Making Herbal Tinctures

Making herbal tinctures at home by soaking herbs in a solvent of alcohol (vodka or rum), vegetable glycerin or vinegar to extract the active plant constituents.

Herbal tinctures are stronger than teas, infusions or decoctions and have a longer shelf life. Homemade tinctures are convenient and easy to use.

You start with the herbs know as a marc soaked in a solution called a menstruum to extract the active ingredients in the plant material. A tincture takes 2 to 3 weeks for the herbs to impart their constituents.

Making herbal tinctures is a great way to preserve the medicinal and nutritional properties of herbs. Dried herbs store about 1 to 2 years if stored properly but a tincture has a 3 to 5 year shelf life or more.

Menstruums used to extract the properties of herbs are 80 proof alcohol (vodka), vinegar, vegetable glycerin or water.

80 proof Alcohol (vodka or rum) consist of 40% alcohol and 60% water. Alcohol is a good solvent for extracting both acidic and alkaline constituents.

Alcohol tinctures are made by cold infusion over a period of 1 to 3 weeks. Alcohol is an excellent solvent for extracting the nutritional and medicinal properties of plant material because alcohol dose not change the components that are infused in so it makes a very stable tincture. The alcohol preserves the tincture indefinitely.

Vegetable glycerin is a good alternative to alcohol tincturing for those who are sensitive to alcohol like children. A highly nutritive substance, glycerin is very sweet and soothing to the mucus membrane lining of our systems.

It has good preservative properties and dissolves mucilage material and has vitamins and minerals. Glycerin tinctures can be made in one day as they are hot processed.

Vinegar is good at extracting alkaline constituents by not the acidic ones. Vinegar is used as a cold process extraction over 1 to 3 weeks.

Water is used in teas and infusions but has a tendency to change the medicinal constituents over time. It is better to use water with the other solvents to make a more stable tincture.

Making Herbal Tinctures in
Alcohol or Vinegar

The simplest way of making herbal tinctures to make is an alcohol tincture. Some tinctures use vinegar but most of tinctures made with alcohol. (Vinegar tinctures are made the same way as alcohol tinctures) Alcohol is added to dried herbs in a bottle and soaked for 2 to 3 weeks.

The standard ratio of herb (marc) to solution (menstruum) is measured in weight/volume, the weight of the herb (marc) to the liquid volume of menstruum.

The standard ratio for making herbal tinctures is a solution of 1:8 or 1:10 depending on the herbs. Some herbs are fluffy and some are denser as in roots. Roots may take a 1:8 ratio and fluffy herbs use a 1:10 ratio. After you fill the jar in 24 hrs it may be necessary to add more menstruum if the herbs are sticking out of the liquid.

Any herb sticking out of the solution may begin to mold. After 24 hours check the herbs and add more solution if needed.

Use glass containers to tincture herbs. Glass does not react to the herbs or solution.

  •  Measure out herbs and add to the glass container.
  •  Add your liquid (alcohol or vinegar).
  •  Stir the herbs and liquids very well.
  •  Place a lid on the container and set in a cool place.
  •  Stir once a day for the next 10 to 14 days.
  •  After the first day or two if the herbs look dry add more liquid.
  • After 10 to 14 days strain the herbs through a cotton cloth.
  • Wring as much liquid out of the herbs as you can. Use rubber gloves. Discard the herbs.
  • Put the tincture into an amber container with plastic lids for storage.
  • Label with the name and date.  

Store your tinctures in dark bottles to keep the light out. Light diminishes the potency of the herbs. Amber glass bottles are preferred and are very reasonable to purchase. Alcohol that will corrode metal lids so it is best to use plastic lids.

Homemade Alcohol tinctures have a shelf life of 3 to 5 years. To increase the shelf life of your tinctures, add 4 drops of Benzion essential oil to each 8 oz of tincture. Add the Benzion after you strain the herb and before you bottle the tincture.


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