Tinctures are one of the best ways to include herbal remedies in your emergency preparedness preps. That’s because these concentrated liquid forms, also called herbal extracts, are more quickly absorbed into your system. In this article we’ll look at a simple method that doesn’t required precise measurements.
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Tinctures are concentrated liquid forms of herbal extracts. They have a long shelf life, much longer than dried herbs or capsules. Like other preparations, though, extracts will need to be protected from extreme temperatures and direct sunlight, otherwise they will degrade and become less potent.
Most herbal tinctures are made using alcohol. Everclear, vodka, and brandy are the most popular choices. Rubbing alcohol should never be used for a tincture that you plan to use internally. It’s toxic!
A ratio of 50/50 alcohol and water will make the strongest, longest lasting extracts, so 100 proof vodka is often a good choice for preppers concerned about shelf life. Vodka is also easier to obtain than Everclear, and there’s no need to worry about adjusting the proof.
What do you use tinctures for?
Tinctures are used for:
- pain relief
- sleep aid
- anxiety and stress
- immune support
- digestive support
How to Make a Tincture
Time needed: 14 days
This an easy, general guide that’s safe for most plants and useful if there is no convenient way to measure out exact amounts. This method is the traditional, or “folk” method of making tinctures, and is what I use the majority of the time. It’s great for beginners, because there’s no tricky math to figure out ratios and no trying to deal with grams of dry weight vs fluid ounces of the alcohol.
- Place herbs into a canning jar.
Place dried or fresh herbs into a glass canning jar. The size of the jar and the quantity of herbs only matters in that you need to have enough alcohol for the next step.
- Cover the herbs with alcohol.
Add brandy or vodka to cover the herbs by one inch and place the lid on the jar.
- Leave it in a cool, dark place for two weeks.
This gives the herbs time to full extract into the alcohol.
- Check on the tincture daily.
During the two weeks, check the tincture once a day. Add more alcohol if needed, as the herbs may absorb some of it over time. Also, shake the jar gently each time you check on it.
- After two weeks, strain the extract.
Once the two weeks are up, use a mesh sieve or small colander lined with muslin or cheesecloth to strain the extract into a clean jar. The herbs left over from the tincture are called the marc.
- Press out excess liquid.
Twist the top of the cloth together to form a small bundle with the marc inside, and press as much liquid out of the marc as you can for your tincture. The mostly-dry marc can be added to a compost pile, if you like.
- Store the finished tincture in an blue or amber glass.
It’s best to keep your finished tinctures in blue or amber glass to help reduce exposure to light. Tinctures will evaporate over time, so be sure to use a tight fitting lid and store the jars standing upright in a position where they are less likely to leak.
- Label the tincture.
Clearly label your extracts with the name of the herb, alcohol used, and the date it was pressed.
Using Tinctures Safely
Making your own herbal tinctures is a very cost effective way to add to your herbal preps, and a very good preparedness skill to have. Most importantly, though, you need to learn how to safely use the herbal tinctures you make.
Be sure to research each herb individually so that you understand potential safety issues, drug interactions, and the traditional dosages of each herb. Most herbs will have a range of between 15 and 30 drops per serving. If an herb is traditionally used in smaller or even single drop doses, it should be used by experienced herbalists only and should not be made using the “folk” method- more precise measurements are required for low-dose herbs.
Another cost-effective strategy is to grow some of your own herbs.
It’s best to keep your finished tinctures in blue or amber glass to help reduce exposure to light. Opaque screw top nalgene plastic bottles can be used as well for a more durable option.
Herbal tinctures kept in a cool environment and out of direct sunlight can be expected to last anywhere from three to five years, or even longer.
Signs of spoilage to look for include mold, a change in consistency, or changes in color. Mold is most likely to happen in a tincture made from fresh herbs, because of the higher water content which dilutes the alcohol.
A quirk of homemade tinctures is the tendency for the extract to form a layer of sediment in the bottom of the jar. To lessen this, drip the tincture through a few layers of coffee filters to clear it from the dust-sized particles of herbs that the cheesecloth didn’t trap earlier. It’s always a good idea to store glass dropper lids separately and seal your homemade tinctures with a regular screw cap. The same sediment that can form in the bottom of the jar can also clog up a dropper pipette and be difficult to clean out.
Although prepared in the same manner, you take a tincture internally and apply a liniment externally.
Learn more about the art of herbalism here.
What kind of tinctures do you like to make and use?
“This is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any disease. Consult your personal medical professional.”