Tinctures, The Beginners Guide: What They Are, And How To Make Them
My quest to explore the use of tinctures (rose petal and hips in particular) stems from more than just idle curiosity. I suffer from severe Rheumatoid Arthritis, and as a result of that I need to take toxic medications on a daily basis. To give you an idea of what I mean when I say “toxic”, one of the medications (Methotrexate) is used as a chemotherapy drug.
Many herbs do a great job of reducing inflammation of the joints (which is one of the major symptoms of R.A.), and rose hips are regarded as being one of these. Other herbs and spices that combat inflammation are Tumeric, Boswellia (Frankincense), Chillies and Cayenne Pepper, Rosemary and Green Tea. This list is not exhaustive by any means.
- Fight inflammation
- Help relieve anxiety, chronic stress and fatigue
- May stimulate the immune system, which can help to fight infection
- High in vitamin C, good for colds and sniffles
- Said to provide relief from sadness and depression
Before we look at tincture recipes and how to make them, it will be helpful to define exactly what a tincture is, and why they are such a useful addition to your medicine cabinet.
A tincture or extract takes the active ingredients of a medicial herb and condenses them into a soluble form that we can use. Vitamins, minerals, resins, alkaloids etc. are held in suspension in our solvent (the menstruum).
All tinctures are extracts… what makes them tinctures is that they use some form of alcohol as the solvent and carrier. For those that do not wish to use alcohol, then Apple Cider Vinegar or food grade Glycerine will make a good substitute.
Many people use vodka as it is tasteless… the important point is that you need to use >40% alcohol by volume. Most bottles of spirits that you buy from the local liquor store will be in the 40-45% range.
Alcohol, A.C.Vinegar or Glycerine, Which to Use?
The short answer to this question is – which ever suits you best. They all have their benefits. We could even add raw honey to our list of suitable liquids.
Alcohol: In general, use Vodka as it will not taint or affect the natural rose flavors. Alcohol tends to draw more from the herb or petals, so it will produce a stronger tincture. It also has a long shelf life, anywhere up to six years. Alcohol is better at extracting the essential ingredients from woody or tough leathery type leaves. Rosemary for example.
Apple Cider Vinegar: For those that wish to avoid alcohol, this makes an ideal substitute. The drawback is a shorter shelf life of only one year. The finished product won’t be quite as strong, as you will need a little more to get an equivalent dosage to an alcohol based tincture. One benefit to A.C.V. is the cost. Compare the price of a bottle of A.C.V. to a bottle of Vodka!
Glycerine: This will produce the weakest tincture. However, it will have a sweeter taste, and is ideal for children, or those that don’t like the stronger taste of alcohol or vinegar bases.
Raw Honey: I have yet to try this, although I have a recipe that I wish to make using raw honey and rose petals. I’m just waiting for the local Farmers market to buy myself a big jar… I much prefer to support local produce than to purchase my honey at the supermarket (and it is also a lot cheaper!).
The result will not be a “tincture” although it is created in the exact same way… the petals are added to the menstruum (in this case, raw honey) and left for 4-6 weeks. I have seen this referred to as “herbal honey”.
What You Need to Get Started
There are only a few items that you are going to need to get started with creating your first tincture (not including your actual ingredients). These are…
- A glass jar with screwtop lid
- Amber bottles with droppers, to hold the finished tincture
- Alcohol, Apple Cider Vinegar or food grade Glycerine, enough to fill your jar
There are plenty of tutorials on making tinctures available on the internet. Personally, I found watching a video like this one on Youtube to be helpful with understanding the process.
How to Make Your Tincture
Ingredients: Fresh red or pink fragant rose petals. The better quality the petals, the better the tincture. So pick your petals mid morning when scent is at its best. Some of the better varieties to use are… rugosa, cabbage rose, damask, rosa canina or other wild species rose. The important things to remember are, do NOT use roses that have been sprayed with any chemicals, and old fashioned roses tend to be better than modern hybrid roses.
Method: Cut the white portion from the bottom of the rose petals, and lightly pack into your glass jar. Do not pack these in tightly, there needs to be plenty of space for your liquid to fill. Next, fill the jar to the top with your choice of alcohol Apple Cider Vinegar or Glycerine, and give it a bit of a stir to remove air bubbles. Top up the jar with more liquid if required, then put the lid on.
The jar can now be put away somewhere cool and dark. Give it a shake every couple of days. After 6 weeks, the mixture can be strained through a cloth and put into your small amber tincture bottles, ready for use.
We can only give a brief overview of what can be a complex and involved subject. We suggest that you do further research on herbal medicines, and have compiled a list of some online resources for you.
Medicinal Rose History A great rundown on the history of medicinal rose use, as well as what to use it for.
Herbs.org.nz This website has a comprehesive list of the constituents in roses, as well as info on theraputic benefits, dosages, recipes etc.
Disclaimer: The information provided on this website is not intended to replace professional medical treatment, diagnosis, or advice. Always consult with your physician or other qualified health care professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. Just remember: we are rose lovers with an interest in natural remedies, not health care professionals.
This information on tictures and extracts is being given from the perspective of an enthusiastic novice. Your own research and due dilligence on the subject is encouraged.