Tincture

How to Make Herbal Tinctures

Herbal Home Remedies: Be Your Own Herbal Expert – Part 4

In this lesson, you will learn how to make herbal tinctures. You will make herbal tinctures from fresh and dried roots as well as from fresh flowers and leaves.

Then you will collect your herbal tinctures into an Herbal Medicine Chest and begin to use them. Shall we begin?

Tinctures Act Fast

Herbal tinctures are alcohol-based plant medicines. Alcohol extracts and concentrates many properties from plants, including their poisons. Alcohol does not extract significant amounts of nutrients, so tinctures are used when we want to stimulate, sedate, or make use of a poison. (Remember that nourishing herbs are best used in water bases such as infusions and vinegars.)

The concentrated nature of herbal tinctures allows them to act quickly. It also makes them perfect for a first-aid kit or herbal medicine chest: a little goes a long way.

I have dozens of tinctures in my cabinet. But these are the ones I carry with me when I travel; they are the ones I don’t leave home without. This is my traveling herbal medicine chest.

  • Echinacea tincture
  • Motherwort tincture
  • Skullcap tincture
  • Ginseng tincture
  • Dandelion root tincture
  • Wormwood tincture
  • St John’s Wort tincture
  • Poke root tincture (danger)
  • Yarrow tincture

Making Dried Root Tinctures

I strongly prefer to make tinctures from fresh plants. But many people have a hard time getting fresh plants. Most books therefore ignore fresh plant tinctures and focus on making tinctures only from dried plants. The only dried plant parts I use to make tinctures are roots and seeds. All other plant parts I use fresh when making a tincture. And I actually prefer to use fresh roots too.

To make a tincture from dried roots:

  1. Buy an ounce of dried Echinacea augustifolia or Panax ginseng root.
  2. Put the whole ounce in a pint jar.
  3. The dried root should fill the jar about a third full. If not, use a smaller jar.
  4. Fill the jar to the top with the alcohol. Cap tightly and label.

Almost any alcohol can be used to make a tincture. My preference is 100 proof vodka. A lower proof, such as 80 proof, does not work nearly as well. Higher proofs, such as 198 proof or Everclear, can damage the liver and kidneys, so I don’t use them to make medicine.

The tincture is ready in six weeks, but gets stronger the longer it sits. I like to wait about six months before using my ginseng tincture and a year before using my echinacea tincture.

Making Fresh Root Tinctures

Roots generally hold their properties even when dried. But two of my favorite root tinctures must be made from fresh roots are the dried ones have lost much of their effect.

Making a tincture with a fresh root is similar to making one with a dried root.

  1. With great respect for the plant, dig up its root.
  2. Gently rinse mud away. (For more about digging dandelion root, see Healing Wise.)
  3. Chop root into small pieces and fill a jar to the top with the chopped root.
  4. Fill jar to the top with alcohol. Cap tightly. Label.
  5. Fresh root tinctures are ready to use in six weeks.


Making Fresh Leaf and Flower Tinctures

I use only fresh flowers and leaves in my tinctures. These delicate plant part lose aroma and medicinal qualities when dried.

Tinctures can be made from dried herbs, but I find them inferior in in both effect (how well they work) and energetics (how many fairies are in it), not to mention taste (how many volatile substances remain) and somatics (how something makes you “feel”).

What if the plants you need to make all the tinctures in your medicine chest don’t grow where you live or you can’t find them? Try one or more of these solutions.

Take a vacation to a place where the plant you need does grow. And make sure to go at the best time to gather it.

Find an herbal pen-pal who lives in the area where the plant you want to tincture grows. Have your pen-pal make a tincture of the fresh plant for you. You could make a tincture of something you have lots of to give to her, too.

Even if the plants do grow where you live, it may take a year or longer for you to find them, harvest them and make tinctures. While you are “in limbo,” it’s fine to buy tinctures to use in your herbal medicine chest.

When you finally find the plants you want, don’t be afraid to make several quarts of tincture. Tinctures last for hundreds of years if protected from heat and light.

 

St. John’s wort tincture: Eases muscles spasms, anti-viral, pain-relieving.
Pick yellow Hypericum perforatum flowers in the summer’s heat.
Fill, don’t stuff, a jar with the blossoms and leaves.
Fill jar to the top with alcohol. Cap tightly. Label. (It will turn bright red.)
Your fresh St. John’s wort tincture is ready to use in six weeks.

 

Motherwort tincture: Eases menstrual cramps, mood swings, stress.
Pick Leonurus cardiaca flowering tops (leaves and flowers) in early fall or late summer.
Fill, don’t stuff, a jar with coarsely chopped blossoms and leaves.
Fill jar to the top with alcohol. Cap tightly. Label.
Your fresh motherwort tincture is ready to use in six weeks.

 

Skullcap tincture: Pain-relief, headache remedy
Pick Scutellaria lateriflora flowering tops when there are seeds as well as flowers. Fill, don’t stuff, a jar with the blossoms and leaves. Fill jar to the top with alcohol. Cap tightly. Label.
Your fresh skullcap tincture is ready to use in six weeks.

 

Wormwood tincture: Counters food-poisoning and parasites.
Pick Artemisia absinthemum leaves in the late summer or early fall, when mature.
Fill, don’t stuff, a jar, with the coarsely chopped leaves.
Fill jar to the top with alcohol. Cap tightly. Label.
Your fresh wormwood tincture is ready to use in six weeks.

 

Yarrow tincture: Counters all bacteria internally and externally, repels insects.
Pick Achillea millefolium flowing tops, white ones only, when in bloom.
Fill, don’t stuff, a jar, with the coarsely chopped herb.
Fill jar to the top with alcohol. Cap tightly. Label.
Your fresh yarrow tincture is ready to use in six weeks.

Double and Triple Tinctures

An herbalist in Austin Texas shared her special way of preparing a tincture that helps her keep her cool in stressful situations. She tinctures fresh lemon balm, gathered before it flowers, for six weeks, in 100 proof vodka. She pours that tincture over a new jar of fresh lemon balm leaves.

After that sits for six more weeks, it’s a double tincture. She then pours the double tincture over another new jarful of fresh lemon balm amd lets that sit for six weeks.

After which she has a triple tincture. She uses: “A dropperful sublingually works absolute wonders for me when I’m stressed out and ready to scream.”

Plant Poisons

You remember that there are four types of poisons in plants: alkaloids, glycosides, essential oils, and resins. The first three are fairly easy to move from plants to a tincture.

Resins, because they “fear” water (hydrophobic) are difficult to tincture. When I want to tincture a resin I do use high proof alcohol. Some examples would be: pine resin tincture, balsam bud tincture, calendula flower tincture.

Taking Tinctures

I see many people put herbal tinctures under their tongues. I prefer to protect my oral tissues from the harsh, possibly cancer-causing, effects of the alcohol.

I dilute my tinctures in a little water or juice or even herbal infusion and drink them.

Using Your Tinctures

Here are a few of the ways I use the tinctures in my herbal medicine chest

Acid indigestion: 5-10 drops of Dandelion root or Wormwood tincture every ten minutes until relieved. I use a dose of Dandelion before meals to prevent heartburn.

Bacterial Infections (including boils, carbuncles, insect bites, snake bite, spider bite, staph): 30-50 drops Echinacea or Yarrow tincture up to 5 times daily. For severe infections, add one drop of Poke tincture to each dose.

Colds: to prevent them I use Yarrow tincture 5-10 drops daily; to treat them, I rely on Yarrow, but in larger quantity, say a dropperful every 3-4 hours at the worst of the cold and tapering off.

Cramps during menstruation: 10 drops Motherwort every 20 minutes or as needed. Used also as a tonic, 10 drops daily, for the week before.

Cramps in muscle: 25 drops St John’s every 25-30 minutes for as long as needed.

Cramps in gut: 5-10 drops Wormwood, once.

Diarrhea: 3 drops Wormwood hourly for up to four hours.

Energy lack: 10 drops of Dandelion or Ginseng tincture in the morning.

Fever: 1 drop Echinacea for every 2 pounds of body weight; taken every two hours to begin, decreasing as symptoms remiss. Or a dropperful of Yarrow tincture every four hours.

Headache: 25 drops St John’s plus 3-5 drops Skullcap every 10-15 minutes for up to two hours. 5 drops of Skullcap may prevent some headaches.

High blood pressure: 25 drops of Motherwort or Ginseng tincture 2-4 times a day.

Hot Flashes: 20-30 drops Motherwort as flash begins and/or 10-20 drops once or twice daily.

Insect: prevent bites from black flies, mosquitoes, and ticks with a spray of Yarrow tincture; treat bites you do get with Yarrow tincture to prevent infection.

Nervousness, hysteria, hyper behavior: 15 drops Motherwort every 15-20 minutes.

Premenstrual distress: 10 drops Motherwort twice a day for 7-10 days preceding menstruation or 10 drops daily all month.

Sore throat: Gargle with Yarrow tincture.

Swollen glands: 1 drop Poke root tincture each 12 hours for 2-5 days.

Viral infections (including colds and the flu): 25 drops of St. John’s wort tincture every two hours. Add one drop of poke root tincture 2-4 times a day for severe cases.

Wounds: I wash with Yarrow tincture, then wet the dressing with Yarrow tincture, too.

In the next installment of Herbal Home Remedies: Be Your Own Herbal Expert, you will learn about herbal oils, including infused and essential oils. Future lessons will explore the difference between fixing disease and promoting health, applications of the three traditions of healing, and using the six steps of healing to take charge of your own health and make sense of medicine.

3 Comments

  1. Valerie

    Could you tell me what kind of alcohol is used for the tinctures? Thanks.

    • From the article above: “Almost any alcohol can be used to make a tincture. My preference is 100 proof vodka.”

  2. ELIZABETH ELIAS

    i am looking for a stress relieve tincture i have the herbs but i dont know the amounts that it would use to make a tincture can you tell me thanks

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