Seeking tincture making advice

ErodiniaNovember 19, 2013

I'm beginning to make my own tinctures and am hoping there are some experienced tincture makers here that can help me with a few questions I have.
1. In regard to an alcohol tincture, for the most part, I've read that the marc/menstrum mix should be shaken a couple of times a day for a specified time period, usually 2 to 4 weeks. What if the mix were agitated constantly? Could the time needed for extraction be reduced? Or what about one hour constant agitation, alternating with one hour off, or a similar schedule?
2. I've read that different herbs extract better with different alcohol percentages, but I haven't been able to find a reliable source of the actual information. Where do i find this info?
3. I found a source of organic cane 190 proof alcohol online for $79. Does anyone know of a source cheaper than this?
Thank you

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Most of the time, you can use vodka strength. Only under certain/specific circumstances would you use Everclear (190 proof).

Don't molest your herbs with fast agitation. Besides, scientifically speaking, your herbs need slower times for extraction just so the alcohol can penetrate well into the herbs.


    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 9:43AM
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Thanks for the reply herb doctor. I was planning on using the organic cane alcohol mostly because it will be more cost effective for me. I prefer my ingestibles to be organic and a bottle of organic vodka is not cheap, where as a gallon of organic 190 proof could be diluted to vodka strength (40%) or any other strength for that matter and last me a long time. Its also a neutral spirit, so no taste, no color, no odor which I would also prefer over grocery store vodka.
As for scientifically the herbs needing slower extraction rates, would you mind elaborating on that? or do you know of any scientific papers I could read for further information? I'm not sure where I read this so I can't offer the reference, I will look for it however. But in a nutshell the reasoning was something like as the tincture sits the boundary layer between herb and solvent becomes stagnant and so therefore, to more readily acheive maximum stauration of herbal constituants into the solvent it is beneficial to constantly refresh the boundary layer between herb and solvent because as time goes on the solvent becomes less effective as a solvent and the herb becomes less reactive if everything is at a standstill, so constant (not fast...about one or two revolutions of a jar per second) agitation keeps that boundary layer fresh, always moving and constantly reactive. Any thoughts on this logic? I'm no organic chemist or herb doctor and this is just something I've heard from a couple of sources so I can't say for sure. to me though it sure does seem more scientific though then pour some vodka in the jar over the herb and shake it once or twice a day or every other day if you want and wait a few weeks, or maybe more if you want.
I only ask cause I prefer to know exactly why I'm doing something...especially when it comes to making herbal medicine, and so I don't understand why its important or if its important to let the tincture sit stagnant between shakes for weeks, or a month, or more.
Also, any references on alcohol strength needed for different herbs? I'm trying to find a list, without laborously going through the herbal monographs and making my own list.
anyway....any advice is greatly appreciated. thank you.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 2:34PM
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the form in which we use an herb depends on many things, tinctures have the advantage of being convenient and very portable.

higher alcohol %'s are used when extracting plant constituents such as gums and resins, ie, not water soluble. the lower %'s are good for extracting most other constituents, ie water soluble....40% vodka is 60% water.

so the % used is dictated by the solubility of the substances we want to extract.

when using the folk method to make tinctures its not necessary to constantly agitate tinctures as they are working, a good shake once a day is plenty. however, suggest you investigate the percolation method, it produces a superior product imo, its the method professionals and i use to make tinctures for dispensing to my herb clients.

one of the best online references can be found at the site of the late herbalist michael moore

scroll down to bottom of the home page and select from the hot links there...he lists prep methods, ideal ratios and percentages for many many herbs.

the site of belgian herbalist henriette kress is awesome for this info too, find her here

probably the best idea is to buy one of the following books, you'll use it over and over and over again to make all kinds of plant medicines...

the herbal medicine making book by james green
making plant medicine by richo cech

good luck!

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 4:05PM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Good advice and good sources suggested - I love both the books and websites kaliaman suggested.

FYI, vodka is cheaper and easier to get plus it is **legal** for purchase in all 50 states where high proof grain alcohols (like Everclear) are not. I live in one of those states where the common joe can't purchase it....once could but no more.


    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 5:38PM
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Thanks for the references kaliaman. Tons of great info on those pages. Just what i was looking for. I will certainly look into the percolation method and may have some questions for ya if you don't mind.

Thanks for the confirmation FataMorgana. High proof grain alcohol is not banned where I live and the cheapest organic vodka I found after checking 4 different stores was $25 for 750ml, which according to my calculations works out to be more than twice the per mL cost of the gallon of organic 190 proof cane alcohol I found online.
Thanks for the replies.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 11:25PM
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Now that you're getting a grasp of tinctures, consider this: The Chinese have used bulk herbs in water solutions for 2-3,000 years by boiling them fresh into decoctions or infusions. The advantage of tinctures is the longer shelf-life and you use a lot less herb. The advantage of boiling or infusing fresh, dried herbs is that you're getting more of a "food" quality affect from the herb. (This last statement has no scientific basis; I just feel that way as a cook would prefer one method of preparing food over another method.) You may understand this when considering that you'd like a freshly made cup of chamomile tea compared to if you made it as an alcohol tincture.
I use both, so I don't propose that one is "better" than the other. It just becomes relevant.


    Bookmark   November 21, 2013 at 9:50AM
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If you want to shorten the extraction time, finer particles are the way to do it. Chop, pound or grind the materials.

I'm no organic chemist or herb doctor and this is just something I've heard from a couple of sources so I can't say for sure. to me though it sure does seem more scientific though then pour some vodka in the jar over the herb and shake it once or twice a day or every other day if you want and wait a few weeks, or maybe more if you want.

It's good enough. The totally uncontrolled and uncontrollable variable is the quantity of desired component in the herb ... unless you are able to assay the herb and get all sciency with the calculating of the precise amount of alcohoi needed to remove a certain amount ... worrying about the rest is like measuring to the millimeter when your cutting instrument is a broadaxe.

If you are making small quantities and labor and technology is the bottleneck, slower methods with less tending are the solution. If you need higher volumes or the ability to make something quickly, then you bring in the higher tech stuff.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 9:19AM
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lazygardens gave a good answer.


    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 10:44AM
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the folk method works, totally adequate.

percolation does produce a nicer tincture though, no question. the flavor is cleaner, less murky, and the tinctures are clearer. and it doesn't have to be a high tech endeavor.... i make percolation cones from 2 quart glass bottles using a g2 glass cutter and a little sandpaper. they work great and are inexpensive. i do have a couple of percolation cones made from lab glass, they are expensive and easily broken so i rarely use them, rely on the homemade ones instead.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 11:33AM
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I realized after some thinking that Erodinia made an assumption that alcohol extracts was the best and only way to pursue the use of herbs. However, from her responses to many of the postings, I also realized that she doesn't have enough knowledge or experience to have made the decision to use only extracts. Truth is, a working knowledge of various methods of extractions is necessary to make a judgement of which application is best under different circumstances.

For example, alcohol extracts are fine if you're wanting a fast immediate, short term relief of a symptom. But when you want to go deeper into a constitutional treatment (long lasting healing), it's better to avoid alcohol extracts since you'd need to take about 1-2 ounces of extracts per day to accomplish what would otherwise be done using a decoction. That's like taking 1-2 shots of vodka per day which is not bad in itself, but many wouldn't want that much alcohol everyday.

Many of the Chinese recipes call for boiling or infusing the herbs in water. They've been using this method for over 2,000 years. There's lots to be said for this. You can take a greater quantity of herbs and maintain their food-grade qualities. Whereas alcohol tinctures kinda' puts herbs into a medicine-type form for relief of symptoms only, but not having the in-depth approach needed for a more lasting healing.

Here's some specifics: When there's a chronic health problem for which people want an herbal remedy, an average of 15 herbs are custom blended. And there's an average of 9 grams per day per herb which equals about 1/4 pound of herbs per day. Now, convert that into an alcohol extract. 9 grams is about 1 teaspoon of alcohol extract (It's not calculated straight across as weight per menstrum as one might think). So, that's about 15 teaspoons per day of alchol extract to get the same quantity and quality of herbs decocted in water. That's about 5 tablespoons per day which is about 2 1/2 ounces of alcohol extract every day.

See why the use of alcohol extracts becomes relevant and not absolute? I use both forms of the herbs depending on which approach I want to take.

Hope this makes sense. If there are any questions, please raise your hand.


    Bookmark   November 25, 2013 at 12:14PM
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ditto fatamorgana's suggestion to check brewing stores for herbal medicine making supplies. i've gotten air locks, food safe tubing, even a tincture/infused oil press from the local one.

happy medicine making!

    Bookmark   November 30, 2013 at 9:56AM
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Natures_Nature(5 OH)

Happy Holiday!

    Bookmark   December 7, 2013 at 12:46AM
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