Nov 20, 2012


       To make a tincture, which is a concentrated alcohol extract, fill a glass jar 1/3 to 1/2 full with fresh or dried herbs that you have cut or shredded into small pieces. Cover the herbs with 80-proof or higher proof vodka, rum, brandy or grain alcohol, with a few inches of alcohol above the plant matter. Cover tightly and place in a warm location.

      Check the jar every day or two, shaking it as you do so. As dried herbs absorb the liquid, add more alcohol. (Some recipes call for 1 part plant matter to 4 parts alcohol, but using less alcohol or more plant material results in a more concentrated, medicinal tincture.) Let the tincture stand for three or four weeks before filtering. Some herbalists recommend straining and bottling tinctures at the full moon. There is no specific deadline; a tincture left for two months will be more potent than one left for two weeks.

      Strain the tincture through cheesecloth or muslin, pressing out as much liquid as possible before discarding the spent plant material.
     Alcohol tinctures have an indefinite shelf life. Stored in amber glass jars away from heat and light, they last for decades. For an even more concentated tincture, pour your filtered tincture into a jar containing new plant material and repeat the process. Small quantities of this ''double-strength'' tincture will have a powerful medicinal effect. There is much confusion about tincture dosage, a misunderstanding that herbalist Rosemary Gladstar attributes to the caution of small companies marketing tinctures in the 1960s. "The only similar products were homeopathic preparations," she explains, "and their doses are measured in drops.

      Herbal tinctures are entirely different, and they should be taken by the half-teaspoon, teaspoon or tablespoon, not by the drop." Anyone buying, making or taking herbal tinctures should know that disappointing results may not be caused by a tincture's herbal ingredients but rather by doses that are entirely too small. A few herbs should be taken in small doses, but most of the tinctures mentioned here are safe and effective in larger doses.

    Tinctures can be taken straight or diluted in tea, water or fruit juice. If you prefer not to use alcohol in tincture making, vegetable glycerine can be substituted, or you can mix glycerine with alcohol.

    Glycerine does not dissolve all of the medicinal constituents that alcohol extracts, but it is widely used in tinctures, especially for children. Glycerine adds a sweet taste and syrupy texture to tinctures. Cider vinegar can be used to make alcohol-free tinctures, though their shelf life is shorter than glycerine or alcohol tinctures and vinegar does not dissolve as many substances within the herbs.

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