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Herbal Solvents and When to Use Them

Updated: Feb 8, 2023

Learning to make your own herbal remedies can be exciting and rewarding. But how do you know what solvent to use for your plants?

Part of learning about plants and their healing properties is learning what part you want from the plant and what solvent best achieves that goal.

Rose harvest
Rose harvest

The main solvents used in remedy making are alcohol, water, vinegar, glycerin and oil.

Water is most often used to extract vitamins, minerals, mucilage, polysaccharides, volatile oils, proteins, some alkaloids, and glycosides. Water is readily available but not very shelf stable. Water based preparations last between 36- 48 hours at room temperature before going off. Examples of water-based prep are teas, infusions nourishing herbal infusions and decoctions, which is reducing a tea by half by simmering it. Examples: Elderberry, Peppermint, Tulsi, Hawthorn berry

To learn how to make infusions and teas see my blog post here

Tulsi tea
Tulsi tea

Alcohol is used to best extract essential oils, resins, alkaloids, and glycosides. Alcohol tinctures can last 5 years or more and make good use of expensive or scarce plants as they are dosed by the drop. Examples, Echinacea, Motherwort, Dandelion root, Osha root

To learn how to make an alcohol tincture see my blog post here.

Osha root tincture
Osha root tincture

Vinegar extracts minerals very well and is often used for tonic preparations. Vinegar tinctures last 2-5 years. They can be used for internal or external uses.

Examples, Yellow dock root, Mugwort, Nettle

To learn how to make herbal vinegars see my blog post here

Rose vinegar
Rose vinegar

Glycerin is used to extract hormonal precursors, glycosides, and some volatile oils. Glycerin is sweet so children and sweet toothed adults usually do not object to taking these remedies. They last 2-4 years.

Examples: Rose, chamomile, lilac, lemon balm, violet flowers

Rose glycerin
Rose glycerin

Oils are used to extract fatty acids, terpenoids, waxes, and triglycerides.

These preparations last as long as the base oil lasts, from 3 months to 2 years.

Examples Calendula, Plantain, Comfrey, Dandelion flower, St John’s wort

To learn how to make an infused oil, see my blog post here

Calendula in olive oil
Calendula in olive oil

The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook, A home Manual James Green 2000

Healing Wise, Susun Weed 1989

The New Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way, Susun Weed, 2002

The information presented is provided for informational purposes only. It is not meant to substitute for medical advice or diagnosis provided by your physician or other medical professional. If you have, or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your physician or health care provider.

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