Sunday, May 18, 2014

Making Herbal Tinctures

First let me say that I feel a bit guilty about the fact that I have not posted any updates in a while. But the truth is we have been busy with life here at the farm; chickens and bees (and other four-legged creatures) have been consuming our existence as of late...and we are loving it!   In short order, I will be catching you up on all of our escapades .

I was speaking with a dear friend yesterday and she expressed an interest in making herbal tinctures for her family but just wasn't sure how to go about it. So this is for you darling!   Oh and by the way, my intention was to make a video tutorial, but the outtakes were getting ridiculous.  We were up to 6 outtakes folks!  So I have decided to keep it simple.  

So what exactly are herbal tinctures? Tinctures are concentrated alcohol based extracts of plants that are very potent and provide an effective way to administer herbal remedies. They are an excellent way to take herbs because not only are they simple to make, but you can make large amount with ease.  When stored properly in brown bottles tinctures can last a very long time compared to other herbal preparations. In fact, tinctures can be stored safely for several years when made with grain alcohol as the carrier.  Tinctures are also very useful when an herb needs to be used over a long period of time. Tinctures are my favorite way of storing herbs because of their versatility; generally speaking, one ounce of tincture is equivalent to one ounce of herb.

You have several options when choosing a liquid carrier for your herbal tincture:
alcohol, food grade vegetable glycerin or raw apple cider vinegar. If you use alcohol as your carrier, be sure to select one that is at least 80 to 100 proof.

“Proof” relates to the actual alcohol/water content in the alcohol. For example, an 80-proof spirit is actually 40 percent alcohol and 40 percent water. A 100 proof spirit is 50 percent alcohol and 50 percent water. The ratio in the range of 50:50 (50 percent alcohol and 50 percent water) provides the perfect balance for extracting the most beneficial properties from herbs, which explains why most tinctured formulas you come across on the market are made using an alcohol carrier. Most vodkas, gins, brandies and rums available are 80 to 100 proof, so any one of them would work just fine in an herbal tincture.

I personally prefer to use alcohol (Vodka) as a solvent because I believe it provides a more potent remedy. I find that the actual amount of alcohol you consume in any given remedy is minimal. However, if I am giving a tincture remedy to one of my small children, I simply make sure that the alcohol is completely evaporated before giving it to them. I do this by adding the tincture drops to  about 2 ounces of filtered water in a glass and waiting a few minutes before allowing them to drink the remedy.

Some individuals however, cannot consume alcohol in the slightest form and may prefer to use food grade vegetable glycerin or raw apple cider vinegar as a carrier instead. If you choose to make a tincture using vinegar it is always best to use raw apple cider vinegar as it has amazing health benefits. Synthetic chemical vinegar (what is found in most supermarket shelves) should not be used. Bragg's raw apple cider vinegar is a great choice. * If you were to use vinegar as your carrier, you would follow the same instructions for the tincture.

Glycerin based tinctures are sometimes preferred if the tincture is being used on the elderly or for small children simply because they are milder on the palate and the digestive tract.  If you choose glycerin, always make sure you use food grade vegetable glycerin.  Also bear in mind that although they do work, non-alcohol tinctures are not as potent because these carriers are just not as effective in breaking down the plant constituents, when compared to alcohol. *If you use Glycerin as your carrier, be sure to mix the amount of Glycerin (1:1 ratio) with one part water before adding it to the herbs.

If you haven't yet read my prior post about the benefits of building a home apothecary, you may read it here.  This tutorial assumes that you have already given thought to and are decided on the herbs you will be using to formulate your tincture(s).

Although more than one herb can certainly be used in a tincture, if this will be your first time making tinctures, I recommend using only one to three  herbs.  Once you become familiar with herbs and how powerful these plants can be, you may experiment more with certain herbal combinations.  I strongly recommend that you always research any herbs you choose so as to become aware of any contraindications.

So here's what you will need to get started:

- Cheesecloth for straining herbs from liquid 
- A mason type glass jar with lid for storing your tincture while it cures
- A brown bottle for storing your tincture when it is done and ready for use 
- Measuring spoons and/or cup (depending on what measurement unit you will use: i.e, 1 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/4 cup, tablespoon, teaspoon)
- Your selected herbs (choose organic or wild harvested whenever possible)       
- Vodka, food grade vegetable glycerin or raw apple cider vinegar (you will need to choose one of these carriers)

Making Herbal Tincture:

(Step 1)
Place your selected and measured herb(s) in a large sterilized mason jar .

(Step 2)
Cover with Vodka (or the carrier of your choice*). Stir herbs to make sure all ingredients are well incorporated.

(Step 3)
Seal the jar tightly and give it a good shake.

(Step 4)
It is extremely important that you ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS remember to label your tincture jars clearly. Not only do YOU want to be able to identify what is contained in the jar for future use, but you also want family members to be aware of what is in these jars, for their safety. Do not wait until later to label.  Do it immediately after you place lid on the jar.  Trust me, you will forget!  A simple blank paper with your hand-written legible notes is sufficient. I personally like to include: the date tincture was made, measure used (cup, tablespoon, teaspoon, etc.), list of herbs used, carrier used. A quick description of what your tincture can be used for is quite helpful as well.  Store your jar in a cool dark place for at least 3 to 4 weeks.

(Step 5) 
After 3-4 weeks, you may now open jar and strain the herbs using cheesecloth.  Place cheesecloth over a shallow bowl and pour your mixture.  With clean hands, squeeze any excess liquid.  Work quickly so that the alcohol is not evaporated from the mixture. 

(Step 6)
Pour the liquid into a sterilized amber glass bottle and cover.

(Step 7)
Once again... LABEL, LABEL, LABEL!!!  Label the tincture bottle and store in a dark place.  Your tincture is now ready to be used.

How much tincture to take will greatly vary depending on the emotional make up of the individual, as well as their physical constitution, as all of these factors play a role in how your subject will respond to each remedy.  Generally speaking, one ounce of tincture is equal in strength to approximately 1 ounce of the powdered herb, so 3 drops will be equal to 1/2 cup of tea.   For children or those sensitive to alcohol, always dilute tincture dosage in 1 to 2 ounces of filtered water and allow alcohol to evaporate before drinking.

I hope you experiment with this tutorial and choose to make herbal tinctures part of your family's regular wellness routine.  There is no denying that nature provides an abundance of herbs, many of which can be found right in our own front/back yard.  I encourage you to take advantage of these gifts. 

If you are interested in learning more about herbal basics and how to make tinctures and other simple yet effective natural home remedies, look out for my book "Herbal Basics - Heal Your Family Naturally from the Outside In" which will be available online very soon.  In this book I will share my story, my journey and why I am so passionate about helping others understand how they can use herbs and real foods to heal on a deep and lasting level.

Thank you for reading and many blessings to you and yours in all of your endeavors.

NOTE:  This information is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Keep all herbs out of reach of children and pets. Special care should be taken by pregnant and/or lactating women when handling herbs.

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