During our Becoming An Herbalist class of 2/5/12 we made a fresh Echinacea purpurea tincture. We decided we would use a total of 4# of herb in our tincture. The strength would be 1:1 and we would use 50% alcohol.
We now needed to collect our root, and calculate how much alcohol and water to mix with the root as both a method of extraction and preservation.
|Echinacea purpurea root|
So we collect our Echinacea root and wash it off. We then blot it dry on a towel. We collect enough root to use in the tincture as well as for students to take some home with them.
How Much Water is Already in the Roots
Before we can do the calculations for how much alcohol and water will be needed, we must figure out how much water is already in the root of the plants we are harvesting. We do this by weighing out a small amount. In this case we weigh out 30 grams of root. We then use a toaster oven to dry the root. We put it in the over at about 200 degrees to dry it quickly. Once completely dry, we remove it and weigh it again. It is now 9 grams. 9/30 = 0.3 or 30%. This means we now have 30% dry root left after drying. Therefore we had 70% water in the root prior to drying. We will need to use this 70% water in our calculations.
How Much Root to Use This Time Through
We Know from past experience that only 1.75# - 2# of herb will mix into the alcohol and water, so we decide to use 1.75# this time to be safe. If we mix too much root into the liquid, there will not be adequate liquid to cover the root and it will oxidize. We will add more of the 4# of root when we press out the current 1.75# from the menstruum (alcohol and water with herb in it). We did not harvest the rest of the root this time as it will be at least a month before we add the rest of the root. We will harvest it later so it will be fresh when we add it.
Now we can go through the calculations.
We start with our known factors. We have 4# of root. We want to make the tincture a 1:1 fresh plant strength. (1 part plant to 1 part liquid (alcohol & water). We want to use 50% alcohol and 50% water. We have 70% water already in the root to account for.
Start by Using Metrics
Start by Using Metrics
We changed our pounds into grams. We did this by using 1# = 450 grams (we rounded up). We are using metric as it allows us to change our grams into mls. We are rounding up as it keeps us from making as many mistakes if we use an even number. Although there are a few reasons why this is not 100% accurate, it is how this is done and if done the same way each time creates consistency.
4# x 450grams = 1800 grams of root
Now we want to figure out how much liquid to add. We are using a 1:1 strength so it is easy to calculate. We use 1 part herb to 1 part liquid. So we multiply the 1800 grams of herb x 1ml and get 1800 mls of liquid. (If it was 1:2 we would get 3600 mls of liquid.)
So we will be mixing 4# of herb with 1800 ml of liquid. But wait, we still need to account for the water and calculate for how much of the liquid is water and how much is alcohol. Here is how we do that.
Calculate for Water in the Root
1800 ml liquid x .7 water = 1260 ml water in root
Need to Use the Water in the Root in Our Calculations
Now add the 1800 ml of liquid we are planning to add + the 1260 ml of liquid in the root (1800ml + 1260ml = 3060ml) We need to use this 3060 ml of total liquid including the root water to calculate for the alcohol and water we will add.
3060 ml x 50% alcohol = 1530 ml alcohol
3060 ml x 50% water = 1530 ml water
Subtracting Root Water in the Calculation Out of Amount to Add
Now we have to subtract the water in the root out of our calculated amount of water to add because it is already in the root.
1530 ml total water needed - 1260 ml in root = 270 ml water to add.
So we now know we will be adding 1530 ml alcohol and 270 ml water.
So we took 1.75# of Echinacea purpurea root and ground it up in a vita mix (type of a strong blender) with 270 ml of water and 1530 ml of alcohol.
It is now sitting in a dark place and is shook once each day for at least a month or longer.
|Echinacea in process|
In a month (or next fall depending on how soon spring comes) we will press out the root in the menstruum. The spent root (called the marc in herbal language) is now composted. The menstruum (liquid with herb extracted in it) will be put back into the vita mix with 2.25# of Echinacea root ( if it all fits and is still covered by liquid.) It will macerate for another month or longer and then be pressed out and ready to use.
The Folk Method
For those of you who say, this is just too much trouble. Is there an easier way? Yes, but you won't be able to control the strength or alcohol percent of your product. If you are okay with not knowing the strength or alcohol percent, you can use the folk method. It is fine to use for home use, but if you want to have consistency or sell on the open market you will want to use the calculation method.
Usually, with the folk method you would use 40-45% vodka or some such alcohol and mix it with the roots one time and press and filter to get your product. You can do this but if you want a stronger product and get close to a 1:1 strength as well as about 50% alcohol do the following.
Folk Method Intensified
For making Echinacea purpurea, simply mix your root with 190 proof alcohol with blender or VitaMix. Make sure there is about an inch or more of liquid over the top of the root. Let it sit and shake daily as stated above. Press out in one or more months and then mix the menstruum with more Echinacea. Once more making sure there is some liquid above the herb to keep it from oxidizing. Let it sit one or more months and press. Filter and it is ready to use. It will be close to a 1:1 strength and somewhere from about 40-60% alcohol strength.
For Other Echinacea Blogs
Past Blogs about Echinacea
For More Information On Preserving And Using Herbs
Join Dr. Tilgner’s class "Becoming An Herbalist" for in-depth information and experience.