How to Make a Herbal Glycerite

by Jade Shutes

Have you heard of herbal glycerites? They are sweet liquid herbal extracts that use vegetable glycerin instead of alcohol to extract the beneficial properties of plants. Tinctures are typically made with alcohol, but glycerites provide an excellent alcohol-free alternative, especially for children and those who want to avoid consuming alcohol. The pleasing, sweet taste of glycerin also makes glycerites more palatable than alcohol tinctures. Let’s dive in and learn all about these versatile herbal preparations!

What are Glycerites?

Glycerites are herbal extracts made by macerating (soaking) fresh or dried plant material in vegetable glycerin, sometimes mixed with a bit of water. The glycerin extracts the active plant compounds into the liquid. Glycerin is particularly good at preserving the fresh juices and constituents of plants. However, dried herbs need to be rehydrated with some water for the glycerin extraction to work well. The standard ratio is to use 75% glycerin and 25% water for dried herb glycerites.

What is Vegetable Glycerin?

Vegetable glycerin, also known as glycerol, is a clear, viscous liquid with a sweet taste. It is derived from plant oils like palm, soy, or coconut oil. High temperature and pressure are used to split the glycerin from the fatty acids in the oil. Although it tastes sweet, glycerin is a sugar alcohol, not a true sugar, and is metabolized differently by the body.

Glycerin is non-toxic and classified as generally safe for consumption by the FDA. However, it’s important to be aware that, as a sugar alcohol, it may cause digestive discomfort for some people, similar to other sugar alcohols like xylitol and erythritol. If you’re new to taking glycerites, start with a small amount to see how your body responds.

When purchasing vegetable glycerin, look for a high-quality, organic, sustainably-sourced product. Some glycerin is made from palm oil, which is linked to rainforest destruction. Organic soy or coconut glycerin is a more eco-friendly option.

How to Use Glycerites

Glycerites are popular with herbalists as an alcohol-free option for tinctures. They are often used for children and animals due to their pleasant, sweet flavor. The standard adult dose is 30-60 drops (1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon), taken 3 times daily. Glycerites are not as potent as alcohol tinctures but are still quite effective.

Which herbs? Fresh or Dried?

Glycerites can be made with a wide variety of fresh or dried plants. Some popular herbs to use include:

Fresh Herbs:

    • Lemon balm
    • Mint
    • Lavender
    • Violet
    • Chamomile
    • Rose petals
    • Elderflowers

Dried Herbs: 

    • Echinacea root
    • Elderberries
    • Burdock root
    • Dandelion root
    • Hawthorn berries
    • Fennel seeds
    • Ginger root

Fresh aromatic herbs and flowers like lavender, rose, lemon balm, and violets make delightful-tasting glycerites that can be added to teas, cocktails, and desserts. Immune-supportive herbs like elderberry and echinacea can also be made into glycerites to help ward off colds and flu.

Making Glycerites

The basic method for making a glycerite is to fill a jar with chopped fresh herbs or half-full of ground dried herbs, then cover with glycerin or a glycerin/water mixture, let sit for 4-6 weeks, then strain.

Here are the steps in more detail:

For Fresh Herbs:

    1. Chop herbs finely and fill a clean glass jar, leaving 1-2 inches of space at the top.
    2. Pour pure vegetable glycerin over the herbs until they are completely covered.
    3. Stir well with a chopstick or knife to remove air bubbles. Add more glycerin as needed to keep herbs submerged.
    4. Cap the jar tightly and label it with the herb name and date.
    5. Let steep in a cool, dark place for 4-6 weeks. Shake the jar daily.
    6. After 4-6 weeks, strain out the plant material through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
    7. Pour the finished glycerite into a clean bottle and label it. Store in a cool, dark place.

For Dried Herbs:

    1. Grind dried herbs into a coarse powder. Fill a jar about half full of the ground herbs.
    2. In a separate jar, mix 3 parts vegetable glycerin and 1 part distilled water. (For example, if you have 1 cup of glycerin, add 1/3 cup water.)
    3. Pour the glycerin/water mixture over the dried herbs until they are fully covered, leaving 1-2 inches of space at the top.
    4. Stir well to remove air pockets and add more liquid if needed to keep herbs submerged.
    5. Put the lid on and label the jar. Let steep for 4-6 weeks, shaking daily.
    6. Strain as described above for fresh herbs. Bottle and label the glycerite.

Using Glycerites in Skincare

Glycerites can also be wonderful ingredients to incorporate into natural skincare products. They not only add the beneficial properties of the extracted herbs, but glycerin itself is an excellent humectant that attracts moisture to the skin. Glycerites can be incorporated into creams, lotions, serums, toners, and masks at a concentration of 2-5%.

Some herbs that make nice glycerites for skin care include:

    • Calendula flowers
    • Gotu kola
    • Lavender
    • Helichrysum
    • Red clover
    • Plantain
    • Rose petals

When making glycerites for skincare, it’s important to use only fresh, high-quality plant material to avoid contamination. To ensure adequate preservation, it’s best to include the glycerites in the water phase of a recipe and include a preservative.

You can also mix glycerites with gums like xanthan or guar to thicken them. Keep in mind glycerites contain water in addition to glycerin, so they may cause gums to clump. It’s usually better to mix gums with pure glycerin first before adding glycerites.

It’s important to note that if you plan to sell skincare products containing homemade glycerites, you’ll need to get the glycerites tested to ensure they meet safety standards. For this reason, many skincare formulators choose to buy glycerites from reputable suppliers instead of making their own.

However, making glycerites at home for personal use can be a fun and rewarding way to capture the goodness of plants. It connects us with the traditional art of herbal medicine making in a really approachable way. You can even use glycerites made from herbs or flowers you’ve grown yourself!

 

Shelf Life and Storage

Glycerites have a shelf life of 1-2 years if stored properly in a cool, dark place. To extend the shelf life and increase the extraction of herbal properties, you can mix in a small amount of alcohol when making glycerites. A common proportion is to use 75% glycerite and 25% alcohol tincture.

I hope this blog post has inspired you to try making your own sweet and delightful herbal glycerites! It’s a simple and satisfying way to harness the power of plants for health and well-being. Remember to start slow if you’re new to taking glycerites, source high-quality ingredients, and always label your creations clearly.

Happy glycerite making!

Interested in learning more about formulating with Glycerites?

Check out our Botanical Body Care Products course here.