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How To Make a Herb Tincture

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In general, alcohol is a better solvent than water for the plant constituents.

Mixtures of alcohol and water dissolve nearly all the relevant ingredients of a herb and at the same time act as a preservative. Alcohol preparations are called tinctures, an expression that is occasionally also used for preparations based on glycerine or vinegar, as described below.

We can use tinctures in a variety of ways. They can be taken straight or mixed with a little water, or they can be added to a cup of hot water. If this is done, the alcohol will partly evaporate and leave most of the extract in the water, which with some herbs will make the water cloudy, as resins and other constituents not soluble in water will precipitate.

Some drops of the tincture can be added to a bath or foot bath, or used in a recipe to make an ointment. Suppositories and lozenges can be made this way too.

Another most pleasant way of making a kind of alcohol infusion is to infuse herbs in wine.

Even though these wine-based preparations do not have the shelf life of herb tinctures and are not as concentrated, they can be very pleasant to take and most effective in some conditions.

There is a long history of using wine in this way, and in fact most aperitifs and liqueurs were originally herbal remedies, based on herbs such as wormwood, mugwort and aniseed, to aid the digestive process.

You can also ferment the herbs themselves; after all, even grapes are herbs. All the aromatic herbs make exquisite wines, and Elderberry and Dandelion are especially useful – and delicious – as medicinal wines.

To make an alcohol herb tincture

The method given here for the preparation of tinctures show a simple and general approach; when tinctures are prepared professionally according to descriptions in a pharmacopeia, specific water/alcohol proportions are used for each herb, but for general use such details are unnecessary.

For home use it is best to use an alcohol of at least 30%, vodka for instance, as this is about the weakest alcohol/water mixture with a long-term preservative action.

Herb tinctures are much stronger volume for volume, than infusions or decoctions. The average normal dose is 1 teaspoon three times a day.

1. Put 120g of finely chopped or ground dried herbs into a container that can be tightly sealed. If fresh herbs are used, use 240g - about a cupful.

2. Pour 500ml vodka on the herbs and then close the container tightly.

3. Keep the container in a warm place for two weeks and shake it well twice a day.

4. After decanting the bulk of the liquid, pour the residue into a muslin cloth suspended in a bowl.

5. Wring out the liquid. (The residue makes excellent compost.)

6. Pour the tincture into a dark bottle. Keep it well sealed.

Vinegar-based herb tincture

Herb tinctures can also be made using vinegar, which contains acetic acid that acts as a solvent and preservative in a way similar to alcohol. Whenever you make a vinegar-based herb tincture, it is best to use apple cider vinegar, as it has in itself excellent health-augmenting properties.

Synthetic chemical vinegar should not be used.

The method is the same as for alcohol herb tinctures and if you steep spices or aromatic herbs in vinegar, the resulting fragrant vinegar will be excellent for culinary use.

 

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