Making Herbal Tinctures

                                              Making an herbal tincture
Traditional method and what you will need:

Glass jar (mason jars work well) of an appropriate size, and a same-sized measuring cup
80 or 100 proof vodka, preferably organic (‘Rain‘ is one brand)
Fresh or dry herbal material
Muslin or cheesecloth; knife and cutting board

Step one: The Herbs

You will want the highest quality herbs you can get: the strength of the tincture depends on it! If you can grow them organically, be sure to harvest them at the peak of their vibrancy, before any yellowing or damage can occur. Sing or talk to them while you harvest, they love it! Follow your own rhythms and instincts, but in general:

• leaves are harvested under the Sun, before flowering, and just before the Full Moon.
• flowers are harvested under the morning Sun, at their peak, just before the Full Moon.
• barks and twigs are harvested under the Sun, right after the New Moon.
• roots are harvested under the evening Sun, or at night, when the tops of the plants have

died back in the Fall or right before the plants come up in the Spring. Harvest just before
the New Moon.
You can rinse leaves gently, but don’t ever wash flowers. Roots and barks should be well
washed and cleaned. Pat dry in a towel before proceeding.
If you are purchasing herbs, only buy organically grown. The residues on commercially
grown crops (synthetic pesticides and fertilizers) make them unfit for medicine. If you can,
buy them fresh, but dry herbs can make incredible tinctures! Make sure they are of a rich
color, deep green or deep brown or fiery orange as it may be – this shows they have been
properly dried and stored. They should have a strong smell, even if it’s just the smell of
‘green’. A small pinch under the tongue should produce a definite effect of some kind. If
you can, buy whole herbs and chop them yourself. Herbs stored for six months to a year
can still be good, if kept dry and out of the sun, but after a year they should be kept for
teas only.

Step two: The Preparation and Tincturing

Once you have obtained your plant material, measure out enough to fill most of your glass
jar. Then, lay it out on a cutting board. If it is finely chopped (almost powdered) already,
you can just add it to the jar. Otherwise, use a knife (I like crescent-shaped blades) to chop
it to a fine consistency. With some roots this may be impossible; just do the best you can.
Some seeds and leaves, when dry, are easier in a mortar and pestle.
Once your herb is well chopped or ground, add it to your jar. Tell it that, soon, it will be
medicine and will help many people. Then, add enough vodka to cover it completely (this
may take a while – be sure to wait for all the alcohol to trickle down), put the lid on the jar,
and shake it vigorously for a little while. Store in a cool, dry place away from even indirect
sunlight – but don’t forget about it! Shake it well every other day.

Step three: Maceration and Straining

When in the jar, the tincture is said to be ‘macerating’, or steeping. This should continue
for at least one Lunar cycle (one month, approximately), at which point it can be strained.
Start by placing a strainer (medium mesh) over the mouth of the opened jar. Then, turn the
whole thing over into the measuring cup. Wait for most of it to trickle out, then flip the jar
back over, take out the wet herbs, and squeeze them through muslin or cheesecloth to get
the last bits out (make sure your hands are clean!). Rinse out your jar, and pour the
strained tincture back in. Store in a cool, dry, dark place. This tincture can keep for 10
years!

Some additions to the Traditional Method
What you will need: Two glass jars and a measuring cup, a scale, grain alcohol (95% pure alcohol), distilled water, calculator
Muslin or cheesecloth; knife and cutting board
Fresh or dry herb material
The Timing:

Harvesting and processing of herbs have always followed seasonal rhythms and cycles.
The basic rule is a relationship, termed ‘correspondence’, that the herb has with its
environment and with the universe. The correspondence is understood in terms of strong,
universal symbols that resonate within us, the world, and the plant we are working with.
The herbalist will strive to evoke layers of images and meaning as he or she interacts with
the herbs – you have already seen this in the Traditional Method. Many like to use
Elemental correspondences to govern harvesting and processing cycles: when the Sun is
in a watery sign, like Cancer, we will harvest and process a watery herb, like Purslane, or
Echinacea. This works for Moon signs as well (if not better). Ultimately, what is important
isn’t memorizing long lists of correspondences, but rather making your own and using
them! (for example, telling the story of how well Echinacea fought off your flu last year
while you make the tincture can have dramatic results).

The Weight-to-Volume Ratio:

To get a consistent tincture from batch to batch, it is of course necessary to keep obtaining
herbs of consistently high quality. It can also help to use the weight-to-volume ratio, a
simple technique to ensure a repeatable process. Basically, it relates the weight of the
herb you are using to the volume of alcohol you will steep it in. So, if you have 5 ounces of
Echinacea root and 15 ounces of alcohol, you are making a 1 to 3 (1:3) tincture, because
for every one part of herb (by weight) you are using 3 parts of alcohol (by volume). Chop
your herb as usual, but this time, weigh it before putting it in the jar. Then, decide what you
want your ratio to be.Fresh herbs do well at 1:3, or 1:2.Dry herbs are usually 1:4, but can
be anything you want. Just remember, the higher the Volume number, the weaker the
tincture. Thus, a 1:5 is roughly twice as strong as a 1:10.

Solubility:

Certain herbs, we have found, produce a stronger tincture when they are steeped in an
alcohol that is more concentrated than 80 or 100 proof vodka (which is 40 or 50% alcohol).
We obtain this alcohol by mixing pure grain alcohol (which is 95%, or 190 proof) with
distilled water until we obtain the right percentage. This isn’t to say that all herbs do well
with more alcohol in their tincture – some are damaged by too much! The term for the
percentage of alcohol that the herb prefers to be tinctured in issolubility.
If you are mixing pure grain alcohol and distilled water to make a tincture, first determine
your weight-to volume ratio. Weigh your herb, and multiply it by the volume number to
determine what volume of mixture you’ll need. The amount of alcohol required is given by:

(VxS):95
where V is total volume and S is solubility. Measure out the alcohol, then make up the
difference in the total by adding distilled water.

Solubilities of Selected Herbs
The alcohol strengths listed represent the menstruum before adding the herbs.
Angelicaroot  Angelica archangelica fresh 40%
Astragalusroot Astragalus membranaceus fresh 50%
Burdockroot Arctium lappa fresh 40%
Bonesettops Eupatorium perfoliatum fresh 55%
Black Cohosh root & rhizome Actaea racemosa fresh 60%
Calendulaflowers Calendula officinalis fresh 50%
California Poppytops Eschscolzica californica fresh 45%
Catnipleaves Nepeta cataria fresh 40%
Cleaverstops Galium aparine fresh 40%
Dandelionroot Taraxacum officinalis fresh 45%
Echinacearoot Echinacea purpurea fresh 50%
Echinaceatops Echinacea purpurea fresh 40%
Elderflowers Sambucus nigra dry 30%
Elecampaneroot Inula helenium fresh 40%
Feverfewtops Tanacetum parthenium fresh 60%
Goldenrodtops Solidago canadensis fresh 40%
Goldthreadrootlets Coptis canadensis fresh 60%
Hawthornberries Crategus spp. fresh 35-40%
Lemon Balmtops Melissa officinalis fresh 40%
Meadowsweet leaf, flower, bark
Filipendula ulmaria fresh 40%
Motherwort young tops Leonurus cardiaca fresh 50%
Mugwort tops Artemisia vulgaris fresh 40%
Nettletops Urtica diotica fresh 40%
Peppermint leaves Mentha x piperita (hybrid cross) dry 50%
Red Clovertops Trifolium praetense fresh 40%
St. John’s Worttops Hypericum perforatum fresh 40%
Sageleaves Salvia officinalis fresh 40%
Scullcaptops Scutellaria lateriflora fresh 40%
Thyme leaves and stems Thymus vulgaris fresh 70%
Valerianroot Valeriana officinalis fresh 50%
Yarrow flowers and leaves Achillea millefolium fresh 40%
Yellowdockroot Rumes crispus fresh 40%

Amber Dropper Bottle, 2oz 12/box Oval

Since fresh plants contain a certain amount of water, the final concentration of alcohol (once the tincture is strained) will be lower than what you began with. With many plants, you can assume that half of their fresh weight (50%, or .5) is water. In that case, the percent alcohol by volume of the final tincture is given by:

S x 2V : (2V+1)

Where S is the original solubility of the menstruum (as listed above), and V is the volume-number in the
weight-to-volume ratio (so, in a 1:3 tincture, V is 3. In a 1:4, V is 4, and so on). So, for example, if we were
making a 1:3 tincture of fresh Echinacea, we would steep the roots in a 50% alcohol solution. When strained,
the solution’s actual percent of alcohol would be 50% times 6 (300) divided by 7, which is 42.85%.

Elemental rulers for selected herbs
Airis the element of beginnings, the intellect, and the East. Very often these herbs will be aromatic, or have
some subtle effect on the mind or spirit. They can help ‘blow away’ obstructions and congealment. They can
have light, wispy shapes or reach, slender, into the air. Usually harvested for above-ground parts.
Comfrey
Elder
Eyebright
Lavender
Mugwort
Peppermint
Thyme
Wormwood
Fireis the element of passion, power, and the South. These herbs will have a spicy, strong taste and are

usually very warming. Also, some can sting or irritate (burn) the skin. Often, their flowers will be of a fiery color (yellow, orange and red), and they can come in all shapes and sizes. Usually harvested for above- ground parts.

Angelica
Basil
Wood Betony
Garlic
Hawthorn
Calendula
Mullein
Nettle
Rosemary
Rue
Wateris the elements of emotions, empathy, love, and the West. Always cooling and soothing, these
herbs can help us reconnect to our feelings, ease tension, and relax inflammation. You will often find them in
a moist setting, or in partial shade where they seem to do well. Harvested for all parts.
Burdock, Chamomile, Catnip, Elecampane, Echinacea, Meadowsweet
Poppies, Rose, Valerian, Blue Vervain
Earthis the element of wisdom, stability, and protection. Through Earth herbs we return to our centers, we are nourished and cared for. There is a direct affinity here with our physical body, giving direct, material healing to tender parts. Often harvested for their roots, these plants can also exhibit a 5-pattern in their leaves and flowers.
Black Cohosh, Cinquefoil, Horehound, Pennyroyal, Sage, Slippery Elm
Bottling your Tincture and Keeping Records

After being strained, you need to bottle your tinctures if you’re going to give them to others.
Amber bottles work best at keeping the light out, cobalt works also. You should also obtain a small measuring cup, or better yet, a graduated cylinder.
Pour a small amount (2 or 3 ounces) of tincture into your measuring cup. Then slowly pour this into the glass bottle, stopping right as the mouth of the bottle begins to curve into the neck. This allows for ample ‘shaking room’, to keep the tincture lively.
Always label your tinctures clearly; you don’t want to forget what’s in the bottle and have to
guess around later. The label should include:

• Name of herb, both common and Latin (if possible, to avoid confusion)
• Fresh or Dry, and the part(s) used in the tincture
• Date of Tincturing (and Moon / Sun sign if desired)
•Percent of alcohol by volume (40% for 80 proof vodka, 50% for 100 proof)
• Weight-to-Volume ratio, if applicable
• a Batch Number, if you plan on more than one batch per year.

It is also a good idea to copy down all the details of the label in a special ‘tincture Recipe book. Not only does this echo the fine tradition of the Herbal Grimoire, but it also is a good
record of what’s been happening in case the label on your tincture was damaged or unclear. It’s also a great place to write down notes and ideas for each herb, to improve the process next time! Thanks goes to  Scrib

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