A Herbal Glycerite is easier to make than most extractions and therefore can be done at home by anyone. You just need to follow one main rule, keep your glycerine content always about 60% or more.
So if you are considering purchasing some glycerine, there are actually quite a few other possible uses from your purchase other than herbal glycerite.
But what is a Herbal Glycerite?
Herbs are great, and as you would have guessed by now, I have a very high opinion of them, but at times, you don’t have instant access to them, that is, difficulty with storage, accessibility, time of harvest or season, and transport, for example. So often you need to make an extract out of the herb, and store it for a period of time for use later on, and also to increase the concentration of the herbs constituents for more efficacy.
Early in man’s history he used water, vinegar and wines to store and transport these herbal qualities, and later on, he used stronger alcohols and also he discovered glycerine.
Glycerine was found to be a reasonably good solvent and a preservative as well, this makes it a suitable menstruum for herbs.
Glycerine comes from fats and oils, which are basically the same thing, sort of, and can come from both animal and plant sources and both will work. A Swedish chemist by the name of Karl. W Scheele, first discovered this in 1779, and called it the “sweet principle of fat”. It was named Glycerin, from the Greek – glykys meaning sweet, in 1811 by a French guy, called Michel Chevreul.
A man by the name of T. E. Groves originally introduced Glycerine to the herbal scene in 1867, and it was a few years after that it began to be widely used for both herbal/medical and personal and cosmetic uses. And this really is just so natural, because glycerine is a natural by-product of making soap.
Being a Humectant, which is a substance the encourages the holding of moisture, they do this by attracting water molecules to itself. This is why it is often used in skin moisturises. But it is used in a huge range of products such as, toothpastes, shampoos, moisturisers, deodorants, and makeup.
Culinarily, it can be used to blend oil and water, sweeten and moisten foods, and prevent crystals from forming frozen foods. Plus, candles and a range of other medications.
I do believe that there is a place for herbal glycerites, but some push them for reasons that are not well established, such as, that being from a ‘fresh herb’ it has more vitality or energy, but this has not being well proven. Plus, there is a ‘concern’ with the appearance that often during the process of macerating, the naturally occurring enzymes in the plant are still functioning, and therefore actually breaking down the extracted juices before preservation.
During the late 1800’s a Guy by the name of Alfred Nobel discovered the ‘peacefulness’ of nitroglycerine and then demand for glycerine “Exploded!” This does not mean that using a Herbal Glycerite will cause your kids to blowup when they irritated you.
In the 1940’s they did develop a synthetic version of glycerine from propylene, which is a byproduct of petroleum.
It is also a by-product of biodiesel manufacture, I know, I have made biodiesel too.
Reasons why to make a Herbal Glycerite
Glycerine is a viscous and syrupy like liquid, that is both colourless and odourless with a sweet taste. It’s abilities to extract are in between water and alcohol. It isn’t the best menstruum for extraction processes, but it does have a few other advantages, one is the taste factor, meaning, that it is quite sweet, and therefore, gets around the child who won’t accept the “its good for you” argument.
Another is the problem with the alcohol, that is, some cannot take any amount or form of alcohol due to alcoholic sensitivities, possible allergic reactions, serious liver disorders and religious reasons. For example, if someone from the Islamic Community came to me and wanted a herbal remedy, but would not receive any tincture made from ethanol. This way, I can give help without offence, and also follow a major rule for alternative practitioners, “First do no Harm”.
If you want to remove the ‘alcohol’ from the alcoholic tincture, but aren’t so bothered by the fact that it was originally made from alcohol or the taste, you can remove it. This is done by a placing the specific dosage into a cup of water that has just recently been boiled. Allow this to stand for about five minutes, as this will cause the alcohol content to evaporate.
Although not the best menstruum for herbs in general, glycerine does work fine with a few herbs, which have the ‘water-soluble’ constituents you require, for example Marshmallow root.
A glycerite preparation can be designed to be used both internally and externally, and this increases their use and scope greatly.
Glycerites can be added to alcohol extracts to ameliorate its taste, and to add actives, and glycerine works well tannins.
Once you have made your glycerite, you can use them in recipes and formulas that can be part of creams, lotions, gels, cleansers and exfoliants. And glycerites do have an added ability to possess the aromas of the herbs being extracted. So this gives them a special natural advantage in making topical applications both medicinally and aroma-therapeutically.
Also, glycerites are great for using alternative medicine on animals, especially due to its taste internally or even topically.
Similar to a Succi, you can use it to preserve expressed herbal juices instead of alcohol, but it won’t have the shelf life of the grain alcohol, and you will need to keep the ratio at least 1:3, that is one part juice to 3 parts glycerine.
How to do a Herbal Glycerite
Glycerine is often readily available from chemists, supermarkets, sometimes hardware and even some farming suppliers, plus there are heaps of online suppliers too, so obtaining glycerine shouldn’t be a problem.
Always choose a organic, GMO free version, and ethically sourced to your preferences.
An important point when making glycerites is to try to be meticulously clean and hygienic, glycerine is not such a killer of bacteria as alcohol. So make sure your herbs are clean of any bugs, or other foreign matter, dust and soil, and manure etc.
Basic Herbal Glycerite
Glycerine and Water combination
- Finely chop, grind 50g herbs and place in a suitable jar
- Add 500ml glycerin
- Add 340ml pure water
- Give it a good shake to combine the glycerine and water and to cover all of the herbs
- Replace the lid tightly and shake it every day for 2 weeks minimum, longer is better
- Strain or filter out the herbs (this may be slow)
- You can use a tincture press with cheese cloths or similar (faster)
- If you are using powder, you will need fine filtering
- Collect your herbs after the moisture has dried off
- Check for and remove any dirt, dust or foreign matter, such as insects and their eggs
- Finely chop or grind up the herbs being processed
- Fill a suitable jar to about 1/2 to 2/3 of jar with the herbs
- Completely cover the herbs and fill with 100% glycerine
- Make sure you glycerine is approximately at least two times the herb
- Put the lid on the jar and label the contents and shake the jar
- Allow to macerate for two to four weeks, shaking it daily (4 to 6 weeks is better)
- After 2 weeks, press it out using 2 or 3 layers of cheesecloth and tincture press
- You may need to go finer if you were using a powder
- Pour into a clean sterilised glass jar and label and date
- You can immediately use it, if needed
Dosage would be about 2/3 of a teaspoon, 3 times daily, can be taken in a little water.
On the whole, your herbal glycerite will have a shelf life if stored well, of about 1 to 2 years, and make sure you store out of the sunlight and in a cool dry place.
Choice of Herbs for a Herbal Glycerite
Two things that make a herb, a ‘better’ choice of herbs, is that they work best with fresh herbs, and the more water soluble the constituents are the better the choice of herb. That being said, you can honestly use either dry or fresh, or just about any herb, they just get a little more complicated. But start with an easy herb first.
A minor point here in Australia, but more important in colder countries, is to pick your fresh herbs in the spring and summer, to get the most ‘juiciest’ herbal parts, even picking shortly after rain can add to the water content. If they are very watery, then be careful, as too much water content can cause problems, particularly with preservation, and you may need to alter the formula.
By no means a complete list, but here are some herbs you could try:
German chamomile, Burdock, Calendula, Echinacea spp., Fennel, Ginger, Peppermint, Hawthorn berry, Mugwort, Elderberry flowers, Cleavers, Lavender, Bee balm, Lemon balm, Oregon grape root, Skullcap, Mullein leaves, Golden seal, Nettle, Oats, Plantain, Rose petals, Chaste tree, Turmeric, Valerian, and Yarrow.
Variations of a Herbal Glycerite
Apart from the possible variations of a huge range of herbal choices, and using them internally and externally, plus for cosmetic and culinary uses, you can also add essential oils to them. This is due to glycerine’s ability to solubilise them into the mix. Don’t use essential oils internally, only externally.
Although I have not tried it myself, you can actually make glycerites out of ordinary foods, such as fruits and vegetables, but you’ll need to pick fresh and high in water soluble constituents.
- Always be aware of a allergic reaction to any new herb you try
- If adding essential oils only use that glycerite ‘externally’
- Some people do react against glycerine itself although it is generally considered safe.
Please remember, this blog cannot and should not replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment, and no cure is implied in anyway. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.
Russell a.k.a Herbal Panda
“Sadly pain is long remembered, but a sweet is soon forgotten, plus, it rots your teeth”Herbal Panda