Many plants have great qualities for use with everything from medicinal purposes, to scenting candles and soaps, to flavoring foods, to making rooms and clothing smell good. If you’ve looked at the price of essential oils or tinctures, though, you’ve probably noticed that they tend to be quite expensive. Part of the cost has to do with how the active ingredients are removed from the plants. Without going into details about the different ways this is done commercially, you can save a substantial amount of money by making your own essential oils and tinctures. It isn’t even particularly hard to do.
The difference between essential oils and tinctures
While it isn’t true in all circumstances, essential oils are normally used outside of the body and tinctures are most often taken internally. Technically, the difference between the two is that essential oils have an oil base and tinctures have an alcohol base or more rarely, a water base.
Although some plants shouldn’t be consumed, I make it a point to make sure that the essential oils that I make are edible. That is, I won’t make the oils out of plants that are dangerous to swallow. That doesn’t mean that the essential oil will always be great to eat, but it does mean that they won’t normally be dangerous if they are consumed. Because of that, the oil base that I use is olive oil. It doesn’t need to be high quality virgin or extra virgin olive oil. Less expensive olive oil tends to work fine.
For alcohol base, vodka or grain alcohol are normally used. Again, it needs to be the kind of alcohol that can be swallowed. Do not use isopropyl or rubbing alcohol. If water is used, it is best to use purified water. I’m not covering the water base here, simply because if it is water based, it is actually an infusion rather than a tincture.
Making essential oils
To make an essential oil, a quantity of a plant is put into a pot, covered with the olive oil and then usually gently heated. Since heating often removes the active substances, you shouldn’t allow the oil to boil. Many people don’t use heat at all, though it often takes substantially longer to make the essential oil. If no heat is used, the steps are the same as for making tinctures. The only difference is in the base that is used.
To explain how to use mild heat, I’ll give an example of making peppermint essential oil. Different plants will vary in potency, but the steps are the same.
Place two cups of fresh peppermint leaves in a small pot and add just enough olive oil to barely cover the leaves. This will usually be somewhat less than two cups. Heat the mixture over very low or simmer heat, stirring the oil every ten minutes. ‘Cook’ the mixture one to two hours, then remove it from the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, strain out the oil using a filter or cheesecloth. What you are straining out is the homemade essential oil. It should be put in small, preferably dark-colored bottles with tight-fitting lids. Be sure to label the bottle and date it so you know when the essential oil was made.
The oil should be kept in a cool, dark place with the jar tightly capped. This retains the active ingredients longer. Also note that you can make stronger essential oils by going through the process several times, using the same oil but discarding the used plants and replacing them with fresh ones.
A tincture is even easier to make, though it takes a lot longer. To make it, put the chopped plant in a jar and pour alcohol over the top until the plant material is covered. Cap the jar and simply shake the jar a couple of times per day, for two to three weeks, then strain out the plant. That is basically all there is to making a tincture, though depending on what plant you are using, you may want to mash the plant rather than chopping it.
For example, to make garlic tincture, it is best to mash the garlic bulbs to release more of the juices that are captured by the alcohol.
There are, of course, variations. The ‘hot sauce’ that is bought in the store is nothing but a tincture of hot peppers in a vinegar base, rather than an alcohol one.
Making your own oils and tinctures saves a great deal of money. They may not be quite as potent as commercial versions that often use extracts to make them, but the savings in money can make it very worthwhile to make your own. Of course, not everyone wants to go to the effort or they might not have access to the fresh plants. For this reason, essential oils are sold in the Mountain Man’s Affiliate Store. Still, it isn’t hard to make your own.
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Posted in herbal and home treatments and tagged aromas, flavors, homemade, making essential oils, making tinctures, medicinal, scents by rextrulove with 13 comments.