Years ago, when I was a Homeopathic medicine newbie, I wanted to use a more natural product to boost my immune system. I was working in an office at the time and everyone seemed to be constantly having a cold or cough all year round. Didn’t know much about the effect of air conditioners back then ahem. So I started using Echinacea drops and they did me a world of good. Spent a fortune on my favorite brand every winter until… I came to the eye-opening discovery I could just grow Echinacea in pots on the balcony of my city apartment and make it myself!
And that was the start of many homemade remedies in the form of ‘drops’ or, tinctures as I call them now being a bit more educated by great herbalists I started following since then. My love for Echinacea is very big as it was the first flower I learned to work with. They are easy to grow, do love a lot of sunshine, and you can use the flowers and roots to make various different things with. Oh and they are beautiful of course!
It’s the 2nd of November today and I still have a few Echinaceas looking very happy in the garden.
Back to the topic! What is a herbal tincture?
Basically, a herbal tincture is a liquid extract obtained by soaking parts of plants in alcohol, vinegar or vegetable glycerin.
Depending on the type of tincture you want to make, you can use all the following plant parts for your herbal tincture:
During the soaking process as I call it, the plant parts will slowly release their medicinal properties to the alcohol, or vinegar or vegetable glycerin. This way the liquid becomes very concentrated, so packed with all the health boosting powers we are looking for in our herbal tincture.
As always with making your own plant based remedies, please make sure that, in case you have certain medical conditions or you are on prescription medication, you thoroughly read into all the side effects of using the tincture of a certain plant may have. Also, during pregnancy or when you are nursing, always consult a medical professional before taking any kind of herbal products.
There is a lot of information on the internet on all the benefits and possible side effects of medicinal plants, so please prepare yourself well before making or taking any kind of home made plant based remedy.
Once you have decided on which plant or plants will be the chosen one(s), we can go to the next step! Making your own herbal tincture!
How to Make one Yourself
Depending on how much tincture you want to make, please make sure to have enough soaking liquids to cover your plant material with. Use the liquid of your choice, if you don’t want to use alcohol, use organic glycerin you can find online or apple cider vinegar instead. For this tincture we are using fresh plant material. You can also use dried plant material, we will go into that in another post. You will need:
- High proof alcohol (Vodka is my preference, but brandy or white Armagnac are great too) or organic vegetable glycerin, or apple cider vinegar.
- Plant material of your choice (for example Echinacea)
- Clean glass jar with lid
- Small glass dropper bottles (for when your tincture is ready to use)
And from here it’s all easy! Gently shake off your plants outside after cutting them so insects have a chance to get away and won’t end up in the liquid with your cuttings. Then wash your plants, pat them dry with some kitchen towel before you roughly cut up all the parts you want to use.
Put everything in the glass jar (the jar should be 1/4 filled) and completely cover with alcohol or the vinegar or the vegetable glycerin. If you would follow the rules of dosage, the ratio is usually 1:3 which means, the liquid you add is the triple of the weight of your plant material.
I will go further into dosaging another time. After a while when you get the hang of making herbal tinctures, you might want to have more control over the alcohol percentage and know exactly how much of every ingredient is in your home made remedy. But for now I just want to concentrate on the basics.
Put the lid on the jar and shake lightly, then you can stick a label on it with the date and ingredients if you like and put the jar in a cupboard for about 4 to 6 weeks, don’t forget to shake it every other day or so.
When the weeks have gone by the color will have disappeared from your plant material and all the good stuff will be in your liquid! Now you can strain the content of your jar through muslin or a fine sieve and transfer it into dropper bottles.
The last bit can be a little tricky as you don’t want half your precious tincture ending up on the kitchen counter, so for transferring the tincture from for example a measuring cup, I use this syringe you can find on the internet, and it works really well, no more spillage of tinctures in the Plantscapades kitchen! You might also want to look into buying small funnels, they are also very practical to fill bottles up with your home made products.
How to use your tincture
After the 4 to 6 weeks in which pure magic happened in your jar you finally have your very own home made tincture! Yay!
When the lovely dropper bottle is standing there so pretty, the big moment has arrived of finally using your home made remedy!
There are two ways of administering a tincture that are the most effective;
- Let drops slowly dissolve under the tongue
- Mix a dose of drops with a small amount of water and drink
There are many more ways people use their tinctures, you can also combine tinctures (important to research benefits first) or mix them in with your meals. These things work differently for everyone, so just see what works best for you.
Now, this is not an easy one when it concerns a home made tincture, depending on how precise you like to be with the plant matter/alcohol or vinegar or vegetable glycerin ratio. In other words is depends on how concentrated your tincture is.
In general, I stick to these dosages;
- 20/25 drops, 3 to 5 times a day (for fast treatment of symptoms like treating a cold or cough and for a short period of time)
- 18 drops, once to twice a day (for consistent use like for example building up your immune system with Echinacea, for a longer period of time).
Like mentioned before, it’s very important you do your research properly when you start making tinctures of any kind of herbal remedy at home. Not every plant is safe to just start using depending on a condition you might have or prescription medication you are taking. Educate yourself well before you start your home apothecary. There are a lot of fascinating things to learn out there and there are various great herbalists sharing their knowledge. Not to mention the wonderful books you can find to get inspiration from.
Happy herb hunting and growing!