Tinctures & Glycerines
Tinctures, which are concentrated liquid extracts, are one of the best ways to extract and preserve plant medicine. Alcohol is able to extract the largest range of plant constituents while glycerine tinctures tend to not be as strong but are still an excellent alternative especially for people who cannot or choose not to consume alcohol or for children and elderly. The sweet taste of glycerine can also be beneficial in terms of recipient compliancy. Alcohol and glycerine will both last for many years.
There are two general ways to make a tincture, the folk method or the more exacting scientific method. We will describe the folk method here. The scientific method takes into consideration the weight of the plant matter as well as the water weight of the plants when calculating the quantity of liquid menstruum (alcohol & water) to add. To learn more about this method check out Richo Cech’s book "Making Plant Medicine."
You can use fresh or dry herbs to make an alcohol tincture, though one of the benefits of using fresh herbs is that the alcohol preserves the fresh medicine, some of which may be lost in dry herbs. When using fresh herbs fill a jar all the way with plant matter (best to cut into smaller pieces) and cover with alcohol. You want to use either 80 or 100 proof alcohol. Half the proof is equal to the percent of alcohol, so 80 proof is made up of 40 % alcohol (and 60 % water). Cover the tincture and let sit for at least 4-6 weeks or one moon cycle. Store in a cool and dry place and feel free to give your tincture a shake every day or every few days to both keep the plant matter thoroughly mixed in with the alcohol and to infuse some of your own energy into the medicine. Make sure to label the jar with the name and date.
Dry herbs are more concentrated, therefore you can use half the quantity of fresh herbs. Otherwise make the tincture in the same manner as with fresh herb tinctures. The same goes for roots fresh & dry. It is always best to cut up the roots or herbs to increase surface area so more medicine is extracted from the plant matter. Glycerines are made in the same way except it is best to dilute the glycerine with water, either 50:50 or 75:25 (glycerine to water). Glycerine is a vegetable fat extraction but is very sweet and thick. If not diluted it can be overwhelmingly sweet.
When the tincture or glycerine is ready to strain use a strainer, cheesecloth, muslin or tincture press to strain out the plant matter, pouring the liquid into a clean jar. Do your best to squeeze out as much out of the plant matter before composting. And once again make sure to label your medicine so you don’t have to play the guessing game later!
Dropper bottles are excellent for tinctures as they give you a sense of dosage and are easy to use.
Further resources: Old Way’s Herbals Guide to making tinctures is excellent.