Making: Tinctures - Alcoholic Extracts of Herbs

Tinctures are aqueous/alcoholic extracts of plants. They are a great way to preserve herbs for use throughout the seasons. They have a good shelf life, are easy to use and alcohol is a great medium for extracting a wide range of constituents from plants in a form that is easy for the body to digest and utilise. 

Tincture making can be a very complicated thing indeed. Different compounds found in plants are extracted by using differing ratios of water to alcohol. For instance, essential oils and resins are poorly extracted in water but are extracted well in high alcohol so something like Myrrh would be extracted in up to 90% alcohol.

For the purpose of preserving your own herbs and making your own tinctures at home, the process is very simple and vodka will do the trick nicely as it is around 40% alcohol, making it a good medium for the extraction of a variety of herbal constituents. Here's how its done:

For Fresh, Arial Parts (leaves and flowers)

What you will need:

  • Fresh herb 
  • A wide necked jar
  • Vodka 

Take your fresh herb, chop it up finely and crush a little (either by pounding with the end of a rolling pin or in a pestle and mortar). This will break the cell membranes of the plant down so the plant constituents can be extracted more effectively. Place the chopped herbs into a jar, don't pack it down too tightly, gaps are good for the vodka to get in around the herb and extract its goodness. Put the lid of tightly and shake. Label this tincture with:

  • What plant you used
  • Where you picked it
  • The date you made the tincture

Leave in a cool, dark place for at least a month (one lunar cycle) and shake it up a few times a week. Once the month is up you can strain out your tincture using a fine sieve or a muslin lined course sieve. Bottle up in dark glass bottles and re-label, this time with the date of bottling. The usual dose for herbal tinctured is 5ml 3x daily but dosages can vary for different plants and medical complaints so please refer to a good herbal for exact dosages.

 

For Roots

Roots are tougher and therefore need a bit more processing to release their goodness. You can use roots fresh, in much the same way that is described above for arial parts. However, drying roots such as Dandelion and Burdock can actually condense their goodness and so they are often tinctured from dry. To make a dried root tincture, first you need to make a decoction (link) take your dried root and place it in a saucepan. Cover the root with just enough water to submerge it and simmer gently for 15-20 mins. Turn the heat off and allow this to cool for half an hour or so. Measure the whole decocted mixture in a measuring jug and then pour it into a wide-necked jar. Add 50% vodka to your decoction (so if you had 200ml decoction, you would need to add 200ml vodka). Put the lid on and shake well. Leave in a cool dark place for one month, shaking a few times a week. after one month strain, bottle and label as above. The usual dose for herbal tinctured is 5ml 3x daily but dosages can vary for different plants and medical complaints so please refer to a good herbal for exact dosages.

Hawthorn Berry Tincture after brewing for 1 month.

Hawthorn Berry Tincture after brewing for 1 month.