Ancient Health at Home: Making Tinctures

Reader Contribution by Justine Patton
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Making tinctures at home may sound intimidating, but it is as simple as following a simple recipe from a cookbook.

First, though, let’s answer an important question: What is a tincture?

Tinctures, by definition, are plant extracts preserved with diluted alcohol or glycerin. They are generally made from the root, plant and/or flowers of herbs. Tinctures assimilate effectively into your bloodstream and provide more potent treatment for a longer amount of time than when compared with simply using dried herbs.

Perhaps one of humanity’s oldest pairings, the mortar and pestle are a versatile duo. Make a tincture by crushing dried herbs in your mortar.

The type of herbs you use in your tincture all depend on what health benefits you are hoping to reap. A passionflower tincture can be added to milk to help aid in sleep. An echinacea tincture is believed to stimulate the immune system and protect you from the cold and flu, and a black cohosh root tincture is sometimes used to relieve those pesky symptoms of menopause.

Vodka is one of the more popular spirits when it comes to concocting tinctures at home, but the type you use really just depends on your taste. If you are using dried herbs, make sure your liquor of choice is at least 80-proof. 

Now that you’ve decided which spirit and herb you are using, make a tincture at home:

1. Crush dried herbs with a porcelain mortar and pestle. You may add a small portion of your menstruum (another word for the spirit you are using) to the roots to help, if necessary.

2. Pack the crushed herbs into a clean, glass jar fairly tightly and cover the herbs with your menstruum.

3. Store the jar in a dark place to macerate, shaking it twice daily. Tinctures take anywhere from two days to six weeks to macerate. This amount of time simply depends on the texture of the herb. Hard, dense plant material, like roots and bark, usually take more time to macerate than dried leaves.

4. Once the tincture has macerated, strain it through a mesh or paper coffee filter. Store it in a dark, labeled bottle.

Tinctures may be taken straight, and they make a great addition to a cup of hot water as well. You can even pour in a little honey or fruit juice. Simply listen to your taste buds–they will tell you what to do. The typical dosage is 1 teaspoon of the tincture three times a day. Of course, if you are unsure, check with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have.

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