It’s surprisingly easy to make hawthorn tincture, with or without alcohol. Hawthorn is an amazingly powerful healing herb, chock-full of natural compounds. Hawthorn berries, flowers, leaves, and bark are all used to treat a variety of ailments, particularly those associated with the heart, digestion, mental health, skin complains, and more. The oldest known healing herb, hawthorn also has immunity boosting, anti-inflammatory, and general wellbeing properties. You can learn all about the health benefits of hawthorn here.
Making a tincture is a brilliant way to preserve and use hawthorn and other medicinal plants year after year. Learning how to make a tincture is a smart option, whether you want to partake in the goodness of nature or are a prepper who wants to lay down healthful supplies.
You don’t need to make a huge amount, as a little goes a long way, as the mature tincture is highly concentrated and potent. And, because of the way you make a tincture, it’s quickly absorbed by the body and gets to work fast, particularly if you put it under your tongue.
You can find out how to identify and harvest hawthorn in this post. But, as a general overview, make sure you are absolutely certain what you’re harvesting is hawthorn, and please, please forage responsibly. Don’t harvest any more than half of any one plant, and don’t forage from more than half of the plants in an area. You’re trying to work with nature, so respect her, don’t rape her. Remember, you need these native plants to be bountiful and to spread and grow for years to come. Plus, you’re just one element in the delicately balanced ecosystem, so only harvesting half or less ensures there’s plenty to feed the wildlife and to grow new plants for harvest in later years.
Are Hawthorn Berries Poisonous?
I hear this question a lot, and see a lot of scaremongering online about the poisonous nature of hawthorn. But here’s the thing: Yes, the pits or seeds of hawthorn berries contain cyanide. These little scarlet berries are closely related to apples, and, just like apple seeds, hawthorn berry seeds do contain a small amount of cyanide. But again, just like apple seeds, they are so small, you’d have to eat an awful lot of them to do you harm. However, with this hawthorn tincture recipe, and most other hawthorn berry recipes, the seeds are discarded.
How Long Does Hawthorn Tincture Last?
It depends on the menstruum, also known as the base or solvent, that you choose. And how well you store it.
Alcohol tinctures can last up to five years (or more – depending on the advice you listen to). They don’t normally last that long in my house – I make enough to last my family a year or so, then make a fresh batch the following season.
Vinegar tinctures last up to three years, while glycerin tinctures last up to two years, so whichever menstruum you choose, the final product will last for a considerable length of time.
Apple cider vinegar is a great choice for anyone who wants or needs to avoid alcohol, as you benefit from the healthful properties of the ACV as well as the tincture. Just remember, if you do choose to make an apple cider vinegar tincture, use raw, unfiltered ACV that still contains the mother.
Glycerin hawthorn tincture is a good choice for those who can’t tolerate alcohol or vinegar or for children who generally find it easier to take a sweeter tincture. Just make sure you choose food-grade vegetable glycerin.
If you’re making an alcohol hawthorn berry tincture, many people choose to use 100 proof grain alcohol. As long as it’s a minimum of 80 proof, you can use any type of alcohol – brandy, rum, gin, wine, vodka – whatever your preference.
How to Make a Hawthorn Tincture
Firstly, harvest your hawthorn berries. If you don’t know how, read How to Forage Hawthorn. If it’s out of season or you don’t have any growing near you, you can order dried hawthorn berries, although obviously fresh are my preference. If I have to order dried hawthorn, I use these berries and these flowers.
Give the berries a thorough wash and remove any debris.
Coarsely chop the berries or, like me, place them in a large bowl and smash them up a little with the end of a rolling pin. This helps to break down the berries and starts the process of the nutrients being leached into the menstruum.
Next, take a jar large enough to accommodate your berries and twice as much liquid, and thoroughly clean and sanitize it. Then place the broken up berries in the jar and add the liquid base. The ratio for alcohol, ACV, and glycerin tinctures when using fresh berries is 1:2 – so one part fresh berries to two parts menstruum. If you’re using dried berries, you’ll need a ratio of 1:5 – one part dried hawthorn berries to five parts menstruum.
Seal the jar and shake vigorously. Store it in a cool, dark place for at least 4 weeks – 6 or 8 weeks, preferably, to pull as much of the healthful properties from the berries as possible. Make sure you shake the mixture vigorously every day for the first two weeks for the best result, then switch to every two or three days. I like to label the jar with the date I made it and the earliest date it’ll be ready by. Once it’s time to start using your hawthorn tincture, you need to strain it.
You’ve got a couple of options for straining your hawthorn tincture. You can use a clean piece of muslin hung over a jug or jar or use paper or reusable coffee filter. If you go with the paper filter, the easiest way is to put the filter inside a funnel and put the funnel in the mouth of your receptacle. The straining is a slow process, so I fill up my filter and leave it, popping back every few hours to remove the waste and top up the filter.
Once it’s strained and your hawthorn tincture is beautifully clear, it’s ready to decant into smaller bottles. I prefer amber glass bottles or cobalt blue glass bottles because they filter out UV light and stop the tincture turning bad. I also use bottles with dropper caps, as it’s easy to administer the hawthorn tincture this way.
Always use glass bottles – never plastic or metal. Glass is inert, so it won’t interact with anything in your tincture. It’s also easy to sanitize, and it doesn’t leach any potential toxins into your tincture.
Remember to label your tincture with what it is, the ratio you used, the menstruum you chose, and when you decanted it.
That’s it! Now you’re ready to enjoy the health benefits of your homemade hawthorn tincture. Hawthorn tincture also makes a lovely handmade gift for anyone who, like you, wants to enjoy the health benefits of nature’s bounty. If you do gift it, make sure you include a little card explaining what it is, what the benefits are, and how to consume it.
Speaking of consuming – with hawthorn tincture, and any other tincture, it’s a strong infusion, so a little goes a long way. I use just 3 to 5 mls a day (up to a teaspoon, or one 5 ml dropper). It gets absorbed into the body rapidly, particularly if you drop it under your tongue. For those who don’t like dropping it straight into their mouths, it’s easy to disguise the strong taste by putting it into a glass of fruit juice. Some people also add their tincture to a warm drink like fruit tea with honey.
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