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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

making tinctures with vinegar or alcoholic menstruum


Making a tincture is pretty basic. I often get a slightly awed look from people who hear I make my own tinctures at home, but it's really not that difficult.

To start, you will need
  1. a glass US pint canning jar (16 fluid ounces), 
  2. and 1 oz by weight of the herb or herb mix you want to tincture. 
  3. You will also need a menstruum -- a liquid base. This can be an alcohol -- I prefer either brandy or grain vodka -- or vinegar -- I tend to choose apple cider vinegar more often than any other type.
  • Pop the 1 oz herbs into the bottom of your spotlessly clean and dry jar.
  • Fill up with menstruum. 
  • Stir to wet herbs as needed, and top up again. I bring it up not quite to the top of the jar, to about 1/4 inch from the top. 
  • Cap tightly with proper canning lid and ring.
  • Use a permanent marker to write on masking tape -- peels off easily for later cleaning, and doesn't bleed in case of oily or wet spills -- and label your jar with the menstruum, herb or herbs, and today's date, the day you started the tincture. Labels are very important!
  • Now, place your jar in a dark, cool area. A cabinet in the kitchen is likely fine. Just not consistently over about 75 F, please.

The tincture needs to sit for four weeks. You can base it on a lunar cycle, if you like, and measure from full moon to full moon. This isn't necessary and you should have a good tincture regardless, but the moon's gravity will aid in drawing out the properties from the herbs into the menstruum in a similar way that it pulls the tides of the ocean throughout the month. However you do it, four weeks is a standard length for most tinctures. Give the jar a good shake every few days as you remember it.

In the case of my photos, I have made a tincture for use in an anti-acne facial toner, so what you see here is my apple cider vinegar infused with plantain.


Welcome back! Your tincture should be properly infused by now.

You need 
  1. the jar of herby tincture that has been sitting for four weeks, 
  2. a cheesecloth or clean t-shirt fabric (I like to use woven cotton diaper prefolds I got cheaply at Walmart, as they have a fine mesh and are easy to clean), 
  3. a bowl or jug to catch the tincture liquid, 
  4. and a spatula.
  • Line the jug or bowl with the cloth.
  • Dump in the tincture, herbs and all. Get it all out of the jar. 
  • With clean hands, lift up the cloth catching the herbs, let the liquid drain out, and give it a good hard squeeze to get as much goodness out of the herbs as possible.
overexposed pic! sorry -- was holding the cloth with one hand and snapping quickly with the other

Now, clean your tincture jar or have a new one ready washed and dried.
Pour the tincture into the jar. Store in a dark, cool place, like that cabinet or even in the fridge, and your tincture ought to last for around 3 years. Yes, three years! Brilliant way to preserve herbs.

For my recipe for anti-acne facial toner, continue here.

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