Over the last few weeks, I have been asked what a tincture is and how to make one, and what the purpose of them is. Tinctures are extracts of herbal matter (flowers, leaf, roots) and goodness through using a solvent of alcohol, or if you are sensitive to alcohol or making a tincture for children, vegetable glycerine. Using fresh herbs is really best, but herbs still hold many of their properties if you dry them and then use them for a tincture. Tinctures are used to maintain health and wellness; to fight infection, keep your immune system strong, heal the gut, fight inflammation, aid digestion, among many others.
This spring and summer I have started a few different tinctures for immune health; in May I harvested stinging nettles with a friend. In June I harvested Elder Flowers from a local Organic farm, I did harvest and dry dandelions, but I am not certain I will use them for a tincture, and today I harvested Bee Balm flowers and leaves.
Stinging Nettles and Elder Flower both hold properties that will aid immune system function, so I plan to use those in the fall/winter to keep from getting colds/the flu. Bee Balm is a great digestive aid, and also fights infections like Strep as well as Candida and other yeast infections.
When making a tincture, it is important to chop or rip the leaves of the plant or chop the roots when using those to release the properties of the plant into the solvent. It is also important to make sure that all of the matter is covered by the alcohol or glycerin, otherwise mold could grow. I try to shake my bottles daily, sometimes several times a day, moving around the matter, and the alcohol. All of it settles when it is just sitting there and you want it to be nice and mixed up! I also think there is a little witchy magic that happens when I shake the bottles, many times chanting sweet nothings to my herbs as I do so.
Bee Balm in 100 Proof Vodka
Stinging Nettle in 100 Proof Vodka – The vodka so quickly took on that deep green color from the nettle leaves and it continued to get darker for the first week. It was important to let them wilt a little and then carefully, with gloved hands, chop the leaves before putting them into the jar to be covered by vodka.
Elder Flower in 100 Proof Vodka. All parts of the Elder bush is poisonous, except for the flowers and berries.
You want to use 80 Proof or higher alcohol. I use Vodka, but you can use rum or brandy or whiskey if you want. You use this Proof because it can enter the bloodstream quicker, moving through mucous membranes quicker and bypassing the digestive system. When you take tinctures you place them under the tongue, and hold for almost a minute. Higher proof alcohol ( like Everclear @ 190 proof) may burn that sensitive skin under the tongue, so I stick with 100 Proof.
Making tinctures is a really easy process and I wish I had begun making them years ago!