From Garden to Medicine Cabinet_ Making Herbal Tinctures (A Comprehensive How-To)

From Garden to Medicine Cabinet: Making Herbal Tinctures (A Comprehensive How-To)

Herbal tinctures are concentrated liquid extracts that capture the medicinal properties of plants. Making your own tinctures is a rewarding and cost-effective way to support your health and wellness.

This guide will walk you through the process of making herbal tinctures from start to finish.

Step 1: Gather Your Materials 

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Before embarking on the rewarding journey of making your own herbal tinctures, having all the necessary materials is crucial. This step is foundational to the process and should not be taken lightly. A well-prepared tincture maker is more likely to yield successful results.

Herbs – Fresh or Dried

The first item you will need is your herbs. The herbs can be fresh or dried, depending on your preference and availability. If you have a garden, you might consider harvesting your herbs. This is a wonderful way to connect with nature and the entire tincturing process. If you don’t have access to a garden, dried herbs can be purchased from a reputable source. It’s essential to choose high-quality herbs as they are the foundation of your tincture.

High-Proof Alcohol as Solvent

Once you have your herbs, your next item is high-proof alcohol. Alcohol is used to extract the medicinal properties of the herbs and acts as a preservative for the tincture. The alcohol should be at least 40% ABV (alcohol by volume) to ensure proper extraction and preservation. 

Vodka is a popular choice due to its neutral flavor, but other spirits like brandy or rum can also be used. If you prefer not to use alcohol, vegetable glycerin or vinegar can be alternatives. However, remember that these options may not extract the medicinal properties as effectively as alcohol.

Essential Equipment

In addition to herbs and alcohol, you’ll need a clean glass jar with a lid. The jar size will depend on how much tincture you want to make. Make sure the jar is thoroughly cleaned and sterilized to prevent contamination.

Other essential materials include a label or marker for labeling the jar, a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth for straining the tincture, a funnel for transferring the liquid, and a dark glass bottle with a dropper for storing the finished product. The dark glass bottle helps protect the tincture from light, which can degrade the medicinal properties over time.

In summary, the key materials you need for making herbal tinctures are high-quality herbs (fresh or dried), high-proof alcohol, a clean glass jar with a lid, a label or marker, a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth, a funnel, and a dark glass bottle with a dropper. Having all these materials before you start will set you up for success and ensure a smooth tincturing process.

Step 2: Prepare the Herbs

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Once you have gathered all the necessary materials, preparing the herbs is the next step in making your herbal tincture. This step is essential, as the preparation of the herbs directly impacts the quality and effectiveness of the tincture.

Washing and Chopping Fresh Herbs

If you are using fresh herbs, you first must wash them thoroughly to remove any dirt or impurities. Once the herbs are clean, chop them into small pieces. Chopping the herbs helps release their essential oils, which contain the medicinal properties you want to extract.

Crushing Dried Herbs

If you use dried herbs, you must crush them slightly to release their essential oils. You can use a mortar, pestle, or herb grinder. Be careful not to crush the herbs too finely, as this can make the straining process more difficult later on.

The Right Amount of Herbs

The amount of herbs you need will depend on the size of your jar and the strength you desire for your tincture. A general rule of thumb is to fill the jar 2/3 to 3/4 full with herbs. If you are using a combination of herbs, thoroughly mix them before adding them to the jar. This ensures that the different herbs are evenly distributed and that the tincture is well-balanced.

Labeling and Recording

Labeling the jar with the name of the herbs and the date of preparation is important. This helps you keep track of the tincture as it ages and ensures that you use the right tincture for your needs. You may also want to keep a record of the herbs you used and the proportions, as this can be helpful for future reference.

The key steps in preparing the herbs for your tincture are washing and chopping fresh herbs, crushing dried herbs, measuring the right amount, and labeling the jar with the necessary information. Taking the time to prepare the herbs properly will ensure that your tincture is of the highest quality and that you get the maximum benefits from the herbs.

Step 3: Fill the Jar 

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After you have prepared the herbs, the next step is to fill the jar. This step requires attention to detail to ensure the correct proportions of herbs and alcohol.

Placing Herbs in Jar

Begin by placing the prepared herbs into the clean glass jar. The herbs should fill about 2/3 to 3/4 of the jar. If you are using a combination of herbs, make sure they are thoroughly mixed before adding them to the jar. This ensures an even distribution of herbs and a well-balanced tincture.

Importance of Correct Proportions

The proportions of herbs to alcohol are crucial to the quality of the tincture. Too few herbs will result in a weak tincture, while too many herbs can prevent the alcohol from adequately covering the herbs, leading to spoilage. The goal is to have a good balance that allows for optimal extraction of the medicinal properties of the herbs.

Adding the Alcohol

Once the herbs are in the jar, pour the high-proof alcohol over them until completely covered. The alcohol should fill the jar, leaving about 1 inch of space at the top. The herbs must be completely submerged in the alcohol to prevent mold from forming. The same principles apply if you are using an alternative solvent such as vegetable glycerin or vinegar.

Sealing and Storing the Jar

After adding the alcohol, secure the lid onto the jar. Store the jar in a cool, dark place for 4-6 weeks. During this time, the alcohol will extract the medicinal properties from the herbs, resulting in a potent tincture. Be sure to shake the jar every few days to aid in the extraction process.

In summary, the key steps in filling the jar are placing the herbs in the jar, ensuring the correct proportions of herbs and alcohol, adding the alcohol, and storing the jar in a cool, dark place. Following these steps carefully will set the foundation for a successful tincture.

Step 4: Strain the Tincture

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Once the tincture has steeped for 4-6 weeks, the next step is to strain the liquid to separate it from the herbs. This step requires attention to detail to ensure a clear, potent tincture.

Preparing to Strain

Before you begin straining, prepare a clean bowl and have your fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth ready. If you are using cheesecloth, you may want to double or triple layer it to ensure that no herb particles pass through.

The Straining Process

Place the strainer or cheesecloth over the bowl and carefully pour the tincture through it. You may need to use a spoon or spatula to help press the herbs against the strainer and extract all the liquid. If you are using cheesecloth, you can gather the edges and squeeze the herbs to extract the remaining liquid.

Bottling the Tincture

Once the tincture has been strained, use a funnel to transfer the liquid into a dark glass bottle with a dropper. The dropper makes it easy to dispense the tincture and ensures accurate dosing.

Labeling and Storing the Tincture

Label the bottle with the name of the herbs and the date of preparation. Store the tincture in a cool, dark place, away from direct sunlight. The shelf life of a tincture is typically 3-5 years, although some tinctures may last longer.

Discarding the Herbs

Once you have strained the tincture, the herbs can be discarded. They have given up their medicinal properties to the alcohol and are no longer useful.

In summary, the key steps in straining the tincture are: preparing to strain, the straining process, bottling the tincture, labeling and storing the tincture, and discarding the herbs. Taking the time to strain the tincture properly will result in a clear, potent product that is ready for use.

Step 5: Dosage and Usage

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Once your tincture is prepared, the next step is to determine the correct dosage and understand how to use it. It’s important to remember that herbal tinctures are potent, and a small amount goes a long way.

Understanding Dosage

The dosage of a tincture depends on several factors, including the herb used, the strength of the tincture, and the individual taking it. A general guideline is to start with a small dose and gradually increase it until the desired effect is achieved. A typical dose ranges from 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon, taken 1-3 times a day.

How to Take a Tincture

Tinctures can be taken directly under the tongue for fast absorption into the bloodstream. Alternatively, the tincture can be added to water, tea, or juice and consumed. If the taste of the tincture is too strong, you can dilute it with more liquid or add honey to sweeten it.

Safety and Precautions

While herbal tinctures are generally considered safe, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before using them, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription medications. Some herbs may interact with medications or have contraindications for certain conditions.

Different Ways to Use Tinctures

In addition to taking tinctures internally, they can also be used topically for specific conditions. For example, a tincture made from calendula can be applied to the skin to help heal wounds or rashes. Another option is to add a few drops of a tincture to a bath for a relaxing and therapeutic experience

Keeping Track of Your Experience

When using a new tincture, it’s helpful to keep a journal to track your experience. Record the dosage, frequency, and any effects or changes you notice. This information can be valuable for future reference and to share with your healthcare professional.

In summary, the key steps in dosage and usage are: understanding dosage, how to take a tincture, safety and precautions, different ways to use tinctures, and keeping track of your experience. Being mindful of these steps will ensure that you get the most benefits from your tincture while minimizing any potential risks.

Step 6: Preserving and Storing Your Tincture 

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After you have successfully made your tincture, it is vital to preserve and store it correctly to maintain its potency and shelf life.

Importance of Dark Glass Bottles

The best way to store a tincture is in a dark glass bottle with a dropper. The dark glass protects the tincture from light, which can degrade its medicinal properties over time. The dropper makes it easy to dispense the tincture and ensures accurate dosing.

Proper Storage Conditions

Store the tincture in a cool, dark place, away from direct sunlight and heat. A cupboard or drawer is an ideal location. Avoid storing the tincture in the refrigerator, as the cold can cause the liquid to thicken and make it difficult to dispense.

Shelf Life of Tinctures

The shelf life of a tincture is typically 3-5 years, although some tinctures may last longer. It’s essential to label the bottle with the name of the herbs and the date of preparation, so you know how old the tincture is.

Signs of Spoilage

If you notice any signs of spoilage, such as mold, an off smell, or changes in color, it’s best to discard the tincture. These signs indicate that the tincture has been contaminated and is no longer safe to use.

Tips for Long-Term Storage

If you have made a large batch of tincture and want to store it for the long term, you can transfer the tincture to smaller bottles, which will minimize the exposure to air and help preserve its potency. Be sure to use sterilized bottles and lids to prevent contamination.

Step 7: Troubleshooting Common Issues 

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Making herbal tinctures can sometimes present challenges. Here are some common issues you might encounter and how to troubleshoot them.

Herbs not Fully Submerged

One common issue is that the herbs are not fully submerged in the alcohol, which can lead to mold growth. To prevent this, make sure to fill the jar with enough alcohol to cover the herbs completely. If the herbs float to the top, you can use a clean weight to keep them submerged.

Mold Growth

If you notice mold growing on the surface of the tincture, it’s essential to discard it immediately, as mold can produce toxins that are harmful when ingested. To prevent mold growth, ensure that the herbs are completely submerged in the alcohol and that the jar is sealed tightly.

Tincture is Too Weak

If the tincture is too weak, it could be due to using too few herbs or not letting it steep for long enough. To increase the strength, you can add more herbs and let it steep for a more extended period.

Tincture is Too Strong

Conversely, if the tincture is too strong, you can dilute it with more alcohol. Be sure to mix it thoroughly to ensure an even distribution.

Tincture Has a Bad Taste

Herbal tinctures can sometimes have a bitter or unpleasant taste. To improve the flavor, you can add honey or another natural sweetener. Alternatively, you can mix the tincture with water, juice, or tea to mask the taste.

Difficulty Straining the Tincture

If you are having difficulty straining the tincture, it could be due to the herbs being too finely crushed. To prevent this, use a coarser grind when preparing the herbs. If you are using cheesecloth, you can also try using a finer mesh strainer.

In summary, the key steps in troubleshooting common issues are: ensuring the herbs are fully submerged, preventing mold growth, adjusting the strength of the tincture, improving the taste, and addressing any difficulties with straining. By following these steps, you can ensure a successful tincture-making process.

Step 8: Experimenting with Different Herbs and Combinations 

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Once you have mastered the basics of making herbal tinctures, you may want to experiment with different herbs and combinations to create your own custom blends. This can be a fun and rewarding way to expand your herbal medicine cabinet.

Researching Herbs

Before you start experimenting, it’s essential to do your research. Learn about the properties of different herbs and how they can be used to support health and wellness. Some herbs such as Fenugreek extract, may have contraindications or interactions with medications, so it’s essential to be informed before using them.

Single Herb Tinctures

Start by making single herb tinctures to understand the individual properties of each herb. This will give you a baseline for how each herb tastes, smells, and feels when used. It will also help you identify any potential allergic reactions or sensitivities.

Combining Herbs

Once you are comfortable with single herb tinctures, you can start experimenting with combinations. Some herbs work well together and can have a synergistic effect, while others may not be compatible. Start with small batches and take notes on the results.

Formulating for Specific Conditions

As you gain more experience, you can start formulating tinctures for specific health conditions. For example, you might create a blend for relaxation, immune support, or digestive health. The possibilities are endless, and you can tailor your blends to meet your needs.

Creative Uses for Tinctures

In addition to using tinctures for health and wellness, you can also get creative and use them in other ways. For example, you can add a few drops of a calming tincture to a bath or use a tincture as a natural fragrance. You can also experiment with using tinctures in cooking or as a natural preservative.

In summary, the key steps in experimenting with different herbs and combinations are: researching herbs, making single herb tinctures, combining herbs, formulating for specific conditions, and exploring creative uses for tinctures. By following these steps, you can create your own custom blends and expand your herbal medicine cabinet.

Step 9: Incorporating Tinctures into Your Wellness Routine 


Herbal tinctures can be a valuable addition to your wellness routine, providing support for various health conditions and overall well-being.

Identifying Your Needs

The first step in incorporating tinctures into your wellness routine is to identify your needs. What health conditions or concerns are you hoping to address? Do you want to support your immune system, improve digestion, or reduce stress? Understanding your needs will help you choose the right tinctures for your situation.

Starting Slowly

When adding new tinctures to your routine, it’s essential to start slowly. Begin with a small dose and gradually increase it until you achieve the desired effect. Pay attention to how your body responds and make adjustments as needed.

Monitoring for Side Effects

As with any supplement or medication, it’s essential to monitor for side effects when using tinctures. While most tinctures are safe, some herbs may cause allergic reactions or interact with medications. If you experience any adverse effects, discontinue use and consult with a healthcare professional.

Incorporating Tinctures into Daily Routines

Tinctures can be easily incorporated into your daily routine. You can take them directly under the tongue, add them to water or tea, or even mix them into your favorite recipes. Get creative and find a way that works best for you.

Combining Tinctures with Other Wellness Practices

Tinctures can be used in conjunction with other wellness practices, such as meditation, yoga, or exercise. For example, you might take a calming tincture before bed to promote restful sleep or use an energizing tincture before a workout to boost performance. It can also be used in herbal remedies to improve immune system.

Step 10: Building Your Herbal Medicine Cabinet

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Once you have started making your tinctures and incorporating them into your wellness routine, you may want to expand your herbal medicine cabinet with other herbal preparations.

Other Herbal Preparations

In addition to tinctures, there are many other ways to use herbs for health and wellness. Some popular herbal preparations include teas, infusions, decoctions, salves, and balms. Each method offers unique benefits and can be tailored to meet your needs.

Organizing Your Medicine Cabinet

A well-organized medicinal herbs cabinet will make it easy to find the right remedy when you need it. Consider grouping similar items together and labeling each preparation with the name of the herbs and the date of preparation. You can also include information on dosages and usage instructions.

Stocking Up on Essential Herbs

Some herbs are considered essential for a well-stocked herbal medicine cabinet. These include calming herbs like chamomile and lavender, immune-supporting herbs like elderberry and echinacea, and digestive herbs like peppermint and ginger. Consider what health concerns you commonly face and stock up on the appropriate herbs.

Expanding Your Knowledge

As you expand your herbal medicine cabinet, it’s essential to continue learning about herbs and their uses. There are many excellent resources available, including books, online courses, and workshops. You can also connect with other herbalists in your community to learn from their experiences.

Sharing with Others

Once you have built up your herbal medicine cabinet, you can share your knowledge and remedies with others. Consider making small batches of tinctures, salves, or balms as gifts for friends and family. You can also teach others how to make their own herbal preparations, empowering them to take control of their health and wellness.

Step 11: Tips for Success 

Making herbal tinctures can be a rewarding and empowering way to take control of your health and well-being. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can create effective and personalized herbal remedies that will support you for years to come.

Tips for Success

Here are some final tips to ensure your success in making herbal tinctures:

  • Be patient: Tincture-making is a slow process, and it can take several weeks for the herbs to fully extract their medicinal properties. Be patient and give the tincture time to develop.
  • Stay organized: Keep detailed records of your tincture-making process, including the herbs used, the alcohol concentration, and the steeping time. This will help you replicate successful batches and make adjustments as needed.
  • Experiment and learn: Don’t be afraid to experiment with different herbs and combinations. The more you practice, the more confident you will become in your tincture-making abilities.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

To help you avoid common pitfalls, here are some mistakes to watch out for:

  • Using poor quality herbs: The quality of the herbs you use will directly affect the quality of your tincture. Always use fresh, high-quality herbs for the best results.
  • Skimping on alcohol: Using too little alcohol can result in a weak tincture. Make sure to use enough alcohol to cover the herbs completely.
  • Rushing the process: Tincture-making takes time, and rushing the process can result in a less effective remedy. Be patient and give the tincture time to steep.

Resources for Further Learning

There are many excellent resources available for those interested in learning more about herbal medicine and tincture-making. Some recommended resources include:

  • Books: There are many books available on herbal medicine and tincture-making, ranging from beginner to advanced levels. It will help you access expert insights on herbal combinations for making perfect tinctures. 
  • Online courses: Several online platforms offer courses on herbal medicine and tincture-making, allowing you to learn at your own pace.
  • Workshops and classes: Many communities offer workshops and classes on herbal medicine and tincture-making, providing hands-on experience and the opportunity to learn from experienced herbalists.


Q: Can I use dried herbs to make tinctures?

A: Yes, you can use dried herbs to make tinctures. In fact, dried herbs are often preferred because they are easier to work with and have a longer shelf life than fresh herbs. Just be sure to adjust the amount of alcohol used to account for the lack of water content in dried herbs.

Q: How long do herbal tinctures last?

A: Herbal tinctures have a long shelf life and can last for several years if stored in a cool, dark place. The alcohol acts as a preservative, helping to maintain the potency of the herbs over time. However, it’s best to use your tinctures within 1-2 years for maximum effectiveness.

Q: Can I make a tincture without alcohol?

A: Yes, you can make a tincture without alcohol by using glycerin or vinegar as a solvent. However, these alternatives may not be as effective at extracting the medicinal properties of the herbs. If you choose to use glycerin or vinegar, be sure to adjust the steeping time and dosage accordingly.

Q: How much tincture should I take?

A: The recommended dosage for herbal tinctures varies depending on the herb, the concentration of the tincture, and the individual’s age, weight, and health status. It’s best to consult with a healthcare professional or experienced herbalist for personalized advice. As a general guideline, most tinctures are taken in doses of 1-2 dropperfuls, 1-3 times per day.

Q: Can I use tinctures during pregnancy or while breastfeeding?

A: Some herbs are safe to use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, while others should be avoided. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before using any herbal remedy during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. They can help you determine which herbs are safe and what dosage is appropriate for your situation.

Final Thoughts:

Making herbal tinctures is a valuable skill that empowers you to take control of your health and wellness. With a little practice, patience, and knowledge, you can create personalized and effective herbal remedies that support your overall well-being. 

Remember to start with high-quality herbs, use the correct alcohol concentration, and allow enough time for the herbs to steep. As you gain experience, you can experiment with different herbs and combinations to create your own custom blends. 

Always consult with a healthcare professional before using any new herbal remedy, especially if you have a pre-existing health condition or are taking medication.

No matter what type of tincture you are planning to make, AURLeaf is the place to get all essentials from!

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