Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Try a Tincture

Essential Herbal Nov/Dec 10’
Tinctures are a concentrated form of herbal preparation, which are quickly absorbed and easy to take. The word ‘tincture’ comes from the Latin “Tinctura” meaning colored herbal extract made with alcohol.  In creating a tincture, the medicinal parts of herbs are extracted and preserved by a menstruum (solvent):  alcohol, apple cider vinegar or glycerin. The tincture method is called maceration and can easily be prepared in your home.
Alcohol as a Menstruum: Vodka is the most common alcohol to use in tinctures due to its lack of color and taste, but some people prefer whiskey or rum (or whatever!). In the folk method, tincturing works best with a ratio of 50% alcohol to 50% water which is fairly equivalent to100 proof vodka and provides an indefinite shelf life. Alcohol extracts volatile oils, alkaloids and flavonoids from the herb; whereas water extracts the saponins and glycosides. Although some herbs do better with more water or more alcohol, this proof is generally a good medium.
Vinegar as a Menstruum: Organic apple cider vinegar has many medicinal properties and makes a good base for extracting the medicinal properties from the herbs. Shelf life of apple cider vinegar is reported to be about one year. I use 3 parts vinegar to 1 part dried herb or 2 parts fresh herb. Vinegar extracts only the alkaloids from the herb, making the tincture less potent than one made with alcohol.
Glycerin as a Menstruum
: Because of the sweet flavor and the fact that it does not contain alcohol, it is useful in making tinctures for children and people averse to drinking alcohol. Though it has good preservative properties and dissolves mucilage material, vitamins and minerals, it does not dissolve the resinous or oily components as well as alcohol. Glycerin needs to be thinned with water 1:1. The rest of the process is the same as the alcohol based tincture. When buying glycerin (available in natural food stores) make certain it is 100% vegetable glycerin which is of much higher quality. Glycerin is effective at extracting tannins from herbs but is a much weaker solvent than alcohol or vinegar.
Creating a Tincture
Using the simple folk method:  Fill a glass jar half way with dried herb(s). If you are using fresh herbs fill the jar loosely to the top. Be certain that the jar has a tight fitting lid. Cover the herb completely with your choice of menstruum: alcohol, vinegar or glycerin. Next day top off your jar to be sure the herb is entirely covered after absorbing the liquid. Keep the jar in a cool, dark place and shake the tincture a couple of times a day.

Allow the herb to sit (macerate) in the menstruum for a minimum of 2 weeks. I typically infuse my tinctures for 3 to 4 weeks. After 6 months the menstruum will no longer extract the medicines from the herb. At this point, strain the herbal tincture through several layers of cheese cloth, using a colander and a large bowl to catch the liquid. Using your hands, squeeze the remaining liquid from the tinctured herb through the cheese cloth. I do a second strain through coffee filters via a colander to get the remaining sediment out of the tincture. Pour the liquid in a glass jar, seal with a lid, label and store in a cool, dry, dark place. Tinctures do not require refrigeration. Pour into individual amber or blue dropper bottles, to keep light from entering, and label the tincture. ALWAYS CLEARLY LABEL YOUR HERBAL PREPARATIONS!

Tinctures are usually taken by the dropperful, approximately 25 drops.   You can mix your tincture with a bit of juice or tea to mask the taste if needed. If you don't wish to ingest the alcohol, stir a dropperful of tincture into a cup of boiling water. This allows the alcohol to evaporate very quickly. Drink the mixture when it cools slightly.
(editor's note:  this is NOT sufficient to remove alcohol for those with a sensitivity to alcohol.)

The information in this article is intended solely to inform the reader. Please be certain to ‘know your herb’ before consuming it. “Walk Gently on this Earth”.
Mary Hammond – Herbal Practitioner

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