Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Making Fresh Herbal Tinctures

First gather your fresh herbs and chop moderately finely. If you use calendula petals such as I have here, you don't need to chop them. Weigh the prepared herbs. There are 25g calendula petals here.

Place the herbs into a wide-mouthed jar, preferably one close to the volume of the herbs. Pack the herbs fairly tightly into the jar and pour a measured amount of brandy or vodka into the jar, ensuring the herbs are covered, but not swimming. Try to keep the brandy to a minimum.

I had to use 150ml brandy here, making a 1:6 fresh herb tincture, ie, 1 part herb (in grams) to 6 parts brandy (in ml). Other herbs are denser than calendula and so you will need less brandy per gram of herb.

Seal the bottle (I also tape around the join to reduce evaporation) and wrap with paper. Note the name of the herb, the amount of herb and brandy and the date. This is some wild lettuce I left to develop a little while ago.

If you are making a calendula tincture, don't wrap the bottle and leave it in the sun (it is a herb of the sun). Most other herbs, however, should be wrapped and stored in a cool dark place for a few weeks. Shake each day if possible.

When the herbs have macerated for a few weeks, place a strainer in a bowl, with a clean linen or woven cotton teatowel in the sieve. I have a few old linen teatowels reserved for just this sort of task. They are washed in warm water and dried in the sun. This destroys any bugs that may be lingering.

Pour in the herb/alcohol mix and let the menstruum (fluid) strain through.

Then pull the sides of the teatowel together and twist to force out more menstruum.

When you've finished squeezing, you can open up the teatowel to look at the dryish herbs left over. These can be discarded into the compost.

And here's the menstruum.

Filter the menstruum through an unbleached coffee filter. You can see how much clearer it will get. You don't need fancy glassware - any kitchen funnel will do to place the filter paper in.

When all the menstruum has filtered through, you can bottle and label your tincture. Make sure you include the herb name, the date and the tincture concentration.

If you want to get really tricky, you can work out the percentage moisture in your herb and calculate the equivalent dried herb concentration. This is what is used for commercial tinctures. However, for home use, I find the fresh herb concentration is good enough to give me a guide as to the amount of herb in a dose.

Of course, you should never self-prescribe and only take herbs prescribed by a qualified herbalist or naturopath. This information is provided for interest only.

Nevertheless, a herbal medicine book suitable for beginners is Holistic Herbal: A Safe and Practical Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies by David Hoffmann.

If you would like to learn more about herbal preparations, a good book is The Herbal Medicine-Maker's Handbook: A Home Manual by James Green.

If herbs really interest you and you'd like to get to know them much more intimately, anything written by Matthew Wood is excellent, especially The Book of Herbal Wisdom and The Earthwise Herbal.

love and light


molly said...

Thanks so much for that NW, every little bit of knowledge passed on is invaluable!

Cheryl said...

That was interesting naturewitch.....I have always wondered how they make the tinctures.....I am tempted to try this myself.......

You obviously treat yourself medicinally with them??

Libby said...

Fascinating! Would this be alright to add to homemade soaps???
I like drying herbs and putting them in the soaps.
Thoroughly enjoyed this!

naturewitch said...

Hi Molly
Yes, want to share the knowledge. Never know when it will be needed. xx

Hi Cheryl
Yes, I treat myself to a certain extent (because I have my training wheels on), but I always check my books to ensure I'm not doing anything harmful. And certainly I consult a qualified practitioner as well, especially for more complicated things. xx

Hi Libby
For homemade soaps, you are probably best to add the herbs directly, as you are doing now. I think the cost of the alcohol would make it a bit expensive to add tinctures to soap. However, translucent soaps can be made using alcohol, so maybe you would end up with something like that. xx

Mon said...

Wild lettuce is a favourite of mine. Looks good.

naturewitch said...

Hi Mon
Wild Lettuce is a great herb and one that grows all around the place. People used to collect it in the spring and include with their meals - apparently it is great for a late winter / early spring clean out! We have lost so much of this tradition; it's good to be learning about it. xx

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