In an (every evolving) effort toward achieve optimal health through sustainable, holistic and cost-effective ways, I’ve added making tinctures to my toolkit. Tinctures are a medicinal preparation of herbs. Alcohol, glycerin, and apple cider vinegar are agents used to extract the healing properties from the plant. Alcohol is considered the most effective, however, because it is such a potent solvent. Alcohol tinctures also have a virtually unlimited shelf life.
In the past I have purchased them from the health food store; milk thistle tincture is a staple in my ‘medicine’ cabinet. A known detoxifier, it gives my liver (which has a tendency to get sluggish due to my sticky blood) a bit of a boost. It wasn’t until a Ladies Homesteading Gathering meeting this summer that I realized how easy it is to make them!
Here are the steps to making a tincture as outlined on wikiHow. This is essentially how I prepared mine. I’ve italicized my notes.
Purchase quality alcohol. The preferred type of alcohol for producing a tincture is vodka. This is owing to its being colorless, odorless, and fairly flavorless. If you cannot obtain vodka, brandy, rum, or whiskey can be substituted. Whatever alcohol is chosen, it must be 80 proof (namely, 40% alcohol) to prevent mildewing of the plant material in the bottle. I used vodka but I think I will use tequila moving forward. I have found that my body reacts to it best.
Use a suitable container. The container for the tincture should be glass or ceramic. Avoid using metallic or plastic containers because these can react with the tincture or leach dangerous chemicals over time. Items such as a Mason jar, a glass bottle with an attached stopper, etc., are ideal for steeping a tincture. In addition, you will need to get some small dark glass tincture bottles for storing the tincture in once it has been made; these bottles should have a tight screw-on or tight clip-on lid to prevent air intrusion during storage but to allow for ease of use. Ensure that all containers are both washed clean and sterilized prior to use. I used mason jars to make the tinctures and ordered my tincture bottles from Amazon (less expensive than other options I found). I was able to find four ounces containers…but I had to dig for them.
Prepare the tincture. You can prepare a tincture by measurement or by sight; it really depends on your level of comfort with simply adding herbs and judging by eye, or whether you feel more comfortable adding them by measured weight. Also, you should know whether you want to add fresh, powdered, or dried herbs to the tincture. Some suggestions for adding the herbs in the order of fresh, powdered, or dried are as follows:
- Add enough fresh chopped herbs to fill the glass container. Cover with alcohol.
- Add 4 ounces (113g) of powdered herb with 1 pint (473ml) of alcohol (or vinegar/glycerin).
- Add 7 ounces (198g) of dried herb material to 35 fluid ounces (1 liter) of alcohol (or vinegar/glycerin).
I used a variety of fresh herbs shared with me by the other ladies at the group. I grow a few herbs at home that I purchased from Cedar Seeder (I trust them completely). I do plan to order dried herbs for future tinctures from Mountain Rose Herbs. It is very important that you use quality herbs for your tinctures. Remember that you are extracting that which the herb contains. If it has been grown with pesticides, that will also be a part of your medicine. Totally defeats the purpose.
Seal the container. Place it into a cool, dark area; a cupboard shelf works best. The container should be stored there for 8 days to a month.
- Shake the container regularly. Twice a day for 14 days is typically recommended.
- Be sure to label the steeping tincture so that you know what it is and the date on which it was made. Keep it out of the reach of children and pets.
Strain the tincture. Once the steeping time is finished (either the tincture instructions you’re following will inform you of this or you’ll know already from experience but if not, about two weeks is a good steeping time), strain the tincture as follows:
- Place a muslin cloth across a sieve. Place a large bowl underneath to catch the strained liquid.
- Gently pour the steeped liquid through the muslin-lined sieve. The muslin will capture the plant material and the liquid will pass through into the bowl underneath.
- Press the herb material with a wooden or bamboo spoon to squeeze out some more liquid, and lastly, twist the muslin to extract any leftover liquid from the herbs.
There is no fast way to do this. Trust me. Take your time. This gets messy and can be frustrating so don’t do this on a stressful day. SN: I believe that we can pass our energy on into the things we prepare. It is important to be of sound mind when you make your medicine.
Decant the liquid into a prepared tincture bottle. Use a small funnel for this step if you don’t have a steady hand. Tighten the lid and date and label the tincture.
You will need a very small funnel. My daughter and I made funnels out of paper plates.. many of them because they didn’t last. lol. I wasn’t prepared.
Store and use. A tincture can have a shelf life of up to 5 years owing to the fact that alcohol is a preservative. However, know the properties of the particular herbs you’ve used, and follow the guidance of the recipe from which you’re making the tincture in terms of how long to keep the tincture for.
- Follow the instructions relevant to your tincture for usage; consult a qualified, reputable herbalist or a health professional if you need more information and bear in mind that herbal treatments can be dangerous if you don’t know the properties of the herb and its consequences.
This is perhaps the most important part of the making tinctures. You MUST remember that this is medicine. Do your research and speak to your health care advisor before taking. Some herbs have drug interactions with pharmaceuticals. It is also hard to gauge the actual dosage of a tincture. General rule of thumb is 2 dropperfulls, 2-3 times a day. Some tinctures are to be taken as needed (peppermint, ginger, fennel for belly issues) and others can be taken on a rotation. I take my milk thistle on a 2 week rotation.
What about taking this idea and running with it on a larger scale?
Y’all know me, go big or go home. Hee hee!
My friends, I present to you my herb infused tequila. 🙂
- 750ml bottle of premium blanco tequila
- 2 stalks of lemongrass
- 1 large piece of fresh ginger
- infusion jar with tight sealing lid
Follow the same steps as making a tincture but this time no dropper is needed. 🙂
For the cocktail, I mix 2 ounces of the infused tequila, the juice of one lime, 6 ounces of Perrier, and simple syrup I make with local raw honey (equal parts honey and boiling water …1 1/2 tablespoons is perfect to me).
While this is a pretty big leap away from tinctures, I like to think that my cocktail provides a solid alternative for the healthy-minded.
Questions about tinctures? Have your own personal experience you’d like to share? Leave a comment and let’s discuss.