Herbal tinctures are relatively simply to make and are a convenient and easy way to use herbs. On the other hand, for instance, when making a decoction of a herb a pan and boiling water must be used and it takes around 30 minutes. This is because a decoction is a way of extracting the beneficial properties of hard bark or roots so it takes time. Even an infusion (herbal tea) must be prepared and left standing in the water from 15 to 20 minutes before you can drink it. If you need to take a remedy instantly because you are busy or too sick to prepare it tinctures are perfect; you simply add drops to water. They are also useful because you can carry them around wherever you go.
Echinacea is an extremely good herb to use in a tincture because it can improve the overall health no matter what the condition is because it supports the immune system, which is the body’s doctor and the part of us that fights sickness. If you are travelling you could take a small bottle in case of contracting a cold or flu virus, or developing a stomach bug for instance. When tackling a more major condition it can be used for 6-8 weeks then a 2 week absence from it is recommended.
The actions of this wonderful herb are: ‘antimicrobial, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, tonic, detoxicant, parasiticide, antibiotic (non-toxic), vasodilator, lymphatic. Does not act directly upon a virus but exerts an antiviral effect by stimulating an immune response. Raises white blood cell count and increases the body’s inherent powers of resistance. Has the power to stimulate ‘killer’ cells that resist foreign bacteria. T-cell activator. Vulnerary.’ (See Bartram, Bibliography)
Some of the conditions that you can treat with it are: boils, acne, abscesses, sore throat: streptococcal and staphylococcal infections generally. Ulcers of the tongue, mouth, gums, tonsils, throat (mouth wash gargle with tincture in water). Duodenal and gastric ulcer. Systematic Candida. Putrefaction and fermentation in the alimentary tract. Skin disorders: eczema. Infection of the fallopian tubes. Ill effects of vaccination.’ Generally it is a good tonic if you are run down.
To make your tincture you must first prepare the herb. You can use Echinacea dried or fresh; grind it to a course powder if it is dried and chop it finely if it is fresh. Around 50g of the herb is sufficient. You will need a pint (200ml) of good quality alcohol, Vodka or Brandy are fine, the stronger the better because it will be efficient at extracting the herb’s beneficial properties.
Simply place the herb in a wide necked glass container and then cover it with the alcohol. Give it a good shake and then place it in a warm, dark cupboard, an airing cupboard is perfect. Shake it once or twice daily and leave it for 4-6 weeks. There is no point leaving it for longer than 6 weeks because the herbs properties will have been absorbed into the alcohol by this point.
If you do not with to use alcohol for whatever reason, you can use Glycerin instead. ‘Glycerin, the sweet principle of oils, was discovered in 1789 and came into use in medicine and pharmacy around 1846. It is a liquid obtained by the hydrolysis of vegetable or animal fats or fixed oils.’
You can purchase dropper bottles with which to place your tincture when it is ready; amber is the best colour because it protects the herb from sunlight so will preserve its strength. To pour the tincture into your bottles a small funnel can be used, but first you will need to strain it through muslin cloth (3 or 4 layers preferably) placed over a sieve on a jug. Store your bottles in a dark cupboard. Tinctures will last for a long time, well over a year, or maybe longer because the alcohol acts as a preservative so there are several excellent benefits to making tinctures!
If you wish to learn more about Herbalism I recommend investing in a good herbal encyclopedia and a herbal manual. The ones below are excellent; extremely authoritative and extensive on the subject, while being easy to follow and understand.
‘Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine: The definitive guide to the herbal treatment of diseases’ by Thomas Bartram, Fellow of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists.
‘The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook: A home manual by James Green, Herbalist.