Sunday, April 19, 2015

Making Tinctures

Tinctures are herbs extracted with alcohol, glycerin, or vinegar. Tinctures provide a convenient method of preserving herbs as well as an effective delivery mechanism.  Stored in brown glass, in a cool dark place they should be good for at least two or three years, and probably much longer. The ingredients needed to make a tincture are the solvent and the herbs. When choosing a solvent it is wise to review the soluble constituents of the herbal material. 

Menstruums :There are three basic menstruums, or solvents used to extract the chemical compounds of herbs in tinctures, alcohol, glycerin, and vinegar. Alcohol is the most used because it can extract fats, resins, waxes,most alkaloids, and some of the volatile oils, as well as many other plant compounds. Water is also necessary to extract the water soluble plant chemicals. Using an 80 to 100 proof alcohol such as vodka, brandy and gin provides the alcohol-water ratio you need without having to add anything. If pure grain alcohol ( 190 proof) is used, water will have to be added. Don't use city tap water that contains chlorine, use either distilled or pure spring water 

Herbs: Either fresh or dried finely chopped herbs can be used. Use of one pint of menstruum to two ounces of dried herbs, or about two handfuls of fresh. The important thing is to completely cover the herbs, leaving a couple of extra inches of liquid about the herbs to allow for swelling as the herbs absorb the liquid. Leave some headroom in the jar. If using vinegar, warm first before pouring it over the herbs.Chop herbs finely Place in a glass jar, labeled with the current date and name of the herb Add sufficient liquid menstruum to completely cover the herb Cap with a tight fitting lid, put the jar in a dark place at room temperature, and shake at least once daily. After 2 to 3 weeks, strain the contents through several layers of cheesecloth. Allow to settle overnight in a clean jar Restrain through a filter paper Store in a labeled, amber glass bottle away from light and heat. The Chinese macerate herbs for months sometimes even years. For stronger tinctures a suggested time can be 4 to 6 weeks. The duration depends on the mixture and on your patience, in time you will develop your own style. I use a kitchen cupboard that I open on a regular basis, so I don't forget the shake the bottle. Tinctures will keep for several years. The standard dose is one tablespoon in 4 oz  of water once or twice a day. 

Using vinegar to tincture herbs. Alcohol has mostly displaced vinegar as a menstruum for making liquid herbal extracts, as it is far more efficient in extracting and preserving the medicinal properties of herbs. Vinegar is however passable solvent and useful in cases where you wish to avoid alcohol. When used in conjunction with alcohol, vinegar can sometimes assist in the extraction of alkaloid (base) substances from herbs. Such an extract containing both vinegar and alcohol is known as an acetous tincture. 

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