, there is a more standardized method for making tinctures, and this is the one that I use since I sell almost everything I make. My goal is to make a very standardized extract, one that can be relied upon to be consistent each and every time. For fresh herbs the ratio is 1:2 and dried herbs are often 1:5. This means with fresh herbs you want 1-part herb and 2-parts solvent. For dry herbs you want 1-part herb and 5-parts solvent.

This standardized method will provide somewhat of a consistent product. I say somewhat because herbs are living material and they will vary depending upon the conditions in which they were grown. You can even have different results from herbs that were grown in similar conditions in the same location… but please note, these differences will not be significant.

So how does this work?

The math here isn’t complicated. For example: if you’re using 125 grams of dried herbs you want to multiply that by 5 and then add 625 milliliters of your solvent (125 x 5=625). If using 125 grams of fresh herbs multiply by two and add 250 milliliters of your solvent.

Sometimes, this can be tricky in terms of filling the jar to the top. In some cases, you may have to finely chop or grind your herbs in order to fit all the ingredients into the jar.

Bottling & Storage

Now, it’s time to bottle up your tincture into a dropper bottle. Often tinctures are taken by the drops or milliliter. If you don’t have a dropper bottle on hand, it’s OK to store it in a larger jar, just be sure to have an accurate measuring device to get the correct amounts. Dropper bottles come in a variety of sizes making it very convenient for any family size. For my personal use I like 2-ounce bottles.

For the larger amount that you have leftover, store this an airtight jar in a dark cool location. And again, be sure to label your jar and dropper bottle.

In the beginning, it may seem unnecessary to label because perhaps you’re starting out with just one herb. That’s how it was with me. It would have been impossible for me to forget what I had made. But now, I absolutely must have everything labeled because of the number of herbs I have tincturing at any given time.

Making an herbal tincture is quite easy, and very affordable. For example, you could easily spend anywhere from $10 to $20 on a 1-ounce bottle of tincture. If you were to buy a small bag of herbs, or grow your own (even better), a bottle of alcohol and some dropper bottles, you could easily make several 1-ounce bottles that cost maybe $4 or $5 each. Overtime that really adds up.

It wasn’t too long ago when most families had an herbalist… maybe it was your grandmother or aunt… Or maybe it was a close neighbor. It’s such a great idea to have herbal remedies on hand to deal with minor illnesses when they arise, rather than rush to the doctor.

Shelf Life

Tinctures will last for years. Some say three years, some say indefinitely. With alcohol as your preservative, and if your tincture was made & stored properly, you can assume your tincture will be safe to use for several years.

Having said this, I’ve never had a tincture go bad, but I don’t let them sit for years and years. For personal use, I only make what I need, and I use it up long before there’s a potential for spoilage. If you find a tincture bottle 10 years after you made it, clearly you didn’t need it, weren’t using it and perhaps it’s time to toss it.

Herbal remedies are remarkably effective and safe. Having a handful of herbal preparations on hand not only saves you money and time, but you’ll gain a sense of independence, empowerment and peace of mind, knowing you can care for yourself and your family in any situation that quickly arises.


You might also enjoy Herbs that May Improve Your Energy.


 

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