How to Make Herbal Tinctures

How to Make Herbal Tinctures How to Make Herbal Tinctures

I have several tincture recipes posted (including my two favorites: Chamomile Tincture and Digestion Tincture) but I realized that a post with general instructions on how to make a tincture from any herbs would be helpful.

A tincture is a concentrated liquid form of an herb that is easy to make and easy to take. Tinctures preserve and concentrate the properties of the herb, making them more effective and longer lasting.

Alcohol based tinctures have a shelf life of several years and are easy to use when needed! I keep several tinctures on hand for my kids, as they can be used externally even on small children for relief from common problems.

If you’ve ever bought tinctures from the store, I’d encourage you to try making your own, as they are very inexpensive and can be made in minutes.

Tincture Making Supplies

I make most tinctures in an alcohol base as this makes them the most long lasting, but tinctures can also be made with glycerine, vinegar or even with honey to make a syrup!

To make a tincture, you will need the following supplies:

  • A clean glass jar (at least pint size) with lid
  • Consumable alcohol like vodka or rum- at least 80 proof (or apple cider vinegar or food grade vegetable glycerine)
  • Herbs of choice (I get mine here or grow my own)

How to Make a Tincture

Also called an extract (in fact, the same process is used to make real vanilla extract), alcohol tinctures are the most common type and the easiest to make.

First, pick which herbs you plan to use. These are my three favorite tinctures:

Fill the jar 1/3 to 1/2 full with dried herbs. Filling half full will make a stronger tincture. Do not pack down.

Pour boiling water to just dampen all of the herbs. (This step is optional but helps to draw out the beneficial properties of the herbs)

Fill the rest of the jar (or the entire jar if not using hot water too) with alcohol and stir with a clean spoon.

Put the lid on the jar. Store the jar in a cool/dry place, shaking daily, for at least three weeks and up to six months. (I usually leave herbs for six weeks)

Strain through cheesecloth and compost the herbs. Store the tincture in colored dropper bottles or clean glass jars.

NOTE: The alcohol can be evaporated before use (see below) or a tincture can be made in the same way using apple cider vinegar, though it will need to be stored in the fridge and will only last 3-6 months.

Glycerine Tincture:

Fill the jar 1/3 to 1/2 full with dried herbs. Filling half full will make a stronger tincture. Do not pack down.

Pour boiling water to just dampen all of the herbs. (This step is optional but helps to draw out the beneficial properties of the herbs)

Fill the rest of the jar (or the entire jar if not using hot water too) with glycerine and stir with a clean spoon.

Put the lid on the jar.

Place a wash cloth or silicon baking mat (to keep jar from breaking) in the bottom of a crock pot with a “keep warm” or very low setting. Fill the crock pot up with water to cover 3/4 of the jar (don’t cover the lid!) and turn on the lowest setting.

Keep in slow-cooker/crock pot for at least 1 day on this setting, adding water as needed (I’ve done up to two days).

Let cool, strain and use as a regular tincture.

Note: Glycerine tinctures are sweeter than others.

How to Use Herbal Tinctures

The standard adult dose we take is 1/2 to 1 teaspoon up to three times a day as needed. Kids usually get 1/4 to 1/3 of the adult dose.

For children, pregnant women, or those not wanting to consume alcohol, it can be poured into a hot liquid like tea to evaporate the alcohol before consuming.

Ever made your own herbal tinctures? What is your favorite? Share below!

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Reader Comments

  1. Mardi says

    I want to make a tincture from dried hawthorn berries. Do you think I can tincture the berries whole or do I need to crush them first? Thanks!

  2. Allana says

    This is Awesome! Thank you so much for sharing… I didn’t know much about this before reading your article. I must say I am pleasantly surprised and excited to exchange my currently methods for these.

  3. Vanya says

    I’ve been looking into tinctures for a while, but was hesitant because of the alcohol. I never thought of evaporating it! So my question is, if I do evaporate it in hot tea, how long should I wait before it’s all evaporated? I suppose the hotter the tea, the less time it takes?

  4. says

    I made this with glycerin last year and used it frequently on my daughter’s sore gums. She would have used it from 9 months until about 18 months when she apparently had some decay in her incisors. Granted her diet was not as clean as it is now. But I love to hear some of your research about glycerin since its a questionable additive to products for most people. At the time of making it I was concerned about alcohol, even with evaporating it off since many culinary people say you can’t evaporate all of it off. So that’s why I bought the glycerin. Anyway, Thaks for reading and everything you do!

  5. Mary says

    Wow, very impressive post. For the most part, I think tinctures are far more effective than teas or straight herbs.

    As well, I think your suggested tinctures would make great
    curations for various herbal martinis. Thank you so much for the fabulous info and
    research.

  6. Courtney says

    you use several different recipes for making tinctures, is there one better than other or does it depend on the herbs using? Does it matter if you use water or not?

  7. Elysia says

    Wow that 6 weeks flew by! I made 3 tinctures: chamomile, calendula & lavender. I’d love to use them to make gifts for my family – all of my cousins have babies, ages 0-4 & more on the way! A question for Wellness Mama & readers… If you could pick anything, internal or external, made with one or more of these tinctures, what would they be? For you or for baby. Looking for gift ideas :)
    Thanks in advance!!!

  8. Dawn Kohlmann says

    Should this be steeped specifically in a dark location? I’m currently steeping a fersh lemon balm tincture and was told to place in a sunny window for 6-8 weeks.

    • Renee Schuhmacher says

      I’ve made double lemon balm glycerine tincture in the past and it was wonderful. Everyone asks for it. This year wasn’t a great growing year for my lemon balm so I ordered dried and was so pleased to find your directions for making a glycerine tincture out of dried herbs. Just in time since we were down to our last bottle!! I’ll be making it today. I’m also anxious to try out lots of other herbs. You have great followers with great ideas. :)

  9. Amy says

    Just found you and am so GRATEFUL to you for all you are doing for all of us!! Question: How does one take this? Under the tongue? Down it like a shot? Mix in water? Rub on the skin? Thanks!

  10. Amy says

    Second Question: Chamomile essential oil is very expensive. Could I substitute chamomile tincture for recipes calling for chamomile EO?

  11. Valerie says

    I know this is an old post, but wondering if adding the boiling water when making a tincture reduces the shelf life of the tincture? This is the first time I’ve seen a recommendation to add boiling water before the alcohol and I’m trying to figure out pros/cons of this method.

      • Elysia says

        I think her reasoning is that the boiling water allows the healing properties of the herbs to be released. But, just like tea, I think you need to let it steep for ~5 mins before adding the vodka. I realized when I was making mine that adding cold vodka right after would cool the water down, thus negating the benefits of boiling water!

        I think the amount of vodka used is enough to ward of mold, plus I’d recommend always using distilled water in recipes like this, and make sure the kettle/pot you’re boiling in is clean.

      • Seu says

        I just made the chamommile tincture and its been in my cabinet for 3 weeks with no mold in sight. The alcohol is definitely taking care of any mold problem that might be there!

  12. Julie says

    I would like to use an herbal tincture in a liquid soap recipe but I am just starting to learn about tinctures. What size jar did you use to make your tincture? I was also planning on using glycerine instead of alcohol. I discovered your blog through pinterest and I love all your posts!

  13. Chantel says

    I’m confused. How does pouring the tincture into tea evaporate the alcohol?
    I don’t mind it but I know some people who won’t even allow alcohol in their house. Just curious. How does it evaporate in a hot drink? I have put hard liquor like rum in my hot coffee before aaand it doesn’t quite evaporate lol.

    • says

      When making the tincture, the alcohol and the hot liquid help draw out the beneficial properties of the herbs. A small amount of the tincture can then be added to water and let evaporate to remove the alcohol

  14. Josie says

    Why does the jar have to be at least a pint size? I really want to try making a tincture but I can’t imagine needing a half pint of tincture!

  15. Chantel says

    But that doesn’t make any sense. If I have vodka. And I put it in tea. Then my tea is alcoholic. Unless I let it sit there for a while I mean. Yeah liquor evaporates but it takes a long while. So how would I put it in tea or what have you? Because I do not want to use glycerin and trying to get people to drink vinegar is like trying to get them to drink poison. Lol.
    So how does the alcohol evaporate?

  16. rachael says

    i recently made your chamomile tincture and noticed that the instructions said to use more water than you suggest using in this post? is there a reason for that? i was also hoping you could give me some basic info about using apple cider vinegar…what’s the shelf life? do you add water or just the acv? do i need to warm it first? thanks

  17. says

    Can I put an herbal alcohol tincture into a homemade lotion (beef tallow base)? Will the homemade lotion become medicinal once I add the tincture? (and how much should I add) – THANK YOU so much!

  18. Ciara says

    Is it okay to add peppermint essential oil and ginger essential oil to the chamomile tincture? If so, how much is okay to add?

  19. Danielle says

    I am in the process of making an echinacea tincture with 80 proof vodka. Are you allowed to give a drop of this to a child when it is made with alcohol?

  20. Vivian says

    Great article and I love your website….always such great info! I found a lavender tincture tucked away in my cabinet that would have been ready to bottle after 6 weeks on 1/31/14. It’s now 6/11/14…would it too old to use? It was made with an alcohol base.

  21. Jennifer says

    Hi thanks for the great info. I want to try making my first tincture using mimosa flowers. Have you done this before? Can I use fresh flowers or should I dry them first? Thanks!!!

  22. Josie says

    I made a St. Johns Wort tincture. But when I strained it, it didn’t have that amber/brownish look tinctures generally have. I didn’t think much of it and left it for a while. When I came back to it, it had separated. The brown watery part on top and what looked like green plant matter on the bottom. Do I keep both parts or do I dispose of the green plant matter?

  23. Katie says

    Hi
    Thanks for your recipe. I’m keen to start making tinctures but where I live I can only seem to buy 69 proof alcohol from our bottle shops and then only in 500ml bottles. Would this still make a strong enough tincture?
    Thanks
    Katie

  24. Jennifer says

    Hi! I was wondering if there is any way to know how many mg of the particular herb you are getting in each dose?

  25. Adrienne says

    Hi Katie. Love this post. I did hear that tinctures from glycerine aren’t as potent as those from alcohol – wondering what you think about that. Thanks!

  26. Ed Lutz says

    I have a small garden and have grown herbs from an organic source in organic soil. Making tinctures is new to me but I look forward to learning this process and thank you for your clear, simple instructions. I have just put together tinctures of oregano, sage, and rosemary and, as soon as the herbs are dried, I will do thyme also. Six weeks to go! Question #1: I have been drying my herbs in the sun. Is that good or is it better to let them dry out in a cool, dark place? Question #2: How do I use the tinctures to maximum benefit? Is it best to dilute them or not and, generally how often does one dose?

  27. Karen A. says

    I was so happy! I just finished my first set of herbal tinctures. That is, until I went to purchase more vodka.Then, I realized that I had used 42 proof vodka in my first batches. Will this harm the tinctures? And, will they be shelf stable?

  28. Ashley says

    You said in your post that the tinctures can be taken externally, I’m assuming so that kids don’t need to consume alcohol, but you don’t mention how, just curious. Love your page!

  29. Olivia Wu says

    You use many glass containers in different recipes. Do you boil to sanitize or just clean the glass jar or glass sprayers before use? Thanks!

  30. Sjhara says

    Hey there, thanks SO much for this brilliant post! I have a question… I recently found a treasured box of tinctures that I made years ago but thought was lost. The tinctures have all been kept in the dark but they must be at least 5 years old. I would throw them all out & start again, but I am time poor (with a toddler) & I’m rather attached. So my questions are a) how long can a tincture last? (if in the right conditions) & b) what are the signs that it has expired? ie. how will i know if it’s good or bad? Thanks so much! I love your work!! xx

    • says

      If they were in high alcohol content and they don’t have an off flavor or smell, they should be ok. Our teacher where we take jujutsu has talked about herbal tinctures (especially dit da jow) that are made by families and continually refilled so they are thousands of years old. They scoop out tincture as needed, and add more herbs and alcohol.

  31. Heather says

    I will start adding a couple steps to my method, thsnk you! I would encourage people not to sweat the instructions too much…i started making tinctures and extracts before I knew what i was doing and my products almost always work out. If you haven’t gone shopping for dried flowers yet, you may not realize how inexpensive they are! Buy them in bulk at a health food store, today i loaded up on 10 different herbs and flowers, beeswax, a couple new bottles for diy product, and a couple lbs of turbinado sugar. $20. This stuff works and it isn’t rocket science…have fun!

    I think they make grain alcohol for crafting that is somehow treated so it tastes undrinkable. That may be an option for those in recovery. Alcohol is in many, many products – at high concentrations – that you would not normally drink.

  32. Dami says

    There are so many different types of tinctures that is recommended to be taken daily? How many different types of tinctures can you take on a daily basis?
    could I have 1 tsp daily of 10 different tinctures?

    – Dami

  33. nancy says

    Hi, does anyone have any idea what herbs are good for teething babies? I’m trying to make a glycerin tincture for my one year old since she has a lot of teething pains.

  34. hannah says

    i’m still a bit confused on the evaporation process..
    ACV tastes awful, so alcohol is likely to be what i use. but without making a tea to “evaporate” the alcohol in the tincture, can i rid the taste of the alcohol in the tincture without mixing it with something else?
    i’d like to use it solely as a tincture, so i’m hoping there’s a way to use just that form.. start to finish.

  35. Joi says

    I can see using a tincture for acute symptoms. Is it better, or even an option, to use the herbs in various tea(s), as a maintenance form, to maintain wellness, antioxidant effects, etc.?

  36. Joi says

    Do you know of tinctures that aid in liver detox… obviously made with glycerin or ACV, not alcohol.

    Thanks for all you do. I am sort of the de facto herbologist of my company, family, et al. So I am always looking for new/useful information. You’re information fits the bill!

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