Making your own simple tinctures is easy and relatively straightforward. It is a way to concentrate the healing properties of the herbs in question and make the finished product shelf stable. Alcoholic tinctures will last years if stored properly and all you need are a few simple pieces of equipment to complete the process.
- Procure and prepare herbs
Either fresh or dried herbs can be used. If using fresh, make very sure you are using the appropriate herb as there are many lookalike herbs and some are incredibly poisonous. If you choose to use fresh herbs, clean and cut them up in to small pieces prior to putting them in the container you will use to extract. Glass or ceramic is preferred, as the compounds may react to plastic or metal. Also, plastic degrades over time. A mason jar works well. Be sure whatever you chose to use has been washed and sterilized prior to using. Fill the container but be sure not to pack it too tightly. You will be periodically shaking the mixture during the extraction process and the herbs should be able to move easily.
If you choose to use dried herbs, keep in mind that when they reconstitute, they will expand. Roots and other fibrous herbs will close to double in size. Also, try not to use powdered herb, because this is exceptionally difficult to filter out of the final product. In oil it can be an irritant on the skin, especially if you are using it on a sensitive area. In alcohol it will settle to the bottom of your final product.
- Cover with alcohol or oil
Cover with your choice of alcohol or oil. When deciding on what to use, consider what the end use of the product will be. Will you be using this externally? Or taking it internally? For external products, we prefer Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but any neutral oil will work. Just make sure it is high quality. If you are making an alcohol tincture, any high proof clear alcohol will work. Vodka is obviously the easiest to procure, but if you can get your hands on grain alcohol, even better. Just remember, the higher the proof, the more efficient the extraction process will be.
Once covered, seal the jar and give it a good shake and make sure any air bubbles that are trapped under the surface are removed.
Be sure to label and date your tincture, then let it sit in a dark place for at least three weeks. You can periodically shake the mixture when you check on it. Recommendations on how frequently to shake vary, some people suggest shaking the mixture multiple times of day for the first two weeks, others suggest fewer times. If you forget to shake the herbs, it won’t ruin your tincture, so don’t worry overmuch about that. Remember, the longer the herbs sit, the stronger the tincture will be.
This step is the only step where you will need special equipment. Depending on the quantity that you are making, you will want a way to press the larger pieces of the herb to extract as much liquid as possible, then filter it to remove as many of the tiny particles as possible. You could use a press of some sort if you already have one, otherwise cheese cloth or nut milk bags are a good option for a small amount of tincture. For the final filtration, coffee filters are something that almost all of us have on hand and are fantastic at trapping the smallest particles.
Once you are pleased with the filtering process, store the final product in a cool, dark place and it will keep for an extended period of time, at the minimum of three to five years.