DIY: Herbal Tinctures

DIY: Herbal Tinctures

A tincture is a plant extract made from a blend of alcohol and water. They can be made from a single plant or as a mixture of plants. I am making single plant tinctures so that I can blend them into different flavors of bitters for adding to cocktails or beer. In traditional herbalism, tinctures are used in many ways such as to improve health, treat sickness, and help with insomnia.

Plant material

Depending on the plant you are extracting, you will need either the leaves, flowers, seeds, fruit, roots, or bark. You can use fresh or dried plant material, but be sure that the material is free of pesticides and herbicides as they can be concentrated in the alcohol extract. If you are wild-harvesting your plant material, please be 100% sure you are collecting the correct plant. The last thing you would want to do is accidentally harvest a poisonous plant that could seriously harm or kill you. I prefer to either grow my plants from seed or purchase them dry from a reliable source.

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Alcohol

Alcohol plays the role of the solvent in tinctures. It is especially effective since it can extract compounds that are soluble in both water and alcohol. It also acts as a preservative which allows the tinctures to last for a long time. Tinctures can also be made with apple cider vinegar and glycerin, however they will not be as efficient at extracting the compounds and will have a much shorter shelf life.

When extracting you will want to use a neutral flavored alcohol so that it does not interfere with the flavor of the plants. Vodka and Everclear are excellent solvents for that reason. There are some plant flavors that are enhanced or complemented by using rum or a good brandy. I like to extract chocolate, coffee, and vanilla in these more flavored spirits. You will want to have an assortment of 80-proof, 100-proof, and 150-proof (40%, 50%, and 75% alcohol, respectively) alcohol since some plant materials will extract better at different percentages of alcohol. Plants that are more aromatic and resinous are less water soluble and will require a higher alcohol percentage to efficiently extract.

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Materials

Dried plant material, alcohol, scale, mason jars, fine-mesh steel strainer, measuring cup, amber glass bottles with dropper, label, marker, and notebook.

Method

  1. Wash and then clean jars, strainer, and measuring cup with a 70% solution of alcohol and wipe with a clean paper towel.
  2. Take good notes of what you are making so that you can reproduce the results in the future.
  3. Set your scale to measure in ounces. Take your mason jar and place it on the scale with the cover off. Tare the scale to set to zero. Place the appropriate amount of plant material into the mason jar according to the graph below.img_0489
  4. Tare the scale again to set to zero.
  5. Weigh the alcohol according to the graph below.img_0491
  6. Cover the jar and gently shake.
  7. Label the jar with the plant name, amount of plant material and alcohol, alcohol proof, and date the tincture was made.img_0473
  8. Place the jar in a cool, dark place and shake every day or two.
  9. Allow the plant material to extract for the time in the graph below.
  10. Strain the tincture through a fine-mesh steel strainer into a clean measuring cup.img_0480
  11. If needed, you can strain again through a coffee filter.
  12. Pour the strained tincture into an amber glass bottle with a dropper cap.img_0485
  13. Label the amber bottle with the plant name, proof of alcohol, and date.img_0487

Plant material

Extraction time

Alcohol Type

Allspice berries 7-14 Days 150-proof
Angelia root 14 Days 150-proof
Anise seed (ground) 7-10 Days 150-proof
Apple 21-28 Days 100-proof
Barberry root bark 14 Days 100-proof
Bay leaf 5-7 Days 150-proof
Birch bark 14 Days 150-proof
Black walnut seed 21-28 Days 100-proof
Burdock root 28 Days 80-proof
Cacao 7-21 Days 80-proof
Callamus root 10-21 Days 150-proof
Caraway seed 14 Days 100-proof
Cardamom (green) 7-10 Days 100-proof
Cassia chips 7-14 Days 150-proof
Cayenne 21-28 Days 100-proof
Celery seed 14 Days 100-proof
Chamomile flowers 14 Days 150-proof
Cherries (dried) 14-28 Days 100-proof
Chicory Root roasted 21-28 Days 80-proof
Cinchona bark 14-28 Days 100-proof
Cinnamon 7-14 Days 150-proof
Clove 7-14 Days 150-proof
Coconut Flakes 7-14 Days 100-proof
Coffee 14 Days 100-proof
Coriander seeds 14 Days 100-proof
Cucumber 7-14 Days 100-proof
Dandelion root 21 Days 80-proof
Devil’s club root 14 Days 100-proof
Elderflower 14 Days 100-proof
Fennel Seed 7-10 Days 150-proof
Gentian root 10- 28 Days 80-proof
Ginger root 10-14 Days 150-proof
Ginseng 28-42 Days 100-proof
Grains of paradise 14 Days 100-proof
Green Tea 1-2 Days 80-proof
Hibiscus flowers 7 Days 80-proof
Hops 7 Days 150-proof
Horehound 14-29 Days 100-proof
Hyssop 14 Days 150-proof
Juniper berries 7-14 Days 150-proof
Lavender 5 Days 150-proof
Lemongrass 14 Days 100-proof
Lemon zest 15-21 Days 150-proof
Licorice root 28 Days 80-proof
Lime zest 15 Days 150-proof
Milk thistle 28 Days 150-proof
Mint 7 Days 150-proof
Nutmeg (ground) 7-10 Days 150-proof
Orange zest 12-21 Days 150-proof
Orris root 14 Days 100-proof
Parsley leaf 21 Days 80-proof
Pepper 14 Days 100-proof
Peppermint leaf 7 Days 150-proof
Quassia Chips 7-14 Days 150-proof
Rose hips 14 Days 80-proof
Rose petals 10 minutes 150-proof
Rosemary 7 Days 150-proof
Sage 7 Days 150-proof
Sarsaparilla 21 Days 100-proof
Sassafras 14 Days 100-proof
Schizandra berries 21 Days 100-proof
Spearmint leaf 7-14 Days 100-proof
Star anise 7 Days 150-proof
Stinging nettles 21-28 Days 80-proof
Strawberry 10 Days 190-proof
Thyme 12-14 Days 150-proof
Turmeric root 21 Days 150-proof
Vanilla 28 Days 100-proof
Vitex (Chaste) berry 28 Days 100-proof
Wild Cherry bark 14 Days 100-proof
Wormwood 14 Days 150-proof
Yellow Dock 28 Days 100-proof

 

Resources

Bulk herb suppliers

Mountain Rose Herbs
mountainroseherbs.com

Texas Natural Supply
texasnaturalsupply.com

Starwest Botanicals
starwest-botanicals.com

Monterey Bay Spice Company
herbco.com

Bulk Apothecary
bulkapothecary.com

Bottle Suppliers

SKS Bottle
sks-bottle.com

Specialty Bottle
specialtybottle.com

eBottles
ebottles.com