Herbal tinctures are filtered liquid extractions that allow you to consume condensed amounts of herbal nutrients by mouth. They are created by soaking large quantities of herbs in a liquid for a relatively long time to absorb the herbal ingredients. The concoction is then strained to remove the solid herbs, leaving the tincture liquid for consumption.
A tincture can be thought of as a more potent infusion, in which the ratio of herbal ingredients is higher than in a traditional tea or infusion. The herbs for tinctures are normally selected for their nutritional or healing properties, and the liquid used to create the tincture is usually some kind of alcoholic spirit.
But many people would like to avoid alcohol, either because the tincture may be consumed by children, or for other personal reasons. Perhaps the taste of alcohol is unpleasant to you, or perhaps consumption of alcohol is against your principles. Or perhaps alcoholic spirits are not available legally in your community.
Fortunately, not all tinctures need to be made with alcoholic spirits. It is quite possible to make tinctures with apple cider vinegar instead, avoiding any problems that arise from using an alcohol base.
Pros and Cons of Vinegar Tinctures
As a method for delivering the medicinal value of herbs into your body, vinegar tinctures offer exactly the same value as alcohol-based tinctures. The speed with which the herbal ingredients reach your bloodstream is exactly the same as when the same herbs are ingested through an alcohol-based tincture.
There are even a few advantages to vinegar tinctures. For example, a vinegar tincture can be safely given to children who should not consume alcohol. Nor is there any conflict for individuals who choose not to consume alcohol because of chemical dependency or moral issues. Herbal tinctures with a vinegar base also have a broader range of use than alcohol-based tinctures—you can use them as a dressing over cooked greens or salads, for example. A vinegar tincture mixed with honey or maple syrup, then heated in a pan until slightly thickened, can be poured over roasted vegetables to add immunity-boosting micronutrients to this delightful winter dish.
A vinegar tincture can also work well as a base for a hot drink for children or grownups battling ordinary colds. Combine one tablespoon of your favorite vinegar tincture (such as goldenrod and vinegar) and a tablespoon of raw honey into a mug. Fill it with steaming hot (but not boiling) water. Stir and consume by slowly sipping. This is a wonderfully tasty way to help your loved one feel better.
There are also a few disadvantages of vinegar as a base for herbal tinctures. Vinegar tinctures have a much shorter shelf life than alcohol tinctures. While an alcohol tincture can be stored for several years without spoiling, a vinegar tincture has a much shorter shelf life—about one year, at most. Vinegar tinctures are also typically less potent than alcohol tinctures, meaning that you'll need to consume more to get the same amount of herbal ingredients into your body.
Making a Vinegar Tincture
It is quite easy to make an herbal tincture using vinegar as a base, though it will take some time. The mixture will need to be stored for about two weeks while the vinegar absorbs the nutrients from the herbs and is ready to be strained and stored.
You will need:
- Dried herbs
- Glass container with a tight-sealing lid (quart- or gallon-sized jar)
- Apple cider vinegar
- Kitchen strainer or cheesecloth
- Stopper bottles
Here's how to do it:
- Fill the glass container full of dried herbs
- Pour apple cider vinegar over the herbs, until they are completely submerged.
- Cap the container tightly. Label your tincture with the contents and the date you started.
- Store the container in a cool, dark place. Each day, shake the bottle to agitate the contents.
- After two weeks, pour the solution into stopper bottles, straining it through a kitchen strainer or cheesecloth to remove bits of dried herb. You don't need to strain all the tincture at once; you can strain just enough to fill one or two stopper bottles, leaving the rest in the jar to use as you need more.
- Store the stopper bottles in a cool, dark place until you need them.
- Use raw apple cider vinegar if at all possible. If not available, use apple cider vinegar that still contains the mother—the beneficial bacteria that allows for fermentation.
- Do not use white vinegar.
- Use dry herbs only, not fresh.
- Vinegar tinctures have a one-year shelf life. After this time, discard the old tincture and create a fresh tincture.