Making Glycerin Tinctures, simply 2


Homemade Glycerites

Now that you know what a tincture is, we can move on to how to make them, specifically glycerin tinctures. We’ll start with the simplest method for a beginner, which involves none to minimal measuring. For this you can use either dried or fresh herbs. Good glycerin tinctures to have on hand for kids include – Catnip, Rose, Echinacea, Fennel, Lemon Balm, Elderberry and more.

The Lemon Balm patch in the garden.

The Lemon Balm patch in the garden.

We’ll start with a glycerin tincture made with fresh Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis). Lemon Balm is easy to grow, in fact, it loves to spread and can easily take over the garden. It is a pretty and gentle looking plant with light to dark green leaves (leaf colour can vary depending on the climate) and deeply wrinkled, tender leaves. Typical of plants of the mint family, Lemon Balm has a square stem and tiny yellow to white flowers grow where the leaves meet the stem. Pick and crush the leaves of Lemon Balm and you can take in the delicious lemony scent of the plant.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) leaf.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) leaf.

Lemon Balm is a relaxing herb which is calming and anti-septic. The volatile oils present in Lemon Balm have an anti-spasmodic and relaxing effect on the stomach and nervous system, which makes Lemon Balm Glycerite an excellent herbal remedy for tired, overexcited kids. Lemon Balm is also mildly sedative and can be used for restless children to help them get to sleep. This is especially helpful when overexcitement is accompanied by upset stomach, for example after birthday parties and other indulgent holidays! Catnip is also an excellent herb to choose for the same purposes.

What you need:
Glass canning jar with tight fitting lid
Fresh picked Lemon Balm, washed and slightly wilted
Vegetable Glycerin
Cheesecloth (or Muslin cloth or old, clean t-shirt)
Spatula
Measuring Cup
Strainer/Colander

Herbs rich on volatile (aromatic) oils like Lemon Balm are best picked on a warm sunny day. The warmth of the sun draws out the volatile oils and gives you slightly more potent plant material to work with. I prefer to pick plants during the mid to late morning, but you can pick them in the afternoon as well. Especially when you are just learning, it is good not to get too fussy about how its done. Once you get the steps of making a tincture down, you can begin to refine and personalize your process.

So, pick your Lemon Balm by snipping each stem off either a few inches from the ground or just above a spot where the plant branches out. Lemon Balm is optimally harvested when in flower, but you can harvest it at any time of the growing season. Take your Lemon Balm inside and rinse it well. You can shake off the excess water if you want. With some plants I spin them in a salad spinner to remove excess moisture.

Another shot of Lemon Balm in the garden.

Another shot of Lemon Balm in the garden.

Now you can lay out your Lemon Balm to dry or wilt slightly. Pick a spot where it will not be disturbed and out of direct sunlight. Allowing the plant material to wilt slightly ensures that you will not have too much water in your tincture. A few hours is a good amount of time between harvesting and tincturing. The amount of water in your plant material will vary depending on the plant and the weather conditions prior to and at the time of harvest. Plants harvested when conditions are wet will have more moisture.

Picking the leaves off of the stem.

Picking the leaves off of the stem.

After you have left the plant material to wilt for a short time, you are ready to prepare the material for tincturing. To do this, you simply cut or pull it into smaller pieces. Some even like to mix the glycerin and herbs up in a blender, the theory being that the finer the herbs are broken up, the more medicine you can extract from them. But you can use the method you like best.

Cutting the plant up with scissors.

Cutting the plant up with scissors.

Once your plant material is cut up, put it in a canning jar. You should be able to loosely fill up the canning jar with the plant material. I like to pack it in a little bit, but not too much as then you won’t have enough room for the glycerin. Now, pour in the glycerin until the jar is filled to the top. You can run a a spatula down the side of the jar to release the air pockets and make more room for the glycerin.

Running a spatula down the sides of the jar releases air pockets caught in there.

Running a spatula down the sides of the jar releases air pockets caught in there.

Although the glycerin is thick and sticky, your final tincture will be a little thinner and easier to manage. This is because while the tincture is soaking it will draw out some of the water from the plant material and thin out the glycerin. Tightly fasten the lid to the top and then store your jar of herbs and glycerin in a cool dark place. You can shake up your jar everyday, this helps the process of extracting the medicine from the herbs.

after running a spatula down the sides, add more glycerin until it reaches nearly the top of the jar.

after running a spatula down the sides, add more glycerin until it reaches nearly the top of the jar.

Always label the jars of herbs you are tincturing! If you are making just one tincture, it may be easy to remember what it is. If you are making more than one, a label on the jar will help you remember which herb is in the jar, when it was started and when you can finish the tincture. When I make a tincture where I carefully measure out the ingredients, I also include all the necessary information on the label about how the tincture was measured….. But we’ll cover that in future posts. You should allow your tincture to steep for at least two weeks.

the jar of the soaking glycerin tincture is clearly labelled, including the packing date and the earliest date to strain and complete it.

the jar of the soaking glycerin tincture is clearly labelled, including the packing date and the earliest date to strain and complete it.

OK! Flash forward and two to three weeks have passed since we started our Lemon Balm glycerin tincture. Now we are ready to finish and use it!

On a clean, clear working surface, set up a measuring cup (or bowl) large enough to hold all of your tincture. Place a strainer or colander on top of that and line it with muslin of cheesecloth. Shake up your jar of herb and glycerin mixture, then open the lid and carefully pour it into the lined strainer. You can use a spatula to help you “dig” out the material. Be careful not to dump it all out at once as this is a good way to spill some and loose your tincture.

Once all the mixture is in the lined strainer, let the liquid drip through to the measuring cup or bowl. When it slows down to just a drip, you can gather up the sides of the muslin or cheesecloth and wring and squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible.

We’re done! You now have a Lemon Balm Glycerin Tincture! At this point I will often gently warm the liquid and strain it through a coffee filter. You can do this is you wish; it just ensures that you have strained out all of the plant material. I do this for all tinctures I use in my practice.

Pour your finished tincture into a clean, sterilized jar. If you have small bottles with an eye dropper, that is ideal, but certainly not necessary.

Thanks for joining us! Was this post helpful? Do you feel you could make your own glycerin tincture at home? Do you have any questions?

We will also soon post info about how to make tinctures using a more precisely measured method.

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