The beauty of tinctures is that once they are prepared, they have a very long shelf life and – when needed – they are quickly assimilated by the body.
Dried herbs loose their potency as they sit and teas take time to prepare: A tincture can sit on your shelf for years and still retain its potency and be there for when you need it.
Though tinctures are relatively expensive to buy they are quite easy to make yourself. Alcohol is considered the best solvent in most cases. It will dissolve most medicinal properties, is quickly assimilated by the body, and is a wonderful preservative.
This page offers basic information needed to make your own tinctures. The herbal mouthwash, facial astringent, and liniment recipes in this section are but a few representatives of the many tincture possibilities found on the Regaining Health Naturally’s How to Use Herbsindex.
A word about the alcohol:
200-proof would be 100% ethyl alcohol. Vodka is about 100-proof, which means that it is approximately 50% water and 50% alcohol.
Most herbs extract well in solutions of 35-45% alcohol. If you don’t like doing math, buy something 100-proof and use it undiluted, or buy Everclear® (which is either 130- or around 160-proof), and dilute it in half.
This is not rocket science.
You need to have it of a sufficient strength to dissolve out the nutrients and chemicals, but pure alcohol is not absolutely necessary. If your solution is a little strong it shouldn’t hurt!
Alcohol tinctures are considered the most potent and quickest acting.
If you want to use the best solvent, but don’t want to ingest alcohol, place your dosage into boiling water or tea, remove from the stove and let it sit for 5 minutes or so: The alcohol will evaporate rapidly, and you will be left with only the herbal constituents that you have extracted.
A word about Glycerine:
Children and adults with liver problems, alcoholics, and those with picky taste buds, may prefer to use glycerine tinctures.
Glycerine is quite sweet. As a solvent, it is not quite as good as alcohol, but better than water: You miss the resinous plant constituents.
The “Herb for Kids” tinctures and “Glycerites” are all glycerine tinctures.
Suggestions vary regarding the ideal ratio of glycerine to water. Rosemary Gladstar recommends 2 parts glycerine to 1 part water. My inclination would be to follow her suggestion, or to utilize a 100% glycerine solution: The stronger the sugar content, the greater the room-temperature longevity of your tincture will be.
My husband finds the 100% glycerine tinctures to be too sweet for his taste. If we share this with the children, I dilute the tincture in tea or juice: Straight consumption is too strong.
Use only vegetable glycerine of food-grade quality.
Vinegar as a menstruum: in some instances, vinegar is actually preferable to alcohol: Though not quite as good a solvent, it has the advantages of being beneficial for the digestive tract and better taste.
Vinegar will also help to regulate the acid/alkaline balance in the body.
Vinegar is considered an excellent alternative to alcohol for tinctures, particularly if you are making tinctures for tonic purposes and plan to use then over a long course of time to strengthen and build your system.
Vinegar is especially good at extracting vitamins and minerals
It is important to use organic apple cider vinegar.
Vinegar and honey with little warm water tastes almost like apple cider and the children love it: This by itself, is of tremendous benefit to help treat a cold.
You can use a vinegar tincture mixed with a little oil for salad dressing, in your own homemade mayonaise, taboli, coleslaw, or anywhere you would otherwise employ vinegar.
One drawback to vinegar tinctures is their limited shelf-life: They will keep for years, however, if kept from light and heat.
It is also important to use thoroughly dried herbs:Any moisture can cause the tincture to begin premature fermentation.
The basic recipe for making a tincture:
- Choose a glass jar. (I like using amber jars because they do not let light in to destroy properties).
- Place the herbs in the jar till it is 1/2 to 3/4 full.
- Cover the herbs with the chosen solvent. If you are using vinegar, warm it first. Make sure you add an additional 1-2 inches of liquid over the top of the herbs. They will swell as they soak and you want them to be completely submerged. If they rise above the level of solution, then just add some solvent.
- Shake well, and let sit for 4-8 weeks. The longer it sets the stronger it will be. You could let it sit for years if necessary. To help with the extraction of medicinal properties into the solvent you need to shake this solution once a day or when ever you think about it.
- Store in an amber bottle or out of the sun and heat.
Be sure to label and date.
Herbal Antiseptic Mouthwash:
1 pint Vodka
2 Tbsp. Eucalyptus
2 Tbsp. Cardamon
2 Tbsp. Rosemary or Spearmint
1 Tbsp. Thyme
1 Tbsp. wild Bergamot
If you struggle with gingivitis you may want to add 1 Tablespoon of Red Root.
- In a glass jar mix the herbs into the vodka.
- Close the jar an put away for one month.
- Strain and use!
This herbal concoction is basically a tincture made with alcohol. There is no need for refrigeration and it will have a long shelf life.
A liniment is an external application that is rubbed into the skin, generally used as disinfectants and for soothing strained muscles and ligaments.
Liniments are easily made using bulk herbs and may employ oil, vinegar or alcohol as a quality solvent. Essential oils are often added to liniments for increased potency.
Liniments are made exactly like tinctures. In essence, the only difference between them is that tinctures are taken internally, and liniments are primarily for external use.
If you are using rubbing alcohol you will need to prominently label your bottle “for external use only” : Taken internally, rubbing alcohol is a toxic poison. We prefer not to use rubbing or isopropyl alcohol, as a result of our research into their properties: We feel there is no need to place toxic substances on the skin to be absorbed into the body. Ethyl alcohol (like Everclear® or vodka) will work as well as any other solvent, and allows the additional benefit of liniment application on conditions such as sores in the mouth, for example.
Recipe for sprains, bruises, rheumatism and wounds:
- Combine 4 tsp. powdered Myrrh, 2tsp. powdered Goldenseal, 2 tsp Echinacea root powder, 1 tsp. Cayenne pepper, in one quart of alcohol.
- Mix together and let stand 7-10 days.
- Shake well every day.
- After 7-10 days strain and bottle.
You may choose to let the liniment “set” for 6-8 weeks, increasing the potency. (Jethro Kloss and Rosemary Gladstar have virtually this same recipe listed in their books, featuring Echinacea).
These liniments are very healing to wounds, bruises, sprains, scalds, and burns: They disinfect, heal, and can stop cold sores before they appear.
We recommend Wilderness Family Naturals products because of their integrity and quality. However, other online retailers and natural food stores may also carry similar goods. Whenever, possible we have tried to give you information on how to recognize superior products. Wilderness Family Naturals products can be found at: www.wildernessfamilynaturals.com or by calling (800) 945-3801.