Sometimes you have a chronic condition you need to manage and know the herbs that will help but can't stand the taste of the tea infusion or don't have the time or place to make the infusion or need a stronger dosage. Well there is a simple answer.... tincture that!
There are two basic types of tincture: using vodka or other alcohol and using vegetable Glycerin (called a Glycerite instead of tincture).
So how do you know whether to use alcohol or glycerin? I use Vodka for roots, gums and resins or mucilaginous herbs. I use Vegetable Glycerin for all else, as a personal choice to avoid alcohol, plus I enjoy it's natural sweetness to let the medicine go down :). Glycerin does not have as long a shelf life, but still good for 2 years for me, whereas I keep my tinctures for up to 5 years.
Making a Glycerite:
Glycerites will use a solution of 70% glycerin solution with water (70 ml glycerin to 30 ml water).
Place into a glass jar, cut herbs (can be dried or fresh, but if fresh contains more water in plant). I fill the pint jar up to 3/4's full with herbs packed in. If I don't need as much glycerite I use a smaller jar and fill it 3/4's full. Then cover the herbs completely with glycerin solution (70%) and cover tightly with lid.
Shake it well and place in a window or outside on your deck, out of direct sunlight, for 3-4 weeks, shaking every other day or so.
After the 3-4 weeks, open the jar and strain out the herbs, saving the liquid glycerite into a clean, dark colored glass jar. Label with herb or herbal mix and date. Most glycerites are taken as a teaspoon one to three times a day by adults. This varies on what you are preserving and age of person taking the glycerite.
When preserving Headache Comfort, I use the glycerite recipe. This has worked well for me with my migraines. I put some of the glycerite in a small dropper bottle and take it with me when I travel or go hiking so if I get a headache, I simply swallow a dropperfull and move on.
I also like to make a glycerite with cough soothe but because it has roots and bark I tend to make it into a syrup so I can boil the roots first then let sit as in directions above.
I use a simple process when making tinctures at home for my family, but you should know that the FDA has standards for anyone making and selling tinctures for unity of medicine making. I will teach you that first, then share my simpler method for use at home.
Dried herbs that are not toxic are prepared in a concentration of 1:5 (herb/menstrum) ratio, which is equivalent to 20 grams of plant matter and 100 ml of liquid
Dried herbs that are toxic or otherwise very potent should be prepared in a 1:10 ratio, which is equivalent to 10 grams plant matter to 100 ml liquid.
Fresh herbs should be prepared in a concentration of 1:2, which is equivalent to 50 grams herb in 100 ml liquid. This is a much higher concentration because fresh herbs have a much higher water content and not as packed as a dried herb would be.
Personally, I try to work with fresh herbs in a tincture whenever possible. When I start working with herbs I cannot grow in this area or with Ayruvedic herbs, I have to order them dried and that works as well.
The strength of the alcohol is critical in making a tincture. Pure 190 proof alcohol, which is equal to 95% ethyl alcohol, is to be used for fresh plant matter. This will break down the plant material quicker, allowing the tincture to sit and extract the medicinal properites. Substituting a diluted alcohol, like 100 proof vodka, means you will need to shake the tincture more frequently. I use 100 proof, 50% by weight, Vodka and shake daily.
To prepare the herbs, if using fresh, wash well, dry and cut up into smaller pieces - just rough cutting. If using dried herbs, they should be thoroughly dried and blended to a fine size or powdered.
Place the herbs into a glass jar and pour the vodka on top. Stir well to combine with glass stirring rod and place cap on jar. Place out of direct sunlight, shaking daily for 2-3 weeks. Strain the plant matter out of the tincture with cheese cloth or a non-metal mesh strainer. Squeeze the liquid from the plant matter, bottle and label with herbs, potency (1:5 0r 1:10 or 1:2) and date. Using a dropper top bottle makes using the tincture much easier.
When I make my tinctures with fresh herbs, I take my herb scissors to the garden in late morning and cut the desired herb(s). I then cut them up into 1/2 inch pieces and pack them into the jar until near full. Then I pour my 100 proof/50% vodka over top and saturate the herbs till just covering the plant matter. I cap it, shake it and put it in my kitchen window (north facing) and shake it daily for 3 weeks. I date the top so I know when the tincture is ready to be strained. When making a blend with fresh herbs, I often tincture them individually then make my blend by measuring volume of individual tinctures.
If I am working with dried herbs, I weigh them using the measurements to make a 1:5 ratio. If I am tincturing a blend, I make the correct blend of herbs first then fill them into my glass jar and cover with alcohol.
Well, I hope this helps you venture out into your herb garden and play with making your own tinctures for your health. When large doses of herbs are needed (like cinnamon for sugar balance or willow for pain medicine) try making it into a tincture.
Let me know how tincturing goes for you.
I purchase my dark glass bottles and dropper bottles for the tinctures at specialtybottle.com