Let’s learn how to make a tincture from your Christmas/Yule tree! If you don’t already know about all the wonderful magickal and medicinal properties of fir trees, click HERE.
This was going to be way more complicated in my head than it ended up being in real life. Don’t you love it when that happens?
Quick explanation about the label. The 1:3 is a ratio for a Measured and Weighted Tincture. I actually did both the Folk and the Measured methods on this tincture. The Folk for this post and the Measured for my shop. I’ll explain the Measured Method soon in a much more detailed post. For now, let’s just work on the Folk Method.
First, harvest your holiday tree. You can find directions for that HERE. Of course you don’t have to have your own tree for this to work. You can absolutely forage for your ingredients if you live in the right part of the country. Just forage ethically please. These trees really are gentle giants and it would not be respectful to stunt them. If you are harvesting your own Christmas tree, make sure that it has not been painted or sprayed with any nasty chemicals. It used to be hard to find a tree like this unless you chopped down your own, but as we become more aware of pesticide use and their effects on our health, more farmers are moving to healthier and more sustainable practices.
Next, fill your jar with the appropriate amount of plant matter.
With fir trees you want to include not just the needles but a bit of twig as well.
You can use fresh or dried plant matter. Generally fresh plant matter will give you a more balanced tincture because it still has water content.
For my purposes I had just let the tree dry out in the stand so as I broke the branches down into ever smaller pieces, I set aside any branches that just weren’t quite as dry.
I took these fresher branches, which I guess were more wilted than dry, and snipped them into my jar. I’ve seen recipes that pull out food processors for this stuff, but y’all, you don’t have to obliterate it. The plant and the alcohol know what they’re doing. Leave the plant recognizable. I feel like this honors the plant a little more for the medicine that it is giving you, and it looks absolutely stunning while it works its magick in the jar.
Traditional folk tincture recipes call for different amounts of dried and fresh and even leaf to root plant matter to alcohol. So how do we use a plant like fir? We have not quite fresh, not quite dry twig and leaf. Let’s look at the table and I’ll explain.
|Fresh Leaves and Flowers||Dried Leaves and Flowers|
|3/4 full to FULL||1/2 full to 3/4 full|
|Fresh Roots, Barks, and Berries||Dried Roots, Barks, and Berries|
|1/2 full||1/4 full|
I started with the twigs. I figured those would be the most problematic addition, but they totally weren’t. Since they weren’t quite fresh (requiring me to fill the jar 1/2 way) and they weren’t quite dry (requiring me to fill the jar 1/4 of the way) I filled the jar halfway between 1/2 and 1/4. What is that — 3/8? Doesn’t matter. I eyeballed it. Hooray for the folk method!
Then I did basically the same thing with the needles. If you look at the chart, the meeting place between fresh and dried is 3/4 full. So I just dumped the needles on top of the twigs until my jar was about 3/4 full.
It was beautiful.
The needles sifted down between the twigs and loosely filled all those blank spaces. I didn’t push it down. I just let things happily find their place.
Then I dumped vodka on it.
Sorry for the terrible picture. It turns out pouring a full, massive vodka bottle one handed while trying to take a picture is surprisingly challenging.
At any rate, fill that jar to the tippy top. Then give it a few minutes for the plant matter to start absorbing the alcohol and for the air bubbles to work their way out before topping it the rest of the way up.
Choose your alcohol carefully.
I’m sure there are any number of alcohols that would do well with this flavor profile. I always use vodka because it is flavor neutral and meets the alcohol percentage requirements. It is absolutely mandatory that you use an alcohol that is at least 40% alcohol. It is my opinion that you should not go higher than 50% alcohol. This alcohol percentage will pull out both the alcohol and the water soluble properties. Balanced. Once you start going higher than 50% alcohol, it starts to require some extra math and water to get the final product to a safe state. Now you may see other herbalists recommending alcohols like Everclear that have ridiculously high alcohol percentages. Those tinctures are not safe without the addition of water.
To keep things simple, I only recommend using an alcohol between 40-50% alcohol content. Alcohol percentage is different than proof. An 80 proof alcohol is 40% alcohol content. I hope that makes sense.
One of the most important steps is labeling. You can use anything you like as the actual label as long as you include the name of the plant and the date you began. It can also be helpful to include information like the herb to alcohol ratio and where you obtained the plant matter so that you can recreate the same medicine again.
I like these dissolvable labels. (affiliate link)
Then just put it somewhere cool and dark (or at least out of direct sunlight) for the next six to eight weeks.
You also might want to check on it in a few days to see if you need to top off the alcohol. Remember, the plant itself is going to soak up some of the alcohol and you want your plant matter to remain covered.
Once you’ve made it at least six weeks (you can definitely leave it longer) you must decide: To Strain or Not To Strain.
Option #1 You can leave the herbs in the jar completely as they are. They’re not going to go bad soaked in all that alcohol. Just dip off the top as needed.
Option #2 You can strain out the herbs and put the whole shebang back in a jar to use as needed. Toss your spent herbs in the compost.
Option #3 You can take your strained tincture and put it in pretty dropper bottles.
When I first started tincturing I put everything in pretty dropper bottles. I probably had a hundred of them on the shelves. Of course I also made everything in big jars so…maybe start with little jelly jars. Now when I tincture things, I leave them in one jar unless I have one to gift or sell. Those get the fancy dropper jars. I also have an honest conversation with myself about how much of any given tincture we really NEED. It’s hard to go small when those quart and half gallon sized jars are so pretty, but the joy of small batches is being able to make more.
Check out the Apothecary for noble fir needles and other fun tincturing herbs.
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Disclaimer: Please note that I am a not medical professional and everything written here is a product of my own research. Don’t take any advice given here over that of a trained doctor. If you ingest any herbs, always make sure that you’re 100% sure that they’re safe. If you’re pregnant or giving to a child, always consult a doctor before ingesting herbs and plant you aren’t familiar with. Magickal instruction and spells are for personal entertainment purposes only. The desired result/outcome cannot be guaranteed as a result of using any magickal item, and should not be used as a replacement for medical/professional assistance.