How to Make Homemade Herbal Extracts
An herbal extract is an herb that has had it’s medicinal components extracted into a medium of water, alcohol, wine, vinegar, oil, glycerin or honey. Herbal extracts are also called infusions, decoctions, tinctures, liniments, etc. The name given to the herbal extract is determined by the medium used. An herbal extract made with water as the medium is often called an herbal tea, herbal infusion or herbal decoction. An herbal extract made with vinegar or alcohol is often called an herbal tincture. An herbal extract made with oil is often called an herbal oil infusion. Regardless of what the extract is called, there are 3 key steps to making all homemade extracts: maceration, extraction and storage.
Maceration is the step where the herb is ground or chopped. This can be done when the herb is in its fresh or dried form. The herb can be chopped using a spice mill, a coffee grinder, a blender, a food processor, or more traditionally a mortar and pestle. The key to this step is to remember that the more finely chopped the herb is the more surface area is exposed and the more effective the extraction will be in the next step.
In this step the herb is placed in the medium in which it is to be extracted. It is generally left for a period of time to steep in the medium and release it’s medicinal components. A tea extract using water takes only minutes. A tincture extract with alcohol can take weeks. After extracts have been prepared, the herb is generally strained from the medium using cheesecloth, a colander, strainer, or other device to remove the herb.
Storing the Homemade Herbal Extract
Storage of extracts vary depending on the medium used, but some general rules do apply. Herbal extracts are best kept in dark bottles or in dark places where they are protected from sunlight. Herbal extracts should be stored in glass bottles, not plastic or metal and should be tightly sealed to prevent exposure to air and contaminants. Herbal extracts should always be labeled with the herb, type of extraction and date of preparation.