No matter how amazing the world of tea is, for both health benefits and enjoyable flavor, not everyone will drink tea. Some people are committed coffee drinkers, and won't drink tea in case coffee finds out about it and gets jealous. Other people are too busy, or don't like the flavor. Fortunately, there are other ways to get the benefits from plant remedies. One of the most effective ways to use herbs is in tincture form.
What are herbal tinctures?
Tinctures are herbal preparations in which the active ingredients of the herb, both nutritional and medicinal, are extracted in a food-grade alcohol, such as vodka or brandy.
What are the benefits of using a tincture?
Most of the active ingredients in healing herbs are easily dissolved in alcohol. Alcohol is also an effective preservative. Herbal tinctures have a shelf life of 3 to 6 years. Tinctures are fast acting because the alcohol helps to drive the medicine from the herb into the body quickly. One of my favorite benefits of tinctures is that you can control the dosage down to the drop, making it easy to take the exact amount of herb you need.
What about the negative effects of ingesting alcohol?
The amount of contained in a dropper of tincture is about the same amount of alcohol contained in a ripe banana. This is just enough alcohol to get the herbs into your bloodstream, but not enough to cause intoxication.
If you have concerns over ingesting even the smallest amount of alcohol, you can evaporate most of the alcohol with by adding your tincture dose to a cup of hot tea or some of boiling water.
In a nutshell, alcohol tinctures are potent, concentrated, maintain their effectiveness for years, and are rapidly absorbed and assimilated in the body. Other good things to know about tinctures: they are concentrated, you can control the dose down to the drop, they are easy to carry, and the flavor can be masked in tea or juice.
Note: alcohol in any amount can be unsafe for type 1 diabetics, individuals with liver disease or compromised liver function. Recovering alcoholics may wish to avoid alcohol tinctures, as the flavor and aroma of alcohol might be hard to handle.
How to make an herbal tincture
- Fill a clean glass jar ½ full with herbs of choice
- Completely cover the herbs with brandy or vodka so that they are totally submerged in liquid. The herbs will swell as they soak up the liquid, so when this happens, add more liquid, to make sure the herbs remain covered by about one to two inches of liquid.
- Cap the jar tightly and shake well.
- Label the jar with the following name of the herb or herbs you used, and the date you made it
- Keep the jar on counter or cupboard, and shake it daily for up to six weeks.
- At the end of 6 weeks, strain the herbs from the liquid. Squeeze as much liquid from the herbs as possible.
- Store the liquid in dark glass bottle with tight fitting lid. The herbs can be discarded.
- Label the final product with the herb name, liquid used, and the date you strained it. You will need a small glass dropper bottle to use for dispensing your tincture. A one or two ounce brown glass bottle with a dropper will be perfect. You can refill this dose bottle from the main storage bottle.
What kinds of herbal tinctures are good to have on hand?
I like to have some basic herbal tinctures for general go-to needs. Here are some of my favorites:
- Peppermint tincture is great to use for indigestion, bloating, or nausea. You can also use ginger.
- Valerian tincture is a reliable sleep remedy for 90% of people. Oddly enough, about 10% of the people who have tried valerian say that it keeps them awake. If you are one of those people, then make a tincture of hops, another sedative herb.
- Echinacea tincture is my go-to pick for first aid. A lot of folks use Echinacea when they feel a cold coming on, but it doesn’t help everyone in that way. But for first aid, anyone can use it. I apply Echinacea tincture directly to cuts, bites, and stings, often in combination with lavender essential oil.
- Hawthorn is a heart tonic. If you’re over 40 and want to help keep your heart healthy, make a hawthorn tincture and use it regularly.
- Make a stress-relieving tincture with any of these herbs: passionflower, chamomile, lemon balm, or skullcap. Take a few drops any time you feel tense or stressed.
Do you make your own tinctures? Tell us about your faves in the comments below!
*This information has not been evaluated by the FDA, and is not intended to diagnose or cure a medical issue, or replace professional medical care. If you are pregnant or nursing, are under the care of a physician, or on prescription medication, talk to your health care provider before making any changes to your diet or routine.