Even in a small, potted herb garden you often end up with more herbs than you can use. There are many different ways to preserve your herbs, from drying them for cooking to making teas and tinctures. Definitely save some dried herbs for winter cooking, but what you do have left over you can turn into medicinal tinctures.
Tinctures are herbal extracts that harvest the herb’s medicinal properties. All you need to make one is fresh herbs and pure grain alcohol. Vodka works really well, but many use white rum to help disguise the flavor of bitter herbs.
The tincture I describe here is not medicinal grade quality — meaning, it was not made in a lab with a promised potency per dropperful of liquid — but that does not mean that a homemade tincture is not useful or powerful. People have been making home remedies for centuries and it is wasteful to not make use of these powerful plants we have right in our backyard.
NOTE: Make sure you research the herbs/ plants in your garden before using them for medicinal purposes. Don’t underestimate the power of plants. Some can only be taken internally, while others should never be ingested. Some plants in your garden may even be deadly, i.e. foxglove. Most common household herbs are perfectly fine for consumption, but it still is important to do your homework first. A great reference book is Vegetables, Herbs, and Fruit: An Illustrated Encyclopdia.
How to Make an Herbal Tincture
fresh herbs (enough to fill 3/4 of your jar)
vodka or white rum
kitchen scissors or knife
large square of muslin fabric
1. Thoroughly wash herbs in clean, filtered water. Roughly chop herbs with knife or kitchen scissors and fill mason jar 3/4 full.
2. Fill jar 1/8 full with filtered water. Fill the rest of the jar with the alcohol, leaving 1 inch head space. Seal jar with lid and gently shake to combine all ingredients.
3. Set jar in a dark cabinet for 6 weeks or up to 2 months. To strain tincture, pour liquid through a sterile muslin cloth (boil in water for 10 minutes before using). This will ensure that no herb or dirt residue is left over. Funnel tincture into tightly sealed jars. Amber colored jars with droppers work best, but if you only have clear mason jars make sure to store them in a dark cabinet away from UV rays. Be sure to purchase a dropper though. Tinctures are taken in small quantities, i.e. 20-40 drops.
Enjoy learning about ways to preserve your herb garden! There’s nothing more exciting than using natural means to heal our bodies. Start stocking up that medicine cabinet for winter!