Did you know your favorite herbs can be harvested in season and used all year round in the form of tinctures? Making herbal tinctures is a traditional method of preserving plant materials for use in natural health. They are effective and easy to make with herbs we have growing right here in Northeast Ohio.
Tinctures are concentrated liquid extracts of herbs made by soaking the herb in a high-proof alcohol. While similar to teas, using alcohol can extract certain plant properties that water cannot. These potent concentrations of the herb can preserve plant constituents for several years. Because tinctures are usually taken with a dropper directly into the mouth or diluted in water, only small quantities are needed.
If you have a sudden issue, such as a digestive complaint, you can begin by taking a dropper full of the tincture. Note any changes and increase the quantity if necessary until symptoms are alleviated. You can also use a tincture to support overall health by incorporating it as part of your daily routine. Used this way, it is common to take one dropper full, three times daily.
There are several different methods used to make an herbal tincture. Here’s one I like to use. It’s a simple method, great for beginners and can be prepared in your own kitchen.
First, examine the plant you want to use and discard any damaged parts or debris. You don’t need to wash the plant unless the roots are used. Coarsely chop plant material, leaving delicate flowers intact. Place chopped herbs in a clean glass jar. Next, pour enough alcohol over the herbs to cover them by two to three inches. Vodka is my spirit of choice, but you can also use gin, brandy, or rum that is 80–100 proof. Seal the jar with a tightfitting lid and label with the herb variety and date. Let the herbs soak for six weeks.
During this soaking stage, shake the bottle daily to allow the alcohol to mix thoroughly. After the soaking period is finished, strain all herb parts from the liquid using cheesecloth. Pour the now- filtered tincture into an amber-colored glass jar or tincture bottle. Label and date this container and keep in a cool, dark spot. Herbal tinctures will last for several years if properly stored.
There are many herbs growing naturally throughout Northeast Ohio, so I like to forage for my herbs or plant them in my own garden. Keep quality in mind and use naturally grown herbs for all tinctures. If searching for plants in the wild, be sure you know how to identify plants properly and never take more than necessary. A general rule is to only harvest one-third of an area at most, leaving the rest to rejuvenate.
So what plants might you want to begin with? One way to decide is to consider the way particular plants are known to support health. Here are a few samples to get you started:
- Dandelion, peppermint, and fennel can help with digestive issues.
- Lavender and chamomile are known to encourage relaxation.
- Echinacea, chickweed, and mullein are believed to provide immune support.
- Rosemary, mint, and lemon balm help support memory and concentration.
- Red clover is believed to support reproductive health.
- Nettle can help boost overall health.
By taking the time to forage what grows naturally around you, add herbs to your garden, or visit your local farmers market, you’ll find that there are many herbs readily available for you to use for making a variety of tinctures to build your very own herbal first aid kit.
Want to learn more? Check out these books: Healing Wise by Susun Weed and Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide. You can also look for upcoming classes at LakeEffectClinic.org.