The herbs in my greenhouse have been thriving and it’s time to harvest them in their prime and make some extracts.
I usually reach for the 40% proof vodka and make a tincture. But, I no longer have it in the house as we are drinking less alcohol.
Fortunately, there is an alternative.
I keep a huge bottle of Vegetable Glycerine in my apothecary cabinet, 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 used as an ingredient in toothpaste, shampoos, soaps, herbal remedies, moisturisers and medicines.
Mineral oil glycerine can be purchased at the pharmacy. 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 herbal constituents. Its anti-fermentative properties are well suited to preservation.
You may know that herbal extracts in alcohol are called tinctures. A tincture has a shelf life of 4-6 years.
Vegetable glycerine herbal extracts are known as “glycerites”. A glycerite has a shelf life of 14-24 months,
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 mean the extract remains on your skin for longer.
Glycerites can 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 an excellent alternative.
Herbal glycerites are also a great substitution to alcoholic bitters and alcoholic extracts in baking and cocktails.
I have a simple rule when it comes to preparing and using glycerites. If I wouldn’t eat or drink the herb or spice, I won’t extract it. Poisonous herbs make toxic extractions.
If you are ever unsure about the safety or provenance of the herb you are extracting, my advice is firm. Don’t do it!
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 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.
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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. I find its flavour works well in citrus based
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. I will fill my jar 2/3 with lavender and use 100% vegetable glycerine in this extract.
A few drops of lavender g
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 one of the safest herbs. But it has some cautions 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! Stevia 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 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
Add a few drops of spearmint and lavender glyceride to a tablespoon of aloe vera gel to soothe sunburn and alleviate athletes foot and other persistent fungal infections.
Spearmint extract is very safe. But 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.
Cardamom is the queen of spices! 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. Add a few drops of cardamom extract to a tablespoon of aloe vera gel. If you are experiencing hiccups or cough, apply cardamom to the chest for warming soothing relief.
Cardamom glyceride added to 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, 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!
Information on the traditional uses and properties of herbs are provided here are for educational use only, and is not intended as medical advice. If you have any serious health concerns, you should always check with your health care practitioner before self-administering herbs.