You may have seen them at your local health food store or in a farmers market, tinctures are the liquid inside of those tiny glass dropper bottles. Tinctures are effective extracts taken orally for nutritional or medicinal purposes. Many tinctures are made using natural herbs and plants with alcohol as the solvent. Some are even blends using a combination of different herbs and plants.
The extraction process in making natural tinctures varies. Many of the in-store tinctures and oils are made using extraction processes that require machinery we don’t necessarily have at home. However, you can make your own herbal tinctures using less complicated processes with homegrown herbs and a few simple ingredients.
What You’ll Need For Herbal Tinctures
- Fresh herbs (start with one herb)
- Mortar & pestle or a veggie chopper
- Mason jar
- 80% grain alcohol
- Fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth
- Glass dropper bottle
Let’s say we are using the herb thyme to make a thyme tincture. Thyme can easily be grown at home in an indoor garden kit. Thyme tincture can help with respiratory issues, bad breath and gastrointestinal problems.
How to Make Your Own Herbal Tinctures
If using fresh thyme, remove the leaves from the stems. Finely chop the herb or grind the herb in a mortar & pestle to release the herbs natural juices. Fill ¾ of the mason jar with thyme. Pour alcohol to the brim of the mason jar. Completely saturate the herb by enveloping it with alcohol. Close the mason jar with a lid. If the lid is metal, use a piece of parchment paper between the lid and jar to prevent any possible corrosion. The mason jar should be filled with herbs that are moving freely in the liquid when the jar is shaken.
Store your jar in a cool, dry and dark place for up to 8 weeks to steep. Check your jar periodically to see if any alcohol evaporated. If this is the case, top if off with more alcohol.
When the 8 weeks are finished, it is time to finalize your thyme tincture. The final step in the process is placing a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer over a funnel. Pour the liquid from the jar into the glass dropper bottle. The cheesecloth will catch the loose herb. Do a little at a time to be sure you get every drop as it drips. You can wrap the herbs in the cheesecloth and squeeze to get every last drop of liquid into the glass dropper bottle. Always label your tincture if you plan on making multiple tinctures! Some tinctures can be stored for several years.
How to Use Tinctures
Generally, different kinds of herbal tinctures can be made using the same process described. However, dosage varies depending on the herb you are using. Tinctures can be taken orally by using the dropper and placing the liquid underneath your tongue. You can also add drops of your tincture to beverages. Especially with homemade tinctures, it is best to start off with a small amount (1 - 3 drops) to see how your body reacts.
Always take precaution! Potency of tinctures varies depending on steeping time, environmental conditions, the type of herb and the strength of the solvent used. Research different herbs and what they are used for when taken in tincture form. You can experiment with different homegrown herbs and plants to decide which herbs work best for you.