Organic Emily

The Art of Tincturing

 Tincture 6Tincturing and making medicine with herbs has become a lost art in many ways.  For over a century now we have put most of our faith in conventional medicine and have forgotten how to use the herbs God has given us.  We have forgotten what it is like to connect with mother earth and what she has to offer.  As a Latter Day Saint I often reflect upon the word of wisdom given to Joseph Smith in D&C 89:10-11, “And again verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature and use of man. Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving”.  I come from a family who is well immersed in the medical field and I strongly believe there is a place for both herbal or allopathic and conventional or western medicine.   One is holistic, gentle and preventative.  The other is life saving in emergencies when one suffers from acute injuries like broken bones, excessive bleeding or other major ailments like asthma attacks.  However, conventional medicine rarely treats the root of certain illnesses.  Where allopathic medicine along with lifestyle choices can be changed over time.  Herbs do work, but usually at a much longer duration then prescription drugs.  Understanding herbs gives us a sense of becoming self-sustaining and empowered.  There have been many summer mornings I have taken my kids up to the family cabin and foraged for wild herbs!  What a blessing it is to know that there are plants that can be used from our own mountains and backyards that can help heal and even stop bleeding in emergencies!  We just have to know what they are!

I have been tincturing for a few years now and always find myself in awe when they work!  I don’t know why it surprises me still, I suppose I am constantly going through a paradigm shift myself.  I love being able to take my health and my families  into my own hands through the knowledge of herbs and making medicine.   Herbs are idiosyncratic, meaning they are effective but can have different reactions for different people.  It is similar to a person with an allergic reaction to strawberries.  Are strawberries bad for everyone?  No.  They just aren’t right for that particular person.  The beauty about herbs is that they have multiple benefits and some with similarities so there usually are more than one or two options for a certain problem.  Certainly there are poisonous herbs that can be harmful and I encourage everyone to do their own research.  I really like the book by Linda Kershaw, “Edible & Medicinal Plants of the Rockies” for identification and descriptions of many of the plants that grow in the Utah area.   Most herbs that are available commercially are very safe.

There are many recipes you could use for multiple purposes.  I will share a few ideas, but it is best for you to do your own research and find what fits your lifestyle and needs.  In addition to the above book mentioned I also recommend my favorite called “Medicinal Herbs A Beginner’s Guide”, by Rosemary Gladstar.  It is a fabulous step by step guide on how to make simple herbal medicine.

Where To Begin?

There are several methods for making tinctures.  Some are very exact and precise in their measuring and weighing.  But I really like Rosemary Gladstar’s way of doing it.  It’s very easy, safe and effective!  All that is needed is a medium or base and herbs with a few pieces of equipment and amber colored bottles (I like to get mine at Industrial Container and Supply in Utah).  I prefer using dried herbs, but there are instances where fresh is required.  We’ll talk about that in a little bit.  There are a few mediums or bases to chose from.  I mostly use 1/2 vegetable glycerin, 1/2 purified water for children and babies (plus its sweet tasting) or 100 proof vodka making a stronger medicine.  The main difference between the two is that the glycerin has a shelf life of 2-3 years and the vodka has a shelf life of 25-30 years and sometimes longer.  When I think about future preparation I go with the vodka.  Apple Cider Vinegar can also be used but only has a shelf life of 1 year and is not as strong.

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The first step is to place your herbs in a clean clear glass jar.  Pour enough alcohol over the herbs to completely cover them by 2-3 inches.  Some herbs will float to the top, but they should settle in a day or two.  As long as they are covered you should be okay.  Seal the jar with a tight fitting lid and place on counter out of direct sunlight.  Be sure to label your jars, I promise you won’t remember what’s in it in a few weeks.  Shake once a day for 6 weeks.

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From this point you will want to strain the herbs through a mesh strainer.

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You can also use a cheese cloth at the same time with the strainer or strain a second time to get rid of any extra particles.  Be sure to squeeze the herbs as much as possible to get out any extra medicine.

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Pour through a funnel into a sterilized amber bottle.  To sterilize I spray all my equipment down with hydrogen peroxide first and let air dry.  You can also boil the equipment too.  Store in a dark cool place and don’t forget to label every bottle.

To Use

For acute problems – 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of herbal tincture every hour, for a total of up to 6 teaspoons daily.  1 dropperful is 1/4 teaspoon

For chronic problems – 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of tincture two to three times daily, for a total of 3 teaspoons daily. 1 dropperful is 1/4 teaspoon

Herbal Combinations

Master Cold and Flu – use equal parts, fresh cayenne pepper, fresh garlic chopped, fresh ginger chopped, fresh horseradish chopped, echinacea root, marshmallow root

Headache – equal parts dried peppermint, feverfew and chamomile

Cayenne – 90,000 IU’s cayenne pepper (very effective for stopping heart attacks and stopping bleeding when used externally)

Sleep Aid – 1 cup valerian root, 1/2 cup hops strobile (flower), 1/4 cup lavender buds

There are many other combinations that are fabulous to use.  Be sure to do your own research and find what is best for your family!  Other single herb tinctures that are a must at our house are yarrow, goldenseal and dandelion.

Emily Saddler

Emily is a Master Gardener, wife of a professional landscape contractor, homeschool mom of 7 awesome kids, yoga/pilates instructor, a clinical and master herbalist, licensed massage therapist and soon to be traditional naturopath. She is a very passionate advocate of organic home-grown food! Emily maintains a blog called “The Organic Suburban Farm Girl” where she shares gardening advice, delicious recipes made with fresh, organic ingredients, herbal and natural home care product recipes and loves teaching classes on gardening, plant identification and herbal remedy workshops. Check out the events and classes page for more info.


  1. What a wonderful article! Thank you for sharing your experiences with this. I am just starting my research into herbal medicine for my family. I look forward to reading some of the books you recommended that I have not come across yet. I am glad you shared your source for supplies, as that has been one thing holding me back.

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