I’ve entered the tincture making world and for good reason. Tinctures offer health, vitality, immune protection, enhanced energy, better dreams, sublime relaxation, fertility benefits, brain and memory boosting, and more.
Now, I’ve always been a fan of herbal teas and supplements but I never thought to make my own tinctures. Why? Honestly, because I felt intimidated. I would hear stories of people making them like it’s easy-peasy, but it was always a bit too mysterious to me. I thought you needed to study herbs and be very well versed in order to make them. So, I pretty much wrote them off. I didn’t make them. I didn’t even buy them pre-made.
Big mistake. Tinctures are amazing little gems for maintaining a healthy robust body (both chronic and acute situations), and they’re easy to make. Think of tinctures as basically herbal tea on steroids. You get a strong dose of the healing powers of plants in a tiny (convenient) amount (some say that two droppersful of tincture equals an 8 ounce cup of herbal tea). Tinctures are highly assimilable especially if you can stand to put them, straight, under your tongue for a few moments. Tinctures made using alcohol preserve active plant constituents. Another big selling point is that alcohol based tinctures last for years (pretty much indefinitely so long as they’re stored in a cool dark place. No refrigeration is necessary for alcohol based tinctures). Bonus #1: They’re convenient for travel. Bonus #2: Homemade tinctures make great gifts.
What prompted me to make the leap into tinctures? I decided it was imperative to create a home pharmacy for my family and tinctures kept coming up as an effective asset for that. They offer potency, effectiveness, and convenience. Over the past 4 months I’ve been building my home pharmacy (as well as my travel pharmacy first aid kit) and I’ll share all the juicy deets about those in future posts because you’ll want to know what I’m including, and maybe more importantly what I’m not including. For the sake of this blog post on tinctures, however, I keep tinctures in my home pharmacy.
Please note: I am not a doctor, nor a midwife, nor a nurse… I don’t even have a Ph.D. in motherhood yet. The following info, as well as everything on my blog, is not to be considered medical advice. Please, do your own research.
Drumroll please! I’m proud to present my first harvested tincture. A simple chamomile tincture made of organic chamomile and vodka for relaxation, nervousness, restlessness, sleep, mild pain relief, inflammation, ulcers and digestion. More on chamomile’s impressive(!) health benefits here. I had no idea chamomile was such a super star. When I made the tincture it was simply to use for relaxation, but I soon learned its powers stretch far beyond just relaxation. A chamomile tincture is a great way to enjoy those benefits at home, on the road, or wherever.
Here are some basics and what you need to easily make your own tinctures:
- Organic herbs or flowers or roots. Dried or fresh though I usually prefer the convenience of dried, and I source them all from Mountain Rose Herbs because they’re the highest quality and good value
- Alcohol such as vodka (80 to 100 proof)
- Glass mason jars and lids (pint, quart, 1/2 gallon depending on the amount you want to make)
- Masking tape to label the glass mason jar of the ingredients inside it (see the image at the top of this post)
- Strainer or cheese cloth (I prefer a quality strainer because I find cheese cloth to be messy)
- Vessel to strain the liquid into (this one for large batches and this one for smaller batches)
- Tincture bottles with droppers (great prices on these over at Mountain Rose Herbs)
- Cute labels to put on the tincture jar once the tincture is made. Or you can use a label maker (every household needs a label maker).
There are few options for preparation. The easiest is to do the following:
- Fill the clean and dry jar of choice, with your dried organic herb or root, to about the 1/2 way mark of the jar or a maximum of 2/3 full with dried herbs (only fill the jar 1/3 full for roots because they expand more).
- Fill the rest of the jar with alcohol to the top.
- Put the lid on. Shake it up.
- Use a piece of masking tape to write the ingredients of the tincture (as well as its intended use), and tape it to the jar so you don’t forget what is in there. See my picture at the top of this post as a reference.
- Store the steeping tincture on a counter or in a cupboard where you have access to it for 4 to 8 weeks. You want access to it because you’ll want to give the tincture a shimmy-shake once a day, if possible. (After the first couple of days you might see that it’s possible to add more alcohol.)
- Once the time has passed, use a strainer and strain the liquid from the tincture into a glass pitcher. Press out any excess tincture from the herbs.
- Bottle the your lovely tincture up in glass bottles with droppers. Label the bottles. Done!
A few extra tincture notes I’ve gathered…
- Some people say to store your tinctures while they’re steeping / brewing in a dark cool place and others say the tinctures are fine on a counter. I opt for a counter because I like to look at them, but they’re not in direct sunlight.
- Tinctures can be as easy as using only one herb or a whole slew of herbs. I started with just organic chamomile, for my first tincture, to get my feet wet, and it wasn’t long before I had 10 jars brewing (steeping?) with various mixtures based on my research and health goals. I read multiple books by multiple authors (I’m especially fond of Rosemary Gladstar’s work), articles, and blogs about herbs this year and I made a useful chart featuring my health goals and the herbs that experts recommend for them. I will share all of my research for that in the next post – PART 2 which posts in a few days.
- You can make tinctures more kid-friendly by using vegetable glycerin (or apple cider vinegar) instead of alcohol but I haven’t tried that yet. Glycerin based tinctures don’t have the shelf life of alcohol based tinctures. Keep in mind that alcohol based tinctures, according to the experts I read, are indeed safe for kiddos (depending on the herbs or roots, of course) because you use such a small amount of the tincture for kids (more on that below). Also… you can put the kid-friendly tincture dose in a small amount of hot water to let the alcohol evaporate off, allow the mixture to cool, add some raw honey (if desired to improve the taste but no honey for kiddos under the age of one year) and serve. Or, you can buy kid-friendly tinctures like this one by Gaia which I recently purchased.
- Some people use a blender to blend the alcohol and herbs before putting them in the mason jar to increase the strength of the tincture. On that same note, when using roots, it’s wise to chop them, if possible.
- Some people put the herbs for the tincture in the glass mason jar, and then add a little filtered hot water to extract certain nutrients, then they add the alcohol. I have not opted to do that because it’s an additional step that I don’t feel compelled to do.
- Tinctures (most of them) are fine for pregnant and nursing mothers but you need to be sure the herbs or roots in particular are safe during those precious times. Talk with your midwife about that.
- For the best tincture benefits it’s recommended to put the tincture directly under the tongue for a few moments before swallowing and avoiding food for about 15 minutes (but that burns my mouth like a mother, or is that just me?). I usually just squirt it in a shot glass and add a wee bit of water or tea and then drink it down.
Rosemary Gladstar’s good tincture taking advice is the following, and I will repeat that I am not a medical professional… please do your own research or speak with a professional:
- Acute health problems: 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of tincture taken every hour for a maximum of 6 teaspoons daily. Reminder that this dosage is for acute problems and short term.
- Chronic health problems: 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of tincture taken 2-3 times daily for a maximum of 3 teaspoons daily. This recommendation also comes with a note to cycle the usage. Perhaps 5 days on and 2 days off or 2 to 3 weeks on and 1 week off. You’ll have to experiment yourself and seek professional guidance as needed.
- Treating children: if the dose for an adult is one teaspoon of tincture, then a child of less than one year old (2 to 5 drops), a child of 1 to 2 years (5 to 8 drops), child of 2 to 6 years (10-15 drops), and a child of 6 to 12 years (15 to 30 drops).