Herbal tinctures are one of my favorite ways to take herbal medicine. They are fast-acting, potent, and portable! While teas are great, and I LOVE my teas, tinctures are usually my go-to for the ease and quickness. A dropper full of tincture is easy to just squirt into your mouth-whereas you have to go through the process of boiling water, steeping herbs, straining, sweetening, etc. Which, don’t get me wrong-I love the ritual of brewing teas! But, when you have a sinus headache, you want something to hit it fast and hard.
Oh, you don’t know what a tincture is? Let me explain! A tincture is simply an extract of constituents of the plant material into a menstruum (solvent-alcohol, vinegar, or vegetable glycerin, typically). My preferred menstruum is alcohol. I personally use 190 proof organic alcohol that I then dilute down to appx. 100 proof. But, you can just buy a cheap bottle of vodka, rum, brandy, etc. as long as it is around 100 proof (50%). Anything less and you run the risk of not getting the full extraction.
I use tinctures for all kinds of things. Headaches, stress, allergies, sleeplessness, anxiety, liver support, digestion, respiratory support, immune boosting. All the things! As I said, alcohol is the preferred solvent, as it and the water content are sure to extract the alkaloids and water soluble components of the plant. Now, the exception is if I want to extract the nourishing components of a plant (vitamins and minerals). In that case, I like to use apple cider vinegar.
If you are concerned about using alcohol preparations, fear not! I give them to my children. If you think about it-the amount of alcohol in a dosage is about 15-20 drops. That comes to MAYBE a mL of alcohol. One serving of alcohol is 30 mL (one ounce). You would have to drink an entire 1 ounce bottle of tincture to get a mixed drink’s serving of alcohol. And, a child’s dosage is even less-depending on weight it is between 3-10 drops. There is more alcohol in the vanilla extract you are cooking with! The only concern, in my opinion, with using alcohol based tinctures with children is convincing them to use it. Because, the taste leaves much to be desired. You can hide it in tea, smoothies, apple sauce, etc. There is the option of glycerin based tinctures, but they aren’t as effective.
Interested in making your own tinctures? Keep reading for a simple tutorial!
Step 1: Get some herbs. Ideally, you want to work with freshly harvested herbs. Unfortunately, we don’t all have access to a bountiful herb garden or know how to properly wild craft. So, the option is to use dried. You can purchase them in bulk from various stores online, Mountain Rose Herbs, Bulk Herb Store, Monterrey Bay Herb Co., Starwest Botanicals are a few that I love. OR, you can contact me for smaller 1 ounce amounts. Sometimes it is intimidating receiving a pound of herbs when you are just starting out! For this tincture, I am using dried skullcap. Skullcap is fabulous for stress, anxiety, and pain relief. I LOVE it. It’s one of my most popular tinctures. There are two methods to use here. 1-the folk method. Put some herbs in a jar. Just an eyeballed amount. Perfect for folks who are just making it for themselves and don’t worry if one batch is more potent than the next. and 2-the weight to volume method (w:v). Each herb has a specific w:v ratio, but the most common is 1:5. Which means, that for 1 part of plant material, you use 5 parts solvent. So, for example, you have 2 ounces of skullcap by weight. You will need 10 ounces of alcohol. If you are making them for yourself, friends, and family, this method is unnecessary.
Step 2: Combine with menstruum in jar. Put your herbs in a clean mason jar. Cover with your solvent. Make sure all the plant material is covered. You can even have a few inches extra in the jar. Cap it. Give it a shake.
Step 3: LABEL!! You do not want a jar of mystery tincture in your house. Trust me. The label should have the name of the herb (common and botanical), the menstruum used, and the date you prepared it.
Step 4: Wait. Patiently. It takes at least 6 weeks for a tincture to fully macerate. Keep it on your counter. Give it a shake everyday/every other day.
Step 5. Strain. Use a fine wire mesh strainer, or some cheesecloth/muslin. I invert the jar over the strainer and let it sit for a few hours. Then, I press all the herbs to make sure I get all the liquid out. Compost the remnants (marc).
Step 6. Bottle. You can just rinse out your jar and pour your tincture right back in it. I would suggest getting a few dropper bottles (always glass!!!) for easy of dosage and convenience. Store the majority away in the jar, and keep your little bottle in your purse, bathroom, etc, wherever you keep your medicine. Again, make sure that you label your bottles!!
Do you make your own tinctures? I’d love to see pictures! Share them on my Facebook page at Wild Earth Herbals or tag me on instagram @wildearthherbals.