The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Mar. 28: HOW TO MAKE AN HERBAL TINCTURE





Herbal tinctures are age-old remedies that can help soothe and heal whatever might ail you. Here’s how to make herbal tinctures using plants from your garden.

Last week I came across some Internet sites about herb-based first-aid kits. In addition to standard items such as scissors, bandages, and sterile gauze pads, most sites recommended packaged dried herbs for tea, a collection of essential oils, herbal creams and salves and a few alcohol tinctures.

Serendipitously, although I’m a teetotaler, I was heading for town that day to buy a bottle of vodka to make a few tinctures to supplement my own first-aid supplies. Herbal tinctures are really easy to make.

A traditional herbal tincture is made by steeping herbs in high-proof ethyl alcohol (sometimes vinegar) to extract and concentrate their medicinal constituents—molecules that plants have manufactured for self-protection and that we humans expropriate for our own medicinal use.

Ethyl alcohol tinctures are generally intended for internal use. Herbs tinctured in rubbing alcohol (isopropyl), witch hazel, or oil are called liniments, and are intended for external use only.

Although you can tincture leaves or needles, flowers, roots, and barks, either fresh or dried, I make mine mostly from fresh leaves harvested from my gardens, lawns and nearby wild places. Today, I’m gathering burdock leaves and flowers, the plantain running amok on the lawn, and the lemon balm beckoning from the herb garden.


Depending on the condition being treated (or prevented), medicinal herbs can be brewed into teas or simmered into decoctions, mashed into poultices and salves, smoked (so their medicinal constituents enter the body through the lungs), or extracted into tinctures. Tinctures are generally taken internally a few drops at a time, several times a day, often in tea or juice. Some tinctures work well applied directly to wounds or skin infections.

Tinctures offer several advantages over other herbal formulations:

  • Alcohol generally extracts and concentrates more of the valuable medicinal compounds than water extracts (e.g., teas, infusions, tisanes).
  • In such concentrated form, tinctures are fast-acting.
  • Alcohol tinctures made with at least 80-proof ethanol don’t spoil, and they maintain their potency for a long time if properly stored. (Tinctures made with wine or vinegar won’t extract as many active phytocompounds, and they won’t last as long, although they can be enjoyed in salad dressings and marinades.)
  • Tinctures are portable and easy to tuck into a purse or traveling bag.


  • You’ll need to learn something, preferably a lot, about how, why, when, to use a particular plant tincture, and in what dose. Read books and articles, attend workshops, consult with local herbalists.
  • You need to be 100 percent certain you’ve properly identified the plant you plan to use. Do invest in some wild-plant field guides or join one of the local wild-plant identification workshops offered in your area.
  • Tincture only those plants you know haven’t been treated with pesticides.
  • Don’t use plants collected around the edges of commercially farmed fields or close to roadsides.


  • The plant parts you plan to tincture. To avoid diluting the alcohol with water, don’t wash them. (Roots are the exception; you may need to rinse or even scrub them lightly before chopping.) If the plant parts are already wet, lay them out and blot gently with a clean towel to dry them off. Discard any diseased or damaged material.
  • A bottle of 80-proof (or higher) ethyl alcohol. Many herbalists prefer vodka, because it’s relatively colorless, tasteless and odorless.
  • A glass jar with a tight lid. You don’t need large bottles for making an alcohol tincture; a tincture is a potent plant medicine administered only a few drops at a time. Start with small containers such as pint canning jars or empty peanut-butter or jam jars.
  • Some small, dark bottles for storing the decanted tincture(s). Storing them in the dark helps protect their potency.


Chop large leaves, flowers, or roots; leave delicate leaves and flowers whole. Then fill the glass jar loosely with the plant material, and add enough alcohol to cover the plant materials. Seal the jar tightly.

Label and date the jar. Include the plant parts tinctured and the type of alcohol used. Set the jar in a cool, dark place for a month or longer, shaking or stirring occasionally and adding more alcohol if needed to keep the plant materials covered.

Strain the tincture over a clean cheesecloth into a glass or ceramic container twisting the cloth to remove as much of the tincture as possible. Funnel the tincture into dark glass bottles and cap (or cork) tightly. Label and date each tincture and store in a cool, dark place.

You can increase the concentration of a tincture by straining out the original plant materials and adding fresh material.


Like any healing agent, herbal remedies in any form can pack a lot of power, which includes adverse reactions. Learn as much as possible about the herb you’re using before you try it. Your homemade tinctures don’t offer a standard “dose.” Begin with a new tincture by trying a few drops in warm water or tea, and work up slowly until you experience the desired results.

If you’re pregnant, nursing, taking prescription medicine, or suffering from a chronic illness, don’t start on an herbal remedy without consulting a health professional. Always include your use of herbs in the information you provide to your medical and dental professionals.


“Living Naturally” is all about living a naturally healthy lifestyle. Margaret Boyles covers health tips, ways to avoid illness, natural remedies, food that’s good for body and soul, recipes for homemade beauty products, ideas to make your home a healthy and safe haven, and the latest news on health. Our goal is also to encourage self-sufficiency, whether it’s relearning some age-old skills or getting informed on modern improvements that help us live better, healthier lives.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac


Just Because We Are All Witches Here – Recipe for a Hot Toddy(Whether Your Sick or Not!)

Dream of Dragons

Recipe for a Hot Toddy

(Whether Your Sick or Not!)


This was my Daddy’s remedy and I wanted to add it. He kept a bottle of this made up and if we got sick we got a dose and had to go to bed.

2 peppermint candies

Half of squeezed lemon

A gulp of Honey

A shot glass of whiskey

He would heat it up and we had to drink it. There was no money to go to the doctor.


–Starr Casas, Old Style Conjure Wisdoms, Workings and Remedies


Various Tinctures



Money Tincture





Anoint money before spending; anoint money amulets, your purse or wallet, cash register and so on.




Sacred Tincture




Anoint yourself to increase your involvement with spiritual activities, especially prior to meditation and religious rituals of all kinds.





Third Eye Tincture

Star Anise




Anoint your pillow for psychic dreams(careful though; this will probably stain–use one pillowcase just for this purpose). Also anoint the wrists and forehead before using your natural psychic abilities.



Guardian Tincture




Anoint yourself or objects for protection.



Healthy Mind, Healthy Body Tincture




Anoint your body, healing amulets(sachets), blue candles and so on to speed healing or to retain good health.




Love Tincture




Anoint your body or love sachets to attract a love and to expand your ability to give and to receive love.

Making An Infusion

Making An Infusion

This process draws the properties you want out of the herb for healing. An infusion is basically a strong tea. The normal mixture is 1 pint of water to ounce of herb. It takes experience to learn how long each herb needs to steep, some take longer than others, the average length of time is hour but with practice you’ll learn which take longer and which take less time.

This is the easiest method.


Making A Decoction

Making A Decoction

This is much the same as an infusion (tea) except you are working with a much more solid herb such as thick pieces of root or bark which can’t be ground up or the remedy calls for a much stronger dose..

This is the one case where you should BOIL THE HERB. In fact that’s the whole
process. Make sure that no steam escapes or the vital oils will go away with it. Also (of course) never use any metal when doing ANY herbal remedies.

If you will have more than one ingredient in the decoction begin by boiling the
toughest then work down. Start with cold water and after boiling for what you
consider long enough allow it to steep usually for at least 30 minutes.

Making A Poultice

Making A Poultice

This is used when you need to apply the herbs externally such as for a burn or for acne. Yes it’s messy but often essential for healing. Pour boiling water over the herbs using just enough to dampen them or evenly cover the plant matter, you’re not trying to extract anything from the herb only to moisten it. When it is all evenly wet remove it with a strainer and place between 2 pieces of gauze (cheesecloth also works well if folded several times). You then apply the gauze with the herbs inside to the affected part and allow the moisture with the herb essence to pass within the person.

Making A Tincture

Making A Tincture

These are used when long term storage is required. It requires alcohol of at least a 75% grade which can be safely ingested. Place the following in a jar which can be tightly sealed.

1-4 ounces of the herb 8 ounces of alcohol (drinkable!) 4 ounces of water

Seal the jar and keep it safely out of the light for 2 weeks. Each day at least once, check it and make sure that you loosed the mass of herb inside the jar by swirling it about. Continue this process until at the end of the 2 weeks the alcohol has extracted all the constituents without need of heat. This process is best begun on the new moon and completed on the full.

T is for Tonic




Tonic waters containing the energies of the Moon embody very powerful healing benefits that bring integral balance and wholeness throughout the body, mind and soul. Clear quartz crystal catalyses the absorption of lunar energies as well as amplifies the healing benefits.

Wait for a clear night, on or right before the Full Moon. Put your crystal in a clear glass and cover with one cup of purified water.

At sundown, place the glass out of doors in a moonlit place (cover the glass with clear plastic wrap). Remove the glass at dawn. The water is now filled with the Moon’s energy. Drink the tonic every morning to prepare for the day.

Making Moon Water

Making Moon Water


Moon water is at its most potent when made on the night of the full moon or during a partial or total lunar eclipse. You can also make it in the two or three days before the full moon if the skies are clear and the moon is shining brightly.

1.   On the night of the full moon (it rises around sunset) set a silver colored or clear crystal bowl outdoors where the moonlight can shine on it.

2.   Half-fill it with still mineral water, if possible from a sacred source, and, if you have any add a few drops of water from a holy well. You can substitute bubbling tap water.

3.   Surround the bowl with pure white flowers or blossoms or small moonstones.

4.   If you have a small silver bell, ring it three times, saying for each ring:

“First the Maiden, now the Mother, then the Wise Grandmother.”

5.  Raise your arms on either side of your head, your hands facing upwards flat with pal uppermost and repeat the same words three times.

6.   Stir the water nine times moonwise (anticlockwise) with a silver colored paper knife (silver being the color and metal of the moon) or an amethyst crystal point. Ask the moon mother to bless the water and those who use it.

7.    If you are not carrying out a moon ceremony, leave the bowl in position, covered with fine mesh, overnight.

8.  Ring the bell three times more before leaving and say:

“Blessings Be.”

9.   If you don’t have a bell, kneel and put your hand round the bowl, saying:

“Blessings Be.”

10.  Using a glass jug and filter, pour the water if possible into small blue, silver or frosted glass bottles that you can seal and keep in your fridge or a cool place until the next full moon night. If you use a plain bottle label it so you don’t mistake it for another magickal water.

11.  Any water left at the end of the moon period should be poured into the ground before moonrise on the next full moon night.

Hormonal Headache Tonic

This tonic will calm the storm you feel brewing in your head.

2   tablespoons cramp
2   tablespoons chasteberries (Vitex)
2   tablespoon wild yam
2   tablespoons black cohosh root, optional

Simmer in 2 cups of water for 30 minutes, covered. Remove from heat and steep the following herbs for herbs for 15 minutes before straining:

1   tablespoon chamomile flowers
1   tablespoon passionflower
1   tablespoon lavender leaves and flowers

Drink half a cup every hour until headache abates.