How to Make Herbal Remedies—Teas and Tinctures

How To Make Herbal Remedies—Teas And TincturesMaking your own herbal remedies is easy and can save you money. The two most common ways to administer medicinal herbs are with teas and tinctures. Before beginning you want to make sure that you start with fresh, quality herbs. If you’re picking them out of your garden, that is easier to assure, but what if you’re purchasing dried herbs? How are you to know if dried herbs are of a good quality? They should look, smell, and taste as though they were fresh. Leaves and flowers should be close to whole and not reduced to powder. The leaves should be a bright green, the flowers their original color, and the smell strong and distinctive. Most of all, you should find that these herbs are effective in your remedies.

How to Make Your Own Medicinal Tea

Once you have a supply of fresh herbs, you are ready to begin. To extract the medicinal properties from the herbs requires more care than merely dunking a teabag and few times. To prepare an effective medicinal, herbal tea, you must follow proper procedure. Anything less will not extract the properties needed to nourish the body.

An herbal tea goes by two names. An infusion is a tea made from the leaves or flowers of the plant. Because the leaves and flowers of the plant are delicate, you want to steep them rather than simmer them. Bring 1 quart of water to the boil for each ounce of herb you wish to use. (Or, for a smaller quantity, 1 cup of water to 1 tablespoon of herb.) Pour this water over the herbs and let it steep for about 20 minutes. The more herb you use, and the longer you steep, the stronger tea will result—both in taste and in medicinal properties. You can experiment with this a little to find what is palatable for you.

A decoction is a tea made from the stems, roots, seeds, or other woody parts of the plants. Since it is harder to extract the active constituents from these parts, a decoction requires slow simmering. Place the herbs in a stainless steel saucepan and cover with cold water. Use the ratios given above. Heat slowly and simmer, covered, for roughly 40-45 minutes. Strain and drink.

If you want to take your herbal tea throughout the day for medicinal purposes and find it a hassle to prepare individual cups, make it by the quart and store it in the refrigerator.  Do not leave it on the counter as it will lose its potency. However, an herbal tea will keep a few days in the refrigerator.

How to Make an Herbal Tincture

For convenience sake, many prefer to use tinctures over teas. Someone who must take his herbal remedies while traveling will find it cumbersome to carry along herbs and saucepans for preparing tea. A tincture is a concentrated liquid extract of the herbs. It is taken by the drop or dropper because it is so potent.  A small dropper bottle is more easily transported in purse or bag and taken to the office.

Most tinctures are made using alcohol as the extractant. Some folk like to avoid the alcohol and use apple cider vinegar or vegetable glycerin (diluted with an equal amount of water) instead. These alternatives will not be as strong as the alcohol-based ones, however they will work.

Your alcohol should be, at least, 80 proof vodka, gin, or brandy. Place herbs in a clean, dry jar. I use quart canning jars and fill about ½ full of herbs. If using fresh herbs for your tincture chop them up small. Pour the extractant over the herbs so that they are completely covered by about 2 inches. Cover this with a tight-fitting lid.

Place the jar in a warm location. In the summer, mine goes on the window sill where the afternoon sun hits it. In the winter, I put it on the back of the stove top. Let it soak this way for about 4 weeks, regularly shaking the jar to mix the herbs up a bit.

When the time is up, strain the herbs in a colander lined with clean muslin. Let it sit to drip every last drop out of the herbs and then take up the cloth and squeeze out every drop you can. The resulting liquid is your tincture. Place it in a clean bottle and store in a cool, dark place out of the reach of children.

A tincture will keep indefinitely.


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