Saturday, July 16, 2011

How to Make Herbal Tinctures

What is a tincture and why do you use it?
A tincture is a fast acting infusion of an herb or combination of herbs in an alcohol base. The herbal tincture is more potent than a tea or infusion, requiring a smaller dose and easy to administer to sick people and children. Tinctures also can be stored for a long period of time and still be effective making it a very efficient way of using herbal medicine.

Step 1: Gather needed supplies
How to choose herbs. Researching an herbal remedy for what ails you is important. There are many sources that conflict on the usefulness of an herb or how to properly identify an herb so make sure your source is credible. There are a few well known herbalists, like Susun Weed who publishes many books and tours teaching classes to the public. There is also an American Herbalist Guild that you can use to find out if there are any herbalists in your area that may help consult you on herbs that would help whatever your concern is. You can find them here http://www.americanherbalistsguild.com/

Herbs, dried or fresh?
After you have decided what type of herb to use based on your need, you then need to obtain this herb. You can easily find dried herbs in leaf or root form online at websites such as Starwest Botanicals (http://www.starwest-botanicals.com/) and buy them in bulk so you can make large quantities of your preferred medicine. If you are using dried herbs, the ratio of herb to alcohol is one ounce dried herb to six ounce of spirit. If you are growing your own herbs or can harvest them in the wild as some prefer to do, you can use one ounce of fresh herb to one ounce of spirit. (Weed, pg 137) If you are wild harvesting, make sure that you are finding a source that is free from toxins or bacteria. Don’t harvest from road sides, polluted river banks or areas where animals are likely to have defecated on the plants.

Alcohol. The type of alcohol you use to preserve your herbal tincture is a matter of preference. Homeopathic doctors and pharmacists often use pure grain alcohol, but this is very strong and can burn the inside of your mouth if you are using it without diluting it in juice or water. Most people use brandy, vodka, or rum, as long as it is around 100-80 proof. 100 proof means that it is half alcohol and half water and many dosages that you will find assumes this is the material used.

Appropriate sized containers. You will need to gather canning jars of the appropriate size for the amount of tincture you plan to make. I recommend using quart jars with tight fitting lids like you would for canning. You will also need to gather the jars you plan on storing your tincture in and administering the doses from, like the brown bottles with droppers that you can find through many of the stores you would buy your herbs from or from a pharmacy. The jars you use to store your tincture in long term should be colored to block the sunlight from your tincture.

Step 2: Combine your tincture ingredients
Now that you have your supplies in order, you can fill your jar with the appropriate measurement of dried or fresh herbs and the alcohol of your choice. Cap the jar tightly with a lid and label the jar with the ingredient used and the date. You will need to store the jar in a warm, dark place and remember to shake it daily for 2 weeks. This helps to release the properties of the herb into the alcohol. The tincture needs to steep in the solution for at least 6 weeks. Some people like to make their tinctures on a New Moon and that way, they know that if they wait 2 full moons their medicine is ready!

Step 3: Strain and Bottle
You have waited patiently and your medicine is ready to be used. Using a piece of cheese cloth or fin muslin, pour the contents of the jar through the cloth and into a clean bowl, squeezing the herbal material to release any remaining liquid. Discard the used herbs. Making sure your storage dropper bottles are clean and sterile, use a small funnel to pour the tincture into your bottles, label them and they are complete!

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