Monday Health & Wellness: How to Make a Glycerin Tincture

This is the tincture after it sat just a few hours…so much darker! Imagine what it’ll be like in 6 weeks!

I love using herbal medicines.  So far, I’ve mostly done different types of tea, infused honey, and salves.  But now I’m planning to expand into a new area of herbal medicine: the tincture.

A tincture is a super-concentrated herbal solution.  Herbs are placed in alcohol, vegetable glycerin, vinegar, or even a sugar solution and allowed to sit.  Their properties are extracted into the liquid, then the liquid is strained and the herbs discarded.  Different liquids have different properties in and of themselves, so which you choose to make a tincture is important.

Today we are talking about how to make a glycerin tincture.  We’ll use pure, food-grade, 100% vegetable glycerin.  Glycerin is an excellent substance for many reasons:

  • Safe for children (no alcohol)
  • Safe in larger doses, if needed
  • Sweet tasting and easy to take
  • Dissolves the vitamins and minerals in the plants well; does not dissolve alkaloids and medicinal compounds as well

That last reason is actually why I’m choosing glycerin today.  I’ll be using it to make an herbal multivitamin.  Alcohol dissolves the medicinal compounds well, but it doesn’t dissolve much or any of the vitamins and minerals, making it useless for this purpose.  It would also be difficult, if not impossible, to take a decent-sized dose of an alcohol-based tincture.  This is a great option for pregnant mothers who can’t or don’t prefer to drink a pregnancy tea blend or take a prenatal vitamin, assuming the herbs chosen are safe to use in pregnancy.

So, today, a glycerin tincture.  This is the basic method and you can feel free to use any herb you want.  Dandelion, catnip, and other nourishing, toning herbs (look for herbs that are “adaptogenic,” which means they balance the body and don’t have any particularly strong medicinal qualities — it’s highly unlikely or impossible to overdose on these) can be used in this manner.  Or, come back next week and I’ll share my exact multi-vitamin recipe!

You will need:

  • 100% food-grade, vegetable glycerin
  • Filtered water
  • A glass jar
  • Herbs of choice

Directions:

There are really several different methods of doing this.  I’ve read to fill the jar all the way up or fill it only 1/3 to 1/2 full.  I’ve read to (almost) never use dried herbs or that it doesn’t matter.  I’ve read that it matters what the phase of the moon is when you begin or decant a tincture.  I’ve read methods using heat or not.  I’ve read lengths of time to sit from 24 hours to 6 weeks (and sometimes longer).  Okay, so that could get confusing really fast….

What I’m going to lead you through here is a type of balance: I do think that the length of time something tinctures matters.  I don’t think you get the same medicinal properties when you take short cuts.  But I also believe if you go nuts trying to find the “perfect” method the first time you try it, then…you won’t.  That’s no good.  Instead, start with this basic method, and if you enjoy using tinctures, you’ll develop a way that may be a bit different, but which works for you, as you go along.

Gather up all your supplies.  Dried herbs are okay for this, but not powdered herbs.

If you’re using a combination of herbs (which I am — come back next week for the recipe!), mix them together and put them in a glass jar.  I’m using a quart jar since this is something we’ll be taking daily for awhile.  You can use a much smaller jar if you are only wanting a small amount of medicine.  Fill your jar about halfway with herbs, loosely packed.

Add about 2 c. filtered water into the jar (if you’re using a quart), about 1/2 full, then 2 c. vegetable glycerin.  You won’t be able to add it all at once; about 1 1/2 cups of each at first.  Put a lid on it and shake it.  See how it isn’t full now?

Add the remaining liquid and shake it again.

Seal the jar, and label it with the date that you prepared it.  (Traditional herbalism says to begin tinctures at a new moon, then let them sit for 6 weeks and decant on a full moon, but you don’t have to.)

I agree that tinctures should sit for 6 weeks.  There are ways to heat them and do them in a few days, but I think the medicine should be drawn out slowly.  Luckily, you don’t have to “do” anything with them during this time — just let them sit in a cool place away from direct sunlight.

When your tincture is done, all you have to do is pour it through some cheesecloth and squeeze it to get all the liquid out of the herbs (this is important as some of it will still be in the herbs).  I don’t have pictures of this because I started mine only a few days ago.  Pour the strained liquid into a jar (preferably darker glass, I’m told) and discard the herbs.

**This has been entered in Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist**

Are you interested in glycerin tinctures to use medicinally?  Have you used them before?

Comments

  1. Jacque says

    Kate, I have only ever done glycerin tinctures. My choice to go this route was because we do not consume alcohol. I have not found any herbs except one that would not tincture and that is crampbark. The only other down fall I have heard is that they do not last as long as an alcohol tincture. I keep them in the basement where it is cold and dark and so far we have not had any problems with them. Thanks for writing about glycerin tinctures, they are the forgotten tincture :)

  2. says

    Oh my, I am so excited for this! I can’t wait for your multi-vitamin recipe…I want a vitamin to supplement “just in case” but our budget can’t afford the $25-$35 a month for food-based (or raw) vitamins.
    Thanks so much!

  3. Rachel says

    I’m guessing that vinegar and honey (oxymel) would also work well as a menstruum. Both are drawing in their own way and have their own medicinal properties to impart to the final product. What are your thoughts? I can’t wait to find out what herbs you’re using for your multivitamin. This is a fantastic idea.

  4. Rebecca says

    wonder what dose you use (or will be using) for yourself and you family. i know that you cannot give medical advice, just wondering what you will be doing :)

    • Kate Tietje says

      Hi Rebecca, I will be giving the kids about 1 tsp., and I will be taking 1 tbsp. We’ll see how we do with that and then I may adjust, but I think that is probably good for us.

    • Kate Tietje says

      Hi Kate, I usually take 1 tbsp. per day — maybe a little more if I feel like I’m getting sick or something.

    • Kate Tietje says

      Most health food stores will have it, or online herb stores or vitamin/supplement stores. I think I bought mine from Swanson Vitamins.

  5. Mr fire says

    Through out my reading of how most people prepare their tinctures, I have found that all o them throw out the herbs after they macerate them. In traditional tinctures you would take the herbs dry them out calcinine them and extract the “salt” from them

  6. Renee Schuhmacher says

    If you already started glycerine tincture without adding water would it be okay to go ahead and add the water after a few days? (Didn’t realize I needed to but noticed it was really thick) I could split the tincture into two jars. Thank you for your help. :)

  7. kelly says

    Hi Kate… I’m so confused! I’m making an elderberry tincture with water/veg. glycerine and elderberries…

    When you say glycerin “does not dissolve alkaloids and medicinal compounds as well” does this mean I won’t be getting the medicinal properties of elderberries? Only the vitamins and minerals?

  8. Beth K. says

    I love this recipe. But I’m having a problem! The first time I made it, things went well. The second time I doubled the recipe and put it in a gallon jar to extract, and things went well. The third time I doubled the recipe again, put it in a gallon jar again, and within a week the top had molded over. What should I do differently? I don’t want to waste more product, and I do like the tincture! Help.

  9. Sheila says

    I must ask, because i do not understand your glycerin hair tincture post. Is this to be taken orally or used as a topical, glossing treatment for hair??

    • says

      Hi Sheila,

      This post isn’t about a hair tincture. It’s about how to produce a medicinal tincture (a generic recipe only). These are typically taken internally.

  10. Mrs A says

    Hello,
    Nice site! I’m new at tincturing and want to do a kava with glycerin. Most say use crockpot for 3 days on low for glycerin based tinctures, but I’ve heard traditionally kava isn’t supposed to be heated.

    Could I just do a cold process method by putting glycerin and water over kava and leaving it in the darkness, shake it up every day for a month? Would water and glycerin extract all the good stuff?

    I’ve only done apple cider vinegar tinctures for fresh burdock, horsetail and milkthistle–, dark cabinet– full moon to full moon, but I got some Now brand glycerin and want to venture forth into new territory.

    I’d sure appreciate any tips:)

    Thankyou, MrsA

    • says

      Hi Mrs A,

      Yes, you can do the cold process with kava, I don’t see why not. I’ve only done cold tinctures so far and haven’t had any issue. I believe it’s ideal to create the tincture at the new moon and harvest six weeks later at the full moon (or I could have that backwards?) but I haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to that. I get impatient when I decide to make tinctures and want to start immediately!

  11. Sunset says

    Hi there,

    I see this post was made some time ago but I was wondering if you had a chance to try this tincture after making this post and if you found it to be as potent as making it with alcohol (assuming you or someone you know has tried that before)?

    As you mentioned, I’ve read a lot of different versions and this just sounds too good to be true. was 6 weeks enough?

    • says

      I have made both alcohol and glycerin tinctures, and I prefer glycerin — I think they are easier to take and they are quite potent. 6 weeks worked perfectly for me.

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