Herbal Extracts

Herbal extracts are a liquid solution of herbs and alcohol. The dried or fresh herbs are combined with alcohol, and then the solid matter is removed leaving only the oils of the herbs mixed with the alcohol.

This process is called extraction, hence the name, herbal extract. For example an extract made from peppermint and alcohol would be called “peppermint extract.”

Most commercially sold extracts have an herb to alcohol ratio printed on the label. When dry herbs were used to make the extract the ratio is commonly 1 part dried plant to 4 parts liquid, (alcohol and water). When fresh herbs are used the most common ratio is 1:1. This does not indicate the amount of that herb in the bottle, rather the ratio used in making the extract. Example: Dry herb strength: 1:4 means that the mixture used to produce the extract was 4 parts liquid, (alcohol and water) and one part dried plant. This is not the same as an ingredients list, which is also present on most commercial extracts.

Herbal extracts are sold as dietary supplements and alternative medicine and commonly used for flavoring in baking and other cooking much like vanilla extract.

Herbalists and alternative medicine practitioners often refer to herbal extracts as tinctures.

This recipe to make liquid Herbal extracts. Start with a clean jar that has a tight fitting lid and the herbs of your choice. If you can use fresh herbs, then fabulous! Fresh material is always preferred but availability is determined by your local bioregion, climate, etc and many quality herbs may not be available. If you cannot locate fresh materials, be sure to get good quality, organic herbs from a reputable supplier. Try not to use powdered herbs; they will be difficult to filter out in the end and the debris will settle in your final product.

If using fresh material, chop the herbs finely. Then put in the glass jar. Next, pour a good, strong grain alcohol or Vodka over the herbs, completely covering the herbal material. If you are using dried herbs you will need to add more alcohol over the next day or two as the dried herbs absorb and expand. A good ratio for dried material is about 1 part herb to 5 parts alcohol and with fresh material 1 part herb to 3 parts alcohol. Cover with tight fitting lid and be sure to place a plastic bag sandwiched between the lid and the jar. This will prevent rust contamination from spoiling your herbal extract.

Shake well and place the jar in a dark place & allow the herbs to soak or macerate for 4 to 6 weeks. Shake every few days. The alcohol will siphon and extract the active constituents from the herbs. After 4 to 6 weeks strain the herbs. Use a large sieve, strainer, press or potato ricer lined with fine mesh cloth or cheesecloth. Then pour into another large bowl or container. After you have done this grab the soggy herbal material and place in muslin, cheese or another fine cloth and tightly squeeze the material to extract every last drop from the cloth.

The herbal extracts left over that is saturated, is the strongest in terms of active medicinal constituents. Now funnel the material from your larger container into smaller bottles, preferably amber bottles and store your tinctures in a cool dark place. Voila! You have now made your own remarkable medicinal herbal extract for a fraction of the price you would have paid at the store. By now you have probably noticed that your pantry is stored with some 16-20 ounces of liquid herbal extract…this will last you for some time. (It will keep for 3-5 years) Enjoy!

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