Save money, and know what you're getting
by Mary Hanna
any people are making their own tinctures from dried and fresh herbs in an attempt to be more involved in their health. Tinctures of fresh herbs have proven to be more vitalizing and longer lasting than dried herbs. Dried herbs tend to get moldy or be eaten by insects; tinctures will not. Tinctures will keep for as long as two years and sustain their potency if stored properly. Creating your own tinctures will save you quite a bit of money. If you buy tinctures at a retail shop you might get a few ounces but if you create them yourself you can yield a quart.
The principles behind making tinctures are to obtain the spiritual and physical quintessence of the plant. This is done by using ethyl alcohol to dissolve and preserve the herb you are using.
The material used to extract the herbs is known as the menstrum. The herbs you are tincturing are called the mark. Tincturing will extract and maintain both the water-soluble and alcohol-soluble properties of an herb.
When purchasing herbs, be sure you are buying from a trustworthy source. Better yet, grow your own herbs to be confident of the best possible quality. When growing your own you can make any number of combinations to produce your tinctures. I have further found that when growing my own herbs I get the greater gratification, knowing not only did I brew the tincture but I grew the herbs. I am part of the process from starting point to the development of the tinctures.
To cook up your own tinctures, you need either ">dried or fresh cut herbs, vodka, brandy or rum, 80 - 100 proof to pour over the herbs, mason jars complete with lids, unbleached muslin or cheesecloth, ands of course, labels.
Have on hand 7-10 ounces of chopped fresh herbs for every quart of vodka, brandy or rum. I always try to utilize fresh herbs when creating my tinctures. When using dried herbs, I use 4 ounces of herbs to one pint of the spirit used. If you are making a tincture from bitter herbs it is best to use rum as it will disguise the flavor of the herbs. To knock out a non-alcoholic tincture, use distilled water, glycerol or vinegar. Just remember you must keep the resulting tincture in the refrigerator.
Put your herbs in the mason jars and then drizzle the spirit used over them so that it comes up to about an inch above the herbs. Close the lids tightly and tag the jars then put them in a very dark, dry section of your home. Keeping them in a paper bag has worked fine for me. You must shake the tincture every day, several times a day if you can manage it. If you put it by the door you use most often, every time you go in or out just shake the bag.
At the beginning inspect the tincture daily to be sure the vodka, brandy or rum still is covering the herbs. Allow the brew to steep for at least two weeks and up to three months. When it's ready, line a sieve with the cheesecloth or muslin and pour the fluid through the sieve into a fresh, clean bottle. Draw in the ends of the cheesecloth and press to get all of the tincture. You can now fill smaller bottles with droppers with the tincture for easy use. Be sure to tag the jar with the name of the herb and the day, the month and the year that it was produced.
To use the tincture, drop one teaspoon into juice, water, or tea, three times per day.
Here are a few ideas for treating colds. Prepare tinctures from the herbs that follow:
* echinacea (leaves, flowers)
* elder (leaves, flowers, berries)
* eyebright (leaves, flowers)
* ginger (root)
* peppermint (leaves)
* yarrow (leaves, flowers)
* catnip (leaves)
There are no hard and fast rules for creating tinctures. Experiment with different combinations. Be sure you note down the recipe you used for each batch so when you come up with a winner you will have it on file.
Mary Hanna is an aspiring herbalist who lives in Central Florida. This allows her to grow gardens inside and outside year round. She has published other articles on Cruising, Gardening and Cooking. Visit her websites at Container Gardening and Herb Gardening. You can read more of her articles at Article Bazaar. © 2007 Mary Hanna, all rights reserved, used by permission.