I thought I would share with you a recipe for an easy to make herbal tincture. An herbal tincture is an alcoholic extract of a plant. Some tinctures use other solvents, such as iodine or mecurochrome, but if you want to make something to be consumed you need to use a consumable solvent. Any alcohol concentration above 25 percent will work fine. If you want to avoid using alcohol as your solvent you could also use vegetable glycerine.
You can use practically any herb to make your tincture. I have used stevia, spearmint and basil before with good success. Today I made a tincture using the Vietnamese mint that has been growing like mad in my garden. If you want to learn more about growing this mint, you can read about it in my gardening blog post here.
From my garden I snipped off several stalks of the mint. If you do not have fresh herbs, you can used dry herbs as well.
Once I have collected the mint I set about snipping off the leaves. You can do this by hand, but fair warning – you will end up with brownish green stained fingernails. Having learned my lesson I used scissors today. I make sure to keep big pieces of stalk out of what I am gathering. The smaller ends of the plant and the stem part of the leaf are okay in this case. Some herbs like stevia have bitter stalks so removing them is important. For Vietnamese mint, the stalk is not bitter, but it also does not have a lot of taste, so less is better.
Once I have all my leaves gathered, I rinse them. Even though I garden organically I still want to make sure the leaves are clean. Just use a cold water rinse – don’t use any soap. If you like you can place all the leaves in a bowl of water. Any non-leaf debris or bugs (the bane of the organic garden) will float to the surface. Pick out any yellowing or obviously bug fouled leaves.
Next the leaves need to be dried. If you have a salad spinner that would be ideal. If not, you can do what I did and pat the leaves dry with a paper towel.
Next you want to crush the leaves in your hand. This can also help remove any excess water. You crush the leaves in order to release the volatile oils. You can also tear them a little by hand if you want. The point is, don’t be gentle with them.
Now I chop the leaves into smaller pieces making sure not to get them too small. If the leaves are overly small you will need to strain your finished product. With roughly chopped leaves I can use a simple funnel to remove the finished tincture. I prefer using a serrated knife because it seems to help bruise the leaves better.
The chopped leaves get stuffed into a small to medium sized jar.
A wide mouth type is best so you can more easily stuff in the leaves. Pack the leaves in tightly. Once the jar is full I use the wooden end of a spoon to more thoroughly tamp them down.
Now comes your solvent, in this case vodka.
Fill to just over the top of the leaves and then tamp it down once again.
When you are finished, your solvent should just cover the tops of the leaves.
Place a lid on your jar and store it in a dark place. Once a day, shake the jar. I usually also punch it a few times with my good old wooden spoon end. In 5 days this will yield a wonderful light and fresh tincture that has a mild mint taste and slight hint of lemon. A couple of drops of this tincture is incredible when added to a cold glass of water.
The alcohol content preserves the tincture, but if you want you can put the liquid in a pan over a very low heat and cook off the alcohol. If you do this be sure to store your tincture in the refrigerator and use it within a couple of months. If you allow you tincture to keep the alcohol content you can store it unrefrigerated practically indefinitely. The best way to store it is in a dark glass container as this prevents it from reacting to light which will diminish the tincture. An amber glass bottle with a glass dropper is a great way to keep your tincture ready to serve.