About the Recipe
Chickweed, fresh or dried
Neutral Spirit (such as vodka)*
Chickweed is only around in the springtime before temperatures warm up and it dies back for the year. If you want to use it medicinally, chickweed needs to be preserved.
There’s no better way to preserve it than in a simple chickweed tincture.
(Though, it also makes a truly excellent chickweed pesto, and food is medicine too =)
(Always consult your doctor or a clinical herbalist before trying any new herbal remedy, as there’s always the possibility of unintended consequences, allergic reaction, or interactions with other medications. If you’re harvesting wild plant material, make sure you’re 100% confident in your identification and consult multiple sources for your ID. The following is based on my research and experience, but I don’t claim to have any certifications that would qualify me to advise you on your health. Please do your own research and always verify with multiple reputable sources.)
BENEFITS OF CHICKWEED TINCTURE
So why on earth would you need a chickweed tincture? This is one of those medicines that can actually be used both topically and internally.
Chickweed is great for skin irritations, and when combined with alcohol it can help treat acne. The alcohol works as an astringent, while the chickweed helps heal the skin.
Chickweed extracts have also been shown to be antibacterial, and a tincture applied to wounds should help both cleanse and heal the wound.
Taken internally, studies show that chickweed can reduce inflammation and inhibit histamine reactions. New theories suggest that many modern diseases stem from inflammatory conditions, and at the same time allergies are on the rise. Chickweed tincture combats both these issues when taken daily.
Chickweed stimulates mucus production and helps ease digestive issues. Taken in a low dose on a daily basis, the tincture can help ease stomach irritation. It’s also a gentle laxative to help keep you regular.
Old wives’ tales say that chickweed is good for weight loss, but there are not many actual studies that back this up. One study is showing promising results and indicates that chickweed can stop progesterone-induced weight gain.
When you’re pregnant, your body releases progesterone to help you put on extra weight to support the baby. Hormonal birth control mimics this and can cause weight gain. Regular consumption of chickweed has been shown to block this weight gain in mice and can help prevent the weight gain associated with birth control.
Besides tincture, wild foraged chickweed can be used for tea, vinegar, salves or eaten fresh.
HOW TO MAKE CHICKWEED TINCTURE
To make a chickweed tincture, you’ll need the following ingredients and equipment:
Chickweed, either dried or fresh, but it’s almost always harvested fresh for tincture
Vodka (or any other palatable alcohol that’s at least 80 proof/40 percent — there’s no need to splurge here, I always use Smirnoff because it’s inexpensive and has a neutral taste)**
One-pint mason jar with lid (amber glass is ideal, but as long as you keep the tincture away from light at all times, it won’t make a difference)
Fine mesh sieve
Amber glass tincture bottles (with dropper)
**Never use isopropyl/rubbing alcohol for tinctures (or any other remedy you plan on ingesting). Even in small amounts, this type of alcohol is toxic and meant for external applications only. If you’re avoiding alcohol for any reason, consider making a herbal glycerite instead. Herbal vinegars are also a good choice, and work well with chickweed.
To make the tincture, fill a jar about 3/4 of the way full with fresh chickweed (or about halfway full with dried chickweed).
Cover the chickweed with vodka, or whichever alcohol you’ve chosen, and seal the jar with its lid.
Keep the developing tincture in a cool, dark place and give the jar a gentle shake every few days. (If you remember, every day is better, but at least once a week will do.)
After about 4 to 6 weeks, it’s time to decant the tincture.
To do this, you’ll need to line a funnel with a few layers of cheesecloth. Carefully strain the tincture into small amber glass tincture bottles, squeezing the chickweed to make sure all the liquid is expelled.
Once the tincture has been decanted, label the tincture bottles with the date and suggested dosages (I use a small piece of masking tape and a marker, it peels off easily when I’m ready to use the bottle for something else).
I know 4-6 weeks can be a long time to wait if you’re desperately needing relief now. There’s nothing wrong with Buying a Bottle of Chickweed Extract to use while your homemade tincture infuses. Purchased tinctures are a lot more expensive than DIY homemade ones, but they have the benefit of being ready when you need them, like now.
CHICKWEED TINCTURE DOSAGE
For an exact dosage specific to your body and needs, I’d suggest consulting a clinical herbalist.
Generally, the dosage for chickweed tincture is 1 to 2 droppers full, taken 2 to 3 times per day.
Since chickweed is used both internally and externally, it combines well with herbs that are also soothing for both internal digestive issues and external skin issues.
Herbs like calendula, lavender and marshmallow would be perfect for both soothing the digestive tract and treating minor skin issues.
Chickweed, fresh or dried
Neutral Spirit (such as vodka)*
Pint mason jar (or any other jar with a tight-fitting lid)
Cheesecloth (or fine mesh strainer)
Dark amber dropper bottles
Adhesive label or masking tape (for labeling tincture)
Fill a clean, empty mason jar 3/4 full of fresh chickweed, or 1/2 full of dried chickweed. (Dried chickweed is sometimes available from herbal supply shops.)
Cover the fresh or dried chickweed with alcohol, making sure the contents of the jar are completely covered.
Screw the lid on tightly and gently shake the contents of the jar. Place in a cool, dry location away from light, allowing the extraction to occur over the next 6 to 8 weeks.
Give the contents of the jar a gentle shake every couple of days.
Keep an eye on the alcohol level, adding more alcohol to cover the plant material if needed.
Once the tincture is ready to be decanted, line a funnel with cheesecloth and place the tip of the funnel into the neck of a dark amber glass bottle. Pour the solvent and the chickweed into the cheesecloth-lined funnel, pressing to make sure all of the liquid makes it into the bottle.
Label the tincture with its contents, date of production, recommended dosages, and suggested usages. Store in a cool, dry area away from light.
*Tinctures are usually made with vodka as a neutral spirit, but you can also use brandy, whisky or any other high-proof alcohol. Finished tinctures need to be at least 25% alcohol for preservation, and fresh herbs contribute some moisture to the mix. Be sure you use something that's 60-proof or higher.
Never use denatured alcohol or isopropyl alcohol to make tinctures, as it's unsafe for consumption.
To make an alcohol-free glycerite tincture (glycerite): cover dried plant material completely with a preparation of 3 parts glycerin to 1 part distilled water (instead of alcohol). Dried chickweed is available from herbal supply stores, and is sometimes used in place of fresh. If using fresh chickweed, use all glycerine and skip the water. As the glycerite tincture develops, it will need to be shaken every day. Proceed following the same directions as if making an alcohol-based tincture.
The yield varies, but if you're using fresh plant material, you should expect to pull out ever so slightly more tincture than the vodka you add. If using dried plant material, the dried herbs will absorb some and you'll get slightly less than the alcohol added. The amount of vodka will vary based on how tightly you pack the jar, but you should need about 2-3 cups of vodka for a quart jar, or about 1 to 1 1/2 cups vodka per pint. Be sure the plant material remains submerged during infusion.