Have you been searching for an alternative to alcohol-based tinctures? Looking for a way to extract the benefits of herbs and preserve them? Maybe you like your medicine a little on the sweet side? Vegetable glycerine, the sweet principle of oils, was discovered in 1789 and came into use by medicine makers around 1846. This liquid is obtained by the hydrolysis of vegetable fats or fixed oils.
The food grade vegetable glycerine offered by Mountain Rose Herbs is certified organic and kosher, making it a great option. Sometimes referred to as glycerol, glycerine is a clear, colorless, and odorless liquid with an incredibly sweet taste having the consistency of thick syrup. Glycerine has been used as an ingredient in toothpaste, shampoos, soaps, herbal remedies, and other household items. Glycerine is also a great solvent for extracting constituents from plants without the use of alcohol. These extracts are known as “glycerites” and are an excellent choice for administering herbal support to pets, children, or people who are sensitive to alcohol for any reason. Glycerine is slightly antiseptic and has anti-fermentative properties that are efficient for preservation. A glycerite has a shelf life of 14-24 months, versus an alcohol extract with a shelf life of 4-6 years. When making a glycerite with dried herbs, it is common to use water to rehydrate the herbs and loosen up the botanical matter. Generally a mixture with 60% or more glycerin to 40% or less water is a safe ratio. To err on the side of safety, I go with a 75% glycerine to 25% water ratio. If you are working with fresh moist herb, you can go with 100% glycerine for your extract - just be sure to muddle well.
Directions for making your own alcohol-free herbal glycerites:
- Fill a mason jar ½ way with dried herb (2/3 way full with fresh herb). Chop dried herb well before mixing with menstruum.
- In a separate jar, mix 3 parts organic Vegetable Glycerine and 1 part distilled water. Shake to combine.
- Pour liquid mixture over the herb and completely cover to fill the jar.
- Label container with date, ratio of glycerine to water, and herbs used.
- Agitate daily for 4-6 weeks.
- Strain with cheesecloth, bottle, label!
- Note: If you used a fine powder you may need to double filter, and even filter through a coffee filter to ensure that no botanical material remains in your glycerite.
Wondering which herbs to try first? Here's a list of herbs recommended for glycerite preparation from herbalist James Green's Herbal Medicine Maker's Handbook:
Enjoy your alcohol-free extract!