Sunday, January 24, 2010

DIY - Homemade Herbal Extracts: Alcohol Based Extracts

Alcohol Based Extraction is one of the easiest ways to extract the active water and alcohol-soluble components from Herbs.

As a solvent we can use 95%, 70% or 40% Ethanol (I prefer 40% Vodka) and Glycerin (mono-Alcohol or glycyl alcohol), where Alcohol can be used also to preserve Herbs. Glycerin in Skin Care Products, also serves as a humectant, solvent and may help to preserve, however it is not considered as effective as Vodka in preservation.

Sometimes Alcohol Based Extracts are called Tinctures and Vodka based Extracts are called the Mother Tincture, but I am usually using this term (Tincture) to describe the blends of Essential Oils. Anyway, according to the United States Pharmacopeia Convention, for example, an Herbal Tincture must be made from at least 45% alcohol, and I am using different ratios depend on the components of the Herbs, so I will call these types of preparations "Alcohol based Extracts".

Choosing a Solvent:
Many Active Ingredients in Herbs are more easily extracted by the blend of Hot/Warm Water and Alcohol, for others the most effective method of extraction is Alcohol itself and high temperature can destroy these active components. Most of the Hot Water-based preparations (Decoctions) have a very short shelf life and we are using Alcohol to prolong storage....The use of Glycerin in a cold preparations is useful for the more delicate chemical components, which would be destroyed by a stronger solvent such as pure Alcohol, and here its combination with Vodka for preservation purpose only.

Most B complex Vitamins are soluble in Hot Water and Alcohol. Vitamin C is Water and Glycerin soluble. The polysaccharide elements of the Herbs need to be Hot Water extracted. The anti-inflammatory compounds (triterpenoids) can only be extracted by Alcohol. All plants contain powerful water-soluble Enzymes, and generally all enzymes are destroyed by a small amount of heat.

So in most cases it's better to pre-mix the solvent.

Getting Started:
If I have Fresh Herbs which are more potent and containing more Active Components I am using 70% or 95% concentrated Alcohol solvent, because the fresh ones already contain the "inner" water. For Dried Herbs I am using a little Hot (for Roots and Barks) or Warm (for Flowers and Leaves) Distilled Water (distilled water acts as "empty", "hungry" water) and then adding 40% Vodka or/and Glycerin...

The ratio of Herb and Solvent can vary depending on the remedy, the plant, and whether tougher (Roots and Barks) or delicate (Flowers and Leaves) parts of Herb are used. The amount of Alcohol determines the shelf-life of the Extract: the more alcohol used, the longer its shelf life.

Choosing the Herbs:
Herbs are basically plants for which health benefits have been proven. In that case we have to find Herbs with Alcohol/Water soluble active components for Skin Care purpose, FOR EXTERNAL USE ONLY. Please pay attention and be careful!!!

Instead of researching every Herb I wanted to extract, sometimes I was using a "shortcut" looking for well-known Alcohol based Extracts of well-known companies and making my own... But when I have time :) later, I am completing the task and researching the components...

1. Fill a sterilized dark glass bottle with the dried plant pieces, pour a little bit of Warm/Hot Water, shake the bottle well, after 10 minutes add Glycerin (if you need), shake again, leave it fot 2 hours, and then add Vodka to cover the Herbs. The Herb (or the combination of Herbs) always has been completely covered by the solvent, to avoid bacterial growth.
2. Label the bottle with the exact ratio of the Solvent, Ingredients and the date prepared.
3. Place the mixture in a dark place for several weeks under the room temperature. For best extraction stir the mixture from time to time. You can replace the wilted plant parts with the new ones and repeat the same procedure several times.
4. Shake the bottle once a day or at least several times a week.
5. Then filter the mixture with a coffee filter to remove the plant particles.
6. Keep it in the refrigerator to prolong its shelf life.

These are my notes and my extracts:

Ginseng (roots) Vodka – tonic and stimulant.
Eleuterocock (roots) Vodka – tonic and stimulant.
Thyme (Leaf) Water:Vodka (1:2) – antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic.
Rosemary (Leaf) Water:Vodka (1:2) – antibacterial, antiseptic and tonic.
Liquorice (licorice) (roots) Hot Water:Vodka (2:5)– estrogenic, anti-inflammatory, calming, anti-irritant.
Pomegranate (Peel) Glycerin:Vodka (I’ve made 1:1 and 5:1, the second one I liked more) – super anti-oxidant.
Pine (Needles) Hot Water:Glycerin:Vodka (3:2:1)– super anti-oxidant.
Green Tea (Leaf) Hot Water:Vodka (2:5) – super anti-oxidant.
Dried Shiitake (mushroom) Hot Water:Glycerin:Vodka (2:3:1) – rich in Vitamins B complex, Polysaccharides and amino acids.
Plantain (Leaf) Vodka – antibacterial, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, rich in Allantoin.
Calendula (Flowers) 25% / alcohol 35% / glycerin 40% (I’ve bought it) – healing, anti-inflammatory.
Horse Chesnutt 25% / alcohol 35% / glycerin 40% (I’ve bought it) - healing bruises, anti-inflammatory, rich in Aescin (reducing spider veins).
Fennel (Seed) Hot Water:Glycerin:Vodka (1:5:1) – antibacterial, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, some sources claim about de-pigmetation ability.
Chamomile (Flowers) Hot Water:Glycerin:Vodka (1:5:1) - antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, soothing, calming.

I hope you will find it useful :)

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2 comments to "DIY - Homemade Herbal Extracts: Alcohol Based Extracts"

luna said...
July 21, 2016 4:35 AM

thank you! i was looking for something like this. can you please tell me, what will be the ratios for oats extract, i need to add to a lotion.
this will be in glycerin, oil or alcohol
thanh you for your help.

Unknown said...
June 09, 2017 5:53 PM

How long will these examples of extracts last? Thanks so much your blog has helped me more than anything thus far!! I want to make my own extracts for my skincare line but I want to make sure I am doing it right and you wouldn't believe how hard it is to find references. THANK YOU!

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