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Herbalism

Crafting Herbal Tinctures


A tincture is an herbal medicine where the constituents of an herb extracted into a liquid solvent. We can use alcohol, vinegar or glycerin. We will be mainly discussing alcohol as a solvent, but will include the variants further down. 

We would chose to work with a tincture vs. other forms for herbal medicine for a variety of reasons: 

  • It’s portable,
  • It’s shelf stable,
  • It’s concentrated and potent,
  • It’s faster and easier,
  • It extracts alkaloids and resins.

Alcohol tinctures do not extract minerals or carbohydrates (polysaccharides and inulin) so we would use a different method if those properties are what we are looking for.

While it is ideal to work with fresh plant material, we don’t all have access. I will be going over methods for working with both fresh and dried material.

There are also two methods of tincturing herbs: the folkloric method and the weight to volume (W:V) method. Both will be covered here. (If you need a video to better understand the difference between the two, I recorded both preparations for my private Facebook group).

Folkloric Method

As you may have guessed, the folkloric method is a more traditional and common way to prepare an herbal tincture. If I wasn’t running a business, I would properly create all my tinctures this way. The advantage: ease and using more intuition. The disadvantage: each batch will be a bit different in strength and potency. Which is fine when you are working with all generally safe herbs (herbs that have a potential for toxicity such as poke should NOT be used in this manner-nor should they be used by someone not comfortable working with stronger plants).

Ingredients and Supplies:

  • Plant material (fresh or dried)
  • Alcohol (95% if fresh and 50% if dried)
  • Clean jar
  • Label
  • Knife and cutting board if using fresh

If working with fresh plant material, make sure everything is clean. Roots take a bit of scrubbing to remove all the dirt. Chop and cut everything up into small pieces (¼-½ inch sized pieces are good). Fill jar with herbs-leave approximately 2-3 inches at top jar. Cover with alcohol. Cover about an inch over the herbs. Cap jar. Shake. Label: plant name (common and scientific), fresh or dried, ‘folkloric method’, alcohol used, source of herbs, today’s date. You could also write down the astrological correspondence and moon phase of the day you made your medicine if that interests you. For example: if we use the tincture I made in the video the label might look like this:

Fresh Cleavers (Galium aparine)
Folkloric Method
95% organic ETOH (ethyl alcohol)
Harvested under the elderberry shrub in my front yard
Libra waning moon

At this point, you let your jar sit for at least 6 weeks. If you need to sneak a dosage before then, it is totally fine. After a few days, 80% of the constituents are already extracted.

Weight to Volume (W:V) Method

This method is great for those that are starting an herbal business, like things to be specific, and want to be able to duplicate batches easily. This method varies a bit between fresh and dried plant material.

Ingredients and Supplies:

  • Plant material (fresh or dried)
  • Alcohol (95% if fresh and 50% if dried)
  • Clean jar
  • Label
  • Knife and cutting board if using fresh
  • Kitchen Scale

If working with fresh plant material, make sure everything is clean. Roots take a bit of scrubbing to remove all the dirt. Chop and cut everything up into small pieces (¼-½ inch sized pieces are good). Weigh out your herbs. Take that number (ex. 4 ounces) and multiply it by 2 if using fresh and 5 if using dried (ex. 8 ounces and 20 ounces). This is your weight to volume ratio. 4:8 and 4:20 (fresh and dried respectively). This means that for 4 ounces of fresh herbs, you will use 8 ounces of alcohol and for 4 ounces of dried herbs you will use 20 ounces of alcohol. The variant between fresh and dried is due to the water content that will be extract by the alcohol with the fresh herbs.
While working with fresh herbs, you will find that the alcohol isn’t covering the plant material properly. You may need to compact the herbs into a smaller container, or find a narrow vessel. I have found that blending the herbs with the alcohol is helpful. Labeling with the W:V method is a bit different.
Using the same example from the video:
Fresh Cleavers (Galium aparine)
1:2 95% organic ETOH (ethyl alcohol)
Harvested under the elderberry shrub in my front yard
Libra waning moon


And if it was dried:
Dried Organic Cleavers (Galium aparine)
1:5 50% organic ETOH (ethyl alcohol)
Purchased from Mountain Rose Herbs
Libra waning moon

Straining time!

I have found that using a tightly woven cheesecloth or a loose woven muslin works well here. I use this in combination with a ceramic coffee filter holder (for pour overs). I set the coffee filter and cloth on a wide mouthed canning jar (it fits perfectly) and then strain directly into the jar. I then typically wash out the original jar and fill it back up (since it already has the label on it). Or, try to transfer the label to the new jar.  

Bottling for use:

I prefer dark amber bottles to protect from sunlight. Label these bottles the same way you labeled your stock bottle. Since this lesson isn’t for manufacturing for sale, we won’t go into the specifics of labeling laws. 

Store your tinctures (both stock bottles and dosage bottles) out of extreme temperatures and direct light. They will last for years if properly stored.

Reasons to not use alcohol based tinctures would be for infants, those with liver disease, or someone who has a history of alcohol or chooses to abstain for spiritual or other personal reasons.
We can use glycerin as a substitute, but I do not care for it. I can’t find one that is sustainably sourced and honestly, it still feels like something that can’t be easily replicated outside of a lab. So, while I have worked with it in the past, I currently choose to use apple cider vinegar to substitute for alcohol in these situations. 

I personally use alcohol based tinctures for my children-as the amount of alcohol consumed is small. 

A standard adult dosage would be 15-30 drops (in general-you can get more specific as you start to work with herbs more). So, for calculating a child’s dosage, we use a formula based on their weight (this can also be used for small or large adults). Take the dosage and divide by 150. Then multiply that number by the weight of the child. Example: You want to give your child an elderberry tincture. Your child weighs 65 pounds. So we will divide 30/150. Then multiply that number by 65. The child’s dosage is 13 drops.

These instructions are for creating a simple (tincture with one herb). Once we start going over herbal profiles later this year, I will include a lesson on blends for specific purposes. 

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