The Eclectic Physician
Dr. Beth Burch
How long herbal tinctures last.Q. How long do properly made and properly stored herbal tinctures last? I'm assuming brown or occluded glass, in dark cool storage, in highest alcohol content available. One source tells me two to three years; another tells me indefinitely. I would like to have a definitive guideline to go by.
Herbal tinctures. also known as alcohol-water extracts, provide very good extraction and preservation of herbs. Stored in brown glass, in a cool dark place they should be good for at least two or three years, and probably much longer. Alcohol strength should be selected by the particular plant being extracted. Plants that are high in polysaccharides need a lower alcohol percentage (30-40%), those high in alcohol soluble constituents need more alcohol (50-70%) and those high in resins need very high alcohol (90-95%). Alcohol content less than 25 % will not preserve herbs well nor inhibit the growth of bacteria. A few herbs do not last long even in alcohol extract- one that should be replaced yearly is shepherd's purse (Bursa capsella pastoris).
If you are making your own tinctures and using fresh plant material, be sure to account for the water content of the fresh herbs when calculating your alcohol percentage. Some plants can be up to 90% water and so fresh plant extracts will need higher alcohol to start.
If you are purchasing herb extracts, buy from a well known company. Herb Pharm, Wise Woman Herbals, Eclectic Institute, and Gaia Herbs all produce very high quality extracts utilizing excellent herbs and proper alcohol content. For the best results, buy only as much extract as you can use in a year or less and store it carefully.
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