If you follow First Ways, you know that I usually make medicinal extracts of wild plants using grain alcohol or brandy, but glycerin is a good alternative solvent that agrees well with kids, animals and anyone else who may be sensitive to alcohol or partial to sweet flavors.
In the photo above, you see I’m pouring glycerin into a hawthorn berry medicine I was making. Hawthorn is in demand in my world: Not only did my dog come down with a heart arrhythmia, but recently so did one of my dearest friends, and, meanwhile, a close relative is having heart trouble. This is why, a few weeks ago, I decided to gather the remaining hawthorn berries from a tree at a park near my house. (Most of them are gone now, but if you wait a little while, you can make medicine with the flowering spring branches.)
Vegetable glycerin is a clear, syrupy, sweet-tasting liquid that is typically derived from coconut or palm oil. It is low on the glycemic index and will not spike your blood sugar. Some books I have say it is safe for diabetics but some online sources say it is not, so if you are diabetic, this would be a question to check in with your doctor about.
Like alcohol and water, glycerin is effective at extracting botanical constituents. Glycerin is considered more powerful than water but not quite as powerful as alcohol, so most herbalists stick with alcohol for dissolving resinous materials and oils. Glycerin will preserve plant matter for one to two years; it is considered bacteriocidal and bacteriostatic.
You can find glycerin in the grocery store or you can order it online. It tends to be comparable or slightly less expensive, price-wise, to alcohol, depending on where you buy it. Make sure you get food grade glycerin.
Then, I put them in a glass mason jar until it was nearly full. Books say you can mix two parts glycerine with one part water or just use all glycerin. What I did was fill it two-thirds with glycerin and one-third with vodka, which is an option if you want to add some oomph to the extractive power without affecting the taste. I then put the jar in a dark closet. That was four weeks ago, so it should be nearly ready for bottling now. (I like to wait four to six weeks).
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