Want the soothing, medicinal effects of herbal tea without having to consume a cuppa? Try making—and taking—your own herbal tincture instead!
You'll be glad you asked. It’s an herbal preparation in which certain parts of a plant, including essential oils and minerals, are extracted into a solvent. High-proof alcohols typically make the best solvents. However, organic apple cider vinegar and vegetable glycerin are also used on occasion (generally for children’s preparations).
Tinctures are taken orally, often deposited directly beneath the tongue, and a single dose (two droppers full) produces the same effect as a cup of herbal tea. But tinctures are concentrated and absorbed by the body more easily than tea, thanks in large part, to the solvent.
Tinctures boast a variety of nutritional and medicinal benefits. They are used for a wide range of conditions, including anemia, anxiety, digestive issues, PMS, insomnia and low libido.
Gathering your ingredients
Making your own herbal tinctures is simple. But first, you’ll need to round up the following supplies:
- 80-proof alcohol (or greater): Recommendations include brandy and vodka.
- Alcohol alternative, if preferred: High-quality organic apple cider vinegar should do the trick.
- Fresh or dried herbs (e.g., chamomile, ginger, peppermint): It’s essential to know which plant(s) you’re using. When in doubt, purchase herbs from a reputable retailer rather than foraging for them.
- Pint-sized jar with tight-fitting lid
- Small bottles made of amber or cobalt glass: These will be used to store tinctures and should contain a lid with dropper.
- Fine muslin or cheesecloth
- Glass bowl or measuring cup with spout
- Small funnel
And now it’s tincture time!
The first step in making a tincture is adding the herbs to the jar. If your herbs are fresh, it’s best to chop them up or crush them with a mortar and pestle first. Fill about three-quarters of the jar with (loosely packed) fresh herbs, or half the jar with dried herbs.
Next, fill the jar with the solvent, stopping at the beginning of the lid ring. The herbs should be completely submerged by the alcohol (exposure to air can introduce bacteria and mold) and move around freely when shaken. Generally, the fresh herb-to-alcohol ratio should be 1:2, and the dried herb-to-alcohol ratio should be 1:4 or 1: 5, but be sure to follow the “recipe” for the herb you are tincturing.
Screw on the lid, label the jar and store it in a cool, dry, dark place.
Shake your mixture once daily for the first week, then allow it to steep undisturbed for an additional five weeks. After six weeks have passed, line the strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth or muslin and hold it over your measuring cup or bowl. Pour your tincture over the cloth, pressing down gently on the herbs to remove any extra liquid.
Finally, you’ll use your funnel to transfer your tincture into your small glass bottles. Label each bottle with the herb type and date and store them out of direct sunlight.