Friday, January 16, 2009

Herbal Tincture Tutorial

I've made this herbal tincture for a couple of years now. It began when I took a course online from a holistic college and then read all the books I could find on herbal remedies. We mainly use herbs and homeopathics at home, most of which I have bought, but I plan on making more homemade herbal remedies in the future. For now... here is a little tutorial on how to make an herbal tincture.

A tincture is basically herbs, fresh or dried, that have been steeped over time in alcohol, distilled water and/or glycerine. The herbs are strained out and you are left with a concentrated herbal remedy that you can take by itself or mixed into juice or water. In this case, I made a sleep tincture that I can give the boys if they are having a hard time sleeping. It calms them down and relaxes them enough to fall asleep and usually stay asleep. I buy these herbs pre-mixed but you can make a tincture with any combination of herbs or a single herb as well. Tincturing single herbs is usually recommended in the beginning so you can see if that particular herb is helpful and does what you need it too (sleep, healing, etc...). For this batch, I'm using chamomile, lemon balm, passion flower, oatstraw, catnip, and hops. I'm also making a single herbal tincture made with echinacea root.


Start with a wide mouth quart-size glass jar (any size glass jar will work) and fill it about a 1/3 to 1/2 full with dried herbs and about 3/4 full with fresh herbs.

I use a mixture of food grade vegetable glycerine and alcohol. I use cheap vodka (100 proof) because it pulls the herbal properties out more efficiently but if you want a nonalcoholic tincture, vegetable glycerine and distilled water is fine. Vegetable glycerine is very sweet so I use about 50/50 between the two.

I fill it about 2/3 of the way, alternating between alcohol (or distilled water) and glycerine.

Then I stir it gently to make sure all the herbs are mixed in.

Add a little more leaving a 1/2 inch to 1 inch room at the top to allow breathing room. Put a clean lid on and make sure it's tight with no leakage.

When it's all prepared, always label the jars right away with the name of the tincture, the date it was tinctured on, and what was used. Then store them in a cool, dark place for 4 to 6 weeks. I use my basement or garage. Shake the jars occasionally to keep it well mixed. If you find that there are herbs exposed at the top of the jar over time, just add more liquid to make sure they are covered.

...4 to 6 weeks later.... it's time to prepare the tincture! You'll need a container to strain the liquid into, cheesecloth, and sterilized jars (fresh out of dishwasher will do) to store the prepared tincture.

Slowly pour the jars contents onto the cheesecloth to strain the liquid out. I usually let it sit for a little bit and let it drain.

Then, very carefully (especially if you use a rubber band to secure the cheesecloth and that rubber band chooses to fly off taking the herbs with it!) and squeeze the rest of the liquid out by hand.

Strain the liquid one more time. It's very important to strain the tincture a second time to ensure there are no leftover herbs. Even very small amounts of herb can change the ratio in the tincture over time. So I put more cheesecloth over the mouth of my clean jar and that usually catches the last few pieces if there are any.

You can keep the finished tincture in a jar. I have little brown bottles with droppers that I bought from a supply store online. They aren't very expensive and I would recommend them if you plan on making herbal tinctures at all. They are so handy when giving the tinctures to a little one.

Lastly, I make sure to label the jar/bottle with the name and date.

Most tinctures made with alcohol will last indefinitely and the others will easily last a couple of years. Just make sure to store them in a cool, dark place because both the heat and light can make them less effective.

One thing to remember is that this isn't the same as canning so the jars don't need to be vacuumed sealed. But the lids need to be on as tight as you can get them, making sure there is no leaking. If at any time you are unsure about your finished herbal tincture then it's best to just throw it out and start over. Last year I had left two jars of herbs for about 6 months before I remembered them. I strained them but noticed the smell was just slightly off. I figured it was better to be safe so I just tossed the whole thing. If you find that you don't need the tincture for awhile then my advice would be to strain it after the 6 weeks anyway and store the tincture itself (which like I mentioned above will last many years) until you do need it.

Both the boys love herbal tinctures. They take them straight without any juice or water, even ones I think are strong. If you aren't used to them though... then adding them to a drink will work just as well.

If you are new to herbs... then here's a couple of good books I really like.

The ABC Herbal (my favorite)
The How To Herb Book
The Herbal Home Remedy Book

and for homeopathy:

Homeopathic Medicine for Children and Infants

Disclaimer: I am a mama not a doctor... please see a doctor if you are ill and have questions.



Adam and Raechell said...

I just finished reading about this on line last week. Very interesting stuff! I drink sleepy time tea to help me sleep sometimes and it works as strongly as Nyquil! If we can get the same affect from an all natural source...all the better! :D

tonia said...

awesome. i'm linking to this. great photos.

Jeremy Conn said...

These tinctures really work... you can totally see the difference in the boys when they are not sleeping well and we give them some of the sleep tincture. Nice work, Mamma. -JC

Linda said...

This was so interesting Andrea. I think I will look for at least one of those books. I have to lecture myself here, because I am inherently lazy and it looks like a lot of work (which usually puts me off right away if it isn't something I think I'm going to love doing - pathetic!).
I have been having such a hard time sleeping - for years now. I've finally resorted to *ambien* which does help me get a good night's sleep, but leaves me groggy and headachey for days afterward. It's a toss-up: a night's sleep (which I am desperate for sometimes) or a headache for a day or two.
This sounds like a much healthier thing to do. Thank you for sharing. I must really try to look into this.

Linda said...

My word verification to post my comment was "unmed". Do you think the Lord is trying to tell me something?:-)

Julie said...

Andrea, thanks for the step by step. I am really excited to try some tinctures! I'll let you know.

Gracia said...

Hola, que es esa glicerina de cocina que mencionas que es dulce?? la glicerina que conozco medicinal no lo es. Que funciĆ²n cumple, porque decis que es igual que colocar alcohol. He hecho tinturas con alcohol pero no con glicerina. Tampoco mencionas las microdosis, como se las das de tomar a los chicos o si fuera una persona adulta, gracias.
Hey, it's that you mention cooking glycerin is sweet ?? I know glycerin medicine is not. What role does because you say it's like putting alcohol. I've made dyes with alcohol but not with glycerin. Neither you mention the microdosis, as you give them to take the kids or if an adult, thanks.