A tincture is a perfect way to remove and store the strong medication that is tucked away in plants for later use. Tinctures should stay at room temperature for months if not years – yes, years – without spoiling or losing their effectiveness.
Although some medicines are water-soluble and will come in a simple tea straight out of the plant material, other medicines require something a little stronger for extraction. The Goldenseal anti-inflammatory compounds are a good example of that. Goldenseal can be boiled for hours, without the most potent anti-inflammatory compounds being extracted. A simple solution for alcohol, on the other hand, it can easily pull that out.
Many compounds are soluble in water, while others are only soluble in alcohol.Many compounds, like the Echinacea immune boosting compounds are either extraditable by water or alcohol. Do your research and find out if the herb that you are trying to use is better used as a tea or a tint.
If your herbs are soluble in alcohol, making your own tinctures at home is also surprisingly easy.
Begin with a sealable container which is non-reactive, like a glass jar. Select herbs, either fresh or dried. For a tincture; it’s fine to use either. Just know you’re going to need more fresh herb to get the same power as you’d dried up.
Chop the herbs finely with a knife or grind them with a mortar and pestle to increase the surface area. The more surface area, the more ability to extract as much potent medication as possible from the alcohol in your tincture.
There are a variety of different ways to measure the herbs and change the tincture strength, but no matter how much herbal content you measure, the final strength will be largely determined by the strength of the herbs you begin with. There is plant material with a lot of variation based on how it was developed and stored before use.
The folk tincture method, which is by far the most common for home use, takes this into consideration, and skips weighing and measuring herbs Only packing the herbs in a jar and coating them with a neutral alcohol, like vodka.
When you take your medication, you will have to tailor the dosage to the power of the plants, as well as your constitution.
When choosing alcohol for your tincture, for most herbs, you are best looking for an alcohol about 80%. Higher percentages of alcohol, like those in grain alcohol or ever-clear, are required to extract resins, but should not be used for more delicate plant matter.
Technically, you can use just about any form of alcohol to create a tincture. If you have plenty of whiskey, rum, or gin around but no vodka, it just works fine in a pinch. The taste is going to be different, but this is not necessarily anything negative.
If infusing yourself with alcohol encourages you (or a reluctant loved one) to take their medicine, go for it anyway. The appropriate drug is something that you are going to use, so make sure you pick both herbs and an alcohol that fits the patient.
If you’re actually looking for a tincture, pick the cheapest vodka you’d be willingly drinking. To me, from the bottom shelf, that is one or two steps up. Remember, you’re going to have to drink this drug and if you’re doing anything that’s especially harsh, you’re far less likely to take it.
Pour the alcohol into your herb jar and be sure to submerge all the herbs. The herbs would need to remain submerged while you store your jar for 4-6 weeks in a cool, dark place to extract. Each 2-3 days or as much as you remember, shake the container to assist with the extraction.
Once the extraction is complete, strain the herbs out using cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer, and discard the herbs.
Though trying to extract certain herbs into a tea for a second time or right into another tincture may be tempting, every time I’ve done it, I was sorry I did. What remains is bitter and unpleasant, even if it was anything as lovely as elderberries as the starting herb. Keep on to one extraction, believe me on that one.
At this point, you’re ready to use your tincture. Keep it in a tinted glass, like dark brown dropper tincture bottles or something similar in tint to prevent your herbal medicine from deteriorating with sunlight. This will work in a pinch, any clean, dark colored bottle that caps securely. Lacking tinted glass, make sure to store your tincture in a dark cupboard.
Dosage depends on the tincture and your constitution. Some take tinctures with an eye dropper. Smaller tinctures, like chamomile or elderberry, can be poured into a small shot glass.
For bitter herbs, like Echinacea, it is best to dilute a dropper in a glass of water or juice filled with the finished tint.
As always, with any medicine, be sure to watch for reactions and be careful about potential interactions with other medicines you’re taking, herbal or prescription.