Alcohol is a better solvent than water for most plant constituents. A mixture of alcohol and water will dissolve nearly all the relevant ingredients of an herb and at the same time, and act as a preservative. The method given here for the preparation of tinctures describes a simple and general approach. For home use, an alcohol of at least 30% concentration (60 proof) will suffice, as this is about the weakest alcohol-water mixture that still provides a long-term preservative action. Vodka is usually a good choice, although other types of alcohol can also be used.
Pharmaceutical tinctures are alcoholic solutions prepared by maceration, digestion, or percolation. The term tincture is also occasionally used for preparations based on glycerin or vinegar. Ethanol offers the advantage of dissolving constituents that are insoluble or sparingly soluble in water while helping to preserve them in solution. A water-alcohol menstruum can extract a larger proportion of active principles of most plants than can water alone, but at the same time contains sufficient alcohol to prevent decomposition.
The proportion of drugs represented in the different kinds of tinctures is not uniform, but varies according to the established standards for each. Tinctures of potent drugs represent the activity of 10 gm. of a drug of minimum strength, in each 100 cc. of tincture. When drugs having a higher potency, than the minimum, are used in preparing tinctures the finished product is assayed and adjusted to the uniform strength. This conforms in principle to the recommendation of the International Protocol as adopted at Brussels, and with international standards. There are two important variables in tinctures: the concentration of the herb and the strength of the alcohol.
Concentration of Herb - The amount of herb in a given amount of menstruum defines the concentration of the extract. Most tinctures are in concentrations of 1:4 or 1:5. In the examples just given, the first number represents the weight of the herb and the second represents the volume of menstruum, so they express a ratio of weight to volume (w:v).
There are a number of ways to express concentrations. The expression percent may be used, according to circumstances, with one of four different meanings. In order that the meaning attached to the expression in each instance is clear, the following notations are used.
- Percent w/w (weight to weight): number of grams of active substance in 100 g of product
- Percent w/v (weight to volume): number of grams of active substance in 100 ml of product
- Percent v/w (volume to weight): number of milliliters of active substance in 100 g of product.
Strength of Alcohol - Alcohol can be used in concentrations of 45%, 60%, 70%, and 90%. In pharmacy, the expression "70% ethanol" describes a solution made up of 70 parts of 96.4% ethanol and 30 parts of water. As an example, "Tinctura calarni 1:5-70%" means that this tincture of Acorus calamus root was made by macerating 1 part of root (in weight) in 5 parts (by volume) of a 70% ethanol solution. The so-called mother tinctures used in homeopathy as the starting point for potentiation are usually prepared by bruising the fresh herb, expressing the juice, and adding 96% alcohol to the juice in an amount equal to one-third or one-half the volume of the fresh juice.
Fruit juice is considered a nutritional no-no, due to high-sugar and low-fiber ratios. But wait, don’t throw the idea out quite yet. Fruit Juice with herbals can be a powerful tool for the Heath Guardian. It has been shown that orange juice can help prevent inflammation, especially important in the chronology of chronic disease progression, inflammation is at first subclinical, often referred to as “silent inflammation.” This insidious inflammation remains below the threshold of clinical diagnosis. Cellular and tissue damage occurs in the body for years before being noticed. It is like a “smoldering” fire with a small whiff of smoke and heat being evident before it finally bursts into flame. Some refer to early chronic disease as a “smoldering disease."
Drinking a couple of glasses of orange juice prevents the inflammation that can be triggered by a high-fat meal. Lemonade thwarts kidney stones, and grape juice boosts brain function. Cranberry juice keeps your digestive system healthy, and prune juice helps with digestion. We shouldn’t forget the pomegranate juice packed with disease fighting antioxidants. The Health Guardian must remember, moderation in everything, and maintain a healthy balance. Fruit juices decidedly have a place in pathology prevention on a daily basis.
Prepare to be wowed. Look below and you’ll find an array of vegetables, herbs, spices, and edible flowers that are perfect candidates for infused water. (Kindly note, the suggested amounts of infusing ingredients listed are for only one ingredient at a time. If you want to infuse water with more than a single ingredient at a time, that’s fine, just cut back a touch on the amount of each ingredient.) As you buy your ingredients, it’s best to steer clear of anything that’s been sprayed with pesticide or herbicides since the chemicals, too, will infuse your water. That means buy organic or ask your local farmer if he uses such chemicals.
Mix medical and culinary herbs such as Anise hyssop, apple mint, basil, calendula, chamomile, chives, dill, lemon balm, lemongrass, lemon verbena, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, peppermint, rosemary, sage (pineapple sage makes a wonderful herbal infusion), spearmint, and thyme (especially lemon thyme) with vegetables to produce exciting and healthy infusions supporting the organ systems of your body.
All you do is place your choice of infusing vegetables in a large container. Add a teabag of desired medical herbals. Top off the water, secure the lid, and give the contents a good shake.
For intensely flavored infused water, place the container of water, herbs, and vegetables in full sun for 5 to 8 hours, depending on how robust a flavor you wish to achieve. The longer you let the ingredients steep, the more intense the flavor. (A glass container is ideal for doing a sun infusion, as the sun’s rays can best penetrate and warm such a vessel. Be warned that the water may take on some of the color of the infusing ingredient.)
For mildly flavored infused water, place the container of water in the refrigerator for 5 to 8 hours, depending on how robust a flavor you wish to achieve. The longer you let the ingredients steep, the more intense the flavor.
Straining isn’t necessary, although if desired, you can strain the water and toss the solids in the compost or the trash. Place the infused water in the refrigerator and use within a couple days.
Fluid medicines-whether infusions, decoctions, or tinctures--often have an unpleasant taste. Thus, it 's sometimes helpful to mask the taste by adding a sweetener. One method is to use a syrup, which is the traditional way to make cough mixtures more palatable for children or to make any herbal preparation more palatable.
To sweeten an infusion or decoction, it is simplest to add the sugar directly to the liquid. For every 1 pint of liquid, add ¾ pound of sugar. Heat gently until the sugar is dissolved. This mixture can be stored for future use in a refrigerator. Since it is not advisable to consume too much sugar, syrups are best used when making gargles and cough medicines, in which the herbs tend to be rather unpalatable.
Whenever the herbal material is hard and woody, making a decoction increases the likelihood that the soluble contents of the herb will actually be extracted into the water. Roots, rhizomes, wood, bark, nuts, and some seeds are hard and have strong cell walls, so to ensure an effective transfer of active constituents to the water, more heat is needed than for infusions.
Infusions are appropriate for softer plant tissue such as leaves, flowers, or green stems, where the desired substances are easily accessible. If an infusion is to be made of bark, roots, seeds, or resin, it is best to powder them first to break down some of the cell walls, which will facilitate extraction. Seeds-for instance, fennel or anise seed should be slightly bruised to release the volatile oils from the cells. All aromatic herbs should be infused in a pot with a tight-fitting lid to minimize loss of volatile oils.
In herbal infusions where the desired action is caused by the herb’s volatile oils, which are lost in boiling or hot water, warm or cold water infusions are used. The Health Guardian may combine the final drink with hot and cold infusions, along with cold down decoctions prepared by gently simmering woody plant parts in boiling water.
Besides water-based infusions, alcohol-based digestion plays an important part of the Health Guardian’s medicine cabinet. Many herbs require an alcohol-based digestion because their bio-active chemicals aren’t soluble in water, it’s not because minors are looking for a party. Digestion is a form of maceration that involves application of a gentle heat to the substance being extracted. It's used in cases which a moderately elevated temperature will help increase the solvent powers on the menstruum. Digestion is alcohol based. When combining infusions, it's rarely necessary to combine water-based infusions with alcohol-based digestion processes, but it can and has been done.
A problem that faces all that faces all formulators of medicines is the possibility that incompatibilities will be encountered. These fall into three broad categories. A therapeutic incompatibility· is defined as an undesirable pharmacological interaction between two or more ingredients that may potentiate the therapeutic effects of the ingredients, reduce the effectiveness of one or more of the ingredients, or cause toxicity in the patient. Physical incompatibility refers to a physical or chemical interaction between two or more ingredients that leads to a visibly recognizable change. The latter may occur in the form of a precipitate, haze, or color change. Chemical incompatibility is classified as a reaction in which an undesirable change occurs, but is not visible. Since there is no visible evidence of deterioration, recognizing this type of incompatibility requires some skill.
Physical incompatibilities can often be altered or avoided. A common problem is the generation of insoluble precipitates. For example, alcohol extracts precipitate dissolved constituents when mixed with water. Such problems can often be avoided by manipulating the solvent or by adding a suspending or protective agent. The specific remedies for such problems will vary according to the substances involved.
Change the order of mixing. Combining resin-rich tinctures and water commonly causes the resin to precipitate. One possible solution is to add the tincture slowly to cold water when mixing. However, with very resin rich tinctures, such as tincture of myrrh, it is impossible to avoid some precipitation of resin out of solution.
Change the total volume of the mixture. By simply adding more solvent, whether water or ethanol, the increased volume will provide more bulk for material to start in solution, in effect diluting the problematic constituent. The percentage of water or ethanol may be crucial, but the final outcome depends on the chemistry of the constituents in the extract.
Alter the solvents or add protective agents. Water dissolves gums, mucilage, and starch, but these are not miscible in alcohol. Alcohol dissolves most constituents. Often, the presence of alkaloids, glycosides, volatile oils, resins, or balsams in an herb necessitates the use of a higher percentage of alcohol in the extract to ensure that the constituents are extracted and will not precipitate when water is added. Glycerin can be added to replace part of the water component to decrease the chance of precipitation.
Make an emulsification or suspension with gums or syrup. For example, with acacia, do not add strong alcohol directly or the solution will "congeal." Instead, make a dilute mucilage and add alcohol slowly. This method may be used for resinous tinctures. With tragacanth, add tincture or liquid extract directly to powdered gum. Shake to mix. Water should be added in a proportion of 1 part of gum to 20 parts of water.
Chemical incompatibilities are more difficult to overcome, but rarely are an issue in phototherapy. Chemical interactions can produce precipitation of insoluble compounds. Alkaloids form salts with metallic ions, and thus, in theory, many potential incompatibilities are possible. However, all of these can be overcome by using a solution made up of 15% to 30% alcohol.