How to make your own herbal tincture

If you are a keen gardener or forager you may want to try making your own herbal tinctures from herbs that you have grown or collected yourself.

by Monica Wilde

At Napiers, our tinctures are made using 100 proof sugar beet ethanol. This allows us to control the strength of the tinctures according to the part of the plant being used. Roots for instance need a stronger alcohol solution than flowers. But it is possible to make your own low strength tinctures at home using shop-bought vodka.

Try to get 40 proof if you can although most are around 37.5 proof

Finely chopped herb or plant material of your choice

If your plant material is very fresh it can be best to dry it overnight in a warm place to reduce some of the water content. A dehydrator is very useful if you are going to make a lot of tinctures.

Finely chop your herbs and fill a preserving jar up to three quarters full of the chopped herb. If you are using dried roots, only fill half way up as they will expand when they are soaked.

Pour over your vodka and make sure that the herb is completely covered. You can use a canning lid to keep the herb submerged.  If the herb is exposed to the air it can start to get mould or bacteria – especially if it has not been dried first – and this will spoil your tincture. Alcohol is an excellent preservative but you want to avoid any contamination.

You can also use vinegar if you don’t want to use alcohol. The method is the same and apple cider vinegar or a good quality wine vinegar (either red or white) can be used. This is particularly nice with berries such as elderberry or hawthorn berry.

For children it is best to use a mixture of 50% vegetable glycerin and 50% filtered or spring water. If you use this method you must keep it in the fridge at all times both during and after making, because the preserving qualities of glycerin are lower than alcohol or vinegar.

Leave your jar to infuse for 6 to 8 weeks in a kitchen cupboard. Shake it every few days. You’ll notice the colour will get much darker.

After at least 6 weeks, filter it through a funnel lined with very fine filter cloth (winemakers cloth is best with several layers of muslin as the next best choice) into bottles. When it has stopped dripping, twist and squeeze the cloth to get as much out as you can. Dark glass bottles are best as it prevents sunlight from degrading the tincture so they keep longer.