How to Make Herbal Tinctures
Herbal tinctures, also known as hydroethanolic extractions, are the alcoholic extract of a plant.
Tinctures offer an easy-to-use and fast-acting form of herbal medicine that allows us to extract both the water-soluble and alcohol-soluble constituents from plants for a strong, well-rounded medicine. Tinctures are also highly shelf-stable, lasting for years and years.
Unlike teas, which require us to prepare leaves and flowers separately from roots, barks and berries because of their structure, with tinctures all parts of the plants can be combined and tinctured at the same time. Powdered herbs can also be tinctured in the same blend as cut and sifted herbs.
Water Soluble Constituents:
Proteins/amino acids, Gums, Mucilage, Glycosides, Tannins, Salts, Saponins, Anthraquinones, Carbohydrates, Phenolics
Alcohol Soluble Constituents:
Alkaloids, Volatile oils, Resins, Glycosides, tannins
How to Make Tincture at Home
Tinctures can be easily made at home using one of two methods: the folk method or the calculation method. The folk method is easy because it doesn’t require a scale; it’s simple, straightforward and requires only your herbs, a wide-mouth canning jar with a tight-fitting lid, alcohol, cheesecloth and amber dropper bottles. Using the calculation method, you will also need a scale to weigh your herbs so that you can achieve a specific herb to alcohol ratio.
How to Choose Your Alcohol
In order for tinctures to be shelf-stable they need to be at least 20% alcohol by volume (ABV) or 40 proof. To capture the widest range of both water soluble and alcohol soluble constituents, we recommend working with an alcohol that is between 40-60% ABV (80-120 proof). Most vodka, brandy, rum and gin falls perfectly within that range. Starting with either vodka or brandy is a good choice because those flavors are still subtle enough for you to pick up on the flavor of the herb(s) you’re working with.
Making your tincture: The folk method
- Fill your glass jar half way with your herb(s) of choice
- Fill the jar to the top with your alcohol
- Place a piece of parchment paper over the mouth of the jar, and then cap the jar with a metal lid
- Allow the tincture to macerate (infuse) for 4-6 weeks, shaking daily for at least the first week
- When you’re ready to strain, layer a few pieces of cheesecloth over the mouth of the jar and pour the tincture out into either a second clean jar or a large bowl. Get as much alcohol out of the herbs as you can by gathering up the cheesecloth and squeezing strongly until most of the liquid is out of the herbs
- You can either store your tincture in the clean glass jar with the tight fitting lid (I recommend placing a new piece of parchment paper between jar and lid for long term storage) or pour into amber dropper bottles.
- Label you tincture with the name of the herb, the date you strained it, and the alcohol percentage you used
- Example: Burdock (Arctium lappa) root tincture, January 11 2021, 40% ABV
- Store the tincture in a cool, dark place
Making your tincture: The calculation method
- To start, weigh your herbs in grams (g) using a kitchen scale.
- **Tip: coarsely powdering your herbs using a coffee grinder will help you get closer to the 1:5 ratio with herbs that are ‘fluffy’ like calendula or raspberry leaf that can be a challenge to cover with the 5 parts alcohol
- Keep track of how much alcohol in milliliters (mL) that you add so you can calculate what your final ratio is
- Once you’ve weighed out your herbs, measure out 5 times the volume in milliliters (mL) of your alcohol
- Example: if you have 100 g of herbs, you will need 500 mL of alcohol
- Place your herbs in the clean class jar, and then pour the measured volume of alcohol over the herbs, stirring to make sure they are fully immersed
- Important: all the plant material must be covered by the alcohol, so you may have to add a little bit more alcohol in some cases.