What is a Glycerite?

If you’ve ever made or had a tincture that does not contain alcohol you have had a glycerite!

Before we get into what a glycerite is, let’s talk about its main ingredient, glycerin.

Glycerin was accidentally discovered in 1779 by K. W. Scheele, a Swedish chemist.  M. E. Chevreul gave glycerin its name in 1811 after the Greek word, glykys, meaning sweet. It did not become an important ingredient until 1866 when Alfred Nobel invented dynamite. From there it became a commercialized ingredient.

Glycerin is found naturally in plants, especially in fermented plants, and animals. It is obtained from the hydrolysis of fats and oils or by synthesizing it from propylene. Glycerin has many uses ranging from cosmetics to food to medicine and yes, even dynamite.

Glycerin is clear, odorless, and has a sweet, thick syrup-like consistency. It is available over the counter for both food and cosmetic uses. Food grade glycerin is often made with palm, soy, or coconut oil.

So, back to the question: What is a Glycerite?

A glycerite is essentially an alcohol-free tincture. Instead of infusing herbs in alcohol, glycerin is used to replace alcohol. However, a glycerite differs from an alcohol based tincture in other ways than just lacking alcohol.

A glycerite is not as strong as a regular tincture. It does not extract as much out of the herbs as alcohol does, but it still works.

The shelf life is only 1-2 years whereas an alcohol based tincture can last 4-6 years.

It also does better with fresh herbs rather than dried herbs. Dried herbs can be used but they must be rehydrated first.

The benefit of glycerites is that it can be given to pets, children, and those who cannot have alcohol. There’s also the advantage of being about to make it in a day or two and not having to wait 4-6 weeks.

How to Make a Glycerite

What you’ll need:

Fresh Herbs Glycerite

  • Fresh Herbs
  • Jar
  • Food Grade Vegetable Glycerin
  1. Chop up fresh herbs
  2. Fill jar with herbs and then add glycerin until it covers the plants
  3. Cap, label, and shake
  4. Leave in dark, cool place for 4-6 weeks, shaking ever few days

Dried Herbs Glycerite

  • Dried Herbs
  • Jar
  • Water
  • Food Grade Vegetable Glycerin
  1. Fill half a jar with dried herbs (they will expand)
  2. Boil some water
  3. Pour water over herbs, just enough to soak them. This helps draw out the beneficial properties of the plant
  4. Add in vegetable glycerin. Glycerine should make up a minimum of 50% of the liquid in your jar. 3:1 ratio is the best
  5. Use a knife or stick to stir and release bubbles
  6. Cap, label, shake
  7. Leave in dark, cool place for 4-6 weeks, shaking every few days

How to Make a Fast Glycerite

This is one of the advantages to using glycerin, it can be heated. This is a great option to have if you suddenly find yourself without, say, an elderberry tincture in the dead of cold and flu season and don’t have 4-6 weeks to wait on a tincture.

What you’ll need:

  • Already prepared glycerite
  • Small towel or silicon mat
  • Crock pot
  • Water
  1. Take your towel or silicon mat and place it in the bottom of your crock pot. This helps keep the glass from breaking.
  2. Place jar in crock pot
  3. Fill crock pot with water. You want to cover about 3/4 of the jar with water but you don’t want it to reach the top!
  4. Cook on low for 1-3 days. Check the water level constantly. Let cool before adding more water or the glass might break!

Glycerites are fast and simple to make. They are a great alternative to traditional tinctures when you can’t have alcohol. Interest in learning more about tinctures? Check out my article on tinctures where I cover the history and how to make them!

Glycerine: An Overview
How to Make Glycerine Extracts

Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes only. I am not a doctor, veterinarian, dietician, or health expert. Licensing is not available in the United States for an herbalist to practice herbal medicine.  If you wish to have advice on a medical problem, please consult a doctor. Every person is different and I cannot guarantee that any information provided will work for everyone.  You are responsible for your own health and any decision to alter your health is your own choice. Please consult a doctor before making any serious health changes

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