Ask most any herbalist what type herbal preservation method is their favorite and without a doubt, they will say the tincture. Anyone who is truly serious about working with herbs as a healing aid should definitely learn to make an herbal tincture.
What Is A Tincture?
Tinctures are concentrated herbal extracts that most commonly use alcohol as the solvent. Glycerin and apple cider vinegar are also used at times.
Alcohol is the solvent that extracts and suspends the herb’s unique nutritional and medicinal qualities, volatile oils and chemical constituents into a highly concentrated form that is conveniently stored for use when needed.
Tinctures are the preferred way to preserve herbs because of their long shelf life and their ability to retain the herb’s nutritional and medicinal qualities in a stable form. Tinctures also make storing multiple herbs simple and they are easy to transport when necessary.
How Tinctures are Utilized
The uses for herbal tinctures are as infinite as there are herbal combinations. A tincture can be made with a single herb or a combination of herbs. Different herbs can be paired together, with knowledge of each herb’s strengths and medicinal qualities, to form a synergistic blend of herbs that can be a powerful aide when treating specific ailments or health issues.
Tinctures are most often administered orally under the tongue. This method of delivery is the quickest way to get the herb into the bloodstream. This is beneficial in times of emergency or when an immediate effect is desired, such as use as a sleep aide or something more extreme like frostbite or shock.
Tinctures are used in therapies for both children and adults, however dosages may differ depending upon the herb in use and the desired effects on the body. Tincture dosages are typically given by the “dropperful” which is approximately 30 drops.
Tinctures can be used to help insomnia, relieve fevers, cold/flu symptoms, slow down or speed up birthing labor, stop bleeding internally and externally, eyesight and cataract issues, regulate blood pressure throughout the entire body, and much more.
Before working with and administering tinctures, always have knowledge of the properties, chemical constituents, and contraindications of all herbs you are working with.
Always seek and follow the advice of a qualified, reputable herbalist or health care provider with knowledge of herbs for specific designated therapeutic dosage and usage of herbal tinctures.
How to Make an Herbal Tincture
Creating tinctures can be a complicated subject. Depending on the herb’s chemical constituents, water content and desired medicinal use, the solvent or tincture procedures can vary greatly. For informational purposes, a basic alcohol tincture procedure is outlined here.
A quality white alcohol, such as Vodka, of 80 proof (40%) or greater is recommended. I personally use Everclear or Absinthe when preparing herbal tinctures.
A glass container that can be tightly sealed should be used to steep a tincture. Mason jars work beautifully. Ceramic may also be used. As previously discussed, using aluminum or other metals can contaminate the preparation with chemicals or toxins.
Dried cut herbs or fresh herbs are placed into the glass container. Then alcohol is poured into the jar, enough to cover the herbs. The alcohol level should be about 1/2 inch above the herbs to ensure the plants near the top do not begin to oxidize .
When using dried herbs, which are more concentrated than fresh herbs, fill the container about half full with herbs (without packing them down). Fresh herbs are not as potent and in this case, the jar can be filled almost to the top.
The mixture is stirred gently around the outer edges to release any stray air bubbles and then the jar is covered tightly to let the tincture steep. Always be sure to label and date the herbs and alcohol so there is no mistaking the contents.
The tincture is then left to steep in a cool place, out of direct sunlight, for at least 14 days. Shake the jar several times per day. Steeping time for tinctures may vary depending on the herb being used and also the part of the plant. Heavier materials, such as roots and barks, may need a longer steeping period.
After about 14 days, the herbs are strained from the alcohol through a muslin cloth or cheese cloth; Repeat if necessary until all of the herb material is strained out and you are left with just the liquid portion. You will want to squeeze any remaining liquid from the plant parts. Wearing rubber gloves is recommended to protect your hands from the drying effects of the alcohol and also to avoid contaminating your tincture.
Filter the tincture again using a very fine double layer gauze in order to catch any remaining plant fibers and particles. Coffee filters and cotton weave have worked nicely for me in the past.
The liquid is then bottled in darkened glass jars or amber glass tincture bottles. A small cone funnel can be helpful in transferring to smaller mouthed jars to avoid spillage. If using small tincture dropper bottles, I have found a glass turkey baster comes in handy while filling.
Tincture bottles with glass stoppers instead of plastic is recommended in order to avoid any contamination or reaction with the alcohol in the solution. I have found these available online through wholesale bottle suppliers in bulk. Most pharmacies will also carry them.
The last step is to label and date the tincture and store it in a cool place, out of direct sunlight. If I know the tincture will be stored for a long period of time, sometimes I will seal the bottle with wax.
On some occasions, a double strength tincture may be desired. To prepare a double strength tincture, put a fresh batch of herbs into your strained tincture and repeat the entire steeping process again, finishing with straining the plant parts out of your finished product and bottling for storage.
For more detail and to clear up any confusion for those who learn more visually, I have attached a video done by Rickvanman in his Herbalism Basics series detailing the basic steps I have listed above.
Tincture Shelf Life
If steeped and stored properly, tinctures will retain their nutrient and medicinal potency for several years.
Most herbalists will say a tincture made with 80 proof alcohol will remain at maximum potency for 3 -5 years. If a tincture is made with alcohol of 120 proof or above, it could remain at full strength for many more years.
The Herbalist’s Best Friend
Having a wide variety of frequently used herbal tinctures prepared and ready to use at your disposal can be a huge help should an unexpected emergency arise.
In an emergency situation, the prompt administration of a tincture in the proper dose can literally mean the difference between life and death in some instances.
Preserving herbs to aid in various health ailments that are common for your particular family can bring peace of mind knowing you will be able to quickly and easily handle any surprise illness that hits a friend or family member.
Tinctures can be used on their own or mixed with a medium, such as glycerin. Glycerin is used most commonly with children or those who would prefer not to ingest alcohol.
They can also be added to ointments, infusions and other preparations. A few drops of tincture in hot water can quickly make a cup of tea.
Tinctures can be added to bath water for calming effects and to soothe aching muscles. If a particular tincture has an unpleasant or strong taste, it can be added to a small amount of water or juice to help hide the flavor.
Once again, I want to reiterate: Always seek the advice of a qualified, reputable herbalist or health care provider with knowledge of herbs for specific designated therapeutic dosage and usage of herbal tinctures.
If you would like learn more about the power and benefit of herbs and their uses, I highly recommend the Family Herbalist course through The School of Natural Healing.
This course will give you a foundation in the application of nutritious and wholesome herbs to assist the body in its ability to prevent and alleviate disease and illness. Children’s diseases, herbal first aid, and herbal nutrition topics, among others, are covered.
Give yourself the gift of self-sufficiency and empower yourself to take your health and well-being into your own hands.
If you have experience working with or preparing herbal tinctures, please share them in the comment section below. I love to hear other’s personal success stories with herbs and remedies too!
20 thoughts on “Herbal Tincture – Herbalist’s Best Friend”
Really nice article. I never knew that tinctures can be made naturally and easily within the home.
I definitely think herbal tinctures are safer and healthier than medications with chemical additives and I really love this idea of making my own tinctures.
This article was very informative and useful for me and I really like this post. I definitely need to give this a try. Thank you for sharing such useful information. Good job, keep on.
Hello and thank you for visiting!
Herbal tinctures are definitely safer and more healthy than many, if not all, medications on the market today – if used properly and in the correct dosages.
Before attempting to create a tincture of your own, always be sure to have knowledge of the herbs you are working with and consult a qualified herbalist for usage and dosing requirements.
All the best, Shan
Thanks for the post I enjoyed it, I must say I found your post highly uplifting and educational. I can tell you I have taken some great insights from this post. In our family we always use herbs in our cooking and also we use natural remedies for common problems in our family like cold, fever, stomach pain, stomach upset, body pain, headache etc.; Herbs play a main part in our daily life.
The numerous benefits and usage of herbal tinctures are amazing. The video you embedded is very helpful and informative. Being a Herbalist this post means a lot to me. Indeed, Preserving herbs is a wise thing we can do and we need to do. The fact that herbs can be preserved for many years with the help of alcohol is an eye-opener for me.
I am bookmarking your post for future reference. The School of Natural Healing sounds interesting too.
Great information, you have really given a lot of value here.
I am happy the information was useful for you. It sounds like herbs are a part of your family’s everyday life and that is wonderful to hear.
Orthodox medicine can be excellent during times of emergency but I truly believe if we use the gifts of nature to their fullest potential, there is no illness that cannot be prevented or helped. The School of Natural Healing has showed me this.
All the best, Shan
Excellent post. Firstly, I was bemused to have read that one could actually preserve herbs with alcohols but nonetheless, thats great too.
Though I have never administered tinctures to myself, but a colleague suffered an injury while working in his garden to which he used tinctures to get relief.
I do suffer from eczema consistently, do you have a suggestion of a tincture for me because I would like to treat it using natural approach. Thanks
There are various methods of preserving herbs for future use. Alcohol tinctures are just one but they are the most popular and a tincture will last longer than most other methods.
There are a few different herbs that can help with eczema, depending on what the cause is. A 50-50 blend of marshmallow and astragalus has helped many people I know who suffer with eczema. It will calm the inflammation and itch while helping to clear it up.
This can be applied in the form of a tincture, an ointment, capsule form or a combination of these. With more detailed information I would be able to give more suggestions. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Very informative. I never knew you could preserve herbs with alcohol.
I don’t understand why people take so many medications for headaches or colds and flu when herbs can help them all plus they are natural and organic.
I wonder if there are herbs that can help with acne and whiteheads and such, or with beauty issues such as removing wrinkles and age marks. I have heard that natural plants help better than anything because they are organic; I agree.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Herbs can be a great help when dealing with colds and flu. The key is to work with the body and its processes to remove waste and toxins while supplying nutrients to build strength in weakened areas.
When using herbs for various therapies you are ensured you are giving the body whole natural organic (living) nutrients while not adding any harmful chemicals or extra additives that the body will have to work to break down and remove at a later time.
There are certainly herbal combinations that can help with skin issues like acne, age spots and wrinkles. Most people think acne is a skin problem but really it is a blood problem. Cleansing and building the blood will do wonders for these issues. I will be addressing acne and other skin conditions in later articles so please stay tuned!
Wishing you the best, Shan
Wow- I love this post. I grow herbs and use them mainly for cooking however last year I had a severe infection on my arms from some poison from the Oleander tree and my skin was incredibly sore and I tried some tincture and found relief quite quickly.
I would love to make my own and now I can so thank you so much!
I’m sorry to hear about your reaction to the Oleander. Some people can have a severe allergic reaction to Oleander simply from touching the leaves. This typically causes rashes and blistering in those individuals. The sap is what usually causes this as it can be found in both the leaves and the stem of the plant however, ingesting the fruit can also cause internal reactions such as nausea and vomiting or worse.
I would be curious which reaction you had from the Oleander and what the reason for it was and finally which herbal tincture brought you relief. I suspect it was a combination of herbs used in the tincture that brought you relief. Before deciding to make your own tinctures, all these questions should be discussed as well as dosages and whether it should be taken internally or used externally.
An allergic reaction on the skin such as this would use possibly an ointment and a tincture made with several herbs to treat it. Please gather more information and knowledge before attempting to make and use your own tinctures. I am always here and happy to help too. Feel free to email me at Shan@shansherbal.com.
Hi Shan, this is a super great topic you haven chosen.
I am a true believer in the power of herbal medicine. You have covered a lot of information about herbs and I thank you for that. In visiting your site I have gained knowledge about Tincture’s, some herbs I have never heard of, Skullcap to help with insomnia, my sister needs that. Oatstraw herb is a new one also.
I do use spices along with herbs and use Turmeric as I find it helps me with inflammation and my depression.
Your site is very encouraging and I wish more people become aware of the benefits of using herbs as remedies to their ailments, or even preventative measures. Certified Master Herbalist, goes to show your dedication to your beliefs. It enhances the real deal factor.
I thank you for the opportunity to visit your site and absorb the information you have provided.
All the best,
Thank you for your support! It is wonderful to hear from others who have benefited from natural medicinals. I’m honored to have been able to pass on new knowledge to you as well.
Turmeric has a variety of benefits; it’s powers of relaxing inflammation might be the one I love and gain the most benefit from myself. I have been using a turmeric paste for some time now. The difference it has made for me is highly noticeable! I plan to share the recipe with everyone soon!
I am currently studying for my Master Herbalist. From there my plan is to go on to become a doctor of Naturopathy. I know my path will never quite end lol; I will never stop learning
Thank you for stopping by and please visit again!
As I am involved with working with wild medicinals, I really enjoyed your article. I have made tinctures — in the past, a few different kinds; lately, just yarrow, wormwood, and devil’s club. My only recent tincture was devil’s club — three of us made a batch last summer. Took us two days, working all day! Because you have to strip off the spines and peel the outer layer of bark to get to the cambium layer, it’s a labor-intensive project.
I don’t know if you are familiar with any Alaskan wild plant experts. Do you know Janice Schofield (“Discovering Wild Plants”)? If you can get in touch with her, she has a nice collection of tincture recipes. I was fortunate enough to receive a copy.
Devil’s Club is the only Alaskan member of the ginseng family, and I find it very interesting that Native people were so knowledgeable about it. It’s good for lots of things — colds, flu, stabilizing blood sugar, whether too high or too low, and because of this latter attribute, the tincture is helpful in lowering cholesterol.
I have published a couple of books about wild plants. (Plant Lore of an Alaskan Island). I feel it is very important to write down this knowledge so it does not get lost, and pass it on to people who can use it. We never know when that knowledge will be the very thing to save us from disaster or disease. Keep up the good work — you are preserving and passing on useful, important information.
Thank you, I really appreciate you sharing your experience with tinctures. I really enjoyed reading about your adventures with devil’s club. I know from experience, depending on the herb in use, it sure can be a complicated and intensive production!
I was actually not familiar with that particular strain of ginseng but you have definitely peaked my interest! I do not know Janice Schofield but it sounds like she has an amazing gift with plants and their uses. I will certainly see if I can find anything out there published by her or in collaboration with her.
I would love to read your books too! Do you have a website?
I also feel it is important to preserve this information and all types of ancient knowledge. Who knows what the future may bring and what situations we may encounter where having this knowledge may save or better a life. My health, and therefore my life, has improved vastly since I began my journey learning about plants and their capabilities.
I hope to see you again!
This reminds me of my school days. While playing if someone got hurt we used to rub leaves of a particular plant on the wound. It had small white petal flower with a yellow center, I don’t know the name. The very next day we were able to come to play again. What I want to emphasize is there must be a lot of plants that are useful for health and illness.
Which side of medicine does this type of natural healing come under? Is it under Ayurveda or Homeopathy? I would like to suggest this to my family and friends friends. I am going to share this site with them.
Thanks for your detailed information in simple English, Shan. I love this article.
Thank you for sharing your experiences. The plant you used as a child could have been one of several herbs depending on your location. The great thing about herbal medicine is that most plants can be of help in several applications. There is however, a herbal aide for each specific body system and organ of the body.
Herbal medicine is used in both Ayurveda and Homeopathy. The use of herbs for preventative health as well as an aide for illness/injury is included in a wide range of natural healing modalities and goes back thousands of years. If you would like more information on a specific type of natural healing, I could certainly provide you with some resources. Just let me know!
Thanks for visiting and I hope to see you again soon!
Hi Shannon, I enjoyed reading this piece. I’m always interested in learning more about tinctures. The video really explains very thoroughly how to make these tinctures.
As for my personal story, researched and written covering tinctures and extracts as it relates to wild lettuce in particular. My mom made some tincture and extract last year, gave me some and I still have a lot of tincture left. I just need to remember to take it (duh)! Great sedative and good for pain management.
I’ve really been giving a lot of consideration over the last several months to signing up for the family herbalist course. I was told about it about a year ago by someone who has gone through the course and has even taken the master herbalist course. She highly recommends it.
A family member in every household armed and educated with this training is a great idea, I believe.
Thanks for this article. Will bookmark for future reference.
It was great to hear from you. Wild lettuce has some excellent benefits. I have not studied this one extensively but I know those who swear by it as a tonic.
I highly recommend the Family Herbalist course with The School of Natural Healing. There is a lot of useful information that will be helpful in any walk of life. David Christopher, the school’s director, is a fantastic teacher. He really knows how to break down difficult subjects into easy to understand lessons. I can’t say enough about how this knowledge has changed my life.
I look forward to seeing you again,
What an interesting article! I learned a lot about tinctures and realized I have used them before as rescue remedies! I found they helped me a lot.
What tincture would you recommend for getting help sleeping? I have been having trouble with insomnia lately and if I could find a natural remedy to help me then that would be great! I am currently taking valerian root extract to aid this.
Rescue Remedies is a wonderful brand. They carry many helpful formulas. I am glad to hear they work well for you.
Valerian root is an excellent aide for sleep issues however if any one herb is used too often you may find switching it up with another occasionally is helpful. If valerian is not working for you, drinking a cup of tea made with 1 teaspoon skullcap herb has been proven very effective. Chamomile is another good one for relaxation, especially if the sleeplessness is due to a nervous issue.
There are also cases where the blood sugar may be low and this will cause issues with sleep. For these people, simply eating a piece of fresh fruit can clear it up and knock them right out.
If you have any other questions or concerns, feel free to contact me!