Alcohol, vodka, proof and percentages.


On the medicinal herblist, Sep98,

by Henriette

>I want to use vodka to make my tinctures & have read that vodka is half water half alcohol. My question is do I still need to use water in the preperation? I was going to use 1 part herb to 5 parts of an equal 50/50 water/alcohol split till I read that the alcohol contains water already. Is this still ok?

When it says alcohol it actually -means- 100 % alcohol. Vodka is -not- alcohol, technically, it's a mixture of alcohol and water - it's vodka.

So when you want to do a 1:5 50% tincture you use 1 part (by weight, eg. 100 g) of dried herb and 5 parts (by volume, eg. 5 dl) of your 50% (= 100 proof) vodka. You don't add any water to that. If you use 100 % alcohol you take 1 part water to 1 part pure alcohol to get at 50 %.

Here's a good materia medica, giving you percentages to use with dried herbs: - go for the Herbal Materia Medica. Use 100 % EtOH as your menstruum with fresh herbs. If you can't get that, use the highest % you can lay your hands on, even if it means your tincture has a scent of 80 % Strohrum.

Proof is two times percent, so 100 proof is 50%.

<Soap box>

100% EtOH is short for 94 or 96 %. Fiddling with small percentage deviations when making herbal tinctures is silly.

- How do you know just how much of your precious stuff evaporated the minute you took off the cork? It's dependent on altitude, temperature, and on how long you leave the cork off, and if you're inclined to do so, you can start calculating now. Tell us the results in a couple hundred years, when you're done.

- How do you know exactly how much water is in the plants this year? Yes, you can dry your fresh batch and measure both the fresh and the dry one, but while you were drying one the other has dried too, eh? Funny that. Once you've surmounted that problem you still can't be sure just how much water is in the dried plant, either. Is it 5 %? 10 %? Happy counting! I think that humans react to the nature around them, and if this here plant contains more water this year, why, we'll probably need that much more water in our tincture this year.

You don't have to be a matematician to make tinctures. The difference -really- isn't all that great. So calculate with 100 % EtOH when you use 94 or 96 %.

</Soap box>

<Next soap box>

The label on the bottle should say: "1:5, 50%, herb name, herb part, month decanted, (picked where and when), (bought from where, and when), (uses), (your name)".

Again, it's silly to try to find out how much EtOH is in the finished tincture, and put -that- on the label. As far as I know (AFAIK) none of the olde Eclectics ever put anything but the starting menstruum % on their bottles. Again AFAIK no reputable herbalist in these days puts anything but the starting position on their bottles either - corrections anyone?

If you want to make sure your tincture is viable, ie. it'll keep, you need to make sure you have more than 15-20 % in the finished product. You'll have no problems with that if you use 100 % EtOH with your fresh plants (1:2 = 1 part fresh plant (by weight), 2 parts 100 % EtOH (by volume)), and the usual 40-70 % EtOH with your dried plants, in the usual ratio of 1:5.

</Soap box>