Many of Hildegard’s remedies include steps for making tinctures or extracts from medicinal herbs.  An oil extract draws the fat-soluble active ingredients from the medicinal plant. Tinctures are alcohol and water based extracts, where the alcohol serves to draw the active ingredients from medicinal plants and herbs.

Making Tinctures or Extracts

Whether you prepare a tincture or an extract depends on the plant and how the remedy will be applied.  Both tinctures and extracts represent excellent delivery mediums. We’ve seen a revival in healing plants, and therefore this post seems timely.  Also consider some of our alternative ways to preserve fresh herbs.

Making Tinctures

The process of making tinctures involves using an alcohol base with around 40% to 70% alcohol. In earlier times, extracts using red wine or liqueur, like schnapps were common. Using an alcohol-water mixture effectively draws both alcohol and water-soluble active ingredients from the medicinal plants. Since different active ingredients have a varying responses to alcohol, remember to follow specific extraction recommendations for each medicinal plant.

making tinctures

First, carefully weigh the plant’s leaves, flowers, roots or fruit and crush the harder plant parts, using a mortar and pistil. The plant parts are then placed in a large, clean glass jar, completely covered in alcohol, and allowed to sit.

The duration will vary depending on they specific plants, but the alcohol extraction process is typically much faster than the oil extract. The tincture solution is then filtered through a sieve and decanted into clean jars. Ideally, the resulting mixture is tightly sealed properly and stored in a dark place.

Making Oil Extracts

An oil extract draws the fat-soluble active ingredients from the medicinal plant. For an oil extract, use high-quality vegetable oils, such as olive oil or sunflower oil.

making tinctures

The process of a so-called “cold extract” is somewhat time consuming. The medicinal plants should be allowed to soak in oil over several weeks before they acquire the desired potency. Since the oils are perishable and have a limited shelf-life, the extract should be kept cool and in dark bottles. Oil extracts are often used for processing skin creams and topical ointments.