Tinctures are liquid extracts that preserve the medicinal properties of the fresh or dried herbs they contain. Alcohol is the most widely used tincture solvent because it extracts fats, resins, waxes, most alkaloids, some volatile oils, and other plant components, which it preserves indefinitely. Vegetable glycerin, a sweet, syrupy liquid, dissolves mucilage, vitamins, and minerals but does not dissolve resinous or oily plant constituents. Apple cider vinegar does not break down plant constituents as effectively as alcohol or glycerin, but it extracts sugars, tannins, glycosides, bitter compounds, alkaloids, vitamins, and minerals.
My teacher, the herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, recommends using unpasteurized apple cider vinegar for making tinctures, especially for tonic herbs, which are slow-acting regulating herbs that should be taken daily to improve the health of a system or to revitalize the entire body. Examples include dandelion, stinging nettle, raspberry leaf, garlic, hawthorn berry, ginger root, ginseng, pau d’arco, schizandra, fo-ti, and astragalus.
As Gladstar notes, most of the herbal literature warns that vinegar tinctures have a shelf life of only six to eight months, but she has found that vinegar tinctures stored in a cool, dark place can last for many years. For best results, use undiluted vinegar containing five to seven percent acetic acid. Adding water to a vinegar tincture in any proportion or using fresh herbs that are too moist will cause fermentation and spoilage; be sure to let succulent fresh herbs wilt and partially dry before using them in a vinegar tincture.
Garlic-Dandelion Vinegar Tincture
This tincture is recommended for dogs as a general tonic and to help repel parasites.
Partially fill a pint or quart jar with coarsely chopped, fresh garlic and fresh or dried dandelion leaves, roots and/or blossoms in approximately equal proportions. (If using dried dandelion, leave ample room for expansion.) Fill the jar with apple cider vinegar, seal tightly, leave in a warm place, shake gently every few days, and let it stand for six to eight weeks. Strain and bottle, or simply pour off what you need.
Add this tincture in small amounts to your dog’s food, gradually increasing to approximately 1/4 teaspoon per 20 pounds of body weight per day. The dandelion is a tonic for the entire body(it helps improve digestion, cleanses the blood and supports kidney function), while garlic repels internal and external parasites and acts as a digestive and circulatory tonic.
If desired, make a double-strength tincture by straining the completed tincture into a new jar of freshly chopped dandelion and repeating the process. Reduce the dosage accordingly.
An effective liniment warms and relaxes joints and muscles, increases circulation to the area, relieves inflammation, improves flexibility and speeds healing. Traditional recipes combine skin-warming ingredients and therapeutic herbs with cider vinegar.
For example, combine one pint apple cider vinegar with one teaspoon powdered cayenne pepper, four tablespoons dried (or 1/4 cup fresh) rosemary, and two tablespoons dried (or 1/8 cup fresh) comfrey leaf or root that has been cut or broken into small pieces. Leave the jar in a warm place for a month or longer before straining. Shake well before using.
Massage into tight muscles, bruises, or sore joints, or simply soak a cloth or bandage in the liniment and hold it on the affected area for as long as possible. Keep this liniment away from the eyes and mucous membranes.