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Herbal Tinctures for Health and Well-Being

They may be small, but these extracts pack a powerful herbal punch. Discover the multiple benefits of tinctures, and how to make and use them to stay healthy.

| July/August 2019

tinctures-field
Photo by Adobe Stock/chamillew

Crafting stellar herbal remedies in your kitchen that surpass anything you can buy in stores is easy and fun. The basic method simply entails packing herbs in a jar, covering them with something, such as alcohol, vinegar, or honey, and then straining them after a few weeks. Alternatively, they can be simmered on the stove and then strained.

Here, we’re going to talk about tinctures, a liquid extract made with alcohol. Alcohol is as good as water, and sometimes better, for extracting most plant constituents, and it makes a far more concentrated product. Instead of drinking a whole cup of tea, you take just 1/5 to 1 teaspoon of tincture. Dilute your tincture in a little bit of water (or whatever drink you like) when you take it, because the high alcohol content can burn your mouth. Alcohol extracts have a long shelf life — 5 to 10 years! — and they do a fine job preserving fresh plant properties that get lost in the drying process. They absorb rapidly into the body, bypassing digestion.

In typical doses of 1 to 3 milliliters, you’ll get very little alcohol effect from your herbal tincture. However, some people with alcohol issues (including addiction, allergy/sensitivity, special diets, and religious concerns) may want to avoid alcohol entirely. Instead of tinctures, herbal remedies including glycerites, vinegar, oxymels, powders, capsules, and teas all are effective ways to make use of plant medicine.



Tricky Tinctures

The alcohol proofs (percentages) offered in my recipes work as a general rule for most herbs (see Making Sense of Proof and Alcohol Percentages). However, some herbs and constituents require a different treatment. Research individual plants for specific recommendations, but here are some general exceptions and considerations:

Mushrooms: Polysaccharides (the complex starches in mushrooms that support the immune system) extract better via hot water decoction than in a typical tincture. You can cheat the system by doing a double-extraction tincture. This is ideal for mushrooms, which have an additional confounding factor of chitin fiber blocking the availability of many useful constituents; several hours of hot water extraction helps break that chitin down to release the mushroom’s constituents.



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