Lyme Disease and Co-Infections · Natural Healing

How to Make Your Own Tinctures

 

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Tinctures are something belonging to the natural medicine world that is relatively new for me! I first started taking herbal tinctures last year as part of my Lyme treatment, and I’ve found them very helpful as I work towards healing.

Initially when I was very ill, I found it difficult to use essential oils, as their potency was too much for the Lyme, babesia, bartonella and other infections in my system, and they would cause massive die-off reactions that my body could not handle. Herbal tinctures on the other hand became a good way to start to heal my body, and I especially liked that I could take them internally to target some of the most affected areas, such as my digestive system, liver, and gallbladder. Now, I am able to do a combination of herbal tinctures and essential oils.

Tinctures are “concentrated herbal extracts that have alcohol as the solvent. If you are using water, vinegar, glycerine, or any solvent other than alcohol, your preparation is an extract – not a tincture.” (Mountain Rose Herbs, website) Tinctures can be superior to dry and fresh herbs in a couple ways: dry herbs lose their potency within a year. Fresh herbs go bad very quickly after harvest. However, when you create an herbal tincture, you preserve and extract the medicinal properties of an herb and can store them for many, many years.

Tinctures can be purchased from several different places, both locally and from online stores. (I will go into more detail on where I purchase some of my tinctures in a future post on the Buhner protocol) However, they are also super easy to make yourself when you have the plant materials at hand. So that’s what we’re going to talk about today!

You want to choose a neutral-flavored alcohol like vodka to allow the flavor of the herb to come through; however, you can use any alcohol that you prefer. I use a 40% alcohol potato vodka (grain free) for creating my tinctures. You can also visit this website here to purchase stronger spirits, including organic 190 proof alcohol that is best for high-moisture containing plants like lemon balm. (I ended up using my potato vodka for the lemon balm as well, as the 190 proof alcohol was pricey and shipping was even worse! However, the website linked is a good option if you are looking for quality organic spirits and don’t mind the extra cost)

You can make your tinctures using fresh or dried flowers, leaves, roots, bark, or berries. Some herbalists recommend to blend up your materials in the alcohol using a blender or food processor; however, others state that the material can be loosely chopped, added to a glass jar, and alcohol poured over top. That’s the method I prefer, as it’s the easiest and has worked well for me! (I’m all about making it simple and quick!)

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What you need to get started:

• Your plant material (organic herbs)
• Glass jar
• Plastic lid (metal lids will corrode; you can line them with parchment paper to prevent this, but a plastic lid is easier. I find mine at Target)
• A knife
• Metal funnel (small)
• Cheesecloth (for straining)
• Alcohol (I use a 40% alcohol potato vodka)
• Amber or dark colored glass dropper bottles

 

The technique:
For fresh herbs (leaves and flowers):

• Finely chop the plant material
• Fill your glass jar about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full
• Pour alcohol to the very top of the jar, covering the plants completely
• When you do this, the jar will appear full of herbs; but when you shake the jar, you should see the plants moving fully.

For dried herbs (leaves and flowers):

• Use finely cut herbs
• Only fill the jar ½ to ¾ full with plant material
• Pour alcohol to the very top of the jar, covering the plants completely

For fresh herbs (roots, bark, berries):

• Finely chop the plant material
• Only fill the jar 1/3 to 1/2 full with the fresh plant material
• Pour alcohol to the very top of the jar, covering the plants completely

For dried herbs (roots, bark, berries):

• Use finely cut herbs
• Only fill the jar 1/4 to 1/3 full with the dried plant material
• Pour alcohol to the very top of the jar, covering the plants completely
• Roots and berries will double in size as they soak up the alcohol!

 

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What alcohol is best:

• 40-50% alcohol (80-90 proof vodka) is generally what is used for creating tinctures; it is good for most fresh and dried herbs that do not contain a lot of moisture, and it helps to extract water soluble properties
• 67.5-70% alcohol (1/2 80 proof vodka with ½ 190 proof grain alcohol) is better for fresh high-moisture herbs like lemon balm, berries, and aromatic roots, and it draws out more of the plant juices (however, you can still use straight 80 proof vodka for lemon balm, as I will show in my recipe below)
• 85-95% alcohol (190 proof grain alcohol) is good for dissolving gums and resins but not necessary for most plant material; it will produce a tincture that is not easy to take!

After you’ve created your tincture:

• Store it in a cool dark location like a cupboard and remember to shake daily if possible. If some alcohol has evaporated and your plants are not completely submerged, you can add a little extra alcohol to top it off. (You don’t want your herbs exposed to oxygen for the same reason we keep veggies under the brine when fermenting – mold and unwanted bacteria)
• In general, most tinctures are good sitting for 6-8 weeks or so.
• When your tincture is done extracting, it’s time to drain the liquid!

What I do:

o Drape cheesecloth over a small pitcher with a pour spout (you can also drape it over a funnel right into your glass dropper bottle). Then, pour the contents of your glass jar into the cheesecloth, allowing the liquid to drip through. When all the liquid has been poured out, squeeze and twist your cheesecloth to extract every drop out of the remaining plant material.
o Then, I pour the liquid contents from my small pitcher through a small metal funnel into my glass dropper bottles.
o Label your bottle with the plant used, alcohol used, date, and amount of time it sat extracting for. This is very important, especially if you want to recreate that tincture in the future! I label it with the common name, the latin name, what parts I used, where I got the plant, was it fresh or dried, what alcohol I used, and the date.
o Store your tincture in a cool, dark place like a cupboard or cabinet.

 

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That’s it! It really isn’t a difficult process – the hardest part about it is waiting for your tincture to be done!!

Here are some of the tinctures that I have made so far:

Parsley, both flat and curly leaf (allow to extract for 6-8 weeks) – Parsley is helpful for reducing inflammation, may help control blood sugar and decrease insulin resistance, and contains strong antioxidants. It is helpful when added to a detox regimen, which is why I take it daily as I treat Lyme Disease. It is well known in the Lyme herbal community for its benefits.

Cilantro (allow to extract for around 6 weeks) – Cilantro has been shown to bind metals together like arsenic, cadmium, aluminum, lead, and mercury, loosening them from tissue, and facilitating their elimination from the body. It helps to protect against oxidative stress, lowers anxiety and improves sleep, lowers blood sugar levels, protects against cardiovascular disease, prevents urinary tract infections, settles digestive upset, protects against food poisoning, supports healthy menstrual functioning (helps to regulate proper endocrine gland function as well as reduce the bloating, cramps and pain during the cycle), prevents neurological inflammation, and protects against colon cancer. That’s a lot of benefits!!! (www.draxe.com)

Teasel root (minimum of 8 weeks) – Teasel root is especially beneficial for Lyme Disease, as it “teases” the Lyme bacteria out of hiding, where they can be targeted by the immune system and any antibacterial herbs or medications that you are taking. Teasel root also has the ability to “restore what has been broken” (the translation of its name in Chinese) and can be helpful for healing a broken body/emotions, broken bones, and more. This plant and tincture deserve their own post, which will be coming shortly as I’m heading out to harvest some roots this week!

Lemon balm (allow to extract for a minimum of 4-6 weeks) – Lemon balm (also known as melissa) is a beautiful herb that grows readily as a perennial in my backyard. It has a slight lemony scent and flavor and is wonderful fresh in teas as well as for creating tinctures. Lemon balm is good for calming the digestive system, relieving colic, gas, upset stomach, indigestion and cramps. It also eases anxiety and can be helpful for promoting sleep. It is a potent antiviral and can help to prevent and treat cold sores (the oil has been found to destroy viruses in test tubes in as little as 3 hours).

You can take your tinctures straight from a dropper or add them to warm drinks. As I take several tinctures (and my liver doesn’t like all that alcohol daily), I add my tinctures to boiling water in a glass (I make myself a cup of tea and then use the leftover water in the teapot to add my tinctures to) and allow them to sit until cooled so some of the alcohol will evaporate.

The little bit that I got to play around with making my own tinctures this year has me excited to try some new tinctures next growing season! I can’t wait to hear what creations you make in your home (please share!) 

Stay tuned in the coming couple of weeks as I share my herbal routine for treating Lyme and co-infections, as well as additional posts with recipes for creating teasel root tincture, stevia and your own homemade vanilla extract!

 

 

Have fun “tincturing!”

~ Alicia 

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