Which Herbs can be used to make Tinctures?
Any herb can be made into a Tincture, although it is better to use dried herbs rather than fresh, as fresh herbs contain a certain amount of water which will dilute the alcohol in the finished product.
If you do decide to use fresh herbs (and it is a personal choice) then the ratio of fresh herbs to dried are slightly different to the amounts used for Infusions and Decoctions. The ratio is twice as much of the weight of fresh herbs to dried.
The Middle Ages would have seen some Tinctures made from, or added to home-made wines, although the strength of the tincture would be diluted somewhat by the wine itself, this method would have been used as an easy way of getting the patient to drink what was good for them, and usually promoting sleep at the same time.
Wines were a staple in most cottages and households and would have included: Elderberry, Hawthorn, Elderflower, Bilberry, Birch sap, and a host of others that would have depended on what was in the locality, and what could be gleaned from the hedgerows and woodlands. These country wines have a great deal to recommend them as a healer in their own right, but a drop or two of Tincture added to a cup of wine would have meant the wine masked the taste of the Tinctures, which are usually quite bitter to the taste on their own. This was especially a good way of beginning the healing process where children were concerned, and many an ailing child would have been put to bed at night with a cup of wine and its included tincture, and the herbs would have done their medicinal work whilst the wine promoted sleep; sleep is a great healer in its own right. It has to be said that this method of dosing children, in particular, would not be promoted today; we don't recommend that children are given alcohol of any kind; a glycerine tincture is recommended for treating children for such ailments as a cough or a sore throat.
The Elderberry Tree is so useful in both Country Wines and Herbal Medications, that one of its old names is ‘The Medicine Tree’.
Diaphoretic (increases perspiration, especially useful when fever is present (
Anti-catarrhal (expressing or removing catarrh)
Expectorant (used to treat coughs)
Circulatory stimulant (stimulates the circulatory system)
Diuretic (increases the passing of urine)
Anti-inflammatory when used topically. (used for swellings and inflammations)
The Bark is:
Purgative, Emetic, Diuretic, and a Laxative (promoting the passing of urine and faeces, useful for treatment of constipation.)
The Leaves are:
Used externally as an Emollient (soothes the skin) and Vulnerary (healing wounds), and can be used internally as
a Purgative (strong laxative)
an Expectorant (used to treat coughs)
a Diuretic (promotes the passing of urine)
and a Diaphoretic. (Induces perspiration, useful when fever is present)
The Berries are:
A Diaphoretic (promoting perspiration)
A Diuretic (promoting the passing of urine)
And a Laxative (promoting the passing of faeces)
The Elderberry Tree is found all over Britain, and due to its habit of reproducing wherever a berry happens to fall, it is usually found in woodlands, and even in forests, the tree rapidly overtaking wherever it happens to grow.
Herbs for Tinctures
As is said above, any herb can be used to make Tinctures no matter what part of the herb is required, and again, dried herbs are the best in this instance. Another way of using herbs is to dry and pound them into a powder, if all you have is a mortar and pestle this can be a long job demanding strong arms, if you have a herb chopper with a decent motor, then it doesn’t take so long, but it is possible to buy herbs ready powdered from a good online supplier. Lots of people recommend that powdered herbs are best for making Tinctures, and I tend to agree with this. But if all you have are dried herbs chopped up small then this too can make a good Tincture.
Which Tinctures to make depend on your own choices and what you have found to work for you. As Tinctures can last up to two years, it is worth making enough to last a year and to store them in a dry dark cupboard. It’s usual to have a cupboard or a box where your herbs can be kept for when they are needed, a kind of First Aid box if you like.
Tinctures that may be useful keep on hand could include:
These are useful for productive coughs –
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra). This is the same licorice root that sweets are made from! Traditionally made in Pontefract in Yorkshire, where the famous Pontefract cakes are made!
White Horehound (Marubium vulgare)
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
Golden rod (Solidago virgaurea)
For an unproductive or dry cough-
Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis). Another herb root that is used to make sweets!
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Greater mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
For upper respiratory infections this herb is excellent, sometimes may be added the Liquorice and White Horehound to Wild Indigo to help relieve a productive cough. –
Wild Indigo (Baptisia tinctoria)
Useful for adding to a recipe for any cold or influenza and any kind of microbial infection.
Echinacea Echinacea purporea
For aches and pains –
White willow bark (salix alba)
Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemisa) very good for arthritic pain.
Useful when insomnia makes it difficult to sleep –
Hops (Humulus lupulus)
Passion flower (Passiflora incarnate)
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) Take care with Valerian, it can produce headaches if used for a long period of time, if affected stop taking it immediately.
For stings and insect bites –
Greater plantain (Plantago major)
Marigold (Calendula officinale)
Cuts and grazes –
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Comfrey (Sympohytum Officinale) Take care when using Comfrey to heal an open wound, this herb heals the skin so quickly it can trap infection inside if using Comfrey make sure the wound is clean before using it. Comfrey heals leaving very little scaring, as long as it used carefully it is an amazing skin healer.
The list above is not a finite list of herbs that can be used.
Tinctures are a useful Medication to have at hand. A Tincture can be used in many ways. Drops in a cup of hot water are easy to drink and give relief pretty quickly. Useful for coughs, colds, pain of any kind, digestive processes, etc. when taken internally. They can be added to Herbal teas and Infusions, and country wines.
Tinctures can be added to warm water for a wash on skin problems, very useful for eczema and rashes, and on cuts and grazes.
Tinctures can also be used in many of the topical Medications, which Oaken Glade covers in other of its Courses.
It is important that you find what works for you, and this takes a little experimentation, a matter of try it and see. This is where the Personal Herbal we talk about in the Oaken Glade Course ‘Infusions’, comes in handy, this is where all your personal experiments and the results can be written.