Make your own fresh herb tincture

April 16, 2011

I have long wanted to include some ‘practical’ instruction in my blog for the all important preparations that all herbalists and family healers use on a regular basis. This post will be devoted to a simple alcohol extract of a botanical, called a “tincture”. The extracting can actually be done with cider vinegar or glycerin, alternatively, though alcohol does work best. It is important to note that some herbs are better taken as infusions or decoctions, particularly if the vitamin content is what one is after (i.e. nettles).  It is also important to note that some herbs are absolutely best taken as a *fresh* herb tincture rather than a *dried* herb tincture. This post is for making tinctures from *fresh* herbs. Some examples of herbs that should be tinctured fresh are turmeric rhizome, ginger rhizome, St. John’s wort, Milky oat tops, and skullcap. Other herbs I prefer to tincture fresh are motherwort and tulsi.

Oat Tops in the Milky Stage

Oat Tops in the Milky Stage

Step 1:

Organize the necessary container for tincturing. It should be big enough to hold all the herb you would like to tincture. There should not be a lot of excess room in the jar, however.

Jar and herbs for tincturing

Step 2:

Put the herbs in a glass jar. I have a gallon sized glass jar here and I’m using fresh oat tops in the milky stage, shipped to me from Pacific Botanicals organic farm in Oregon.

pouring grain alcohol onto the herbs

Step 3:

After the herbs are in the jar, pour 95% (190 proof) grain alcohol over the fresh herbs. The percentage of alcohol you use is probably the most important part of tincturing aside from the quality of the herbs used. The percentage of alcohol for fresh herbs shouldn’t dip below 50% or the tincture will probably spoil. Because fresh herbs contain a lot of water already, you can assume that just by using fresh herb, you’ll be diluting the % of alcohol in the preparation. So, if you use (40%) 80 proof vodka, for instance, you may end up with a tincture that is only 20% alcohol, and that tincture would certainly spoil. Many herbalists use 100 proof (50%) vodka and have success, even with fresh herbs. I prefer to use a higher proof for fresh. Using 100 proof (50%) vodka for *dried* herbs is certainly okay, though more complicated formulas are used by professional herbalists.  Keep in mind that some herbs require glycerin at about 10%, including milk thistle seed.

So, you pour the alcohol over the herbs and fill the jar to the top. Leave about 1/2 – 1 inch between the alcohol and the rim of the jar. Try to make sure all of the herbs are under the liquid.

tinctured oat tops
Step 4:

Use a chopstick or spoon to press the herb down and stir in order to release any air bubbles that may be trapped in the jar.

Step 5:

Cap the jar. I often like to put a piece of wax paper between the rim and lid so that the lid doesn’t ‘stick’ to the jar. It’s not that this is really a problem, because you can run it under hot water, but it just makes it easier.

Step 6:

Label the jar with the herb, date, and percentage of alcohol. Store in a cool/dark place and allow to do its tincturing  magic for 4 – 6 weeks. You can really leave it for longer if you don’t get to it in that time frame.  I have left herbs in 180 proof alcohol for a *year* and it doesn’t go bad because of the high alcohol content. Sometimes I do up to 3 gallons at a time, so I don’t always decant everything right away!

Step 7:

When you decant, strain the herbs out and compost them after squeezing the alcohol out of them. You can wring out the herbs with a thin, clean dishcloth or cheesecloth. There are also professional herb presses that are available for just this purpose. The herbs will often become quite dessicated, actually, so sometimes it is incredibly easy to extract as much alcohol as you are going to!

Be sure to label your decanted tinctures with the Date and the Herb, as well as the alcohol used. Keep in mind that the % of alcohol is no longer 95%!!! Though it’s not easy to exactly determine, it’s probably closer to 50%, depending on the herb used.

Resources:

Gladstar, Rosemary, Herbal Healing for Women, 1993.
Weed, Susun, Healing Wise, 1989.
Tierra, Michael, The Way of Herbs 1998
Hoffman, David, Medical Herbalism, 2003.
Tilgner, Sharol, Herbal Medicine, 1999.

Good luck with your first tincture. Feel free to comment below if you have questions!
My tinctures can be found on my Etsy site.


Favorite Tea Accessories: Atelier Oker

April 13, 2011

Atelier Oker is a stunning Etsy shop by talented Belgian ceramicist and teacher, Jeannine Vrin. Each piece in her shop is a beautifully designed work of art that is meant to be used functionally. They all seem to fulfill the mission of this studio, in finding the “poetry of ordinary things.” Her exquisite ceramic tea strainer is no exception. It’s a gorgeous piece that would truly turn every cup of tea into a special tea ceremony. I am a great proponent of the need for such rituals in every day life. Be forewarned: Jeannine tells me that these tea strainers sell almost as soon as they are posted, so if you see one and like it, snap it up quickly! If not, contact her directly to pre-order if possible. Dank u, Jeannine!


Events – Spring 2011

April 11, 2011

"Tulip Tree" by Magbug on Etsy

Spring has sprung! There are lots of local events coming up for Lilith’s Apothecary. If you are in the Philadelphia area, I do hope you’ll come to visit me. I often have things at craft shows that I don’t have posted on Etsy, such as a large selection of soaps, lotions, bath salts, and other goodies for your home spa.

April 17
Herbal Medicine Making @ City Planter
{Facebook Event Page}
Location: City Planter, 814 N 4th St, Philadelphia, PA
Time: 2:30 – 3:30 PM.
Come join City Planter’s expert staff to learn about how to grow and maintain common medicinal plants such as Sage, Thyme, Lavender, and Rosemary. And then join me in a discussion and demonstrations about kitchen medicines using these herbs, including tinctures, salves, infusions, and decoctions.
Cost: $10 — but you get two free take-away herbs! Register here {City Planter Events Page}

April 23
Fishtown Shad Fest
{http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fishtown-Shad-Fest/130484343685205}
{website}
A fabulous craft, food, and music event taking place in Penn Treaty Park on the Delaware River. This is always one of my favorite events of the year! Check out the full schedule of events in the latest version of http://www.gridphilly.com/. {May 2011}
Location: Penn Treaty Park, Fishtown
Time: 11am – 6pm

May 14 & 15
Art Star Craft Bazaar
{website}
Location: Penn’s Landing
Time: 11am – 6pm both days
An outdoor retail art/craft show that is organized & juried by Philadelphia’s Art Star Gallery & Boutique. Over 100 local & national artists have been chosen to set up shop & sell their wares along the beautiful waterfront @ Penn’s Landing. For this event, Lilith’s Apothecary will be partnering with Melo Studios, a lovely, local mom-owned company that specializes in beautiful hand-poured soy candles in vintage and upcycled containers. The cut glass goblet candles are especially gorgeous.

May 21
Trenton Avenue Arts Festival

Location: Trenton Avenue, East Kensington
Time: 12 – 5 pm
Another favorite! In connection with the Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby, the Trenton Avenue Arts Festival is always a great group of local vendors with a wide range of crafts/art on display. Live Music, good food, beer from our favorite Philadelphia Brewing Company.

Can’t wait to see you there!

By the way….where can you find Lilith’s Apothecary products in Philadelphia?
Local Locations:
Affordable Skin Care Salon, Girard Avenue (facial & body care)
Greensgrow Farms (garden products, tea)
Contessa’s French Linens (soap) @ Reading Terminal Market
Herbiary (herbal facial care) @Reading Terminal Market

Coming Soon to:
Bee Natural (infused honey) @ Reading Terminal Market
Barefoot Doctor Community Acupuncture Clinic (east Girard Ave)

* Fine Art Photography image “Tulip Tree” by Magbug (Mary Anne Morgan Photography) on Etsy.com *


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