While paying for the convenience of ready-made extracts can be nice, it can be costly. Even the extracts you use to flavor your favorite recipes are very expensive. If you use extracts to supplement your daily diet or use them regularly for medicinal purposes, the costs can really add up. Making your own extracts will save you hundreds and possibly thousands of dollars.
This is the simplest way to make your own liquid extracts in your own home. Start with a clean mason jar with a lid, the herbs of your choice and a good grain alcohol that is over 90 proof(Everclear or a good vodka is best). If you can use fresh herbs, that is best as well. Fresh material is always preferred but availability is determined by your abilities to grow them, the climate, available stores, etc and many quality herbs may not be available. It is unlikely that you have vanilla seed pods in your back garden, so do the best you can :) If you cannot locate fresh materials, be sure to get good quality, organic herbs from a reputable supplier. Also, you will not want to use a powdered herb for making an extract. It is difficult to filter out the plant matter at the end of the steeping period.
If you are using fresh material, remove the part you will need(leaves, stems, root) and put in the glass jar. Next, pour the grain alcohol or Vodka over the herbs. Completely cover the herbal material. If you are using dried herbs you will need to add more alcohol over the next day or two as the dried herbs absorb and expand. Keep this expansion in mind as you fill your jar at the beginning. A good ratio for dried material is about 1 part herb to 5 parts alcohol. After you have added the alcohol, cover with a new, tight-fitting lid. It is best to use a new canning lid. Reusing old commercial jars can lead to contamination of your extract.
Shake well and place the jar in brown paper bag(to protect it from light) & allow the herbs to soak for 1 to 2 months in a cool dark place. Shake every few days. I like to keep my extracts in a cubby on my desk. Each morning when I check my email, I shake the jars. The alcohol will extract the active compounds from the herbs. After 4 to 8 weeks, strain the herbs. Use a large sieve or strainer lined with a fine mesh cloth or cheesecloth placed over a large bowl or container. Allow all the liquid to drain out. If you are using a fine material, you can tightly squeeze the material to extract every last drop from the cloth. The herbal material left over that is saturated contains a lot of active medicinal compounds so do your best to extract all the liquid. If you want to remove the alcoholic content as well, you can gently heat the liquid to do so. Allow the solution to cool, then funnel the liquid into smaller bottles, preferably amber or cobalt bottles and store your tinctures in a cool dark place. Its that simple! You have now made your own herbal extract for a fraction of the price you would have paid at the store. Your extracts will keep for 3-5 years! Enjoy!