In order to engage with the healing and health giving properties of herbs, we need to prepare them into a format that we can use to consume them in an effective way.
One of the ways we can do this is by making something called a Tincture.
Herbal Tinctures A herbal tincture is a liquid that contains the concentrated extract of a herb that has usually been extracted by soaking the plant material in a mixture of water and alcohol. They are much stronger than a decoction or an infusion.
One of the popular alcohols used in tincture making is vodka, but you can also use things like brandy and rum among others
Different herbs need different strengths of alcohol in order to make the most effective tincture remedy and this can range from a 25% alcohol content for simple glycosides and tannin constituents, up to 90% for things like calendula flowers which contain resins and gums that need to be unlocked in order to give the greatest benefit.
Tinctures can also be made with other liquids such as glycerol or neat cyder vinegar. Glycerol based tinctures can be sweet and syrupy which makes them a good base for children's remedies.
I should point out that tinctures require at least 2 weeks of maceration time, often more, so this is not something you can knock together in an afternoon.
Once the tincture has been made, it is usually taken as drops in warm water, fruit juice or a herbal tea. It can also be added to bath water, or mixed with water to make mouthwashes or gargles. tinctures can also be added to creams and ointments.
Never work with a herb unless you have prior knowledge about what it can do and how strong it is.
The strengths of herbs vary considerably so the dosage of each plant type is extremely important in herbalism and something you must to be aware of. I've repeatedly mentioned this in most of my herbal preparation articles because it's so important that this basic, fundamental understanding about the strengths of herbs is grasped and understood.
Most people automatically think of herbs as foods and assume they're completely safe no matter how much you consume. But that's absolutely not true, and you can really harm yourself, sometimes permanently if you overdose on certain herbs.
Here's an example.You can safely drink 5 or 6 cups a day of a Chamomile infusion with no worries, but something like Feverfew on the other hand is so strong that any more than about 15 drops of Feverfew tincture in a 24 hour period could become potentially toxic. The same goes for comfrey and Ephedra.
So having prior and accurate knowledge about the herbs you are working with is absolutely essential. Getting yourself several good books on herbalism is essential if you intend to get into this stuff.
Also, can have reactions to certain herb plant groups, so when you are trying a particular herb for the very first time, so if you are prone to such reactions, it's always a good idea to try just a small amount and then give it some time, preferably 24 hours to make sure you don't have a reaction to it.If you're pregnant, then herbalism can potentially cause complications, so always consult a doctor before you get involved with any of this stuff no matter how innocuous it may seem.
How to Make a Herbal Tincture
1. Place your herbal plant in a medium to large jar. It helps with the process if you chop or bruise the herb before you place it in the jar.
2. Fill the jar up to just below half way, then pour your alcohol solution up to near the top of the jar. If your herb is dried, some expansion may occur during the maceration (waiting/soaking) process.
3. Give the jar a really good shake, label it, and then place it somewhere away from direct sunlight for at least 2 weeks making sure you shake it well every couple of days.
4. Use a muslin cloth or jelly bag over a large bowl or jug and pour in the contents of the jar, and squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can. A wine press can prove very useful in these situations and might be a worthwhile investment if you are looking to do this on a regular basis.
6. Once you've squeezed out all the juice you can, discard the leftover herbs.
7. The remaining juice is the tincture. Simply decant it into clean, dry, dark dropper bottles and store it away in a cool cupboard away from sunlight.
Dosage Tinctures are concentrated, so as a general rule of thumb only small amounts need to be taken at regular times through the day.
An adult dose will vary between 6-10 drops to a teaspoon taken in warm water, fruit juice or a herbal tea 3-6 times a day depending on what's being treated and how acute it is.
It can also be added to bath water, or mixed with water to make mouthwashes or gargles. tinctures can also be added to creams and ointments.
Shelf Life A tincture will last pretty much indefinitely, but it is most effective if used within the first 2 years when it is at its most potent.