How to Make an Herbal Tincture

Know what's in your medicine - make your own herbal tinctures.

Would you like to learn how to make an herbal tincture? Herbal tinctures offer one of the simplest ways to take herbal medicine. Once a tincture is made, administering it is immediate and takes less than a minute – maybe two minutes if you put the dose in a glass of water.

There’s no need to boil water and steep herbs for tea, sit around with a poultice, swallow capsules, or … gulp … use a suppository. Simply swallow the recommended dose directly or stir it into a glass of water and drink.

What is an Herbal Tincture?

Simply put, a tincture is a liquid solution that has the constituents, essence, or medicinal qualities (whichever term you prefer) of an herb infused in it. Depending on the herb, tinctures can be prepared using alcohol, vinegar, wine or glycerin. We’re going to talk about alcohol-based tinctures today since they’re arguably the simplest and most effective.

To make a tincture, the fresh or dried herb is allowed to macerate (soak) in a solvent for 14 days. During that time, the solvent (in this case, 100-proof alcohol) breaks down the herb’s cell walls and draws out the nutrients and medicinal properties. You’re left with a depleted herb to throw on the compost pile and a liquid full of botanical goodness – a medicinal herbal tincture.

First, gather your ingredients.

  • your herb of choice
  • 100-proof alcohol
  • glass jar
  • kitchen scale
  • measuring cup with milliliter markings
  • jars or bottles for storing the finished tincture

homemade herbal tincture

Choosing an herb to tincture depends on your own unique needs. I recommend finding a good book that explains the use of different herbs. Some I’ve used are:

As we go on, I’ll be sharing about many herbs here as well. As of now, you’ll have to be content with learning about hawthorn or finding on of those books. 😀

If you’re new to sourcing herbs (whether you’re buying or wildcrafting), check out my article on Where to Buy Quality Bulk Herbs for some guidance.

Why alcohol?

Alcohol is the most effective of the solvents, meaning that it extracts the medicinal qualities more effectively and more fully than the other solvents (like vinegar or water). Alcohol is also an excellent preservative, helping your tinctures to last for many years without losing their potency and without spoiling in any way.

A simple choice that will work perfectly for nearly every herb is 100-proof vodka. As you may already know, “100-proof” means that the liquid is 50% alcohol and 50% water. This blend is ideal for most herbs.

Fresh or dried herbs can be tinctured. Some believe that fresh herbs provide greater medicinal benefit, but I’m not sure I agree. Thus far, I’ve made all of my tinctures using dried herbs – so that’s what we’re doing in this tutorial.

To achieve a standard strength on the finished product, we’re going to use a 1:5 weight to volume ratio. For every one gram of herb, we’ll use five milliliters of alcohol.

Let’s measure our herb first…

homemade herbal tincture

I have 30 grams of herb, so I’ll need to add 150 ml alcohol.

homemade herbal tincture

Simply pour the herb into a glass jar and pour the alcohol onto it.

homemade herbal tincture

 Stir well to completely saturate the herb.

homemade herbal tincture
Mmm, it almost looks like hot chocolate.

Wipe the rim of the jar and screw the lid on tightly. Go ahead and shake it up … because it’s fun!

Put your mixture out of direct sunlight, somewhere that you won’t forget about it. I use my pantry. For the next two weeks, shake it well every time you remember – but at least twice a day. 

At the end of two weeks, let the tincture sit undisturbed for a day. This allows the herb to settle and makes straining a little easier.

To strain your tincture, pour it through unbleached paper coffee filters or unbleached muslin fabric. Typically you’ll need to strain the liquid two, three, or possibly more times to get a tincture that’s completely free of residual herb. Use your judgement on how many times to strain. Remember, though, that herbs are food – so any residual herb that remains will not hurt anything.

homemade herbal tincture

Pour your tincture into dark glass bottles for storage. Dropper bottles are great, but any type will work. Sometimes I repurpose small glass spice jars by putting duct tape on them to block the light. Not pretty, but it works.

homemade herbal tincture

Using Your Herbal Tincture

The usual dose for most herbal tinctures is 1-3 ml three times a day. Some (such as cayenne) need a smaller dose, though. If you tincture an herb you’re unsure about, drop me a line and I’ll see if I can help you figure it out.

A note about alcohol

Any alcohol tincture can be turned into an alcohol-free glycerin tincture, and I’ll be sharing instructions on how to do that soon. Glycerin tinctures are perfect for kids or for anyone who prefers to avoid alcohol.

A quicker way to remove the alcohol from an individual dose is to pour the tincture into hot water. The heat causes the alcohol to evaporate, and then you simply drink the water.

Tincturing herbal medicines is very rewarding. From start to finish, you know your medicine inside and out. There are no unusual ingredients to worry about and no fillers. You can be completely confident that you’re giving your body what it needs – and only what it needs.

What kind of tincture do you plan to make?


Sources

Green, James. The Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual. Crossing Press, 2000.

This information has not been evaluated by the FDA and is intended only for educational purposes. It is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure disease. Always consult a healthcare professional before making significant changes to your healthcare routine.

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