Menstruums :There are three basic menstruums, or solvents used to extract the chemical compounds of herbs in tinctures, alcohol, glycerin, and vinegar. Alcohol is the most used because it can extract fats, resins, waxes,most alkaloids, and some of the volatile oils, as well as many other plant compounds. Water is also necessary to extract the water soluble plant chemicals. Using an 80 to 100 proof alcohol such as vodka, brandy and gin provides the alcohol-water ratio you need without having to add anything. If pure grain alcohol ( 190 proof) is used, water will have to be added. Don't use city tap water that contains chlorine, use either distilled or pure spring waterHerbs: Either fresh or dried finely chopped herbs can be used. Use of one pint of menstruum to two ounces of dried herbs, or about two handfuls of fresh.
The important thing is to completely cover the herbs, leaving a couple of extra inches of liquid about the herbs to allow for swelling as the herbs absorb the liquid. Leave some headroom in the jar. If using vinegar, warm first before pouring it over the herbs.Procedure for making an easy tincture:
- Chop herbs finely
- Place in a glass jar, labeled with the current date and name of the herb
- Add sufficient liquid menstruum to completely cover the herb
- Cap with a tight fitting lid, put the jar in a dark place at room temperature, and shake at least once daily.
- After 2 to 3 weeks, strain the contents through several layers of cheesecloth.
- Allow to settle overnight in a clean jar
- Restrain through a filter paper
- Store in a labled, amber glass bottle away from light and heat.
Liniments are made exactly the same as herbal tinctures, except they are meant for external use. Make sure and label your liniments FOR EXTERNAL USE ONLY, when using a solvent that is inedible such as rubbing alcohol.
The Chinese macerate herbs for months sometimes even years. For stronger tinctures a suggested time can be 4 to 6 weeks. The duration depends on the mixture and on your patience, in time you will develop your own style. I use a kitchen cupboard that I open on a regular basis, so I don't forget the shake the bottle. Tinctures will keep for 6 months. The standard dose is one tablespoon in a wineglass of water once or twice a day.
For those who want to be more exact in your tincture making, and are looking for a source of good formulations, I highly recommend you get a copy of Making Plant Medicineby Richo Cech - Horizon Herbs(2000).