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Making tinctures.

Preparations:

On the medicinal herblist in Sep00,

by Henriette


The question:

> I've seen lots of info on this list, but I would like to get specific. (This is an easy one) How do you make your own tincture?

The answer:

A fresh herb tincture

a) official

Take

  • 1 part of fresh herb (by weight, eg. 100 g) to
  • 2 parts of 95 % alcohol (by volume, eg. 2 dl)

Chop up your herb. Leaf roughly, 1" is good enough, root more finely, as it's harder, 1/5-1/10" is good for that. (Don't use your vitamix or oster, if you do you'll get lots of inerts into your tincture, as cell walls rupture). Pour herb into glass jar, cover with alcohol, close tight lid tightly, let sit in a coolish shady spot for 2-4 weeks. Strain (I use a cheesecloth, and wring), pour into dark glass bottles, label (1:2 95 % Yarrow flowering tops, July 2000).

b) simplers

Take enough chopped-up herb to jam a glass jar full, add enough 95 % alcohol to cover, close tight lid tightly, let sit in a coolish shady spot for 2-4 weeks, strain, bottle, label.

A dried herb tincture

a) official

Take

  • 1 part of dried herb (by weight, eg. 100 g) to
  • 5 parts of a mix of alcohol and water (by volume, eg. 5 dl)

Crush up your herb (don't powder it), pour into glass jar, add menstruum (this is your alcohol-water-mix), close tight lid tightly, let sit in a coolish shady spot for 2-4 weeks. Strain, bottle, label (1:5 50 % Yarrow flowering tops, July 2000).

b) simplers

Take enough crushed-up herb to jam a glass jar full, add enough alcohol-water-mix to cover, close tight lid tightly, let sit in a coolish shady spot for 2-4 weeks, strain, bottle, label.

>What percentage of alcohol should I use for dried herb?

You'll find a good Materia Medica here: http://chili.rt66.com/hrbmoore/HOMEPAGE - go for the manuals. This will tell you the alcohol percentages for dried herb. Note that Michael Moore assumes you know that fresh herb should be tinctured at 95 % alcohol; thus his notation for fresh herb tincture is 1:2, not 1:2 95 %.

>What kind of alcohol?

Vodka is good, but when it says 40% somewhere on the label that means that the rest is water.

So get as high as you can lay your hands on, and yes, it's expensive, if you're not close to the Mexican border. In Mexico 95 % alcohol is USD 5 a gallon, and it's got a nice sweet taste, because it's made from sugarcane.

Everclear is a brand of pure alcohol available in some states in the US; there are other brands, and pure alcohol (95 % or 190 proof) is not available in all states.

Note that if you use lower percentages than indicated for dried herb your quality suffers immensely. Note that if you use significantly less than 95 % on fresh herb you have a large risk that your tincture will rot while it's still in the glass jar, or later on in the bottle. Yech! (This is the voice of experience, here...)

The rule of thumb is, you want the water either in the plant or in the menstruum, except for herbs that are resins (myrrh, for instance, needs 95 % alcohol even though it's "dry"). Terminology: menstruum is your alcohol, or your alcohol-water mixture; in teas the menstruum is just water, in herbal vinegars it's (surprise surprise) vinegar.

>How long is the tincture fresh?

Depends on the herb, but a rule of thumb would be about 10 years. Except for Capsella bursa-pastoris (Shepherd's purse), Lobelia, and Melissa officinalis (lemon balm), off the top of my head; these are good for a year, max, so you need to tincture them fresh every summer if you use them.

Cheers
Henriette



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