Sunday, August 4, 2013

How To Make Your Own Herbal Tincture


This is so easy you're going to laugh. Go ahead - you may as well start now.

It takes a bare minimum of ingredients and just a little patience to make your own herbal tinctures. We'll be looking at different tincture uses in upcoming posts, but for now, let's start a batch!

Although you can mix and match herbs any way you want in your tincture, I personally prefer making a separate one for each herb, and then mixing and matching the resulting tinctures.

Ingredients
Alcohol (80 proof)
Dried herbs

Equipment
Glass jar with airtight closure
Small dark bottles with tight lid for your tincture

Method
Make sure all your containers are both clean and sterilized prior to use.
Fill the container with dried herbs to 3/4 full
Add vodka
Seal
Place in a cool, dark area (a cupboard shelf is great)
Leave for 2-3 weeks (turn or give the jar an occasional gentle shake)
Strain through coffee filter or double layer of cheesecloth
Bottle
Use

How Long Does a Tincture Last?
A tincture can last up to 5 years depending on the herbs you use, the proof of the vodka (at least 40% is recommended), and how good you were about keeping everything sterile and clean when you started.

What Can I Use it For?
There are dozens of possibilities! Everything from home remedy sore throat solutions to topical use is possible – it all depends on the characteristics and properties of the herb used. The tincture in the above photo is going to be incorporated into a new skin tonic idea I've been playing around with. The herb I'm using is mallow (upcoming blog post on that soon).


Here are a few classic herbs with great tincture potential:
Chamomile flowers
Lavender
Calendula (Marigold)

Stay tuned for more tincture fun!

Do Tell
Have you ever made a tincture? What did you use it for?

Read this post for tips on straining and bottling your tincture

12 comments:

Stephanie Gering said...

Thanks for the recipe. Will definitely try making this. Quick question- how can one tell if the tincture has gone bad, or will no longer be effective?

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Stephanie,
A tincture will 'loose power' over time and it is a gradual process. Even though they can last up to 5 years, I have never used one older than 2 years. If you do the 'nose test' of a 2-year-old tincture next to a freshly made one, the difference will be evident. As to going bad, your nose is a good indicator for this as well. Truth be told, I've never had a tincture go bad.

Zan said...

Hi Lise!

I'm planning to make herb tincture for external use. Can I use rubbing alcohol instead of vodka? Hope to get some reply. Thanks! :)

Zan

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Zan - Rubbing alcohol is not a good idea.This is going to dry and irritate the skin Is there some reason you don't want to use vodka? You could also use a brandy. Or even apple cider vinegar as an alternative? Let me know what the end use is going to be and maybe I can give you some more suggestions.

Zan said...

Hi Lise.

Thanks for your response. The reason that I can't use vodka is because it is illegal for a Muslim like me to buy drinking alcohol in my country (Malaysia). However, I am currently pursuing my study in Australia and I can't find Everclear here (I guess it is illegal or something).

I'm planning to use the tincture as and additive in my skin tonic/skin refresher spray. I guess if I can use apple cider vinegar, that's good enough for me :)

Zan.

Lise M Andersen said...

HI Zan - No worries - your tincture made with white vinegar or apple cider vinegar will be equally effective. Have fun with it, and do let me know how it goes!

Allanag92 said...

Hey lise I am just wondering can you explain a little more on how to tell if you're tinctures have gone bad like examples what will they look like etc key signs because mine just smell of the herbs and alcohol I made them back in July / August hasn't been a year yet

Thank you

Lise M Andersen said...

Hey there Allanag92 - This is a good question. To be quite honest, I've don't believe I've ever heard of a tincture going bad, nor have I experienced it myself (and I have some tinctures up to 8 years old still in stock). If you used dried herbs and 80-proof alcohol, you are looking at up to 5 years of 'life' in your tincture. My best advice to you is to do the regular 'nose test' and if the scent changes (trust me, you will notice), then consider dumping it.

Laura Smith said...

I'm extremely nee to tinctures and there is information I can't seem to find. We made all kinds of herb tinctures using 80 proof Jenkins vodka. The two we filtered and bottled today were Hot & Spicy Oregano and Thyme. I've never used tinctures so I have zero experience with them.
Is it normal/natural for the to smell like I dunno fermented plants? They don't smell like herbs to me. They smell like decomposing plant matter though. Got a headache bottling them. I plan to use some myself and gift the rest. I don't want to give anything that isn't safe to friends nor do I want to consume anything that isn't safe for me. How do I know if the powerful smell is just powerful medicine or something gone wrong?

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Laura, From your description it does sound like something isn't right.

I can only guess at possible causes:
1. The herbs you used were somehow contaminated
2. The mixture was not agitated regularly
3. The percentage of herbs to liquid was not ideal
4. the containers were not sanitized
5. The mixture received too much heat/air

There are more possibilities, so without knowing your exact process, it is hard for me to give you any real useful advice. The fact that you got a headache just from bottling them sounds very worrying. I would probably discard everything and start again. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it's probably a better choice than using something that will make you ill. Best of luck with it!

ksd said...

Hi Lisa and thanks for your Treasure Trove aka Blog. :D
Is it ok to use grain alcohol (100% proof) instead of 80% since that is the only thing I can find where I live?

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi ksd - that should be fine - go for it!