echinacea tincture gone wrong??

enviroempressNovember 28, 2007


looking for help with my tincture, first i do the flowers in vodka, drain them and add the roots to the liquid. When i go to shake it up (almost daily) I've noticed that there is a thick white cream like substance that settles on the bottom, it does dissolve when i shake it up again and makes the bottle opaque.... i didn't remember this from last time i made tincture. Does anyone know if its good or wrong? I did harvest the roots myself and am wondering if another plant root may have gotten in there by accident.

give Thanks

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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Did you dry the flowers and root? Or did you tincture them fresh?


    Bookmark   November 28, 2007 at 3:40PM
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i did them fresh. i believe you have to do it fresh no?

    Bookmark   November 29, 2007 at 12:37AM
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I have only used dried herbs, myself. Do you know which species of E. you have (angustifolia, purpurea or pallida)? Is it possible it isn't one of those three? That would mean it's not a medicinal species.

I gather from your statement that you didn't have that white layer after doing the flowers, and that it only appeared after you added the root. Did you by any chance taste it after doing only the flowers, and did it taste alright at that point? I would think that given the vodka you would have killed any bacteria, but then the fresh plant contributes water of its own. What herb strength are you tincturing it at? 1:2? That could mean that in the overall result, the alcohol percentage fell below ~24%, which is where you want it for preservative effect.

I'd be hesitant to use it, if it were mine. But then again, I don't have any experience with fresh Echinacea. I do have some plants growing that I planted a few weeks ago, but of course they won't be ready for three years.

Looking forward to hearing about your outcome!

    Bookmark   November 29, 2007 at 2:37PM
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thanks for the reply,
i'm not sure what the herb strength means. I used 40% vodka. and have heard that some species lose their potency when dried ( cant remember which one that is) i believe i have used a mix of E. angustifolia and purpurea. no, i didn't taste it after the flowers. I may taste it tonight though--although it sure smelt normal. I have never heard of a strictly ornamental species....they are often used that way however but still retain their potent medicinal i totally in left field here??
i,m starting to panic that i may have messed up my batch... but how is that possible, its a pretty straight forward procedure ;-(

    Bookmark   November 29, 2007 at 7:40PM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

I wouldn't use the tincture either. I saw this happen with a dandelion root tincture. It's not used and it is only kept as an example of a tincture gone wrong. Sorry.

In the future, completely dry your plant materials before tincturing. I know, I know. Someone will correct me here and point out something that should be done fresh and there are those but for many of the common herbs that someone is going to start off trying to tincture, use only completely dried botanicals. You will have so much more success that way.

If you are trying to learn how to do your own tincturing, get yourself copies of one or more of these books:

Making Plant Medicine by Richo Cech
The Herbal Medicine-Maker's Handbook by James Green

Both books are wonderful but if you are a newbie and can only afford one, get the one by Green. It is very friendly to the person just starting out.

I hope this helps!


    Bookmark   November 30, 2007 at 9:13AM
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Hi, EE.

Herb strength is the ratio of dry herb weight to the amount of menstruum you have used. In herbalism, it's normally measured as a w/v (weight-to-volume) ratio. So, if you used 100 grams of dried echinacea, and added 400 ml of liquid (whatever the ratio of water:alcohol in the liquid), you would have a 1:4 herb strength. This means that in order to get 1 gram's worth of the herb's soluble compounds (call it the medicinal value of the herb), you would need to take 4 ml of the tincture. Normally that would be mixed with a few ounces of water for consumption.

As for some plant species losing strength through dehydration, that's not something I'm aware of (but that doesn't mean it isn't so!). Perhaps that would be more true of something like Aloe, which is a succulent containing a great deal of gel that might be changed by removing the water, but I'm just guessing, here.

The trick with tincturing fresh plants is that you have to take into account the water that the fresh plant matter contributes to the menstruum. You may be using 80 proof (40% ethanol) vodka, but when you add the fresh plant, the water in the plant will cause concentration of the ethanol to go down, possibly below the minimum you need to properly preserve the extract (which requires more than ~22%, from what I've read). Really, it may be a little harder to find, but for fresh plants I would recommend the highest-proof alcohol you can find. Not only will it work better as a preservative, it will also cost less overall. The product I use is called "Everclear", and it is 95% pure alcohol. I buy it at my liquor store. That will virtually guarantee that you have a high enough concentration of it left to preserve your tincture.

As for non-medicinal species, the nine known echinaceas break out as three that are medicinal (E. angustifolia, E. purpurea, E. pallida) and six that are not (which include E. paradoxa, E. simulata and E. sanguinea). See for help with that.

BTW, I agree with FataMorgana on both of those books. I would also add the Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, by Andrew Chevallier, which has a terrific list of herbs (though a little light medicine-making on technique; but that's what James Green's book is best for).

You could always try (at your own risk, of course), just a very small amount of the tincture (just a few drops) in water, and wait a day to try anymore. If you do intend to try to keep it, I would recommend that you get some 95% ethanol and add an amount equal to the volume of the tincture. That would bring the alcohol concentration to preservation level, for sure.


    Bookmark   December 3, 2007 at 8:33AM
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thanks so much for all the info.
Have you ever heard of inulin ( or inullin)? apparently it is the white sediment in tinctures. I'm trying to learn more about this. Also i have read conflicting stuff about using Everclear- hence why i choose the 40% vodka....

    Bookmark   December 3, 2007 at 1:38PM
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You're very welcome. I enjoy the questions that make me think and write a bit. Sometimes I work as a technical writer, and enjoy honing my skills this way. I'd be happy to receive any critique you may have about clarity and presentation.

I have heard of inulin before (it's a naturally occurring plant polysaccharide that is said to be a good probiotic food), though I can't say I know enough about it with respect to what might be at the bottom of your tincture to be of any definitive help to you. One thing I *can* say is that if it *is* inulin, I'm not sure why it would form a separate layer, since polysaccharides are water-soluble, and you have plenty of water in your tincture. Is it possible what you're seeing is just some innocuous plant solids, such as a cellulose powder? How have you filtered it? Through a cheesecloth, or coffee filter? Did you run the slurry through a blender before macerating it?

Also, would you care to share what you've heard about Everclear? I haven't heard anything that would cause me concern, but I'm open to listening.



    Bookmark   December 3, 2007 at 4:05PM
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Oh, and by the way, if you can't get Everclear where you are, or are concerned about using it, you might be able to get "151 rum" instead. At least that's ~75% ethanol.


    Bookmark   December 3, 2007 at 4:10PM
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I tried 151 rum this year... way cool. :o) Much stronger an 'extractor' than 100proof vodka. BUT since then, I certainly wouldn't want to use Everclear. Sheez, you give yourself 20 drops of a tincture in Everclear, you'll get DRUNK! I have gotten used to the taste of rum.
I get most of my tincturing info from Michael Moore's website, if you read his pdf files, he has a lot, but I also have friends who've been tincturing for 20 years and they've always used the 'rule of thumb' of pouring in enough alcohol to cover the herb and have 1/4 inch to spare. But that sure doesn't ensure quality of product.
Only a few herbs I know are best tincured fresh, and echinacea isn't one of them, but I tell you, I'd chop the root before drying as it turns into STEEL.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2007 at 8:31PM
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so after much research, i've conclude that my tincture is all safe, apparently it is natural for that to happen... has confirmed it as well as a few others... so here goes those christmas gifts. BH- i'll have to get back to you about the Everclear as i can't remember the details. and to heathen1, well when you use rhum, there are less available molecules to take up the medicinal molecules of your herbs as rhum and i guess brandy ( and the like )already have so much flavor ( and likely flavoids) that there is 'less available space' to take up the properties... if you like rhum like i do, i recommend mohitos, fresh mint and lime.... yummy
give thanks for all the help

    Bookmark   December 4, 2007 at 9:44PM
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I don't know, worked for me!

    Bookmark   December 5, 2007 at 12:29AM
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I wouldn't be too concerned about the compounds in rum(rhum) or brandy. Granted, there is something in there besides water and ethanol, or it would taste like vodka! Those compounds may hinder the extraction to some minor degree, but my reading doesn't suggest it's enough to make a substantial difference--unless you're measuring with great accuracy, and trying very hard to get tightly repeatable results.

And as to consuming a lot of alcohol in a dose of tincture, really, one milliliter of even pure ethanol in few ounces of water makes a drink far less potent than even beer, and you're only drinking a couple of ounces of it. So in all seriousness, that doesn't give me much concern either (unless of course you're a recovering alcoholic, in which case I'd recommend solvent exchange to glycerin).

Good thread! Thanks for the participation.


    Bookmark   December 7, 2007 at 7:52PM
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If one is worried about the alcohol content in a tincture, you can add it to warm water to "dissolve" the alcohol. That is what I recommend to all my clients.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2008 at 7:31PM
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Inulins may or may not be soluble in water or alcohol/water mixes. It depends on the length of the polysaccharide chain. Inulins can be thought of as a different type of 'starch' - and starches can settle out of solution.

Saponins, fats and other substances can create a milky layer in extracts. I don't know if that is what you have, as other things are possible.

The Greek liquor Ouzo also has some interesting stuff that is soluble (and invisible) in a high proof alcohol, but turns milky when the alcohol levels drop (when water is added). I believe that the white stuff forms a separate layer if allowed to stand.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2008 at 12:36AM
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raptorrunner(Z4/5 NE Nebr.)

Heathen1: I've used Everclear and the resulting tinctures; I know what a buzz is, and I've never gotten one from my tinctures. It's nasty-tasting, that I'll grant you! But drunk, no, certainly not.

You're right about processing echinacea right away, but a hammer works to break it down. Not well or easily, but it works. I've heard of people using dedicated blenders to chop up their very hard herbal products prior to tincture.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 8:41PM
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