Making Non-Alcohol ‘Glycerites’ with Vegetable Glycerin & Fresh Plant Material

If you want to extract plant medicines into a liquid that does not contain alcohol, then one good option is to make a glycerite.  This is very similar to making a ‘tincture’, except that a tincture is made with alcohol.

Sure, you can easily buy an Echinacea Glycerite at Whole Foods, but they are also easy and so fun to make!  Glycerin is a vegetable sugar and does not contain alcohol.  I currently buy my glycerin in 16oz bottles form Lhasa Karnak in Berkeley, CA. After sufficient soaking (2-4 weeks) the liquid (called the ‘menstruum’) is separated from the plant dregs (called the ‘marc’) and the medicine is filtered.

Here are two methods for making non-alcoholic plant glycerites:

The McQuade-Izard Folk Method using Fresh Plants (simple method):

Goji Berry Glycerite

This process makes delightfully colored and flavorful extracts.

No matter what fresh herb you are using, fill your maceration container, packing it to medium density.

Dump this out and weigh it; note the weight.

Transfer this fresh herb to a blender.

Add sufficient glycerin to cover the herb by about 1/4 inch and blend until blender top is warm. (This process coats the fresh herb with the glycerin and to a large extent eliminates oxidation of the plant components as the blades break down cell walls.)

Bottling the Goji Berry Remedy

Add more glycerin as needed to fully cover the herb (keep note of the amount added). Fresh plants carry their own water. This depends, however, on the water content of the herb (make notes).

Pour everything (blended marc and menstruum) back into the maceration container and cap tightly.

Agitate twice daily for 14 days.

Strain, press, and store in amber-colored bottles.

With certain herbs, you may want to add more glycerin after maceration and pressing to improve preservation. Be aware that this will dilute the strength of the finished glycerite. Shelf-life will be between 1 to 3 years depending on the water content of the fresh plant used. The more water content by volume, the less preservative power the glycerin will have. Make appropriate adjustments.

The ‘Weight to Volume’ Method using Fresh Plants (more scientific method):

These are sample measurements for making a 1:2 weight/volume (w/v) or 50% fresh, juicy plant glycerite~

  • 400 Gm Fresh herb (chopped)
  • 800 ml Glycerine (100 percent by volume of the menstruum)
  • Sample measurements for making a 1:2 w/v or 50% fresh, not-so-juicy plant glycerite
  • 400 Gm Fresh herb (chopped)
  • 600 ml Glycerin (75 percent by volume of the menstruum)
  • 200 ml Distilled water

Making the Glycerite:

Chop the plant into small pieces and place them in a blender.

Prepare custom menstruum (extraction liquid).

Cover the herb with menstruum and blend it like making a smoothie.

Pour the liquefied ingredients into a jar and cap tightly. Be sure you have added all the measured menstruum to the herb during or after the blending process, so as to maintain the intended weight to volume proportion.

Shake the glycerite frequently for 14 days.

Decant, press, and filter.

Bottle, tightly cap, and label.


The Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook by James Green

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  1. Dear Lana,
    As always happy to read your interesting articles. … also enjoyed the radio program.
    At home I am growing fresh oregano. Can I make oregano oil or oregano glycerite following this method?? Where is a good place to buy glycerin?? glicerina??
    Muchas gracias,
    Margarita Marchus
    Have a great summer!!

    Comment by Margarita Marchus — June 26, 2012 @ 10:06 pm

  2. Margarita, I think an oregano glycerine sounds like a good idea, as the vegetable sugar will combine nicely with the intensity of oregano, making it more user-friendly than a tincture. I usually buy my glycerine from Lhasa Karnak in Berkeley Let me know how it turns out!

    Comment by Lana — September 18, 2012 @ 8:09 am

  3. Dear Lana,
    This is my first time to make ginger glycerin during school open day in October 2012. I always saw my grandmother or grandaunt made some herbs wine (e.g. San Qi wine for bone injuries or muscles spasm or bruise). But they didn’t extract the herbs out, they just let them stay in the bottle and we just pour out the amount of wine whenever we need. They said, the longer time is better. My question, “is there time limit for the herb wine storage (e.g. certain type of herbs wine can store longer? or all of them is the same?) I am very happy about that I knew how to make herbs glycerin now. Thanks for showing us how to make this during open day!
    Best Regards,

    Comment by PUI YEE LAW — November 26, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

  4. Some herbs can stay in wine or other alcohols a long time. For example, Wu Shao She is often kept in the alcohol a long time, and just the amount needed is poured out. Others should be removed because they can become too fermented. For example, I have a tincture of Ye Jiao Teng that I’ve had for a long time b/c I forgot about it. I think it might have gone bad and I need to check it.

    Comment by Lana Farson — December 11, 2012 @ 3:12 pm

  5. Lana, Glycerin is used commonly in external cosmetic products. Can herbal glycerites be used as body / bath products too? Jodi

    Comment by Jodi Host — March 31, 2013 @ 12:54 pm

  6. Thank you for posting these alternatives. I’m going to be very busy trying new out recipes over break 🙂

    Comment by Diana Rogers — April 7, 2013 @ 10:22 am

  7. Hi Lana,

    I would love to take your workshop on making tinctures, etc. if you are holding it sometime when school isn’t such a heavy load!

    Comment by Cynthia Lester — April 9, 2013 @ 11:19 pm

  8. Tinctures & glycerites area great way to preserve herbs for a long time, and an easy method to take your herbs too. I’m wondering if there is a similar method that doesn’t use something as sugary as alcohol or glycerites? I know some diabetics who have trouble taking these types of preparations for that reason.

    Comment by Katrina H — August 3, 2013 @ 6:09 pm

  9. Those with diabetes would probably be better off using powdered granules or boiling raw herbs to make a water decoction.

    Comment by Lana — August 8, 2013 @ 3:43 pm

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