Tinctures, or plants extracted in alcohol, assimilate efficiently into your bloodstream and remain potent longer than dried herbs. Don’t be afraid to make your own.
Julie Bruton-Seal, along with her husband Matthew Seal, wrote Backyard Medicine: Harvest and Make Your Own Herbal Remedies (Skyhorse Publishing, 2009). Bruton-Seal says that medicine making isn’t that different from cooking.
“It is an art as much as a science,” she says. “The only way to gain experience is to go out there and make your own, and don’t be afraid to experiment.”
For your first tincturing expedition, start with the aboveground parts (stems, leaves and flowers) of a fresh herb, because they take less time to infuse than roots or dried herbs. Herb Companion contributor Susan Belsinger recommends tincturing the aboveground parts of fresh echinacea, which has antiviral and immune-boosting properties.
Try this simple technique. First, chop and pound the herb’s leaves, flowers and stems; pack them in a jar fairly tightly; pour enough vodka (90 to 100 proof) to completely cover; then set the jar in a dark place and shake twice daily. Within 48 hours, strain your tincture or beneficial compounds in the herb particles will begin to decompose. Bottle it in a dark glass container, label and store somewhere cool. For easy straining, Belsinger recommends a paper or mesh coffee filter. If using a regular metal strainer, line it with fine, muslin-style cheesecloth.
Keep in mind that some measurements, such as the alcohol concentration, type of solvent and length of infusion, vary depending on the type and parts of the herb. For more detailed measurements, you can refer to Bruton-Seal’s book, but for beginners, her advice is not to worry about alcohol percentages too much. Instead, she suggests using straight vodka, which is the easiest way to ensure you have enough alcohol to preserve the tincture.
Recommended Product: If you’re wary of making tinctures from scratch, Lisa Galasso, a naturopathic doctor, has created Herbaltini Tincture Kits. The ingredients come in Italian glass, hermetically sealed jars. To make a tincture, you open the jar, remove the packaging, pour in the vodka and wait a couple of weeks. Galasso recommends her “Mojo Rising” Energy &
Adrenal Boosting Formula, $74.98. www.herbaltini.com.
Ariel Tilson is an editorial intern.