While research is ongoing, herbal products are becoming more and more mainstream and are available in health food stores and specialty retailers. They come in many forms, accommodating the preference of the customer – from teas, capsules, syrups, lotions to liquid extracts. By far the most common method to take herbals is to make a tea, infusing the leaves, flowers or fruits with boiling water and letting them steep. Herbal infusions are gentle, easy to make at home and soothing when you don’t feel well.
However, not all phytochemicals dissolve in water and therefore the infusion method may yield the best results. Another, more effective method of extraction is to prepare a tincture – also called herbal extract. Not only do you end up with a more concentrated herbal medicine, you will also get a product that delivers herbal medicine in a standardized way, meaning with every dropper full, you get a similar amount of the active ingredient. Herbal extracts are alcoholic or water-alcohol solutions, prepared from fresh or dried botanicals. Vegetable glycerin is another solvent that works great for those who want to avoid alcohol or to make tinctures for children.
One of the oldest and a very easy way to make a tincture/herbal extract in your kitchen is called the “simpler’s method” which uses parts as a measurement. A part is a unit of measurement that can be interpreted to mean, tsp, cup, ounce, pound, etc., but always keeps the relative proportions of the herb consistent.
- Begin your tincture preparation by placing dried or fresh herbs in a glass jar and pour enough alcohol (clear grain alcohol like Vodka is best) over the herbs to cover them completely. Usually the ratio is 1 part herb to 5 parts of alcohol. Close the jar with a tight fitting lid and place it in a warm and dry place.
- Let the herbs soak for four to six weeks, shaking the jar daily to prevent them from settling on the bottom of it.
- Strain the herbs into a container and fill the liquid into small bottles and label these with the herb’s name and current date. If stored in a cool, dark place, the tincture will keep three to six years.
You can prepare single herb tinctures or with a little knowledge blend different herbs into a medicine that targets a specific problem. For example, combine Echinacea and Elderberry for an immune strengthening tincture or blend Skullcap and Lemon balm to soothe frayed nerves. If you would like to learn more about herbs and how to use them, check with your Souvia Tea Consultant for the latest seminars and workshops.
Olivia Wingert, Co-owner Souvia Tea™ and passionate herbalist