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This article shows how I make tinctures. It includes information on tincture making and the herbs I used in this case. I am basically a guerrilla operator, meaning I use the resources at hand and I learn while I go, so you will see some of that reflected here.
I’m not a scientist, pharmacist, or herbalist. Everything I know is from my own experience, reports of other people’s experiences, and from reading what others assert. The more I read, the more interesting tidbits I find out.
What is a Tincture?
Tinctures are a concentrated liquid herbal extract made by combining fresh or dry herbs with alcohol or glycerin.
Why do I Make Tinctures?
After some 40 years of using herbs, I have found tinctures a quick and effective way to regain health balance and preserve herbs I pick. In fact, I’ve had such good luck with tinctures I don’t want to be caught without them. To me, these power packed medicinals are an essential part of thrival-survival preparedness.
TINCTURE MAKING BASICS
Tincture making is simply a process of combining herbs with an extractor (officially called a menstrum), like alcohol. I use an amount of herbs that can be covered with alcohol and easily shaken up. (Plan for dried herbs expanding when they get wet). Soak the herbs for up to six weeks and shake daily.
After that, I strain the tinctures into a sterilized glass container through a coffee filter or undyed muslin cloth placed into a wire strainer. I usually run a little extra alcohol or distilled water through the mash to get more of the good stuff out. I bottle the tinctures in sterilized dark colored glass bottles (cobalt blue, dark green, or amber), label, and store in a cool dark place. When I use 190-proof alcohol, I tone down the finished product by adding some distilled water because the alcohol is so strong. Tinctures to be used right away are put into smaller 2 oz. bottles with droppers and labeled.
Materia Medica (descriptions of what herbs do)
A Spoon or Scoop.
If you want to measure or weigh the herbs, you’ll need measuring cups or a scale. I just eyeball the quantities.
I bought herbs, powdered when available, in 4-oz. bags that ran anywhere from $3 to $8. The exception was ginseng, which is expensive, so I only got a 2-oz bag. The total herb bill was $125. I ended up using four 1750 milliliters of vodka at $20 each, and two 750 milliliters of 190-proof spirits at $18 each. The last expense will be the 2 oz. bottles with droppers, which will cost about $75. So, the whole project comes in at around $300. But you can get started in this venture with just $20 for a bottle of alcohol if you pick your own herbs and scrounge up some dark bottles to store the tincture in.
You can use fresh herbs, dried, or dried and powdered. I covered information on herb gathering and drying in a previous post. It’s almost February. The herbs I picked last year have been put to use long ago. All I have left from what I picked is some hops. The rest of the herbs I used for these tinctures were purchased in 4-oz bags from Mountain Rose Herbs. I like Mountain Rose Herbs because most of their products are organic and they have an easy to use Web site with lots of herbs to click on and read about.
I use glass. It’s always best to use colored glass or, if using clear containers, keep them out of the light. I’m willing to cheat and use clear bottles for tincturing. For bottling, I insist on dark colored glass bottles. Mountain Rose Herbs sells those as well, but I save about 50% by getting them at Specialy Bottle.
I use alcohol to make tinctures because I know it works and it’s readily available. On the other hand, the folks at TriLight Health make a good justification for using glycerine, and I wanted to try it. But after buying all the herbs and alcohol, I didn’t have any money left to get glycerine. Mountain Rose Herbs, where I get my herbs, sells glycerine for about $60 gallon.
For alcohol, people commonly use 190 proof grain alcohol, like Everclear, down to 100 proof vodka, which is 50% alcohol. Here are a few things I read about that. The higher “octane” alcohols are better to tincture herbs with high resin content, like hops. But, since some medicinals are released into alcohol and some in water, a 100-proof vodka does both. Some people say 100-proof is too low, but the Type A and Type O tinctures I made with it previously worked very well. For this tincture making project I used both 190-proof grain alcohol and 100 proof vodka.
I used the grain alcohol to tincture the hops because hops are resinous. I poured a fifth of Grain Alcohol (Clear Spring brand rather than Everclear, since it’s $2 cheaper) into a wine bottle full of hops I picked and dried last summer. I poured enough in to cover the hops and screwed on the lid, applied label with the date.
Hops, Lupulus strobula. Up to 80% of grains of hops is a bitter resin. There are also tannins, flavonoids, antioxidants, lupulone, and humulene. Hops are a distant relative of stinging nettles and cannabis, traditionally used to aid sleep and reduce libido. Be careful, hops have a side-effect of causing drinker’s droop,” or erectile dysfunction.
The next thing I tinctured was powdered lemon rind because I want to make Limoncello. It is made with fresh lemon zest (grated peel) infused in rectified spirits and mixed with simple syrup. For convenience I’m trying it with powdered lemon rind.
While doing this, I dumped all the dried lemon peel into the container and poured alcohol on top. I had to do quite a bit of stirring to get all the powder exposed to the alcohol. It’s much easier to gradually alternate parts of the powder and alcohol.
I also made the mistake of putting 4 oz of lemon rind into an 8 oz. container. I had to transfer it to a larger one because the powdered lemon rind expanded quite a bit after the alcohol was added.
Elderberry, Sambucus nigra, has a long history in traditional European medicine for treating colds, coughs, fevers and flu. Elderberry has been claimed to fight infections and inflammation, aid weight loss, help diabetics, and improve the digestive system. It is a laxative, antifungal, diuretic, and treatment for nervous system disorders. Flavonoids from the extract have been proven to bind to H1N1 virions and, when bound, block the ability of the viruse to infect host cells.
NERVE TONIC TINCTURE
I decided to make a mild sedative with St. Johns Wort, Valerian, Skullcap, and Hops.
St Johns Wort, Hypericum perforatum, contains hypericin and related compounds, rutin, bitters, and tannins. It was traditionally used to promote emotional well-being. Clinical trials have shown positive results comparable to conventional treatments.
Valerian, Valeriana officinalis: Contains acetic acid, ascorbic acid, beta-ionone, calcium, caffeic acid, magnesium, manganese, quercitin, valeric acid. When combined with hops, valerian root has been approved by the German Commission E to support healthy sleep.
Skullcap, Scutellaria lateriflora: Constituents are volatile oil, scutellarin, bitter glycoside, tannin, fat, bitter principles, and sugar. Skullcap has been traditionally used to alleviate nervous tension and exhaustion and to promote emotional well being and relaxation during times of distress.
BLOOD TYPE IMMUNE BOOSTERS
A couple of years ago, I started experimenting with the Eat Right For Your Type diet, which asserts certain foods, herbs, and supplements are extremely beneficial for each blood type while others should be avoided. I decided to make tinctures based on the beneficial herbs. Not all of them were available when I made my order, so I just used what I could get. I’ve done this before and used the Type A tincture forseveral years, and my son has used the Type O, and we have both decided they are very helpful.
Most people don’t now their blood type, but if you do, and you want to make a tincture with herbs that are recommended for your particular blood type, just check out the Blood Type Herb Chart, then research the qualities of each herb. You can tincture each herb separately, then mix the extracts together later, or just tincture them all in the same container.
I firmly believe that the time and/or money involved in making tinctures is a good investment for people who want to be more independent when it comes to their health care.
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