Thursday, October 30, 2014

How to Make a Tincture {Plus Printable} ~ Home Pharmacy Series

{Before we get into the actual herbs in our Home Pharmacy Series, a simple tutorial on tinctures would be in order so that the "how-to-make a tincture" information doesn't need to be repeated each time we share about a specific herb.}

Think of tinctures as an excellent and easy method of preserving your herbs as medicine for your pantry. If you have an abundance of apricots, you make jam, if you have an abundance of herbs, you can make tinctures. While dried herbs lose their potency as they age (within two years, some as little at 6 months), you can maximize their shelf life by creating a tincture. These are concentrated herbal medicines that will make a fine addition to your home pharmacy!

Though there are many ways to make a tincture, we will be sharing the simple method (often referred to as the "folk method" or "traditional simpler's method").

Three Different Types of Tinctures

There are three different types of tinctures you can make; an alcohol-based tincture, a vinegar-based tincture and a glycerin-based tincture (also called a glycerite). Alcohol makes the strongest extract, vinegar the second strongest and finally, glycerin is the least potent (but it's beauty is in the fact that it is sweet tasting for children, is without alcohol and boasts a longer shelf life than the vinegar option). Visit this post for more information and if you are concerned about using alcohol based medicine.

How to Make an Alcohol Based Tincture

To make an alcohol based tincture (again, see this post if you are uncomfortable with using alcohol in your medicine making), follow these easy instructions:

1. Fill up any-sized, clean jar, 1/4 - 1/3 of the way up with dried herb (roots, fruits, stems, flowers, leaves and/or peels) or 1/2 - 2/3 of the way full if using fresh herb.

2. Fill up the remaining jar space (leaving 1 inch from the top), with either 80-100 proof vodka, gin, brandy or rum (we use vodka), making sure the contents are completely covered with the alcohol. Screw on your jar lid.  If using a metal lidded jar, cover jar with plastic prior to screwing on lid as you just don't want the metal to be in contact with the tincture to corrode it.

3. Label your jar with the name of herb, date and the medium used (i.e., alcohol in this case). Store in a cool, dark area like your pantry. Let the mixture sit for 4 - 6 weeks for a nice, strong blend. Shake every few days to infuse the herbs into the liquid. 

4. When the time is completed, place a fine strainer over a glass bowl. Line the strainer with a piece of clean lightweight cotton or thin cheesecloth. Pour the contents through and strain. Your tincture is ready to use!

Note: If you have a clean dropper bottle, then pour some of your tincture inside and add it into your medicine cabinet. The remaining jar of tincture can safely be stored in your pantry for up to 5 years (or longer) in a glass jar (I wouldn't say that an alcohol tincture would go "bad" but perhaps would just lose strength past 6 years).

Make sure to label your jar with the name, date made and medium used (such as vodka, vinegar or glycerin).

How to Make a Vinegar Based Tincture

1. Make as you would an alcohol based tincture except replace alcohol with apple cider vinegar (raw is best). If using dry herbs, especially harder ones like berries, you may want to warm the vinegar first before adding to your jar full of herbs to help to release the beneficial properties. This is what I do but some people add vinegar without heating it first. Use your own judgment on this.

Note: Vinegar based tinctures should last for 6-12 months in a cool, dark area (like your pantry). The bonus of a vinegar based tincture is that it can also be used in salad dressing blends and other culinary recipes.

How To Make a Glycerine Based Tincture (aka Glycerite)

Although tinctures made with food-grade glycerin don't have the same potency as a tincture made with alcohol or even apple cider vinegar, the sweetness of glycerin makes for a tasty medicine for children. 

1. Fill clean jar 1/4 of the way up with dried herb (1/2 way up if using fresh). 

2. Add boiling water 1/3 of the way up the jar.

3. Fill the remaining 2/3 of the jar with a food-grade glycerin (up to the top, leaving an inch headspace), screw lid on tightly and shake. Place in a warm, sunny spot for 4 - 6 weeks making sure to shake every few days to blend the medicine.

4. Once time has expired, strain your mixture through a fine cheesecloth or scrap of clean fabric. Store in a clean glass jar or bottle. Make sure to label with the date it was created as well as the herbal name and base (aka "elderberry tincture, glycerin based").

Note: This tincture should last for 2 - 3 years if properly stored in a cool, dark area (such as your pantry).

There is also a 3 day method for making a glycerite using the crock pot that you may like to look into. I personally like to rely on the least amount of electricity but sometimes time is an issue and this method may be helpful.

Note: If making a tincture with a thick, dried root or herb such as whole rose-hips (pictured above), I will let the tincture sit and soften the herb for a few days and then I would place it in the blender to break it down further (and then continue the aging process in the jar as described above). 

Determining Tincture Dosage

Typically, adult dosage would be approximately 30-60 drops (1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon), taken 3 times daily as symptoms persist, in a little water, tea or juice (always start with the lessor amount first and increase strength as needed).

For a helpful dosage guide on children, visit here.

For further information about tincture dosage, you can read the following: "Tinctures - What are They and How Do You Use Them" and "Determine Dosage".

Obviously, the type of tincture you take would depend upon the herbal properties of the particular plant that the tincture is made of and what your needs are.

**And remember, if using the alcohol-based tincture, place in a hot cup of tea first for a few minutes to allow most of the alcohol to evaporate off.

Printable Instructions and Labels

We are sharing some printable instructions below that you may want to include in your herbal. We are also including generic "tincture" labels. Some are circles and some rectangular depending on how you would like to store your tinctures (the truth is, I couldn't decide on what shape so here they both are). Simply visit HERE to download and print the PDF file for FREE. 

Have you ever made a tincture? How do you prepare yours?

The following posts have been shared thus far in our series:

Should You Use Alcohol-Based Medicine?

What are you working on in your home? I would love for you to share at our weekly link up!

Disclaimer: I am not a certified herbalist but a homemaker interested in the arts of natural healing. The information I have learned has been gleaned through study of some of the following favorite books; Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner's GuideGrow Your Own Drugs by James Wong, and The Complete Illustrated Book of Herbs by Reader's Digest and websites of herbalists (such as the Bulk Herb Store Blog).

I am not a doctor. While I do seek scientific confirmation of the safety and effectiveness of the herbs and remedies I use, remember that using remedies is a personal decision. Nothing I say on this blog is approved by the FDA or intended to diagnose, treat or prevent disease. All things on this blog are my opinion or the opinion of others. Also, if you have a medical condition, are taking pharmaceutical drugs, or are pregnant, please consult your physician prior to taking herbs.

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  1. Love this series , JES, and you've explained tincture making so well here. I've used herbs for years so I have made tinctures using all three methods. Last year I used glycerin for the first time, and I have to say it is so much tastier than the other methods. But with sugar intake a concern for Goodman I don't make them often - great for kids though. I also made elderberry tincture with vodka last year for longer storage, but it's beyond gaggy tasting to me. I never thought to use a different alcohol as the base so I'll have to try something else next time for elderberries. Thank you for all the ideas and for those pretty labels. Have a great day!

    1. Thanks for sharing Toni! I made up some elderberry tincture too for long term purposes but do prefer the elderberry oxymel for the sweet taste (though it isn't as strong medicinally). Vodka is yuck! But with some honey and in some tea, it is doable... :) Also, the syrups are tasty to make too! Take care :)

  2. Hello Jes, I appreciate you sharing your knowledge on this procedure! I have made Elderberry syrup and we use it often! I am going to PIN IT!
    Thanks so much!, Roxy

    1. Glad this is helpful Roxy :) Thanks for sharing!

  3. Thanks for the recipes & the lovely printables. You have a lovely site, and it is kind of you to share so much with the reader.

    1. Thank you JW! :) I am glad you are enjoying it! Thank you for taking the time to leave such a kind comment.

  4. Thank you for sharing your recipes and printable on the HomeAcre Hop, I hope to see you again tomorrow! - nancy
    The Home Acre Hop