How to prepare Plant Extracts

Aqueous extracts

Maceration or Cold Infusion

Maceration is the process of leaving herbs soaking in cold water for a long period of time ranging from 30 minutes to 24 hours. Usually 20 parts of water is used for 1 part of the plant. After the maceration is complete, the liquid obtained before drinking or applying to the skin should be well filtered.

Infusion (The most common)

Infusions are used for the most delicate parts of the plants such as leaves, flowers, small seeds and herbal steams. For infusions we should boil the herbs for 5-10 minutes (depending on the plants constituency) on bland fire. Usually 1-2 teaspoons of tea per cup of water is used. After that, we should let it cold for some minutes, however always covered for not losing the volatile essential oils and the drink its ready to serve.


Decoctions are used for the hardest parts of the plants such as roots or barks. For decoctions we should boil the herbs for 15-30 minutes (depending on the plants constituency) on bland fire. Usually 1-2 teaspoons of tea per cup of water is used. After that, we should let it cold for 5 minutes, then the liquid obtained should be filtered and is ready to serve. A tisane is the product of a decoction.


Tinctures are effective methods of obtaining the mother extracts and consequently a very high concentration of active principles of the plants. They can be made both from fresh or dry herbs, but are the fresh ones which are the strongest. Being alcohol the main ingredient its possible to obtain active principles which are unsolvable in water such as the plant’s essential oils. Tinctures are used both internally and externally and do not need to be consumed right away.

Because they are extracted with alcohol they are preserved for several years and do not need to be stored at low temperatures.

As an alternative to tinctures of alcohol there are also vegetable glycerin tinctures, however these are not as potent. In fact alcohol is the only ingredient which is able to extract some plant components such as alkaloids, essential oils, some esterol, terpenes and resins. Also the immersion in alcohol increases the absorbance of the substances. For instance, by dropping some drops under the tongue they reach blood circulation almost instantly.

In order to make a tincture one should use about 100ml alcohol (45-70º) per 10-20g of herbs. Cut all the herbs available in small pieces and let the alcohol drop on them. Next you should seal it and let it sit for 2-5 weeks on a fresh and dark site. The bottle should shaken daily. When enough time has passed just use a filter and strain all the liquid sorting on a dark flask.


syrups are a way to deceive the palate and take some phytotherapeutic components that would be unpalatable at the first taste. On the other hand the high concentration of sugar gives them an enormous validity due to the low capacity of contamination and fermentation.

To prepare a syrup is used as base an infusion, decoction to which is added a heated part of sugar, honey, molasses or glycerin. Usually about 300g of sugar is used for 0.5 liters of extract. To prepare a syrup from a tincture, one part of extract is used for 3 of sugary liquid.

Article written by Igor Nelson,, Herbalist

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