Make Your Own Medicine: Making Tinctures

Herbal tinctures are easy to make. Combine a teaspoon of healing tincture with water or fruit juice for an herbal home remedy.

| May/June 2001

  • A homemade tincture made from St. John's wort leaves should be taken in between meals.
    Photo by Thorsten Schier
  • Store your homemade tinctures into a colored glass container. Cobalt blue or amber glass keeps out harmful sunlight.
    Photo by HD Connelly

Tinctures, which are easy to take and readily absorbed by the body, are plant medicines made most often from herbs steeped in alcohol or an alcohol-and-water mixture. Alcohol is efficient at extracting an herb’s active constituents and preserving them; tinctures can be stored for as long as two years, preferably in dark bottles and away from sunlight.

Tinctures are readily available for purchase at health-food stores and some drugstores and supermarkets. They may also be prepared at home using a grain alcohol of at least 80 proof, such as vodka. Do not use methyl alcohol, denatured alcohol or rubbing alcohol because all are either toxic or unpalatable (avoid all contact with methanol). Although most tinctures are made with vodka, you can also use other spirits, such as whisky, rum or gin. For an alcohol-free tincture, you can use glycerin or vinegar to extract the plant properties.

Sage Tincture recipe 

Making Tinctures

To make a tincture, use 4 ounces finely chopped or ground dried herbs. Put them in a container that can be tightly sealed. Add 1 pint of 80 proof vodka or other grain alcohol and tightly seal the container. (If you use fresh herbs, such as a whole plant, use 190 proof grain alcohol, otherwise the water in the fresh herbs will dilute the tincture too much.) Store in a dark place for two weeks, and shake well each day. Then, pour the mixture through a wine press lined with a muslin bag, and press into a jug. Pour the strained liquid into dark, sterilized bottles. Label the bottle with the name of the herb and when you made it. If you like, you can include information such as part of the herb used, whether it was fresh or dry, and what percentage of alcohol was used.

You can tincture many herbs. To get started, take a look at what is in your garden. It makes sense to start with herbs that are easy to get and have varied medicinal uses. Lemon balm, for example, is an antiviral and mood-elevating herb. You can also tincture peppermint, spearmint, lavender, echinacea, skullcap and many other herbs. (Try our Sage Tincture recipe to fight off pesky colds.)

Did you know? The usual ratio for tincturing is 1 ounce of dried herbs to 5 ounces of alcohol. Sometimes a 1:10 concentration is used instead.

5/16/2016 9:22:28 AM

"The usual ratio for tincturing is 1 ounce of dried herbs to 5 ounces of alcohol. Sometimes a 1:10 concentration is used instead." OUNCES are VOLUME or WEIGHT????

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