Tuesday, November 5, 2013

If It's Autumn, It's Time To Tincture

Here in the subtropics, it's still the growing season. We never really stop growing stuff down here, close to the equator. But it is harvest time for many annuals, and I do like my smelly plants, so...what do I do with them?

My scented geranium is a perennial, but had grown so hugely huge by October that I had to cut large branches off to keep it from toppling and crushing the rest of my garden (OK, the hyperbole meter just spiked)!
I've already grown many daughter plants from this one, and I really don't need more. I decided to dry and tincture the leaves from the trimmed branches. I bundled up some of the branches, then hung them in a dry, somewhat dark place for a week:
Once the leaves were thoroughly dry, I crumbled them into glass bottles and added perfumer's alcohol. Vodka works just fine if you don't want to use, or can't find, perfumer's alcohol. I should add that if you are making tinctures for medicinal purposes, of course you won't want perfumer's alcohol. If the tincture is for perfumes or colognes, perfumer's alcohol is absolutely scentless, and cannot be ingested. Before any plant material is used for tinctures, it's a good idea to research it to make sure there are no issues with toxicity or allergies. Safety first!
I tincture all kinds of things, from petrified rock hyrax poop to chrysanthemums and vanilla beans. Each tincture takes a different length of time to mature. It's good to test your tincture with a little mouillette or square of cotton rag once a week until you feel it's at its peak of delicious scent. Then strain the liquid, pour it into a new bottle, and label it (I write the date, also). The tincture will last a long time, and be a wonderfully fragrant memory of your summer garden. I use mine in various colognes and perfumes that I make. The geranium tincture is used in my rose/peppermint/geranium cologne I call "The Thing From Planet Peppermint". Not very romantic, but refreshing!
Here are two of the tinctures I use for Planet Peppermint, geranium and rose petals:

Any other tincture-makers out there? What do you tincture, and what's something that you really want to tincture, but haven't yet? I'm thinking about fresh patchouli, but I can't locate any plants. Someday, though!


  1. My favorite thing to tincture right now is fig leaves. Our fig trees are finally starting to lose their leaves, so I'm gathering all that I can and drying them. Right now I have two big bags full, and haven't even started! Fig leaf tincture is like a sweet, grassy coconut-tonka, with excellent longevity.

  2. That sounds wonderful, Ellen, I must find fig leaves! Not very likely here on the sand dune, but I am going to be gathering up some winter seaweed from the beach for a nice, salty-ocean note. We should trade tinctures sometime!