How to Make a Successful Herbal Tincture [DIY]
Summer has reached its peak. By now, your herb garden is flourishing and the wildcrafting trails are ripe for foraging. So what to do with all this fresh herb material?
If you’re ready to bump your herbal practice to the next level, it’s time to move on from teas and infusions and start making herbal tinctures.
What is a tincture?
A tincture is a process of maceration, also called cold collation. It is a concentrated liquid form of herbs. A tincture dissolves the herb material and extracts its constituents in alcohol, vegetable glycerin, or vinegar.
This is an invaluable preparation in herbal medicine because water only extracts some medicinal properties of the herb, whereas tincturing extracts many more beneficial constituents.
A tincture is a very convenient method of herbal administration:
- They can be stored for extended periods
- alcohol-based tinctures can last indefinitely if prepared properly
- apple cider vinegar can last for about six months if prepared properly
- Once prepared, tinctures are simple to dispense and can be taken instantly in a glass of water or tea
- Tinctures are useful when an infusion, tea, or decoction would taste too bitter to drink
- You can tincture any part of the herb: leaves, roots, flowers, or seeds
A few things to note before you make a tincture:
Different herbs need different alcohol concentrations to extract their active constituents. Alcohol percentages can be adjusted for different herbs.
As an example, a tincture of yarrow Achillea millefolium (L.) requires only 60% alcohol. Of course, you can still use 90% alcohol, but if you want to be thrifty, you can dilute it 30% with distilled water and be confident you’re extracting the therapeutic constituents.
Alcohol over 75% will extract constituents quicker. Vodka, which is usually 40%, works just as well for botanicals that don’t need as high of a concentration. You can still use 40% vodka with herbs that require 50%, but just let it sit for a little longer than two weeks.
Alcohol is most effective and most common. The type of alcohol used will depend on the intended use of the herbal preparation. Any herbal preparation for oral use must use ethyl alcohol, the type found in vodka. Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) or wood alcohol (methyl alcohol) may be used for topical preparations only as these forms of alcohol are toxic if taken internally.
In some states, pure grain alcohol is illegal. In this case, you can use vodka or similar. Some herbalists have made tinctures using white rum, brandy, or even sake! Once you’re confident in the preparation process, you can certainly get creative.
Basic Tincture Recipe
Fresh chopped herb: 2 ounces (or 1 ounce if using dried powdered herb)
Alcohol such as vodka or apple cider vinegar: 1 pint
Mix herb with alcohol or cider vinegar in a canning or preserving jar with a tight-fitting lid (if using cider vinegar, add a barrier of plastic wrap between the glass jar and the metal lid since vinegar can corrode the lid and taint the tincture). Keep the tincture in a tightly closed jar in a warm spot, but not in the sun, for approximately two weeks. Shake the tincture two to three times per day.
After two weeks, strain the tincture through pharmaceutical filter paper, a coffee filter, cheesecloth, or muslin. You may need to strain your tincture two or three times to remove all the herb solids. Leaving solids in your tincture may lead to mold and spoilage. Store your tincture in a dark bottle with a dropper in the cupboard.
The dose is small, approximately 20 to 40 drops three times a day for most common and gentle herbs (check with an herbalist before you tincture with herbs that have a low therapeutic margin, as they require a smaller dosage). Dilute in approximately one-quarter cup of water to take.
Half a pint of tincture should equal the medicinal potency of one ounce of the fresh herb, so approximately one teaspoon will equal the medicinal strength of one cup of infusion.
Tinctures can be used topically in water for bathing wounds, soaking feet, in the bath, or as a household disinfectant.
Ready to get started on your own tincture? Check out the alcohol requirements below! Then, snap a pic and share it with us on Instagram using the hashtag #tincturewithachs.
Catch up on the rest of the ACHS Adult Summer Camp Series here.
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This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine.