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[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 118 – Making Herbal Tinctures with Kids

Do you use store purchased tinctures for your family on a regular basis?

Or are you curious about using tinctures but the cost of a small one ounce tincture bottle has you balking at purchasing something you are not sure will work for you or your family?

Or have you been purchasing them but want a more cost effective way of using tinctures?

Are you wanting to make your own tinctures but unsure on how to do it?

Today I’m going to teach you how easy it is to make your own tinctures!

Why make your own tinctures

There are many reasons to make your own tinctures.

If you’ve ever purchased them from a commercial source, you know that the cost of tinctures can get pretty expensive, especially if you are using a high dose tincture over a long period of time.

It might surprise you to find out that you can often make a pint to a quart of tincture, which is 16-32 ounces, for about the same cost as it is to purchase a one ounce bottle.

That alone is worth making them!

When you make your own tinctures, you have complete control of the ingredients in your tincture.

You can choose to add organic or wildcrafted herbs, or your own freshly homegrown herbs to make a potent and pesticide-free tincture.

You may also choose to use organic alcohol as well.

Sometimes it can be hard to find a specific tincture so making your own can give you a ready supply of a hard to find herb that may be even more expensive to purchase due to the scarcity of the product.

And finally, making tinctures ensures that you have a steady supply on hand.

No running out at 10 pm when all the stores are closed, it’s as close as your own personal herbal apothecary.

Tincture making is easy to do and a great activity to do with kids as they enjoy chopping up the herbs, filling the jar, pouring in the alcohol, and making their own plant medicine.

Even little kids can help out with this task.

What do you need to make a tincture?

The basic needs to make a tincture pretty simple!

All you need is the herb you are tincturing, a glass jar to put them in (canning jars, old food jars that have been cleaned such as peanut butter or mayonnaise jars), alcohol, and sometimes water plus a label.

Does the type of alcohol matter?

Generally speaking, you can use just about any type of alcohol.

If you read historical textbooks, you will notice that wine is often used as the alcohol for making an herbal extract because that is what people had the most access to.

Ale was another historically commonly used alcohol.

Vodka is generally used today for several reasons – it’s easy to find, fairly inexpensive, and doesn’t have a strong taste.

Brandy is often used when making a tincture, such as Chamomile, that has many digestive qualities as brandy is made from pears which are gentle on the digestive system.

Flavor wise, it pairs well with honey for making elixirs.

Gin works well with herbs that are specific for the urinary system, such as Cleavers, as gin is made from juniper berries which are stimulating to the urinary system.

And grain alcohol is great for herbs that need a higher percentage of alcohol to extract, such as Calendula and Lemon Balm.

As for price and organic consideration, the general rule of thumb is that vodka is vodka but gin and brandy, you get what you pay for, in regards to taste.

Otherwise, alcohol is pretty much alcohol and many herbalists agree that organic isn’t really necessary because the impurities are burned on during the processing.

So how do you make them?

There are many ways to make tinctures, from the simpler’s method to a more scientific method.

I’ll give you a bit of background about both.

The simpler’s method

The simpler’s method has traditionally been used by many herbalists as a simple way to make herbal medicine.

It generally involves using vodka, which contains 40% alcohol, and herbs.

Fresh herbs are chopped and added to the jar to lightly fill it. If using dried herbs, the jar is filled half full.

The jar is then filled with the vodka and a lid is attached.

The tincture should be shaken daily and allowed to steep for at least 4-6 weeks.

After the 4-6 weeks is up, you can strain off the plant material or let it sit.

For seeds, bark, roots and other hard parts, I will often let it sit indefinitely, so that the tincture can continue to strengthen over time.

The scientific method

The scientific method is generally used by clinicians and herbalists who want the most potent herbal tinctures possible.

It takes into consideration the constituents of the herb and the amount of moisture of the herb and generally uses grain alcohol which is 95% alcohol, adding water, vinegar, or glycerine to dilute and further enhance the constituents, depending on the herb.

Making tinctures this way requires knowing the constituents, or chemical make-up, of the herb and how constituents best extract.

There are some great resources available to dive more deeply into this if you are interested. I have two go-to resources that I mostly rely on for this information:

Making Plant Medicine by Richo Cech

Michael Moore’s Materia Medica, Herb Formulas, and more, available for free from his website

Both these resources break down the information really well if you want to dive further into making herbal tinctures.

Labeling your tinctures

Once you’ve made your tincture, it’s very important to label them. Here is a rundown of everything you should add to your label:

  • The herb’s name – I like to list both the common and the botanical name
  • The tincture start date
  • Where the herb came from and whether it is being used fresh or dried
  • The herb to menstrum (alcohol/water/etc) ratio – for instance if using fresh herb that was filled full it would be 1:1, or one part herb to one part menstrum, while a dried herb would be 1:2, or one part herb to two parts menstrum.
  • The menstrum percentage – how much alcohol versus water, vinegar, glycerite, etc. This is generally written as a percentage so a simpler’s tincture with a generic vodka would be 40%. If I am creating a tincture with multiple menstrums such as 60% grain alcohol, 30% water, and 10% glycerin I would write it out as such.

All this information should go on a waterproof label with a waterproof marker.

I usually cover my labels with packing tape as alcohol can erase permanent markers.

I learned this the hard way – it’s really hard trying to read a label when it’s smudged beyond recognition.

I hope this helps you with trying out tincture making!

Have you tried making your own tinctures?

Do you have your children help you make them?

I’d love to hear your experiences and stories, please share them in the comments.


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