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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Herbalism: Making Tinctures ... pt 2 - Decanting

So, it's been 6 weeks since I posted the Part 1 of this segment ...

I have been quite diligent about making sure, during the first 2 weeks, to check and top up the alcohol as the dried herbs absorbed it AND to take the time to vigorously shake the jars every single day to keep the plant material from settling too much.

All together, as of this morning, I had six tinctures brewing:

  • Echinacea root - ready today
  • Peppermint leaf - ready today
  • Elder flower - ready today
  • Catnip leaf - ready April 2nd
  • Mullein leaf - ready April 8th
  • Lemon Balm leaf - ready April 22nd

Being that the Echinacea root Tincture got all the attention in Part 1, I'm going to put the majority of the focus on decanting the Elder flower and the Peppermint leaf Tinctures today.

This part is just about as easy as the first part was ... what you need:

Either a filter set up (like shown) or a muslin or jelly bag to strain the plant material.
Glass jars or bottles (sterilized) to pour the strained liquid into and use as Stock Bottles.
Dropper bottles to use as Working Bottles that you can refill from the stock bottles.
Labels for both the stock and the working bottles which will indicate
the contents ,date decanted, and the % of alcohol used. 
Normally, I would use the jelly bag to strain my plant materials but not every one can find them so this time I'm going to use regular, plain, old, unbleached coffee filters which have the additional benefit of being compostable right alongside the plant remains I'll be using them to filter.

Beginning with the Elder Flower Tincture: (you can click on the pictures to see a larger version)

Gather all materials together before you open the jar.

Getting ready to CAREFULLY pour the contents of the jar into the filter paper.
It's always wiser to work on pouring off as much of the fluid as you can and allow it time 

Waiting for the filter paper to do it's thing.

Ok .. I have to admit this is a sweet photo.
Catching the filtered tincture as it streams into the measuring cup.

This shot shows not only the Elder flowers in the filter waiting for me to squeeze
the last of the fluid out of them (carefully so as not to puncture the wet filter paper),
but it allows you to see the back of the label I made for the Stock Bottle where
the decant date and the alcohol % are shown.
When using the jelly bag to strain, you can really wring the daylights out of it to get every drop ... using a coffee filter, which is essentially a thick tissue paper when wet, you have to exercise caution and patience or you will rupture the thing and end up with a big mess as the insides are squeezed out into your tincture. If it happens, it's not the end of the world .. you simply have to restrain the tincture with a new coffee filter ... but it definitely makes more work.

I prefer using what most people will recognize as glass vinegar bottles because you can get them cheap at the dollar store, they can be sterilized by boiling or putting them through the dishwasher on the high heat setting, while the caps can be wiped with alcohol (the same alcohol you used in the tincture) to clear it of any bacteria that may be hiding on it. Glass is an inert substance and will not leech anything into the materials within it. It's a personal preference based on what I feel to be safest for myself and anyone to whom I may end up giving any of my herbal stuffs.

The handy built in spout in the vinegar bottle makes it a breeze to fill the dropper bottles ... allowing me to have far greater control over how fast and how much of the tincture pours into the working bottle and minimizing spillage due to my essential tremor (an auto-immune condition).

Peppermint leaf Tincture straining.

Echinacea root Tincture ready to pour in the Stock bottle.

You want to fill the working bottles from the stock ones and then make sure to label them clearly. While all 3 of the Tinctures I decanted today have a distinctly different colour and consistency to them ... once you start accumulating all sorts of them keeping dates, alcohol %'s and what the heck that one it straight will quickly become difficult. Clear labelling prevents all of this.

Finished Tinctures.
Stock bottles to go into the refrigerator while the working bottles are
cupboard bound.


  1. Well done, Llyn! I am suitable in awe! :) I know that was not your intent... but I am :) It's wonderful to see you following your hearts desire and thirst for knowledge! :D

  2. Is the % alcohol based on the original alcohol content of the vodka that you used for the tictures?

    1. Yes .. the higher the % of the alcohol, the lower the water content in it so an 80 proof alcohol would be 40% alcohol and 60% water vs a 100 proof with it's 50% in each. More alcohol content equals the longer it can be stored un-refrigerated (such as in a First-Aid kit or a bag/purse).