04 May 2016
Foundations of Medicine Making - Part 2
Herbal constituents can be released into and stored in various solutions such as water, oil, vinegar and alcohol. Some liquids (called menstruums in herbal medicine making) facilitate the release of different compounds and can be more or less effective depending on the plant and it's properties. Below are several different techniques for extracting herbs with alcohol from Ceara Foley's class at the 2016 Herbal Conference.
Generally, alcohol is a better menstruum than water for the complete extraction of plant constituents. Various ratios of water to alcohol will dissolve most all relevant ingredients of an herb while acting as a preservative. Tinctures can also be made with glycerin or vinegar although not with the best medicinal results for most herbs. I would use the menstruums for nutritional herbs or very mild tonics.
Art of the Wise Woman Method:
Use the appropriate amount of herb for the size of your jar. If using fresh herb, fill the jar moderately packed with finely cut or ground pieces. Cover the plant material with good quality vodka making sure all parts are covered well. Shake each day and allow to macerate for at least 2 weeks. Strain through cheesecloth. When using dried herb allow for rehydration as you select the proper size jar. Fill ½ to ¾ full with the smallest size plant material available and cover with good vodka. Good Slosh Factor. Continue as above for fresh. As tinctures are stronger than teas, the dosage will reflect this. The amount can range from 5 drops to 1 tsp. per dose depending on the herb and whether a chronic or acute condition is present.
Science of the Measured Method:
Fresh Plant Tincture. One part by weight of fresh, chopped herb is macerated for 7-14 days in 2 parts by volume of grain alcohol. 1:2 ratio weight to volume as in gram to milliliter. Strain and store in dark glass bottles (practically speaking, 1ml water weighs 1 gram).
Dry Plant Tincture. 1:5 ratio in various percentages of alcohol and water depending on the chemistry of the plant. Grind your plant material before weighing on a gram scale. If you have 200 grams of herb you multiply that by 5 to determine the volume amount of menstruum. (200g X 5= 1000ml) Next determine the strength of the menstrum. 60% solution means 60% grain alcohol and 40% water. Or in this example, 60% of 1000ml is 600ml. So you make a solution of 600ml alcohol and 400ml water. Pour this over the herb. Mix all together in a closed jar, shaking for a few minutes twice a day. After 10- 14 days, let it sit another day and settle out, then pouring the clear tincture from the top. Squeeze as much of the sediment (called marc) as your wrist or press will allow. The 20 ounces of solvent (menstrum) and 4 ounces of herb may yield up to 13-14oz. tincture (by wrist) and 17oz by press.
General Considerations for % of alcohol:
Alkaloids - 40%- 60%
Acids & Sugars - water soluble
Saponins - 60%- 70%
Glycosides - 35%- 60%
Tannins - water soluble
Mucilage - warm water soluble
Gums & Resins - 75%- 90%t