What is a Tincture?
Tinctures are concentrated herbal extracts that are most commonly made with alcohol. Glycerin and apple cider vinegar are also used at times.
Alcohol is the solvent that extracts and suspends the herbs unique nutritional and medicinal qualities, volatile oils and chemical constituents into a highly concentrated form that is conveniently stored for use when needed.
Tinctures are the preferred way to preserve herbs because of their long shelf life and their ability to retain the herb’s nutritional and medicinal qualities in a stable form. Tinctures also make storing multiple herbs simple and are easy to carry when necessary.
How Tinctures are Utilized
The uses for herbal tinctures are as infinite as there are herbal combinations. A tincture can be made with a single herb or a combination of herbs. Herbal formulas paired together with knowledge of each herbs strengths and medicinal qualities to form a synergistic blend of herbs can be a powerful aide when treating specific ailments or health issues.
Tinctures are most often administered orally under the tongue. This method of delivery is the quickest way for the herb to enter the bloodstream. This is beneficial in times of emergency or when an immediate effect is desired, such as use as a sleep aide or something more extreme like frostbite or shock.
Tinctures are used in therapies for both children and adults, however dosages may differ depending upon the herb in use and the desired effects on the body. Tincture dosages are typically given by the “dropperful” which is approximately 30 drops.
Tinctures can be used to help insomnia, relieve fevers, cold/flu symptoms, slow down or speed up birthing labor, stop bleeding internally and externally, eyesight and cataract issues, regulate blood pressure throughout the entire body, and many more.
You should always have knowledge of the properties, chemical constituents, and contraindications of all herbs you are working with.
Always seek and follow the advice of a qualified, reputable herbalist or health care provider with knowledge of herbs for specific designated therapeutic dosage and usage of herbal tinctures.
How to Make A Herbal Tincture
Creating tinctures can be a complicated subject. For informational purposes, the basic alcohol tincture procedure is outlined here.
A quality white alcohol of 80 proof (40%) or greater is recommended. I personally will use Vodka or Absinthe when preparing herbal tinctures.
A glass container that can be tightly sealed should be used to steep a tincture. Mason jars work beautifully. Ceramic may also be used. As previously discussed, using aluminum or other metals can contaminate the preparation with chemicals or toxins.
Dried cut herbs or fresh herbs are placed into the glass container. Then alcohol is poured into the jar, enough to cover the herbs. The alcohol level should be 1/2 inch above the herbs.
When dried herbs are used, fill the container about half full with herbs (without packing them down). Fresh herbs are less potent than dried herbs and in this case, the jar can be filled almost to the top.
The mixture is stirred gently around the outer edges to release any stray air bubbles and then the jar is covered tightly to let the tincture steep. I am always sure to label and date the herbs and alcohol so there is no mistaking the contents.
The tincture is then left to steep in a cool place out of direct sunlight for at least 14 days, shaking the jar several times per day. Steeping time for tinctures may vary depending on the herb being used and also the parts of the plant. Heavier materials such as roots and barks may need a longer steeping period.
After 14 days, the herbs are strained from the liquid through a muslin cloth or cheese cloth; Repeat if necessary.
The liquid is bottled in darkened glass tincture bottles. The last step is to label and date the tincture, and store in a cool place out of direct sunlight. If I know the tincture will be stored for a long period of time, sometimes I will seal the bottle with wax.
For more detail and to clear up any confusion for those who learn more visually, I have attached a video done by Rickvanman in his Herbalism Basics series detailing the basic steps I have listed above.
Tincture Instruction Video
Tincture Shelf Life
If made and stored properly, tinctures will retain its nutrient and medicinal potency for several years.
Most herbalists will say a tincture made with 80 proof alcohol will remain at maximum potency for 2-5 years. If a tincture is made with alcohol of 120 proof or above, it could remain potent for many more years.
The Herbalist’s Best Friend
Having a variety of frequently used tinctures ready at your disposal can be greatly useful should an unexpected emergency arise.
In an emergency situation, the correct administration of a tincture in the proper dose can literally mean the difference between life and death in some instances.
Preserving herbs to aid in various health ailments that are common for your particular family can give peace of mind knowing you will be able to quickly and easily handle any surprise illness that hits a friend or family member.
Tinctures can be used on their own or mixed with a medium. They can also be added to ointments, infusions and other preparations. A few drops of tincture in hot water can quickly make a cup of tea.
Tinctures can be added to bath water for calming effects and muscle aches. If a particular tincture has an unpleasant or strong taste, it can be added to a small amount of water or juice to help hide the flavor.
Once again, I want to reiterate: Always seek the advice of a qualified, reputable herbalist or health care provider with knowledge of herbs for specific designated therapeutic dosage and usage of herbal tinctures.
If you would like learn more about the power and benefit of herbs and their uses, I highly recommend the Family Herbalist course through The School of Natural Healing.
This course will give you a foundation in the application of nutritious and wholesome herbs to assist the body in its ability to prevent and alleviate disease and illness. Children’s diseases, herbal first aid, and herbal nutrition topics among others are covered.
Give yourself the gift of self-sufficiency and empower yourself to take your health and well-being into your own hands.
If you have any questions please feel free to leave them in the comments below. I always love to hear about your personal success stories with herbs and remedies you have created and utilized too!