Herbal Tinctures

What is a tincture?

Tinctures are concentrated extracts of herbs, typically made with alcohol as the primary solvent. The herbs may be used fresh or dried and high grain alcohol, high proof vodka, or brandy can be used. The maceration (soaking) period can take at least 4-6 weeks, the herbs are then strained from the liquid, and bottled. Tinctures are very shelf-stable and can last for several years when stored in a cool and dark place, then lose potency.

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Determining the alcohol’s proof when making a tincture is simple – just divide the proof by 2 in order to calculate alcohol percentage. For example, an 80-proof vodka contains 40% alcohol by volume.

Methods

Fresh Herb Tincture

The method will result in a 1:2 fresh herb extraction – 1 ounce herb by weight to 2 ounces liquid by volume.

Preferred alcohol would be high proof vodka, grain alcohol, or ethanol (120-190 proof or 75-95% alcohol by volume)

Fresh plant material, such as leaves, roots, and flowers, are gathered and chopped. Weigh and place the plant material in a clean mason jar so it is nearly full. Next, simply pour your choice of alcohol to the brim of the jar. Juicier herbs may require a higher proof alcohol. Cover and store for at least one month (but can be several!) After a day, check to make sure the plant material is completely covered and top off if necessary. Strain with a fine mesh strainer, and then muslin or cheesecloth to squeeze out any remaining liquid.

A few herbs that work well fresh include:

Lemon Balm, Mint, Catnip, Chamomile, Stinging Nettle, Sage

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Dry Herb Tincture

This method will result in a 1:5 dry herb extraction – 1 ounce herb by weight to 5 ounces liquid by volume.

Preferred alcohol would be vodka or brandy (80-120 proof or 40-60% alcohol by volume). If using grain alcohol be sure to dilute with distilled water.

Dried plant material can be in whole form or powdered. If your plant material is whole you can easily powder your herbs if desired. Weigh and place the plant material in a clean mason jar so it is nearly full. Next, simply pour your choice of alcohol to the brim of the jar. Cover and store for at least one month (but can be several!) After a day, check to make sure the plant material is completely covered and top off if necessary. You may need to do this a few times during the first week. Store and shake your mixture daily for one to several months. Strain with a coffee filter-lined strainer.

Herbs that work well dried include:

Herbs that are primarily available dry like Cinnamon, Chocolate, Cardamom, Astragalus Root, and Valerian Root 

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Alcohol Chart

Proof Percentage Type Uses
190 95.00% Ethanol (grain, grape, sugar cane) Fresh plants, resins (preferred), dilute with water if needed
151 75.00% Grain alcohol, vodka Fresh plants, resins
100 50.00% Vodka Dried plants, acceptable for fresh plants
80 40.00% Vodka, brandy Topical liniments, acceptable for dried and fresh

Whatever the ratio or alcohol percentage, the idea of weight- to-volume remains the same.

Making Tinctures

Jar size Amount of herb used Amount of tincture produced
4 oz jar 1 ½ oz fresh or 2/3 oz dry 1-3 oz 
8 oz jar 2 2/3 oz fresh or 1 1/3 oz dry 5-7 oz
12 oz jar 4 oz fresh or 2 oz dry 8-11 oz
16 oz jar 5 1/3 oz fresh or 2 2/3 oz dry 10-15 oz
32 oz jar 10 2/3 oz fresh or 5 1/3 oz dry 20-30 oz

Blending tinctures, also called formula tinctures, contain more than one herb. Some herbalists will combine herbs with similar properties in the same menstruum to make an all-in-one blend. Others might create single tinctures and blend them individually to create unique formulas. More doesn’t always mean better and most single tinctures will be sufficient without additional herbs added. Also, keep in mind that the more herbs involved, the greater the potential risk of unwanted side effects. Investigate various reference books for information on alcohol percentage requirements and solubility, as well as recipes for combination tinctures and ways to use them.

Calming Herbs: Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Valerian Root, Passion Flower, Catnip

Digestion Herbs: Peppermint, Ginger, Fennel Seeds

Tonic Herbs: Chamomile, Oat Straw, Stinging Nettle, Raspberry Leaf

Immune Support Herbs: Ginger Root, Oregon Grape Root, Elderberry, Echinacea, Astragalus Root

Making Your Own Tincture

Materials

  • Sterilized glass jar with lid
  • Desired herb or herbs
  • Appropriate alcohol
  • Kitchen Scale

What to do

  • Start by gathering all your ingredients and necessary equipment
  • Prepare the plant material as necessary & weigh
  • Fill each mason jar with your desired plant material
  • Next, pour vodka over the herbs so the plant material is completely covered and the mason jar is filled
  • Cover each jar and label (Name, Date, Alcohol Percentage –> 80 Proof = 40%)
  • Store for at least one month (but can be several!)
  • After a day, check to make sure the plant material is completely covered and top off if necessary. You may need to do this a few times during the first week.
  • Store and shake your mixture daily for one to several months.
  • Strain with a coffee filter-lined strainer.
  • Store in dark glass dropper bottles in a cool, dark place and use as needed!

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