Storing Herbal Infusions the Right Way

Why choose tinctures?

Herbal tinctures are rising in popularity because they are easier to dose, healthier, and more convenient than edibles or smoking.

Compared to edibles, tinctures start working faster and are more consistent in strength. While edibles can take hours, a couple drops of tincture absorbed under the tongue will pass through the skin in seconds and into your brain in minutes. You can easily increase or decrease your dosage by adjusting how many drops you take. 

Compared to vaping or smoking flower, herbal tinctures provide a way to ingest without potential injury to lungs. Though a joint doesn’t have the toxic additives found in cigarettes, inhaling the particulate matter in smoke will put an additional strain on the respiratory system. Tinctures avoid this, bypassing the lungs entirely on their way into your bloodstream.

More concentrated and less fragrant than edibles or dried bud, tinctures keep a low profile and are easier to consume discreetly. Their liquid form makes them easy to add to cooking recipes for sauces, soups, or drinks.

And best of all, tinctures will stay potent far longer than fresh flower or edibles. Cookies crumble, dried bud can grow moldy or too dry if not kept in the right humidity, but tinctures remain good for years if stored correctly.

Interested in the benefits of tinctures? Get started with an MB2e machine - the only home infusion machine that lets you make tinctures.

Magical Mason Jar Infusion with Fresh Herb

Using mason jars for tinctures

For the best protective storage for tinctures, you’re looking for a container that blocks light to prevent decomposition, is made of glass to prevent contamination, and has an airtight seal to prevent evaporation. Mason jars do an excellent job at addressing all three of these needs.

A longtime favorite storage vessel for fresh bud, mason jars also work well for tinctures. Home distillers have used mason jars for generations because the glass and steel of a jar do not react to alcohol. Though the majority of mason jars are clear, they also come in tinted glass versions that offer more protection for herbal infusions.

While mason jars have a long history of being an ideal storage vessel, tinctures have a long history of being an ideal way to consume herbs. Before prohibition in the USA in 1937, herbal tinctures enjoyed popularity in recreational consumption and were also the preferred form prescribed by doctors. Once you start experiencing the ease of making, storing, and taking your own tinctures, you’ll see why they are once again rising in popularity.

Be part of the return of tinctures! For jars specifically designed for holding tinctures, infusions and fresh herbs, check out MagicalButter’s tinted mason jars. They have a 3 cup capacity which is the right size to hold a batch from the MB2e, and it also features a metal cap that makes labeling the date you made your infusion a breeze.

Magical Mason Jars 3 Pack with Herbal Lotion Tincture Oil

Threats to tincture potency

So you’ve gone through the trouble of making an herbal tincture. Now how do you store it so it maintains its potency, flavor, and integrity?

Compared to dried herbs, tinctures are protected against mold because they have less organic matter to grow on and the alcohol functions as a preservative.

Though they fight off mold and bacteria, tinctures can still chemically degrade. The molecular compounds found in herbs that get you high are unstable and can degrade with exposure to oxygen, heat, and light. When activating your herbs through decarboxylation, you take advantage of this process, but too much heat and it will continue to degrade to the point where it is no longer psychoactive.

Like fresh herbs, tinctures are threatened by exposure to light. Based on their liquid state, they are also threatened by evaporation and contamination.

Main threats to tincture potency:

  • Light
  • Evaporation
  • Contamination

How light degrades herb

Have a sip of a skunked beer and you will have a powerful sensory example of how light can affect tinctures. Made of hops which are an herb and alcohol, beer is actually a diluted herbal tincture. When exposed to light, components of hops can undergo a chemical reaction that takes sulfur and transforms it into a chemical that though is harmless, is detectible in parts per million and is chemically similar to skunk spray. The power of light is so strong, it only takes 30 seconds of sun exposure to make a beer offensively skunky.

Similarly, light can trigger degradation of other psychoactive herbal tinctures. Infrared light exposure increases heat which increases chemical decomposition by speeding up molecular movement. Ultraviolet light has the most powerful effect with the potential to ionize molecules by adding or removing electrons and breaking molecular bonds.­­­­

Direct sunlight is the most obvious source of UV radiation, but many people don’t realize that fluorescent lights also generate a high amount of UV rays. LED lights generate less and are somewhat safer but rather than changing your lightbulbs, it’s best to just keep your tincture out of light as much as possible by storing it in a cool, dark place.  

Tincture Dropper in Cool Dark Place

Reducing contamination

Alcohol is a solvent which makes it great at extracting components from herbs, but also great at extracting unwanted chemical components from its container. To avoid this, use glass or stainless steel whenever possible because they are inert compared to plastics and less likely to leach into your tincture.

If you made your tincture with a high proof alcohol that is between 70%-95% abv like Everclear, you can reduce leaching potential by watering it down with distilled water to around 40% alcohol. This will also make it less harsh on the tongue without shortening shelf life.

Dealing with evaporation

Alcohol evaporates more readily than water. Left without a lid, the alcohol in your tincture will start to evaporate, concentrating the herbal potency and making dosing difficult. You can take advantage of evaporation by making an infused oil or concentrated plant oil. In our infused sugar recipe we share how to fully evaporate a tincture in an electric oven. 

In most cases, people will want to keep the alcohol from evaporating. To protect your tinctures, store them in a container that has an airtight seal. Alcohol will still slowly vaporize, but if you have an airtight seal it will eventually condense and drop back into the solution.

Over time it is possible for the herbal oils to separate from the alcohol even without evaporation. To fix this and ensure you have the right strength, always shake your tinctures before dosing.