Thyme tincture is an excellent remedy for cough and respiratory complaints, and it’s easy to make with ingredients you probably already have in your pantry!
Thyme was the very first herb I used therapeutically, back when I was a pre-teen budding herbalist in the 90’s. I’d asked for herbal books for Christmas, and then when I came down with a bad cold in January I was actually THRILLED!
I poured over the herbal books looking for an answer for my persistent cough and runny nose, but what suburban household keeps a stock of elecampane just sitting on the pantry shelf?
Just because I had herbal books on hand (or the internet these days) doesn’t mean I had all the right herbs on hand to solve my problem. But kitchen spice cabinet remedies came to the rescue.
I was skeptical, but I made myself a big steaming cup of thyme tea.
It took a long time to cool, but I held it and breathed in the wonderful aroma for a few minutes…and my stuffy nose cleared as if by magic. Before I’d even drank a drop, I was feeling much better, and I was completely sold on the magic of kitchen pantry herbal remedies.
These days, I do still use thyme tea, but while it’s pleasant to inhale, it’s not all that great to drink…and sometimes I need a remedy I can just take with me in a convenient dropper bottle. Thyme tincture comes to the rescue, and keeps coughs and sniffles at bay. I actually add thyme tincture to my homemade cough syrups, and the alcohol works as a preservative while the thyme helps the syrup work wonders.
I’ll walk you through how to make your own thyme tincture, with either fresh bark or dried thyme, but if you’re just looking for a source for the tincture, it can be purchased ready made here. This is the basic process for making thyme tincture, but if you’re looking for more details, I’d recommend the Herbal Academy’s Tincture Making Course which covers everything you could ever want to know about making more than 100 different herbal tinctures, as well as half a dozen tincturing methods.
(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 medication. 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 Thyme Tincture
So much more than a culinary herb, thyme is an incredibly rich source of phytonutrients, minerals, and vitamins A, B, and C. The main essential oil compound in thyme, thymol, has impressive antimicrobial, antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Thyme tincture can be applied to acne-prone skin to prevent and clear up existing breakouts thanks to its strong antibacterial benefits that have been shown to be resistant against certain strains of Staphylococcus, Enterococcus, Escherichia, and Pseudomonas bacteria.
Animal studies have shown that thyme extract may be able to lower heart rate in rats with high blood pressure. In addition to a marked difference in heart rate, cholesterol levels were also reduced.
Thyme has long been used as a folk medicine for respiratory illnesses and recent animal studies are confirming this usage, with research showing that the thyme is a natural decongestant and expectorant.
How to Make Thyme Tincture
To make a Thyme tincture, you’ll need the following ingredients and equipment:
- Thyme, either dried or fresh
- 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)
*The Herbal Academy’s tincture making course specifically recommends using 45% alcohol when working with dried thyme or about 60-70% alcohol when working with fresh thyme because it contains water.(They recommend as low as 25% for dried mucilaginous herbs, and up to 95% when working with dried plant resins. Thyme just happens to fall right in the middle, since it has both alcohol soluble and water soluble constituents).
**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 thyme.
To make the tincture, add fill a jar about 3/4 of the way full with fresh thyme (or about halfway full with dried thyme).
Cover the thyme 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 thyme 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).
For more information on the general process, I’d suggest reading this guide to making herbal tinctures at home.
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 Thyme Tincture 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.
Thyme Tincture Dosage
For an exact dosage specific to your body and needs, I’d suggest consulting a clinical herbalist.
Generally, the dosage for thyme tincture is 1 to 2 droppers full, taken 2 to 3 times per day, or as needed. Since thyme is a common culinary herb that’s consumed liberally on your dinner plate, there’s not much reason to worry about over-doing it unless you really go crazy with it.
These days, since I have more herbs on hand than I did back when I was a budding herbalist just working out of a kitchen pantry, I tend to combine thyme with elecampane, white pine or licorice as a gentle (but effective) cough remedy.
If you’re interested in the science behind combining herbs to enhance their effectiveness, I’d recommend taking this online course in Mastering Herbal Formulations from the Herbal Academy. It covers the science of blending herbs into homemade formulations in detail.
A thyme tincture is a homemade herbal remedy that's easy to make with just a few ingredients.
- Thyme, dried or fresh
- 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 labelling tincture)
- Fill a clean, empty mason jar 3/4 full of fresh thyme, or 1/2 full of dried thyme. (Dried thyme is often available from herbal supply shops, but you can also pick it up from any well stocked grocery store's spice shelf.)
- Cover the fresh or dried thyme 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 thyme 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 thyme is available from herbal supply stores as well as most grocery stores, and is often used in place of fresh. If using fresh thyme, 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.
Disclaimer on Homemade Herbal Remedies
I’ve been foraging wild medicines and treating my family with herbal remedies for the past 20 years, but I’m self-taught. Be aware that I am not a clinical herbalist, and this is based on my own research and personal experience using medicinal plants. I do not claim to have the experience that’d qualify me to advise you on your health, and I’m only providing this as a reference to encourage a broader interest in medicinal plants.
Please use this as a jumping-off point, but always do your own research and verify anything you read with multiple sources.
It’s always possible to have an adverse reaction to any medicinal herb, and plenty of people are allergic to even gentle herbs like chamomile. Always consult your doctor or a certified herbalist before trying any new medicinal plant. Often, they can have unintended reactions in combination with other herbs and supplements, and many herbs have side effects even when they are effective for their intended purpose.
If you are seriously interested in herbal medicine, I’d suggest investing in a course in herbal medicine, and I’d recommend any of the online courses put out by the Herbal Academy of New England. Specifically, the introduction to herbal medicine course and the family herbalist group of courses.
For resources related specifically to tinctures,I’d recommend the Herbal Academy’s Tincture Making Course which covers everything you could ever want to know about making more than 100 different herbal tinctures, as well as half a dozen tincturing methods.
Interested in making other homemade herbal tinctures?
- Yarrow Tincture
- Chickweed Tincture
- Elderberry Tincture
- Dandelion Tincture
- Burdock Tincture
- Echinacea Tincture
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