Tincture Feature

After reading about the Scouts’ adventure in making yarrow tincture, and after injuring my toe and needing the healing properties of comfrey, I decided to do a little wildcrafting and get some herbs together to make some tinctures and oils.

In case you missed the basic concepts of making a tincture or infused oil in my other posts, I’ll give you the rundown here:

click to enlarge
Comfrey leaves torn, crushed and placed in a jar for making a tincture.
  • Harvest the herb.
  • Don’t wash it! Moisture may induce mold in your tincture or oil. If you need to clean your plant material, use a vegetable brush or a cloth to wipe off the dirt. Best bet: harvest it on a dry, sunny day.
  • Bruise and/or chop up your plant material so that it can release its juices into the mixture more easily.
  • Fill the container (like a mason jar) with your herb (known as the marc in tincture nomenclature).
  • Pour in the fluid (aka the menstruum).  For tinctures, you can use potable alcohol (like 100 proof vodka, or even a whisky or brandy if you like,) vinegar, or glycerol for the menstruum.  For herbal oils, use a solvent-free vegetable oil like extra virgin olive oil.  Whatever menstruum you use, fill the jar up to the rim.
  • Cap it off.
click to enlarge
Jewelweed tincture, uncapped after letting stand for six weeks.
  • Some folks recommend topping off the jar again the next day, as you may have had air pockets in your plant material, or sometimes the plant matter releases gasses.  (Don’t we all?  Remember, “plants are people too.” )
  • Let the marc sit in the menstruum for six weeks.  Keep it out of direct sunlight, and shake it occasionally if you feel so inclined.  You may want to set your container in a dish or tray in case the menstruum seeps out.
  • Strain and decant after six weeks.

click to enlargeSo, now that my tinctures and oils had sat for six weeks, the time had come to decant them.  Basically, I just poured the menstruum out into a new, clean, dry container, leaving the marc behind.  Cheese cloth or a muslin bag would work really well for this, but I chose to use a metal mesh strainer.  The metal mesh let a lot of sediment through, so I decided to further filter the tinctures to get out the rest of the plant matter.

click to enlargeclick to enlargeclick to enlarge
Sediment in my tinctures.  You can’t see the fine particulate in the jewelweed tincture (left) that well, but it shows up pretty well at the bottom of the yarrow tincture (middle) and the cloud of trichomes from my comfrey leaf tincture (right) stands out really well.

click to enlargeI used a paper towel and funnel to filter the fluids, but you could use a coffee filter as well.  Either way, paper filters tend to slow down the drip flow the longer they have to keep filtering, so it can take a while to filter things this way — yet another reason to use a cloth filter to begin with.

In the end, I had some clear and pretty tinctures and oils.  I have made the following so far:

  • Infused oil from plantain (see main post: ‘Plantain: This shit is NOT bananas‘ )
  • Infused oil and tincture from comfrey leaves
  • Tincture from yarrow leaves and flowers
  • Tincture from jewelweed stems (see main post: ‘Jewel Juice‘ )
  • Tincture from raspberry leaves

click to enlargeI noticed that with my jewelweed tincture, it came out a much brighter color than the batch I made a few years ago (which came out looking greenish-brown.)  I don’t know if the difference comes from the plants I used (the ones I used previously, I had harvested later in the year) or from the the fact that I let this tincture sit for six weeks as opposed to the two weeks from the last batch.  Either way, I love the vibrant orange color and feel really pleased with the result.

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12 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by bearmedicinewoman on 09/18/2007 at 8:32 pm

    Did you use a different proof alcohol? That’s usually what changes the color most in my experience, though plant quality and harvest timing could certainly do it too.

    And to lessen the air present in your preparation (especially oils) I suggest poking at the plant mass (once covered in whatever solvent) with a butter knife or chopstick (or some other stick) and slowly move things around a bit, this helps get the air bubbles out. You may want to do this several times with some oils, especially if they seem extra bubbly (like with Pine oil, very slobbery).

    Nice pics too, illustrations are such confidence builders.

    And if you do leave that weird stuff in the bottom of your tinctures, it doesn’t usually hurt them (just make sure it’s not water settling at the bottom of your oil). And when you’re making tinctures of roots like burdock or dandelion, you actually don’t want to strain out the white goo at the bottom, you want that stuff. So agitate the jar before you strain and try to get all the whiteness through the filter/strainer.

    Thanks for such a nice post on tincture making, I’ll be sending people to check it out :D

    Reply

  2. Posted by Rix on 09/19/2007 at 7:39 am

    Thanks so much for your comments, Kiva.

    Did you use a different proof alcohol? That’s usually what changes the color most in my experience, though plant quality and harvest timing could certainly do it too.

    I used a different brand of witch hazel astringent, but it had the same percentage of alcohol. Although, I made two quart mason jars of jewelweed tincture, and didn’t have enough witch hazel to top off the second one, so I topped it off with 100 proof vodka. The two jars I made this time, however, came out the same orange color as each other but a different color from the two-week batch I made several years ago.

    Good point about poking around the plant matter with a stick. And thanks for the tip about keeping the sediment from root tinctures.

    I would love to find some information on usage and dosage for different tinctures, if you know of any sites or books that address that. And how do tinctures differ from infusions? (Besides the obvious fact that you would need only a few drops of tincture as opposed to a cup of tea — and the less obvious fact that you don’t get nutritional value from tinctures like you do from infusions.)

    Nice pics too, illustrations are such confidence builders.

    Thanks. Yeah, pics really seem to bridge that gap between verbal and visual learning. Plus they catch the eye.

    Thanks for such a nice post on tincture making, I’ll be sending people to check it out :D

    Wow. I feel really flattered. For a pro like yourself to point folks to the work of a noob like me — well that just makes a fellow feel all kinds of proud.

    Reply

  3. Posted by bearmedicinewoman on 09/20/2007 at 8:17 pm

    Well, the easiest and most convienient way to find set dosages for tinctures or other medicines is to get a Materia Medica, like the one Michael Moore has to download for free from his website at http://www.swsbm.com but in reality, it all depends on the person and the plant, so while a rough estimate comes in handy (especially from potentially poisonous plants like Poke) you’ll figure it out better from experience. Also, different practitioners have vastly different dosages, Matt Wood uses drop doses while others use physiological, large doses. Also, some people are far more sensitive to the effects of the plant than others. While I can only take a drop or two of Lavender tincture at a time, my partner takes a whole dropperful to get the same effect.

    The main difference between tinctures and water preparations is that for one thing alcohol and water extract different parts of the plants medicine. Like, alcohol can’t extract minerals like water (or vinegar) can. While water can’t extract resins like alcohol can, so it all depends on what you want/need. Infusions work great for super nourishing herbs like Nettles, Oatstraw, Red Clover, Elder and so on. But if you take those same plants and tincture them fresh, you get another medicine. The tincture of fresh milky oats doesn’t have the minerals of oatstraw but it’s more overtly calming and restorative. Some plants, like White Sage, are pretty hard to do much with water wise. It’s about getting to know the plants, and also knowing what you want to do with the plants. Some practitioners are very biased towards one kind of preparation or the other but but they all have their uses.

    You do get some nutritional stuff from tinctures though btw, some vitamins like bioflavanoids and such. Alcohol is actually capable of being fairly nutritious. Check out Stephen Buhners book on Healing and Sacred Beers for a great discussion of the subject. A little too dependent on Agriculture for my point of view but fascinating nonetheless.

    I find that often people who consider themselves dedicated newbies, are good at creating clear instructions, and including important info that more experienced people may forget or think is obvious.

    Check out the Herbwifery forum at http://herbwifery.org for lotso interesting takes on dosage and medicine making by many experienced herbalists.

    Reply

  4. […] I’ve done a lot of plant processing lately involving mason jars — what with my herbal infusion oils and tinctures.  So last weekend, when I took my sumac down from the ceiling where I had hung it to dry to make […]

    Reply

  5. I found your website online and found it very useful
    I just made goldenseal tincture from a patch that grows on my property.
    I do believe it is much stronger than what you can buy at the health food stores.
    I also added Arkansas Gingsing to one batch.
    thanks for this site
    it was very helpful to me.
    Karen

    Reply

  6. Posted by sarah on 08/06/2010 at 6:27 am

    I just made a plantain tincture with olive oil. It’s been sitting in the sun for about 5 days and I just opened it and it’s slightly bubbly. Is this bad or can I still use it? If it is bad, what did I do wrong?

    Reply

    • Posted by Rix on 08/06/2010 at 5:22 pm

      You definitely shouldn’t put it in the sun. Sunlight breaks down the constituents. If it got warm enough, the bubbles might be from fermentation. You can expect some bubbling from air trapped in the trichomes (hairs on the plant). But the fact that you had it in the sun does make me suspicious. You may want to just seal it back up, and leave it in a cool, dry, dark place for another few weeks and see how it turns out.

      Reply

  7. Posted by Nevadachick on 08/19/2010 at 5:19 pm

    Hi I have just finished making comfrey tinture. I put the leaves in a mason jar and filled with evoo. It has sat for 6 weeks and I used a stick and poked everyday. No I am ready to strain it into a clean jar and wanted to know after I strain it do I need to put alcohol in it to keep it from going rancid???

    thank you

    Nevada chick

    Reply

    • Posted by Rix on 08/19/2010 at 8:27 pm

      Nevadachick, you shouldn’t need alcohol to keep it from going rancid. As long as there was no water on the leaves when you put the oil in, then it should last a long time. I still have some of the tinctures that I made in this post, almost 3 years ago, and they are doing just fine.

      Reply

  8. Just broke my pinky toe and got some fresh comfrey from my community garden. Loved this site – so helpful to have preparations on hand in the future. I’m starting my first tinctures today.

    Reply

  9. hi

    thanks for the article. i am testing a comfrey cram on my stress fracture..
    the method for infusing the cromfrey leaves was to combine it with Aqueous cream and microwave for 7 minutes. i’ve since read more in depth and elaborate ways of extracting the comfrey’s natural healing powers.

    one is similar to your method, except the oil and comfrey leaves are placed in jar which is sealed and placed in a pot of hot water and simmered. is this method of speeding up the infusion a recommended way or should the leaves been infused naturally over 4 – 6 weeks. lastly if I were to use my own grown comfrey, would you recommend the leaves or the roots?
    thank you

    Reply

  10. Posted by Rix on 11/05/2011 at 5:51 pm

    charl,

    I don’t have any familiarity with using Aqueous cream, so I won’t comment on that.

    However, the method of heating the plant matter in oil reminds me of a method that someone mentioned on the rewild.info forums:

    http://www.rewildportland.com/Conversations/index.php?topic=307.msg3988#msg3988

    Heat will certainly break down some constituents in the comfrey, but if you need the healing properties immediately, I would certainly not hesitate to try that method.

    As for leaves vs roots: I have only ever used the leaves myself–mainly because I harvested from a friend’s garden and did not want to disturb the soil. If I grew my own, I would likely use the leaves for teas and oil infusions and the roots and leaves together for poultices.

    Reply

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