My kitchen counters sometimes have rather strange-looking items sitting on them. For the last month, next to my fruit and alliums baskets, an old Adams peanut butter glass jar has been sitting, full of some kind of dark liquid with lots of floaties in it. This morning, another Adams jar full of stuff was deposited in my crockpot, surrounded by water, where it will sit for the next three days. What am I doing? Well, tincturing. Or to be more exact, I’m making two different tinctures, one a glycerite (glycerin-based), the other alcohol-based.
For a long time, I’ve been fascinated with herbs and their healing properties, but very intimidated by them. It sounds silly to be intimidated by plants, but whenever I would read about herbs and the ways to use them medicinally, the incredible variety of different herbs and the sheer amount of information I didn’t know scared me away. That, and I was a single girl who didn’t get sick all that often (and my family wasn’t too keen to be practiced on), so investing the time and money into learning some herbology and starting to collect what would be helpful didn’t seem worth it.
But within the last couple years, all that changed. I now have my own little family to care for and look after when they’re sick and I don’t want to rely on chemical-laden pharmaceuticals or oft-recalled medications to do so. And that’s when I realised that I had to get over my intimidation of herbs and use what little knowledge I have and keep learning and applying what I learn. And one of my first things to try was making tinctures.
A resource that I have found incredibly helpful as I slowly increase my herbal knowledge is the Bulk Herb Store*. Along with having a great selection of bulk herbs (imagine that!) and herb blends, they have a wonderful resource selection. Simple and straightforward enough to not be overwhelming, but still specific enough for beginners, that was where I found directions for making alcohol-based tinctures and glycerites.
I wanted to start with a tincture that would come in handy when any of us would start to feel sickness coming on. A couple friends recommended the Double-E Immune Booster blend, that includes both echinacea and elderberries, two herbs that I knew helped in the staving off of sickness. So to my last order (which included some red raspberry leaf and alfalfa to make pregnancy tea out of…but that deserves its own post!), I added a bag of that, a bottle of vegetable glycerine and five 4 oz. tincture bottles. I was set.
My box arrived and I excitedly unpacked everything, trying not to let that old overwhelmed feeling come back. Due to several weeks of traveling that we had planned in the near future, I decided to wait until we were going to be home for awhile to start my tinctures. So around the middle of December, when we were finally home, I took out a glass jar (I love the ones that Adams peanut butter comes in…extra wide mouth and a metal lid), filled it about half full with the Double-E blend and some extra elderberries I had on hand, covered the herbs with hot water (stirring a little bit to make sure there were no dry spots), filled the rest of the jar with vodka…and voila! It sat on my counter for the next four weeks (out of direct sunlight) and if I remembered, I shook it every day.
Today I did almost the same thing, except I replaced the vodka with glycerin, and after I screwed the lid on the jar, I put it in my crockpot (sitting on a folded washcloth), filled the crockpot with water (to about an inch below the lid of the jar) and turned it on low. I’ve been replacing the water as it evaporates and in three days the slow heat should have done its work.
Both tinctures will be strained through a tea towel. I’m planning on bottling some of the glycerite for Cedar, and then mixing the remaining glycerite with the alcohol-based tincture for general use. In the next couple days I’m planning on researching on what the dosage will be.
In it all, I’ve been amazed at how easy making these have been. Depending on how long bottling takes (and I don’t think it will be much), altogether the active time I’ve spent making these tinctures has been less than an hour. The research has taken a little bit longer, but to me that is time well-spent as I’m learning how to better care for my family. And in the doing, I’m discovering that herbs really aren’t as intimidating as I thought…they’re actually quite fun to work with!
*Note: Even though it probably sounds like it, the Bulk Herb Store is not paying me to do this post! As far as I know, they’re not even aware of it… I just have found them to be a very helpful resource and want to make sure that others know of their helpfulness.