Tinctures are some of the best ways of working with plants by using alcohol to extract the constituents and preserving them in a way that can be used simply, easily and quickly. While tinctures capture essential active constituents such as alkaloids, they don’t capture the full nutritional range of a plant. That means if its important to nourish the system with vitamins and minerals, its best to take nourishing infusions and decoctions. I often use tinctures when I need a quicker action- to calm, stimulate or sedate, to relax the muscles and tissues, etc. And I work with teas and broths for more deeper level nourishment and strengthening.
To make a tincture, you are going to simply add a certain amount of herb to alcohol in a jar and store it for a while and then strain it out. The amount of herbal material varies. A standard way of thinking about tinctures is to add one part dried herbal material by weight to 5 parts alcohol by volume. So if we go metric for a minute, you would weigh out 200 grams of herb and place it in a jar with 1000 ml (1 liter) of alcohol.
And if the herb is freshly picked, a standard ration is one part herbal material by weight to 2 parts alcohol by volume. So 500 grams of herb to 1000 ml of alcohol. Thats because the fresh herb weighs more due to having more water in it.
Now its also key to know what percentage of alcohol you want to use. The stronger the alcohol (higher proof), the more constituents it is able to extract. So with some plants where there are sticky resins, gums, and hard to extract constituents, its smart to use a higher proof alcohol. However, folk herbalists who usually can’t get their hands on higher grade alcohol have been content to use 40-50 % alcohol for every herb- and with good effect.
So lets review that here- standard measurements:
Fresh herb/alcohol: 1part herb by weight to 2 parts herb by volume
Dried herb/alcohol: 1 part herb by weight to 5 parts herb by volume
Now there are a lot of caveats to that and different measurements of percentages of alcohol. If you want to get more particular and nerdy, the best resource for this on line that I know of is Michael Moore’s page here.
So thats the nerdy scientific way to go. Now the folk method is easier.
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Dried Root: Fill up jar 1/3 full.
Fresh Leaves/flowers: Fill jar to 3/4 full.
Fresh root: Fill to 1/2 full.
Pour alcohol (vodka is a good neutral menstruum and brandy is quite nice if you want that taste) to the top. Cap it with a lid. Store it in a cool dark spot for 4 weeks. Shake it daily. Uncap, strain and press out the alcohol and discard the herb. Label the bottle. Pour tincture into separate tincture bottles and label them individually.