Tinctures are a way to support your health that is outside of the corporate, capitalist, pharmaceutical industry. As a person who has had some very bad experiences with western health care, and as someone who has totally annihilated my gut flora because of chronic strep throat and inappropriate prescription of antibiotics (wrong strains, wrong regimens, wrong application, etc), I prefer to make my own medicine.
Making natural medicine has caused me to look inward and tuned me into the state of my body. It has helped me gain a sense of empowerment and autonomy. That said, if I had an illness that required one-dimensional treatment like a terrible infection, acute pain, or surgery, of course I would take whatever treatments would be effective.
Remember that it is up to you to determine what works for you. Even when western medical doctors say it a treatment is imperative, remember that your body and life are your own and understand the consequences of your choices. If making natural medicine is something you think will empower you and help attune you to your body, all I can say is, I feel it works very well for me and have heard the same from many others. There is nothing like the intimacy of collecting your own plants for medicine , eating them for their nutritional healing properties, and studying them and preparing them for acute situations and ongoing support. I would argue that this is a spiritual connection that cannot be fostered through mainstream western medicine and if your ailment is spiritual, this process is what will heal you.
However, also remember that dogma can kill you - I don't recommend sticking to your guns for the simple principle of it. Be honest when you're in over your head and take help when it's helpful.
There is a wealth of information on the internet about making tinctures so it's easy to learn. However, before I delve into the process I want to mention a few things.
1) Make sure you understand your herb. Some herbs, like stinging nettle, are safe and helpful to take everyday while others like turkey tail are immune stimulators so may not be the right application for autoimmune disorders. If you are preparing a tincture of cottonwood buds for propolis, remember that it is antibacterial and behaves like an antibiotic so don't take this stuff everyday! Read up, share, study!
2) Ask Permission. This is the spiritual part of natural medicine and was taught to me by an Indigenous Warrior Woman. I didn't really understand how important it was until I noticed its effects. Medicines I have made from plants who came unwillingly have tasted ungodly, gone a strange black colour, or seemed less effective. Try to perceive the condition of the plants you are harvesting and ask their permission. If they scratch, make you feel paranoid, or fall apart this may be a sign to leave them be. If you need them I think the herb's generosity will abound.
3) If you are collecting your own herbs, make sure of their identification. I know a woman from wildcrafting school who thought she was making an Angelica tea for her cramps. Instead, she poisoned herself and nearly died because she made a decoction of poison water hemlock. If you're not a plant ID expert, be safe and grow your own herbs to harvest or purchase them from a trusted source.
4) Be mindful of botulism. This is really important. All the fuss about pop-top lids, acidity and salt levels, is all to prevent botulism sporulation. Here is information on botulism and how to safeguard against it when you are canning. For alcohol tinctures, remember that botulism can sporulate in a mark (the liquid used to extract the herb) that is under 25% ABV. Be mindful of this when using fresh herbs and fungi, as they contain water! To be entirely safe, if you're using fresh herbs, don't bother adding any water to your 40% alcohol.
And now, finally...
how to make an alcohol tincture
This is a basic recipe using 40% grain alcohol (vodka). For harder herbs with resinous constituents, a higher proof alcohol like Everclear could be useful, as could the application of heat in either a water decoction, or warm oil or glycerin extraction. Some extractions can even be made with vinegar because acid will pull out different things than heat, water (tea/decoction), fat (oil/glycerin), alcohol (vodka/everclear), or salt.
For now, let's keep it simple and do 3 tinctures with vodka and herbs that are in season right now: Turkey Tail Fungus, Stinging Nettle, and Cottonwood Buds (Propolis). I've done the measurements in ratios to fit into any container. I usually use small mason jars.
THE PROCESS varies but Step 1 is always the same: LABEL AND DATE IMMEDIATELY!
Step 2: Macerate
For fresh, leafy herbs like fresh nettles, you only need 48 hours to extract. Any longer and it could 'cook' your menstruum and that tastes yucky. For dried herb, roots, resinous buds (Cottonwood) or tough fungi like Turkey Tail, 8 weeks in a cool, dark place will do. Agitating daily will help the alcohol get into hard to reach places but don't sweat it if you forget.
Step 3: Strain
For fresh nettle tincture, strain your greens out after 48 hours and bottle in a dropper.
For dried Nettle, the Cottonwood Buds, and fresh/dried Turkey Tail, strain after 8-10 weeks into their applicators. I like Turkey Tail tincture in a dropper and Cottonwood Propolis in a spray bottle to spray onto sore throats or wounds.
Step 4: Label, Date, and Store
Label and Date your alcohol tinctures in their new applicator containers. Alcohol tinctures can stay viable for up to 6 years if stored in a cool, dark place.
This depends entirely on what you are trying to treat. I recommend a good herb book (not necessarily the internet) for this stuff.
My personal treatments involve:
-1 dropperful of nettle tincture daily for allergies and iron
-3 X dropperfulls of turkey tail for acute treatments of an immunity nature (feeling run down)
-2 spritzes, 3 X per day of my "throat spray" at the back of my mouth for sore throats. **Throat spray is a spray bottle filled with 35 ml of cottonwood tincture, 10 ml devil's club tincture, and 5 drops of wild oregano oil. Only use this one for acute treatment because it is antibiotic.