The healing power of plants has slowly been making its way back into our lives. We have come full circle as people are seeing positive results by using plants for home and medicinal purposes. Herbal preparations all have one thing in common; their foundation sits on plant material. Our ancestors used a combination of tinctures, tonics and infusions to heal every day wounds and serious diseases. There are a few methods of making natural remedies, so what are they and what are their differences?
Tinctures use raw plant material that is soaked in a solvent such as alcohol or glycerin. The soaking time varies anywhere from 3-12 weeks. The plant material is filtered out and what is left is a tincture of some of the plants therapeutic properties. Tinctures can be used topically or taken internally depending on the plant and the condition. Alcohol tinctures have a very long shelf life if they are stored properly, and you don’t need a lot of plant material to make them. The downside of tinctures is that most of them are made with alcohol. Glycerin tinctures work well but the shelf life is much shorter.
The term “tonic” refers to the action of tonifying the body. Tonics use a combination of herbs that are primarily created with an organ system in mind. They are made to help strengthen, nourish and bring energy to certain areas of the body. Tonics are made by soaking herbs in boiling water for 10 or more hours prior to drinking. You can also use apple cider vinegar, bone broth, wine, or honey. Tinctures and infusions can also be made into tonics.
Infusions are similar to tinctures except the plant material is submerged in a lipid such as oil or wax instead of alcohol. The two methods to infusing oil are either with heat or without. Cold infusions use sunlight to extract the properties of the plant over a long period of time (anywhere from 1-4 months). Hot infusions involve heat over the stove at low temperatures. The sunlight and heat pull out the therapeutic properties of the plant. Infused oil is primarily used for topical applications.
If you are looking for an informative book about tinctures, tonics and infusions, Rosemary Gladstar’s book “Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health” is a good one.