Make a Tincture
What is a tincture?
A tincture is a concentrated liquid preservation of an herb or medicinal substance that preserves the herb for a long period of time and makes it easier to consume. This is particularly true for roots, fibrous plants, resins and woody plants. It also helps to preserve not only the herbs, but also the nutrients within the herbs. Tinctures are one of the simplest natural remedies to make and are an in-expensive way to preserve herbs. Alcohol based tinctures have a shelf life of several years and are easy to use when needed!
To make a tincture, you will need the following supplies:
- A clean glass jar, at least pint size, with lid. Wide mouth canning jars with tight fitting lids are the easiest to use.
- Consumable alcohol like vodka, brandy or rum, 60 proof for dry herbs; 80 proof for fresh herbs.
- Small bottles to store your tinctures. One ounce amber glass bottles work perfectly but other sizes will work as well.
- Cheesecloth or muslin
- Herbs of choice
Consider the actions or energetics of the herb that you want to use, in addition to any precautions or contraindications. If you have a medical condition, are taking pharmaceutical drugs, or are pregnant, please consult your healthcare provider prior to taking herbs.
Some questions to ask before choosing herbs are:
- Do you want something that will be calming?
- Something to soothe or prevent illness?
- Do you have a medical condition or are you taking any pharmaceutical drugs?
- Do you have allergies to certain plants or plant families?
Tinctures are also called extracts. This same process is used to make real vanilla extract. Alcohol tinctures are the most common type and the easiest to make.
How to make a tincture
Fill a clean pint jar, or size of your choice, 1/3 to 1/2 full with dried herbs. Filling half full will make a stronger tincture. Do not pack the herbs down.
Get an appropriate container. Ceramic or glass are recommended for a tincture. Do not use plastic or metallic because it can cause a reaction with the tincture. It can also, over time, leach chemicals into the tincture that are unhealthy and even dangerous. For steeping, use a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. A simple Mason jar is ideal. For storage, you want to get some small tincture bottles made from dark glass.
You want the bottles to seal well with a tight lid that either clips on or screws on. This will prevent air from seeping in during storage but still allow you to access the tincture easily. You also want to ensure that all containers and lids are thoroughly washed and sterilized before you use them.
Pour high proof alcohol (pure grain alcohol is best but you can use vodka, brandy, gin or rum) over the herbs until they are completely covered. Dry herbs may absorb the liquid, so check and add alcohol as needed.
Stir the mixture with a butter knife. Make sure you get around the edges of the container to be sure that all of the air bubbles are removed.
To steep the tincture, seal the container and label it with the name of the herbs as well as the date that you made it. Store it in a cool, dark place where it is out of reach or children and pets for 4-6 weeks. During this time period, give the jar a shake every 2-3 days. Keep an eye on the alcohol level to ensure all your herbs are still covered.
Once your tincture has finished steeping, you need to strain it:
- Place a stainer over a large bowl. A large glass measuring cup/bowl is ideal. Line the strainer with muslin or cheesecloth.
- Pour the contents of the steeping container over the cloth in the strainer. The muslin or cheesecloth will allow only the liquid to filter into the bowl while retaining the plant material.
- Once the steeping container is emptied, wrap the cloth over the plant material and gently press with a wooden spoon to extract any remaining liquid. To get all of the liquid, twist the cloth to squeeze out the very last bit.
Allow material to settle overnight and strain again, or decant, through a smaller filter such as filter paper or a very fine wire screen.
Put the tincture in the smaller tinctures bottles that you have prepared. You may want to use a funnel to avoid spilling any liquid. Label the bottles with the contents as well as the date. Make sure that that lid is tight. If you will be storing the tincture and not using it immediately, it is advisable to use wax and seal the caps. Tinctures can be stored for up to 5 years. However, follow the instructions in the tincture recipe that you are using. It will often have storage information based on the herbs used and their specific properties.
If you need more information, talk to a qualified herbalist. Depending on the properties of certain herbs, some treatments can be dangerous. Make sure that you follow the instructions in your tincture recipes and ensure proper handling during the preparation, steeping and storing of your tincture.