Summer is here and if you are out gathering the bounty and getting ready to steep plants in oils and alcohol, there is an alternative to keep in mind.
Glycerine can be substituted when making alcohol tinctures.
Generally used when the finished product is for a child or pet, someone with diabetes or a sensitivity to alcohol or anyone who is just not a fan of putting alcohol in a body.
Start with a clean jar and your plant of choice.
This is St. John’s Wort. In full bloom just in time for summer solstice.
It has a long history as an option in the treatment of depression but as an MAO inhibitor should not be used with alcohol. There has also been research into its benefit for anxiety and OCD.
Begin by clipping the blossoms off the plant and filling the container you will be using.
Continue until the jar is full of gently compressed flowers.
Once the container is full, turn the contents out over a paper towel and allow any little critters to move off to a new home.
Alternately, it is possible to leave the plants out for 30 minutes so that the bugs can get away before snipping begins.
Which ever way you choose, ensure that the blossoms are dry ( choose a non rainy day and morning time to harvest) and that all life has departed before finishing up your jar of plant material.
Please keep in mind that the plan here was St. John’s Wort flowers. In some cases what goes into the bottle may be leaves and/or stems as well.
Fill the bottle with glycerine, making sure that the air bubbles are all released. Glycerin is thicker than alcohol so running a knife around the edge is helpful to gently aid the air in getting to the surface.
Label your container with plant name, date and solvent. It might look like a good idea to flip over the lid and use a marker but it is NOT.
Store is a cool dark place for six weeks. Somewhere nearby is helpful as stirring or tipping the container upside down to move the contents around is a good plan, several times each day for at least the first week.
Glycerin has a very stable shelf life, pulls out more water soluble constituents than alcohol. Like alcohol, it acts as a preservative.
It can also mask the sometimes bitter taste of some herbs, a bonus with children who can be more finicky around flavours they don’t like.
Please bear in mind that glycerin is also a mucosal irritant which is why it is found in suppositories. It stimulates bowl movements.
If the finished product is for someone with serious digestive issues or IBS , glycerine many not be the best option.
For those wondering about blood sugar reactions, glycerine reportedly has a low glycemic index and is under 30 calories per teasoon.
The cost of glycerin is higher than alcohol and the average shelf life of a glycerine tincture is 24 months tops, nowhere near alcohol but as mentioned there are reasons for choosing glycerin and it is always nice to have an alternative in your back pocket.
So the next time your travels take you down a country lane or just out to the garden, thank the plants for their life energy, gather ONLY what you need, leaving enough for the plant to recover and think about using glycerin in your next tincture batch.
As always, please use this information in a thoughful way and not as a substitute for a health care professional.
Additionally, when wildcrafting ensure that you are certain you have what you think you have.
If this is a new adventure, please gather with someone who has knowledge and skills before stepping out on your own.