Glycerin Extraction Tinctures

Glycerin-based tinctures, also known as glycerites, are herbal preparations that use glycerin as the main solvent for extracting beneficial compounds from herbs. Glycerin, also known as glycerol, is a clear, odorless liquid that has a sweet taste. It is a sugar alcohol derived from plant oils or animal fats.

Glycerites offer an alcohol-free alternative to traditional tinctures that use ethanol as the solvent. They have become popular for people who want to avoid alcohol, including children, pregnant women, and those with alcohol sensitivities. Glycerin has demulcent, soothing properties that can enhance the benefits of certain herbs.

Benefits of Glycerin Tinctures

There are several advantages that glycerin-extracted tinctures have over alcohol-based versions:

  • Alcohol-free: Glycerin provides an option for people who cannot or prefer not to ingest alcohol. Pregnant/nursing women, children, and those with medical conditions may benefit from alcohol-free preparations.
  • Pleasant taste: Glycerin has a naturally sweet flavor that masks strong or unpleasant herb tastes better than alcohol. This makes glycerites more palatable, especially for kids.
  • Added therapeutic value: Glycerin has demulcent properties which can coat and soothe mucous membranes. This enhances the effects of herbs used for respiratory, digestive, or urinary tract issues.
  • Versatile uses: Glycerites can be taken internally or applied topically. The glycerin allows for easy absorption through skin or mucus membranes.
  • Lower alcohol content: Adding some alcohol to a glycerite can help extraction. Even a small amount of alcohol enhances solubility without the negative effects of high concentrations.
  • Longer shelf-life: Glycerin’s anti-microbial properties allow glycerites to last longer than traditional tinctures. When properly stored, they can remain viable for 2-3 years.

How Glycerin Extracts Herbs

Glycerin is an effective solvent for extracting herbs. Here’s how it works:

  • As a polyol, glycerin can both hydrogen bond with water and dissolve nonpolar compounds. This allows it to extract a wide range of plant components.
  • Glycerin absorbs moisture from plant cells, causing them to swell and release their contents.
  • It extracts plant constituents through osmosis, gently pulling components across cell membranes without damaging them.
  • The low toxicity of glycerin maintains the bioactivity of delicate plant compounds during extraction.
  • Glycerin has a high boiling point, allowing extractions to occur at higher temperatures and increasing solubility.
  • It is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture from the air. This keeps plant materials hydrated during the extraction process.
  • Glycerin is an emollient that softens plant cell walls, allowing better penetration and dissolving of herbal constituents.

How to Make a Glycerin Tincture

Making glycerite tinctures at home is a simple process. Here are the basic steps:

Ingredients/Equipment Needed

  • Herbs – dried, powdered or cut
  • Vegetable glycerin – food-grade, organic recommended
  • Glass jars with tight-fitting lids – 1 pint or 1 quart size
  • Cheesecloth, fine mesh strainer, or muslin bags
  • Label and pen

Procedure

  1. Gather your ingredients. For dried herbs, a 1:5 ratio is commonly used (1 part herb to 5 parts glycerin).
  2. Fill your jar about 2/3 full with the dried herbs. For fresh herbs, lightly pack the jar full.
  3. Pour glycerin over the herbs until jar is full. Stir or shake to remove air bubbles. Make sure herbs are completely covered.
  4. Cap the jar tightly. Store in a cool, dark place for 4-6 weeks, shaking occasionally.
  5. After infusion period, strain herbs through a cheesecloth or mesh strainer. Press herbs to extract all liquid.
  6. Transfer finished glycerite to storage containers. Label with contents and date.
  7. Store in a cool location away from sunlight. Glycerites can keep for 2-3 years when properly stored.

Tips for Making Glycerites

  • Optimal strength is achieved between 4-6 weeks infusion time. Longer may lead to sedimentation.
  • Adding a bit of vodka or rum (10-20% of total volume) can help extraction.
  • Warming the glycerin before adding herbs can increase solubility. Don’t boil or overheat.
  • Powdering or crushing herbs can maximize extraction but may increase sediment.
  • Shake jar daily during first 2 weeks to properly mix and saturate plant material.
  • Strain while glycerite is warm through muslin or a jelly bag for clearer end product.
  • Adding 5-15% water can help extract water-soluble compounds like polysaccharides.

Choosing Herbs for Glycerites

Most herbs can be used to make glycerin tinctures. Some good choices include:

Respiratory herbs: Mullein, coltsfoot, plantain, licorice, marshmallow

Digestive aids: Peppermint, ginger, fennel, chamomile, meadowsweet

Women’s health: Red raspberry, cramp bark, black cohosh, chasteberry

Stress relievers: Lemon balm, passionflower, hops, kava kava, valerian

Immune boosters: Echinacea, elderberry, oregano, thyme, garlic

Topical remedies: Calendula, comfrey, chickweed, St. John’s wort, lavender

Avoid using herbs that are extremely bitter like gentian or goldenseal. The glycerin does not mask unpleasant flavors well.

How to Take Glycerin Tinctures

Glycerites are taken by mouth, added to foods and beverages, or applied topically. Here are some recommended dosages and uses:

  • Adults take 1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon 2-3 times daily depending on the herb and your needs.
  • For children age 6-12, use 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon 1-2 times daily. Reduce further for younger kids.
  • Add glycerites to tea, water, juice, smoothies, or food for easier ingestion. The glycerin mixes well.
  • For acute issues, take doses every 1-2 hours until symptoms improve. For chronic conditions, a more long-term regimen is needed. Always follow herb dosages.
  • For skin conditions, apply glycerites diluted in water or unscented lotion. Start with 20% glycerite mixed with 80% water/lotion and increase strength as needed.
  • Use caution when taking glycerites internally long-term or giving to very young children. Consult an herbalist or naturopath for guidance.

Benefits and Uses of Specific Herbal Glycerites

Glycerin tinctures can be made with hundreds of different herbs. Here are some of the most common and beneficial glycerites:

Chamomile Glycerite

Chamomile is soothing for the nervous system and digestive tract. Its glycerite can help with:

  • Anxiety, irritability, and insomnia
  • Upset stomach, indigestion, and acid reflux
  • Colic, gas, and diarrhea in infants and children

Dose: 1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon up to 3 times daily. Safe for all ages.

Peppermint Glycerite

Peppermint is a minty digestive aid. The glycerite is used for:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and motion sickness
  • Irritable bowel syndrome and gas pains
  • Headaches, muscle tension, and topical pain relief

Dose: 1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon as needed. Avoid large doses in acid reflux or gallbladder issues.

Elderberry Glycerite

Elderberry boosts immune function and fights viruses. It can help with:

  • Preventing and shortening duration of colds and flu
  • Soothing sore throats and coughs
  • Reducing fevers and congestion

Dose: 1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon 2-3 times daily during illness. Safe for most ages.

Calendula Glycerite

Calendula has antimicrobial and wound healing properties. The glycerite can:

  • Speed healing of cuts, burns, scrapes, blisters and rashes
  • Ease skin irritation and inflammation from eczema, dermatitis
  • Be used as a facial toner and cleanser for acne-prone skin

For topical use, dilute to 25% strength or less. Test skin sensitivity first.

Lavender Glycerite

Lavender is calming and promotes sleep. Its glycerite helps with:

  • Anxiety, depression, irritability, and nervous exhaustion
  • Insomnia and trouble falling asleep
  • Headaches, muscle aches, and cramps from tension
  • Topical burns, antiseptic

Dose: 1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon as needed for internal use. Dilute for topical use. Avoid large doses in pregnancy.

Common Questions/Answers about Glycerites

Can you use vegetable or coconut glycerin?

Yes, both will extract herbs effectively. Vegetable glycerin has a cleaner taste. Coconut glycerin adds its own flavor.

What is the shelf life of glycerin tinctures?

About 2-3 years when properly stored in a cool, dark place. Refrigeration can extend shelf-life further.

Do you need to add any alcohol to glycerites?

A small amount of vodka or rum (10-20%) improves extraction but is not mandatory to make glycerites.

Can glycerin go bad or spoil?

Pure glycerin does not go rancid or spoil. However, contamination could occur if using impure glycerin or poor extraction hygiene. Discard if any mold, changes in smell or consistency.

What is the difference between a glycerite and a glycerin extract?

They are the same thing – herbal preparations using glycerin as the solvent. Glycerite is the more common term.

Conclusion

Glycerin-extracted herbal tinctures provide an effective alternative to alcohol-based extracts. The glycerin pulls out key plant compounds while offering its own therapeutic benefits. Glycerites are safe and easy to make at home using simple instructions. They offer versatility in administration for internal or topical use. Herbal glycerites can provide natural relief for a wide range of health conditions for all ages.