Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Making Tinctures and Elixirs


The process for making a tincture is simple:

Get an herb, fresh or dried.
Put said herb into a jar.
Pour alcohol to cover the herb.
Put a lid on it, and give it a good shake every now and again
Strain after 3-6 weeks and label clearly.

Now, tinctures are potent!  When you take tinctures, please do a lot of research if you are dosing yourself, or find a practiced herbalist to give you guidance.  Some tinctures, such as poke root or teasel, only need a couple of drops per day to be effective and more than that can cause you harm.

Elixirs are the sweetened version of those alcohol-expressed medicines.  I tend to make "sipping" elixirs out of the more tasty herb tinctures.  These can almost cross the line into cordials, which while they may have medicinal benefits, are mostly just for pleasure.  The sharp tang of elderberry cordial is lovely, but I try to save it for when I'm feeling sick.  To use an elixir, just pour a bit into your hot tea, or into a brandy snifter to sip on for a while.

Then there are the less-than-tasty herbal medicines...adding sweetener to the more bitter or astringent herb tinctures can make ingesting them a more palatable experience, especially with kids.  Valerian and Horehound are good examples of herbs that can use a splash of honey to cut their bitter strength!

Elixirs are easy to make: 

You can start out with a tincture and add a simple syrup (recipe below).  Add the cooled syrup to tincture in small bits, then shake the mix to blend it, and then taste.  If it isn't right, add more and taste again!  Be careful, these are meant to be sipped as they are still potent medicine, and this sweetening and tasting process can get you loopy. 

Simple Syrup: 
Boil one cup of water.
Add two cups of sugar (or 1.5 cup of honey, or agave, or whatever you prefer!)
Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved and remove from heat.
Allow to cool.

Otherwise, you can use the lazy method. Pour a dollop of honey into a strained tincture and give it a shake.  It works, but it ends up being super sticky and thick compared to the simple syrup process described above.

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