Tips for making herbal tinctures and extractions for use in herbal medicine

Tinctures and herbal extractions are made by soaking fresh or dried plant material in vodka for a period of about two weeks. The alcohol works to extract medicinal properties and preserve them for later use. Tinctures are quickly absorbed by the body and can be used internally and externally. Non-alcoholic tinctures can be made using vegetable glycerin. Both types of tinctures can be taken by mouth or used on the body. Never use rubbing alcohol to make tinctures.

Pint jar of rosemary tincture
Rosemary tincture - Photo by Janice Boling at Payne Mountain Farms

Tinctures and herbal extractions are easy to make at home. This white wine and rosemary tincture will help stimulate digestion during the winter months.

How do I make herbal tinctures and extractions?

  1. Homemade tinctures (alcohol extractions) should be made from vodka and herbal plant material. Different types of herbal tinctures can be blended later if desired but it is best to use one herb at a time in the beginning.
  2. To make a tincture, put herbal material in an appropriate sized jar and cover with vodka. Vodka may be diluted with a little water (four parts vodka to one part water) if desired.
  3. Seal jar tightly and place in a dark cabinet.
  4. Turn jar and shake gently every day to mix ingredients. Keep plant material underneath the liquid so that mold doesn't grow.
  5. After two weeks, strain liquid into a clean jar and discard solids.
  6. Store tincture in a clean, glass bottle or jar with a tight fitting lid. Tinctures keep longer when stored in a dark, cool environment like the refrigerator. If tinctures are properly stored they will last for years.

Alcohol should be removed when treating children.

When treating children with alcohol based tinctures, the alcohol can be removed by adding a small amount of almost boiling water to one dose of tincture. As it cools, most of the alcohol will evaporate. Be careful when using heat around alcohol. Don't get burned!

Use wine or vinegar instead of vodka in tinctures and extractions.

Herbal extractions can also be made with wine (including brandy and cognac) or apple cider vinegar. Both wine and vinegar make excellent medicines for digestive and circulatory problems. Wine and vinegar infusions are great for taking by the spoonful during the winter months because of their warming actions.

Herbal tinctures and extractions work great as mouth sprays and under the tongue drops.

This method of getting herbal properties into the body bypasses the digestive system and delivers a more potent medicine to the system. Sprays and under the tongue drops are especially useful in emergency situations. Also, small doses can be used repeatedly over a period of time to help regulate dosage. Sprays and drops should used in a clean mouth. Brush teeth, rinse well, and wait 10 minutes. Hold spray and drops in mouth for as long as possible before swallowing.

Certain blends of herbal tinctures can sooth a cough.

Try mixing fennel, licorice, mullein, and wild cherry bark tinctures with honey and a little fruit juice. Take 1 teaspoon every hour.

Tinctures may be used in massage and as skin washes.

Use tinctures on tired, aching muscles for fast relief. Tinctures for external use, known as liniments, can be made with rubbing alcohol but be sure to label them correctly. Not for human consumption! Herbal liniments are for external use only because the rubbing alcohol is poisonous. Never take rubbing alcohol by mouth! Herbal liniments are safe for treating arthritis, gout, and other painful conditions when used on the skin. Choose heat inducing herbs like ginger, cloves, wintergreen, and myrrh. Rub aching joints with a saturated cotton ball or massage lightly with loving hands for best results.

See Mullein Tincture for more information.

* Never use rubbing alcohol in tinctures because it is toxic when taken internally. Rubbing alcohol is for external use only! Herbs work with other medicines to boost their potency so always consult with your healthcare provider before using any herbal remedy especially if pregnant, nursing, or taking other medicines.

Payne Mountain Farms

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Herb Articles by Janice Boling

"The only way to really learn about herbal medicine is to touch and smell herbs, taste them, use them daily, and grow them if possible. Herbal medicine is a way of life. It is not a quick fix." ... , herbalist, web designer, writer, photographer

"Ointment and Perfume Rejoice the Heart." Proverbs 27:9

Every Green Herb is a place to learn about medicinal herbs and essential oils. Visit my online store to buy wild harvested yellowroot, mullein, bee balm, and other herbal products at Payne Mountain Farms.

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