I am a cheater. Summer jumps up from behind me and, suddenly, I have too much food and herbs to put by than time to process it. Sometimes I need a tincture tomorrow I haven’t started today. Sometimes, a plant just holds on despite my coaxing. These are cheatin’ times.

My freezer is my partner in crime.  Temperature changes things. By freezing plants, the tissue resists decay. When you defrost an item, you have to use it quickly. The cell walls start to break down. The smart herbalist, the Shoestring Herbalist, uses this to his or her advantage.

Most people have stored extra food in their freezer. What about herbs? Some herbs, like St. John’s wort and lemon balm are best used fresh due to their fragile water soluble constituents. Once you dry them, they become vastly inferior. Freezing these plants preserves the medicinal qualities for another day. You have the option of throwing them into alcohol or tea later in the year.

Tinctures can be frozen over night to bump up the extraction process. Only freeze those tinctures that also have water in them. Fruit and leaves are the best candidates since they’re the most susceptible to frost. High resin tinctures like myrrh or propolis will not be affected much by freezing.

Some seeds are durable and only crack with exposure to frost such as echinacea and milk thistle. They’re designed to withstand a tough winter and open their casing with the next frost. A trip to the freezer duplicates this process and gives you a better tincture.

Freezing your tincture requires a little bit of craft. Be sure to label your bottle carefully. Leave room for expansion in the bottle. When you take your bottle out the next day, defrost it by placing it in a bowl with a cloth over it to catch moisture and minimize light exposure.

Once your tincture is defrosted, give it a good shake. It could be ready for straining or it could sit a few more days to make it stronger. Shaking is the key. The alcohol will not freeze and your tincture will only be slushy. It doesn’t take long to bring the liquid back to room temperature. After all, it isn’t considered cheating if it doesn’t save you time and energy.