The word tincture has been used since at least the 15th century as a Middle English term derived from the Latin word tinctura, which means the act of dying or tingeing. Tiny, colorful bottles of tinctures are sold at virtually every lifestyle, health and wellness store, and farmers market but while the word itself might be popular in today’s health-conscious conversations, let’s explore what a tincture actually is.
Tinctures have been used for thousands of years throughout the world. They are essentially herbs, seeds, bark, flowers, or other botanicals that have been extracted in a highly concentrated form in a liquid which is usually alcohol, vinegar, or vegetable glycerine.
Tinctures are typically used for medicinal purposes but are also ingested to lift the spirits, calm the nerves, or encourage a good night’s sleep. They are typically diluted in another liquid such as tea or water or a few drops are placed with a vial directly beneath the tongue for quick absorption into the bloodstream.
Tinctures can be expensive but they are easy to create at home and make wonderful gifts for the health-conscious people in your life. Once you understand how to make a tincture, the recipe possibilities are endless. It’s interesting to explore how the combination of various herbs and botanicals contribute to good health and wellness, following the path of the ancient tincture enthusiasts who came before.
Here’s how to make an herbal tincture at home.
- Select the liquid you will use. It should either be a neutral alcohol such as vodka or Everclear that is at least 80-proof or for a nonalcoholic option, use organic apple cider vinegar. The reason for the higher proof alcohol is to prevent the herbs that are used from molding.
- Sterilize a 16-ounce glass jar with a tight fitting lid by washing it with soapy water, rinsing well, and then heating it in an 200 degree Fahrenheit oven until dry.
- Select the herb combination that you will be using. Coarsely chop the herbs in order to bruise them. This step will encourage the release of flavor and essential oils.
- Fill the jar two-thirds of the way with fresh herbs. If you are using dried herbs, fill the jar halfway full because dried herbs are more potent.
- Pour the alcohol or vinegar over the herbs until the jar is filled to the lid ring, making sure that the herbs are completely submerged to prevent mold or decay.
- Screw the lid on tight and set your jar in a cool, dry place for two weeks for the infusion process to work its magic. Be sure to label and date the jar for reference. Every day or two, give the jar a vigorous shake to encourage the infusion.
- Line a strainer with either a double-layer of cheesecloth or a clean linen towel and set it over a clean bowl large enough to hold all of the liquid.
- Pour the tincture into the strainer and press the herbs gently to remove excess liquid and oils. The leftover plant material makes excellent compost.
- Line up darkly colored glass bottles that preferably are fitted with droppers. The bottles should be dark to prevent natural or artificial light from spoiling your tincture.
- Top a bottle with a funnel small enough to fit into its mouth and carefully pour enough tincture into it to reach about a half-inch from the top in order to prevent spillage once the dropper is placed into the bottle.
- Repeat the process until all of your tincture is bottled.
- Label and date each tincture and store them in a cool, dry place. They make excellent gifts!
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