Backyard Tinctures & Vinegars

The backyard is full of medicine this time of year. Medicine, and fun, and minerals, and whimsy.

My family lives tucked into a holler of the Blue Ridge Mountains, but many wild-edibles are just as happy to grow in the space between sidewalk blocks. Yarrow, plantain, bee balm, red clover, dandelion, lemon balm, peppermint, and goldenrod are some of the easiest to learn and find. A few pots of herbs on a back stoop can add to the abundance. If you can accurately identify the plants in your yard, you can easily craft them into tonics that keep long after the green withers to brown.


Instructions to make a tincture to be used medicinally:

Stuff a mason jar with clean, fresh herb matter. Jar size doesn’t matter, just pack it in there until it’s full. Then, fill the jar to the brim with 80 proof alcohol. Vodka, Gin, Moonshine, Brandy: it’s your pick. Shake the jar as often as you can while it cures for 6 weeks in a dark place. Then, strain off the herb matter and store your tincture in a clean jar or bottle.

Follow the same method for herbal-infused vinegars using any type of vinegar you like. Chive, lemon balm, and dill make especially nice vinegars to then be drizzled over salad.

If you’d rather infuse your alcohol with herbs for cocktails, add just a handful to the bottom of a pint jar and then fill the rest of the jar with alcohol of your choice. Strain after 4 weeks and mix yourself a seasonal beverage.

When stored in a cool, dark place like a pantry shelf vinegars keep up to 2 years. Alcohol preservations keep indefinitely.


Elisabeth McCachren Mitchell is a mama to three small children, a writer, and a postpartum doula living on a small homestead in the Blue Ridge Mountains of NC. Her studies in tantric yoga and psychology inform all aspects of her life and provide endless brain fodder.  Follow her as she finds beauty, makes meaning, and honors the work of motherhood @heartcenteredmamas.

Maria Borghoff