Natural and Organic Skin Care

How to Make an Herbal Tincture

Plant medicine

Plant medicine

There are a number of ways to use herbs.  One of the more popular methods is to create liquid herbal extracts out of either fresh or dried plant materials using alcohol as the solvent, creating an herbal tincture.  Herbal tincutres preserve the active plant constituents, and are able to extract not only the water-soluble properties, but also those that aren’t able to be extracted well with water alone, such as resins and volatile oils.  Tinctures are easily absorbed by the body, have a long shelf life, and provide a quick and convenient way to enjoy the healing benefits that the herbs offer us.

Making them is easy and affordable.  You can use either fresh herb from your home garden, or dried herbs purchased through various retailers (my go-to online sources are Mountain Rose Herbs and Starwest Botanicals).  Using dried herbs is often easier and faster, and requires less herb per ounce than using fresh herbs.  However, fresh plants often have properties that are lacking in dry plants, so as with most things in life, there are trade offs to both options.

To make, you can follow specific ratio guidelines, or simply follow the folk method that is provided below.  It is simple, practical and efficient, requiring you to simply “eyeball” your measurements.

If using fresh herb:

  • Clean herb of any dirt or debris
  • Finely chop or grind herb
  • If using leafy plant parts, fill glass jar 2/3 with herb
  • If using roots, fill glass jar ¼ with herb (they will expand quite a bit when reconstituted)
  • Pour 80 proof alcohol over the herb, making sure that it is completely covered, and then seal with a tightly fitting lid
  • Jar should appear full of herb, but herb should move freely when shaken

If using dried herb:

  • If it’s not already, chop herb into fine pieces
  • If using leafy plant parts, fill glass jar 2/3 with herb
  • If using roots, fill glass jar ¼ with herb
  • Pour 80 proof alcohol over the herb, making sure that it is completely covered, and then seal with a tight fitting lid
  • Jar should appear full of herb, but herb should move freely when shaken

Label your jars with the name of the herb, date, alcohol strength, part used, and location of harvest (if using freshly collected herb).  Store jar in a cool, dark place for 6 to 8 weeks, making sure to shake the jar several time per week.  If you notice that the alcohol level has decreased and the herb is no longer totally submerged, you can simply top off with more alcohol.

herb tincturingAfter the 6-8 weeks, the liquid should resemble in color, flavor and aroma that of the herb within.  Now it’s time to strain. Line a strainer with cheesecloth and place in a bowl.  Pour the contents of the jar into the strainer allowing all of the liquid to flow through.  Once the liquid has passed through into the bowl, pick up all sides of the cheesecloth and bring them together at the top.  Twist the cloth and squeeze to extract the remaining liquid out of the herbs.  Take time on this last step, as the liquid remaining in the herb is some of the best extract, and you want to get as much of it out as is possible.  When finished, store the extract in a dark container or bottle with a tight fitting lid or dropper top, and label it.  If stored correctly, in a cool, dark place, most extracts have an indefinite shelf life.

Happy Health and Healing!

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