You know how it seems like herbalists always seem to have a veritable medicine cabinet in their bags? It’s like you can have any discomfort, and they just reach in and pull out a glass dropper bottle of exactly what you need in that moment.
Whether they carry around a heavy satchel of extracts or they just have magical inkling is still to be determined, but what they give you to drop into your mouth from those glass bottles is most likely a tincture.
What is a Tincture?
Let’s start here. Chances are that if there is a product label on the tincture bottle, it will say, “herbal extract” or “herbal supplement.” Legally, herbalists can’t use the word “tincture” for their products because of complicated FDA rules, but this does bit of a disservice to the term “tincture.”
An herbal extract or supplement can have a lot of different types of solvents, while “tincture” is the technical term herbalists use to describe an herbal extract that uses alcohol as a solvent.
We use alcohol as a solvent because it pulls out most of the nutrients and constituents of an herb, and it makes a great preservative. An alcohol tincture can last for a VERY long time if it’s kept in a dark place.
Alcohol is also easily absorbed into the bloodstream or dehydrated from an herb. This type of herbal extract is very concentrated, so it makes a quick medicine that you can carry with you.
There are a lot of ways to experiment with tinctures and herbal extracts but today we’re just going to talk about how make a tincture in the easiest way: using the folk method.
The Difference Between a Folk Tincture and Getting an Herbal Extract from the Herbal Clinic
Before we jump into the making a tincture, we need to define this methodology.
Using the folk method just means that it’s loosely calculated and created using generalizations rather than calculated medicinal standards set by the good manufacturing practices (GMP).
Folk method is for your use and basic use with your friends and family. If you want to create products to sell regularly or make herbal medicine as a clinical herbalist, you’re not going to use the folk method to make your herbal extracts.
Herbalists and formulators use a standardized process. They write down all of the information about their ingredients, their certifications and solvents, along with information about the entire process (there is math and lab glass involved) They also keep batch numbers and have a system in place for recalls and audits.
When you see someone at the BHC community clinic you’re not going to get a folk medicine extract. All of the herbalists that we train in our long term programs are trained in both folk creation and in the standardized method that we developed for our clinical shelves.
A Little Bit About Your Herb: Cleavers
In this article we will share how to make an extract from cleavers! This springtime herb doesn’t last all year around, but it’s so lovely to have her around all year.
Cleavers is a gentle tonic herb that you can take a dropperful or two every day if you want to. It’s a soothing friend that can help you live in the moment. It is wonderful for supporting your body while helping you release from feeling “stuck” both physically and emotionally.
This plant is nutritive, diuretic, lymphatic, alterative, and diaphoretic – it is VERY spring. Out with the old, in with the new (and healthy).
Cleavers is easy to grow, and easy to transplant. The best time to harvest it is in the midspring, when it’s juicy and bushy. Any earlier and it will be small, any later and it’ll get a little dusty and feel stale.
How to Make a Tincture: the Folk Method
Cleavers is best utilized fresh, and for our purposes, it’s important to remember that fresh plants have a high water content. For alcohol to be a great preservative for our extract, we want it to end up being at least 25% of the total tincture.
Most of the alcohol you find in the store is going to be 80 proof, or 40% alcohol. And when you’re working with fresh plants, the alcohol is going to pull the water from the plant matter along with the constituents and nutrients.
This is why, for folk method with a fresh plant, we don’t dilute the alcohol at all – which makes this even easier.
Cleaver Tincture Ingredients:
- Enough of the fresh herb to pack a 16oz mason jar.
- 80 proof (40%) organic alcohol of your choice
- Your 16 ounce Mason Jar
- Amber glass bottles – this won’t make the whole 16 ounces.
- A smooth river rock
Make the Extract!
Here’s the simplest steps for you!
- Step one: rinse your cleavers in a colander
- Step two: pack the mason jar almost all the way to the top with your herb, and set the river rock on top (this holds it in place)
- Step three: fill the rest of your jar with your alcohol.
- Step four: allow it to sit for a moon cycle.
- Step five: strain it out and bottle it.
- Step six: label it! Put the herb name, the date, and that you used folk method to create it.