Ayurveda & Insomnia: Make your own Herbal Tincture!

Trouble Sleeping? Make your own herbal tincture to calm your mind and promote restful sleep!


This calming tincture soothes vata in the mind, relaxing you so that you can drift gently off to sleep. Sleep is considered one of the “Three Pillars of Life” in Ayurveda, meaning that without proper sleep, health is impaired. And making your own medicine is wonderfully rewarding and fun. Following is a recipe which we teach to our students in our Making Herbal Medicines workshop. These herbs are all nervine sedatives, so be careful and only use when you truly are ready for sleep!




All herbs are dried, in a cut & sifted form


3.5 gm (.123 oz) Valerian

3.5 gm (.123 oz) Skullcap

1.75 gm (.06 oz) Hops

1.75 gm (.06 oz) Lavender

1.75 gm (.06 oz) Passion Flower

1.75 gm (.06 oz) Nutmeg

6 oz. 80 proof Vodka or other solvent (menstruum – see below for additional info)*


14 grams (.493 oz) total herbs




Mix all herbs together and place in a glass jar, large enough so that there’s room to agitate the mixture periodically. The jar also needs to have a lid which seals tightly.


Add approx. 6 ounces of 80 proof vodka (see other solvent/menstruum options below). Stir/agitate the mixture well, so that all the herb is wet. Check the tincture again over the next 24-48 hours to make sure that there is still enough liquid to cover the herbs. More may be added during this period if needed.


Make sure the jar is capped tightly and store in a cool place.  There are mixed ideas about whether exposure to light during the tincturing process is appropriate. You may experiment with both ways to find the one that resonates most clearly with you. Shake the tincture daily for at least two weeks. 


After about two weeks, the tincture is ready (a full month is even better). Let the tincture sit without shaking for one day before straining. Decant any clear tincture from the top (a turkey baster works well). Press the remaining wet pulp. There are numerous ways to press the pulp, including using an organic cotton muslin or canvas bag, filling it with the pulp, and wringing out the extract; potato masher; wine press; juicer; or devices available on the market. As you experiment you will find the method that suits your needs. Combine together the liquid from pressing the pulp and from decanting. Filter if desired with a cloth, strainer, etc. Bottle, tightly cap and label the tincture. Be sure and include the date and list the ingredients. Also, you may prefer not to strain the tincture until ready for use. Essentially the medicine is already drawn out of the plant, and at that point everything stabilizes and goes into a “holding” pattern, with no more medicine extracted or lost, so the tincture can sit for months in this way, with the herbs still suspended in the tincture. 


Store tincture in an airtight, light-resistant container and avoid direct exposure to sunlight and excessive heat. Generally, if stored appropriately, an alcohol tincture will be good for a few years at least. As indicated below, if you use an alternate to alcohol the shelf life may be reduced. You may transfer a small amount of (strained) tincture into a small glass bottle with a dropper for use, and refill as needed from the larger jar. 


Instructions for use:


One hour before bed, take one dropper full of tincture mixed into a small amount of diluted fruit juice or tea (for flavor) ~ and enjoy a blissful night’s sleep! Sweet Dreams!


*A Note about menstruum (solvent) options:


A menstruum is a solvent used to extract the herbs. It is also a preservative. 


There are different reasons to choose each of the menstruum options, and this choice is often determined according to the active components of the plant one wishes to extract matched with the appropriate menstruum for doing so.  Sometimes different menstruums will be combined to enhance the overall capacity to withdraw a wider range of components.  Some options for menstruums include:


Alcohol:  A minimum of 15-20% alcohol is necessary for preserving the final tincture so use at least an 80 proof alcohol.  Vodka is a common choice and it is worth paying a little more for a better quality that has been distilled at least 3 times for purity.   


Vinegar:  Commonly used are Apple Cider Vinegar, Rice Vinegar, Wine Vinegar (any plant based vinegar is fine.)  Vinegar’s preservative actions are considered excellent, although still inferior to alcohol, thus these preparations should be made in smaller batches and replenished more frequently.  


Glycerine: Glycerin is the sweet fraction of a fixed oil and found in most true fats and oils, so it can be from an animal or vegetable origin.  Vegetable glycerin is commonly made from coconut oil.  Generally its solvency range (the components it is capable of extracting) is less than of either water or alcohol, though its power is in its capacity to mix with both.  As well, glycerine tinctures (sometimes called glycerites) are a wonderful means of administration to children and those who are alcohol-intolerant.


You can always add alcohol to a tincture that will otherwise not be preserved, such as glycerine tincture. The minimum amount of alcohol should be 15-20% of the total end volume in order to preserve an extract for any length of time.


By Dr. Marisa Jackson-Kinman, C.A.S., P.K.S., A.Y.T., Faculty at the California College of Ayurveda