This is my Tinctures 101 guest post that’s about to go up on Homegrown.org! If you guys have any editing suggestions/more information about resources, please share!
With summer swiftly shutting its doors (and windows), we are undoubtedly looking for ways to keep ourselves and our family healthy and thriving through the coming winter. If you prefer to steer clear of over-the-counter medicines, or if you’re interested in a natural way to supplement them, search no more! Tinctures, or highly concentrated herbal extracts, are a simple and natural way of boosting your body’s strengths and abilities, and sometimes even keeping those winter blues in check. Tinctures can be made from any high-quality herb, fresh or dried. Certain herbs such as St. John’s Wort, skullcap, and motherwort are better used fresh, but either will do in a pinch.
Things to keep in mind when evaluating the medicinal quality of dried herbs:
-Color. The dried herb should retain a very similar color to the fresh herb. Leaves and roots should look alive and vibrant, and flowers shouldn’t be too full of stems.
-Smell. The dried herb should smell vibrant, fresh, and potent, never musty or old.
-Taste. The dried herb should retain its fresh taste (mind you, this does not necessarily mean it tastes good).
Now, getting down to work! Today we’re going to learn how to make an echinacea tincture. Echinacea purpurea is an herbaceous flowering plant. It should be noted that it is in the daisy family, so this should not be used by folks who have compositae or ragweed allergies. Echinacea works to stimulate the immune system and suppress infection. Commercially, it is often found in combination with goldenseal and zinc. Echinacea can be taken in small daily doses to help reinforce the immune system, and high doses are amazingly effective when you feel the first tickle of a cold coming on. The two common ways of making tinctures is soaking the herb in either grain alchohol or vegetable glycerin. Each has its pros and cons, and we will learn about alcohol tinctures first.
WHAT YOU NEED:
-dried Echinacea leaves and flowers
-80 to 100 proof grain alcohol
-lidded glass jars
-cheesecloth or strainer
-amber dropper bottles
Sterilize your jars by submerging them in boiling water for about five minutes. Place the herb in the glass jar. You can use as much or as little as you’d like to make, but you’ll only need about eight rounded tablespoons for a single dropper bottle. Now, add your alcohol. My rule is to fill the jar three fingers higher than the dry herb and two fingers higher than the fresh herb. Make sure to label your jar with the name of the herb and the date you began. Close the jar tightly and allow it to sit in the sunlight for a week(to absorb solar energies, if you’re into that), shaking it daily. Then put it in a cool dark place until it is done. You can let it sit for about six weeks, longer is fine. If you’re using dried herbs, you might notice that they absorb a lot of the alcohol in the first few days. If this happens, simply add more and recover the jar.
When the herb is done extracting, strain it through a cheesecloth or strainer and compost what is left. Place your tincture into an amber dropper bottle and label it. Alcohol tinctures have a shelf life of many years, so use at your leisure.
Vegetable glycerin tinctures are made in precisely the same way, but have some different applications. They are ideal for children (or for you, if alcohol makes you cringe) since glycerin tastes sweet and syrupy. They do have a significantly shorter shelf life (about one year), so they should be made in slightly smaller batches.
The average dose for any given tincture is 10-30 drops in a small amount of water three times a day. This will vary depending on the herb and what you are using it for. With Echinacea, you’ll want to stick to a higher dose during times of illness. It should be noted that children’s doses are generally ¼ of the adult dose.
Mountain Rose Herbs is my go-to herbal supplier. There you can find pounds of every dried herb imaginable, bulk vegetable glycerin and other bases, bottles, and even premade teas, tinctures, spices, and beauty products. Be sure to mention if you are in any sort of herbal class to get 10% off your order!
Here is a good video tutorial from Mountain Rose, demonstrating how to make a valerian tincture for insomnia, hyperactivity, and anxiety.