Alchemy is the forerunner of modern chemistry. Popularly known for its Renaissance goals toward finding a universal elixir of life and of transmuting base metals into gold, varying versions of alchemy were practiced in many regions and time periods. Some of the equipment and glassware we use in chemistry labs today was originally developed by alchemists.
My primary interest in alchemy is the science that drives it. I have a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering, and with that degree came an appreciation for thermodynamics, transport phenomena, and quantum chemistry.
Tinctures are a simple project that can be safely produced at home. Using the following general steps, you can produce tinctures using whatever herbal materials are appropriate for your applications.
1. Fill a glass jar 1/3 to 1/2 with herbs (it’s best to chop or mash them first).
2. Fill the remainder of the jar with alcohol. It should be at least 80 proof ethanol. I like to use bottom shelf vodka. Note: You can also create tinctures using vegetable glycerine.
3. Place a lid on the jar and store it in a safe place for several weeks.
Note: The time required for the compounds within an herb to reach full separation will depend on the herb and its desired constituents. As a general rule of thumb, 4-6 weeks is typically adequate for most compounds.
4. Strain the mixture using a cheese cloth. Collect the alcohol mixture (tincture) in a separate container. This step removes the remaining herb matter from your tincture.
There is a lot of chemistry and physics at work when you produce a tincture. To learn more about what is happening during the process, please see my class handout on the science behind herbal tinctures – Alchemy Science: Herbal Tinctures