Tinctures are made by extracting, and preserving, the active properties of herbs using alcohol. In early times, this was accomplished by boiling the herb in wine. Tinctures have a stronger action than infusions or decoctions and can be made with fresh or dried herbs, but some herbs may require different strengths of alcohol (15-90% proof).
DO NOT use industrial alcohol, methyl alcohol, or rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol). To make non-alcoholic tinctures, replace the alcohol with vinegar or glycerol.
The standard guide is 1:4 or 1:5 (one part herb to four or five parts alcohol)
- 25 g (1 oz) dried herbs or 50 g (2 oz) fresh
- 600 ml (1 pint or 2 1/2 cups) alcoholic liquid (usually vodka or rum)
- 1 kg (2 pounds) herb
- 4 liters or pints alcohol/water mix
- 100 g herb
- 400-500 ml alcohol/water mix
Place the herb in a large, clean, glass jar and cover with the alcohol. Close the jar and label. Shake well and store in a cool, dark place for ten to fourteen days, shaking the jar every one or two days. At the end of that time, pour the mixture into a wine press or cloth bag and express the liquid from the herb. Discard the herb. Pour the tincture into clean, dark, glass bottles and close the bottle with a cork or screw top lid. Label. Tinctures will generally keep indefinitely. The amounts are really immaterial and can be large or small, depending on the need.
In some cases, a tincture made from alcohol is unsuitable or undesireable as an herbal remedy. Such cases include pregnancy, gastric or liver inflammations, and for children or recovering alcoholics. It also includes those who choose not to take alcohol of any kind in any amount, including that found in vanilla extract. For these people, a non-alcoholic tincture is prescribed.
Put the tincture dose (usually about 5 ml) into 25-50 ml (5-10 teaspoons) of almost boiling water in a cup and leave uncovered for five minutes while the alcohol evaporates.
Another method is to use vinegars rather than tinctures. Organic apple cider vinegar or wine vinegars are the most versatile. They contain acetic acid which helps to preserve and extract the essential ingredients of herbs.
Place herbs in a wide mouth glass jar and cover with vinegar. Cover and store for a minimum of two weeks, although some prefer to leave it for one or two months, in a cool, dark place, shaking every day. Strain off liquid and bottle. The vinegar should be left for another two weeks before using.
Herbal vinegars can be taken internally in the same way as tinctures; or they can be added to salads, soups, or as an ingredient in pickles. Externally, they can be added to bathwater or used as a lotion or hair rinse. Combining apple cider vinegar with elderflowers, for example, makes a good remedy for itchy skin.