Plants love us. They help us reclaim our health and our whole selves. Plants are healers.Robin Rose Bennett
We have made herbal shrubs to drink, to use for our skincare and around the house. We have also made herbal teas, as a way to enjoy the herbal bounty from the garden!
The herbs in my greenhouse have been thriving and it’s time to make some extracts. Typically, I would reach for the 40% proof vodka and make a tincture, but since going alcohol-free, I no longer have it in the house.
Fortunately, there is an alternative.
I keep a huge bottle of Vegetable Glycerine in my apothecary cabinet, and we have already used it in the Cooling Herbal Facial Mists, for its
Vegetable glycerine is created by the hydrolysis of vegetable fats or fixed oils. Sometimes called glycerol, glycerine is a clear, colourless, odourless syrupy liquid with a sweet taste. Glycerine is commonly used as an ingredient in toothpaste, shampoos, soaps, herbal remedies, moisturisers and medicines.
You can buy mineral oil extracted glycerine at the pharmacy, but I urge you to source vegetable glycerine, preferably organic, for your apothecary. You will be ingesting and applying these glycerides to your skin, so where possible, use the plant-based, organic option.
Vegetable glycerine is an excellent solvent for extracting herbal constituents and has anti-fermentative properties that are well suited to preservation.
Vegetable glycerine extracts are known as “glycerites”, extracts in alcohol are “tinctures”. A glycerite has a shelf life of 14-24 months, a tincture has a shelf life of 4-6 years.
Glycerites are incredibly versatile preparations. They can be used topically, a few drops blended into aloe vera gel is my favourite way to apply herbal properties to your skincare. While alcoholic tincture extracts are quick to evaporate on your skin, the humectant properties of vegetable glycerine do the opposite, keeping your skin moisturised.
Glycerites can also be ingested for health purposes. While you may be reluctant to administer alcoholic tinctures to children or alcoholic-sensitive people (even if it is only a few drops) glycerites are a excellent alternative.
Glycerites are also a great substitution to alcoholic bitters and alcoholic extracts in baking and cocktails.
Preparing your Glycerites.
If using dried herbs..
- If using dried herbs, fill a sterilised jar halfway with finely chopped dried herb. The dried herbs will need to be reconstituted with a small amount of water.
- For your dried herbs, premix 20% water with an 80% vegetable glycerine (or 1 part water to 4 parts vegetable glycerine) shake to combine well and fill your jar to the brim, stirring to ensure all the herbs are submerged in the liquid.
- The ratio of water to glycerine should be 20% volume water, 80% vegetable glycerine to prevent spoilage and increase the shelf life of your glycerite.
If using fresh herbs…
- If using fresh herbs, fill a sterilized jar 2/3 way full with finely chopped fresh herb. Fill your jar to the brim with 100% vegetable glycerine, stirring to ensure all the herbs are submerged in the liquid.
- Label the jar with the name of the herb, the date of extraction and
the,ratio of glycerine to water.
- Agitate your glycerites daily for 4-6 weeks.
- Use triple layer clean muslin or a coffee filter to strain the herb from the glycerite once the extract is ready.
- Keep your glycerites in amber or dark coloured bottles, in a cool dark cupboard. Be sure to label your glycerites with the name of the herb, the date of extraction and the ratio of glycerine to water.
Liquorice Root Glycerite
You have most likely tasted liquorice at some point in your life, even if you enjoy it or not! Liquorice root is sweet, with a much more subtle liquorice flavour than the confection.
Liquorice root can be exceptionally tough to chop, so I do my best to break it up and grind it in my coffee grinder. Prepare as for a dried herb.
Liquorice root glycerite is intensely sweet, faintly anise and works well in
Liquorice root’s medicinal properties are well documented and a few drops of liquorice root glycerite in a small glass of water is reputed to soothe stomach upsets, sore throats, and heartburn.
There is also evidence that liquorice root is beneficial in the treatment of eczema, adding a few drops of the glycerite extract to aloe vera gel is reputed to relieve symptoms.
Liquorice root can be harmful to pregnant people, and those on certain medications. Be sure to check here for cautions before using.
I am using fresh lavender in my preparation, so will fill my jar 2/3 with lavender and use 100% vegetable glycerine in this extract.
A few drops of lavender g
Lavender’s health benefits are well researched. Some people may find a few drops of lavender glycerite in a glass of water in the evening before bed promotes a restful sleep and settles digestion.
A few drops of lavender glycerite in aloe vera gel may relieve stress headaches and promote calm when applied to the temples, neck and shoulders.
Lavender is typically regarded as one of the safest herbs, yet it has some cautions, especially for use with pregnant women and pre-adolescent boys. Be sure to check here for cautions before administering.
I am using fresh stevia in my preparation, so will fill my jar 2/3 with stevia and use 100% vegetable glycerine in this extract.
Fresh stevia leaves are reputed to be 40 times sweeter than sugar, so this glyceride extract is fantastic as a natural sweetener in drinks and even in baking.
I find this extract is much easier to use, with a better flavour than the dried or fresh leaf. Just one drop is enough to sweeten tea, so go slowly! A little of this extract goes a long way!
Stevia does has side effects in sensitive individuals and related to dose, be sure to check here before using.
I am using fresh spearmint in my preparation, so will fill my jar 2/3 with spearmint and use 100% vegetable glycerine in this extract.
This is one of my
A few drops of spearmint and lavender glyceride in a tablespoon of aloe vera gel is wonderful for soothing sunburn and may also alleviate athletes foot and other persistent fungal infections.
Spearmint extract is very safe, yet be sure to check here for any cautions before using before administering or applying spearmint glyceride.
I am using the ground dried pods for this glyceride, so will prepare as above for dried herbs.
Cardamom is considered the queen of spices and I adore it for its gorgeous scent. The health benefits of cardamom are well documented.
We used cardamom pods in our Green Coffee Cardamom and Pink Grapefruit Body Polish. A few drops of cardamom extract in a tablespoon of aloe vera gel is warming and soothing applied to the chest if you are experience coughing and even hiccups!
A few drops of cardamom glyceride in orange juice is delicious and is good as an all-around tonic. A few drops of cardamom extract and a shake of rhubarb bitters in sparkling apple juice is magical.
Cardamom is possibly unsafe for pregnant people and those suffering from gall stones. Be sure to check here for any cautions before using before administering or applying cardamom glyceride.
I have a very long list of glycerites I am planning to extract in the coming months, including Juniper, Lemon Balm, Green Coffee, Comfrey, Fennel, Chamomile, Orange Zest, Chocolate mint, Echinacea, Sage, Cardamon and Vanilla.
Which glycerite will you try first? Leave a comment below and let me know if you’ve made glycerites before, I would love to hear from you!