Medicinal mushroom tinctures are all the rage right now, and with good reason – they are easy to make and are a great way to get mushrooms into our bodies on a daily basis. While we prefer to eat mushrooms, many medicinal mushrooms are not really all that yummy. So… we turn them into tincture which we add to coffee and tea. After several years of making double extraction methods using medicinal mushrooms, our techniques have regularly evolved. In the last few months however, they have really changed pretty dramatically.
More Mushrooms Please
The biggest factor driving the changes in my tincture recipe are the medicinal mushrooms themselves. We want to get more mushrooms into our bodies, and therefore into our tinctures. This definitely means just eating more of the mushrooms, in our food. That works great for lionsmane,
maitake, oyster, shiitake, cordyceps and other gourmet mushrooms since we forage them in the wild, cultivate them, or buy them. We can eat them fresh or dehydrate them and cook them into food later. But, for medicinal mushrooms like turkey tail, chaga, reishi, artists conk, red-belted polypore, birch polypore and similar species, this is untenable because they just don’t taste good. We have definitely started using extract powders a lot more as they are an easy way to add these species to drinks and food and don’t taste too bad. But of course, powdered extracts are quite difficult to make, so we buy them. My hands-down favorite brand is Hamilton’s Extracts. These powders really allow us to easily push more medicinal mushrooms right into our bodies.
This desire for more mushrooms is partly a rising-tide sort of thing. The more we learn, the more we want to get more grams of mushrooms into our bellies, more times a day, more days a week. Daily mushroom consumption seems to be an entirely positive thing. Furthermore, I want to get some variety as different mushrooms bring different benefits. I try to consume several different species each day.
Double Tinctures have Drawbacks
While I have written extensively in our how to make mushroom extracts article about how to make your own tincture, I question my own methods! Why? I did the math. It looks something like this: 50g of mushrooms makes a double extraction tincture that is approximately 1200ml when complete… 300 ml of alcohol and 900 ml of H20. I was able to increase that a bit, but not much. You just cannot put more mushrooms into the jar and cover them with alcohol. 50g of mushrooms for 1200ml of tincture is a 1:24 ratio of mushrooms to tincture, or approximately 4%. Keep in mind there are a lot of factors and this is just an estimate. (I worked the math immediately below if it helps.)
One way to overcome these low mushroom percentages is to soak 1/3ish of your mushrooms in the alcohol and then do the second soak in water (emphasizing the polysaccharides a bit over the terpenes). This leaves way too much water! But, you can boil the water down until it is the right amount of water. Our friend Dr Dave (Carbondale Acupuncture Center) uses this technique which hails from his traditional Chinese medicine background . We have erred on the side of caution and tried not to boil our h20, but, who knows? It is a traditional technique and some modern science indicates the boiling is OK too.
This desire for more mushrooms per ml is only heightened by Christopher Hobbs and his new book Medicinal Mushrooms. Fantastic book! He really advocates for actually consuming the entire fruiting body, even of bitter non-gourmet mushrooms. He has several recipes, techniques and tips to help you do so. But, we still like tincture for easy daily consumption.
Mentally, all this came to a head when I was taking a class by the medicinal mushroom duo of Tradd Cotter and Robert Rodgers. I really trust these two individuals and their opinions on this matter. They did some more math during the class, demonstrating that it just doesn’t make sense. If I want to consume 50g of mushrooms, I would have to drink a cup or two of tincture potentially… eek, that is too much! The tincture is 25% alcohol – way too much booze. Fortunately, they provided a solution which really makes sense. Read on…
Before Continuing, here is a bit of a math breakdown and some of the challenges.
- I measure everything on a scale, solids to the gram and liquids to the milliliters.
- I am not a measurement stickler, and often round up or down.
- Some mushrooms require more or less liquid to soak, they are not all the same
- Some mushrooms hold more liquid after squeezing (carrying capacity), they are not all the same – the wet mushroom body is called marc.
- The degree to which you grind your mushrooms can impact their carrying capacity (how much liquid is left in the marc)
- Based on the five bullets above, my numbers are “rough” and change with each batch.
Typically, double tincture numbers looks something like this:
- 50g of mushroom body soaked in 400 ml of 190 proof alcohol.
- When the marc is strained and squeezed, 300ml of infused alcohol is created
- 150g of marc is created, which is then dried.
- If it is not dried, but put right into water, the 100ml of alcohol still in the marc must be accounted for
- The 50g of marc is then soaked in 1000ml of H20
- The marc is strained and squeezed, resulting in 900 ml of infused h20
- The 300ml of 190 proof alcohol and 900ml of infused h20 are combined, creating 1200 ml of 24% alcohol tincture.
- The final ratio of mushrooms to tincture is 50:1200 or 1:24 or 4%ish
Triple Double Tincture
Tradd and Robert’s solution to a more concentrated tincture was simple: do multiple soakings with the same liquid. Basically, after each soaking, reserve the liquid and re-soak it into another batch of mushrooms. In practice this was harder than it seemed.
The first time I tried it, here was what I did:
- Soaked 50g of dried & powdered medicinal mushrooms in 250mg of 190 proof alcohol for 2 weeks.
- Strained out the liquid, squeezed out even more, and saved the marc (the solids).
- I put it into the freezer to preserve.
- The immediate problem was my 50g of dried mushrooms now weighed 150mg even after a good squeeze
- And, the 250ml of alcohol was now only 125ml , meaning 100ml was in my wet marc and I couldn’t squeeze it out. Plus at least 25g just disappeared, go figure.
- Took the 125ml of alcohol, goosed it up to 3000ml and put in 50 fresh grams of dried mushrooms and soaked for two weeks.
- Repeat the squeeze & freeze
- Did a third soak, just like the first two.
- At this point, I would have about 200ml of liquid, that had been through 3 soaks. Plus, I had 450 mg of wet marc, of which 300 mg was alcohol.
- Took the marc and added about 1500 ml of water (which when combined with 500 ml of alcohol (200ml of liquid and 300 already in the marc) would give me the 25% final tincture strength).
- Soaked that at 160F for 8 hours.
- This made a goopy mess! It was thick like oatmeal, really too thick.
- Strained and combined with my alcohol to produce approximately 1600ml of tincture.
This tincture seemed of very high quality! It took over six weeks to make with three alcohol soakings and one water soaking. You can see the picture above to the right, this was made from red belted polypore (Fomitopsis mounceae) foraged in Northern Wisconsin.
This seemed like a real win, in that I was able to push almost 3x the amount of mushroom matter into this tincture. 150mg per 1500mg of final tincture is a 1:10 ratio or a 10% concentration of mushrooms.
Triple Double Double Tincture
Ultimately, I didn’t like how “thick” the final water soak was and wanted more liquid in that soak. It was like clumpy oatmeal, and I would prefer a very runny oatmeal with some liquid pooling in the bottom of the pan. Plus, I was kind uncomfortable with the precision of the alcohol to water and wanted to get a bit more precise on that. The precision problem was because of the alcohol that was carried in the marc from the alchol soak into the water soak. Some algebra is required to calculate ratios at that point. Little known fact about me, I used to be a high school math teacher, so I kinda enjoy the algebra.
For my next iteration, I did the three alcohol soaks pretty much the same way as described above. But for the water step, I decided to dry out the marc, which was worked brilliantly! Several advantages:
- Drying the marc made it shelf stable, and I didn’t have to store it in the freezer.
- Drying the marc allowed all the alcohol to evaporate out so I could calculate my final alcohol % more accurately and easily.
- Drying the marc actually reduced the quantity of alcohol by approximately 50%. This meant I needed 50% less water.
- Plus, one surprise. The marc only weighed 100g after I dried it. That means the mushrooms had given up 50% of their weight to the alcohol! I am not sure about the science of this. I didn’t test it on every batch, so am not sure if this is a thing.
But there was no way I could soak the 150mg of mushrooms in 600 ml of water, that just wasn’t enough water.
Although I actually needed more water, as I remembered that 200ml of water, at least, would be left in the final marc, even after aggressive squeezing. So, I revised the water soak:
- I took half the marc, put it in 900ml of h20, and heated at 220F for 2 hours.
- Use a magical butter machine or insta-pot to achieve this temperature
- I wanted to do a hotter soak because I believe there are some medicinals that are released at hotter soaks (and even high-pressure soaks) that the 160 degree soak missed.
- I strained out the liquid and discarded the spent marc.
- I had about 750 ml of liquid at this point.
- I took the second half of the marc, put in the 750ml of water from the first soak.
- I soaked and stirred for 4 hours at 160F.
- I believe the lower temperature may pull less medicinal elements (polysaccharides), but it also doesn’t damage the more sensitive ones that could degrade at higher temperatures. That is all conjecture though.
- This means the water soak final product was 1/2 high temp and 1/2 medium temp.
- I was left with 600ml of liquid after straining and squeezing.
This triple double double tincture worked out pretty well. 150mg of mushrooms yielded 800ml of liquid, thus a concentration of 3:16 or 19% mushrooms. A nice improvement over a simple double tincture.
Triple Triple Double Tincture
Ok, you can see where this is going right? Next, I added a third water soak, but this time added back in 75g of fresh ground dehydrated mushrooms – these freshies were not reused post-alcohol soaked marc. That means I did 3 alcohol soaks, then using the leftover mark, did 2 water soaks, and then completed a third with soak with mushrooms that had not been soaked before. I carried 150g through the first 5 soaks and added an additional 75g for the final soak. I used 225g of mushrooms and yielded 800ml of tincture or a 9:32 ratio – this was our high-water mark of 28% concentration, mg:ml.
Ultimately, this final soak seemed like too much work and I had to throw in 50% more mushrooms for just that one soak.
A few discoveries along the way
- Different mushrooms soaked up liquid differently and also were easier or harder to squeeze out the liquid.
- Reishi, turkey tail and artists conk were easy to work with. Maitake, lionsmane, enoki, oyster and even cordyceps were difficult to work with. They were harder to squeeze the liquid out of, and felt more wasteful. Plus, the final tincture had a lot of liquified mushroom body still in it. Of course, that is all medicine!
- With all the soaking and squeezing, I really enjoyed using a medium sized potato ricer lined with a jelly bag. While I could hand squeeze a jelly bag or cheesecloth bag nearly as effectively, it was messier and the product didn’t seem clean with the extra handling.
- It was easier to accomplish this when I had a lot of mushroom body to use. Some mushrooms like maitake and cordyceps are less plentiful in our pantry and it was a bit painful to push so much fruiting body into the process. Others, like reishi and turkey tail we had a nice big jar full and it was easy to use a lot of it. Abundance made it easier.
My final solution, and favorite new method is to use the Triple Triple Double method when I have plenty of mushroom body and when it is an easy mushroom to work with like turkey tail or reishi. With a more difficult mushroom like maitake, I would prefer to use the original double tincture method where a single pressing is used for both the alcohol and water soaks.
This is awesome. Thank you
I am new in this. I am about to make my first tincture. For how long do I need to soak the mushrooms doing the DOUBLE TINCTURES HAVE DRAWBACKS.., I will appreciate some feedback. Thanks a lot!!
This is astounding! It makes sense to me after reading it at least ten times! Math is Math, after all. One quick question. At the end of the article you mention turkey tails. Hobbs states that these mushrooms are best decocted as the beta-glucans are not alcohol soluble. Any thoughts on this?
Nicole, Thanks. It is kinda dense and my prose left something to be desired. I would say that Christopher Hobbs is way smarter on this topic than I am, and would not presume to say he is wrong. but… i don’t actually consume straight turkey tail – I always mix my turkey tail with a few other for my blend. It is important for me to have the TT in my blend, so I continue to do it. Also, assuming he is correct, my method is 3 parts water to 1 part alcohohol — essentially combining a water decoction into an alcohol one. (so, I am getting those beta glucans) My “philosophy” is that I try to take a safe, convenient and common sense route and not over-think and say I need to do reishi this way, chaga one way and TT the other way, at least in terms of making tinctures for my blend. IF you want lots of turkey tail or Chaga or Lions Mane, presumably for a specific health related reason, you may want to do a special species-specific extraction tek. IF so, read about them in Hobbs or Rodgers books. I try to eat lots of gourmet mushrooms, take my tincture blend every day, and then I do “extract powders” (as mentioned in the article) as well. I think the recipes in Hobb’s book are also excellent ideas. I avoid the whole: “this is the best way to do it.” that so many experts espouse. Instead, I like the “I do it this way, and here is why”… and leave lots of room for alternative teks in your life or mine, as my needs, tools, mushrooms and opinions change and evolve.
Just as a general comment for readers, like in my last post on tinctures, I will revise as I learn more. I value your comments and know I have a lot to learn about this and I for one am always looking for a way to improve my tek.
Thanks for starting this discussion Trent, it left me pondering the different choices and methodologies for producing herbal medicine. One thing to ponder is what is one looking for in a remedy. For immune building and polysaccharide content, you want to emphasize water extraction, for terpenes alcohol extraction. I hope Trent does research into the components of different mushrooms 😎 to see which species would lend to water extraction and which would lend to alcohol extraction.
Couldn’t you just add more alcohol and water initially, then once extracted cook some of the liquid off? Then add alcohol to adjust your alcohol content for shelf life? That could result in a much stronger end product.
Yes, you could do something like that, or similar. Commercial processors spray the liquid and dehydrate it. I generally don’t boil my tinctures though, doing most of my hot-processing around 160 degrees… but, that is not written in stone or anything.
Ok – I will say first that you are awesome and you crack me up with the occasional “I don’t want to overthink this” or “ I try not to overthink this“ comments! The OCD traits in my personality are itching to run to the kitchen with my bags of dried whole and chunk varieties and blend them to a pulp. Another part wants me to advise you of your OCD traits and give you a big hug!
That said, to hang out with you for an afternoon covered in mushroom gunk, debating ideas, calculator in hand sounds ridiculously fulfilling to me! I haven’t done mushroom tinctures in about a year with all that has transpired in the past 2 years. I’m just now getting back to it and am voraciously reading everything I can before I get started.
See, I was always scouring the Internet looking for the best whole or chunk mushrooms to buy thinking that this was the “real herbalist“ way to do things and that powders were a cop out and should only be used when adding to a smoothie or what have you.
I usually make a double extraction BUT keep the spent mushroom material, let it dry out and then toss it into soups or stews for that extra bit of leftover good stuff.
The places I learn from or consider the best of the best (Mountain Rose Herbs, Rosemary Gladstar, Dr Christopher Hobbs) advise you to chop the mushrooms into medium or small pieces so I always went that route. I usually do a first batch of mushrooms in the alcohol for 4-6 weeks. I strain and then add more mushrooms into the same alcohol for another 4-6 weeks. When that’s ready I combine the first round of strained mushrooms (stored in the freezer) with the second and put into the Magical butter machine (I have one too!) for the water infusion and then mix them together. I end up with a lovely dark liquid that really packs a punch.
That said, whole dried mushrooms get expensive. So, when I read that I could indeed use powders for tinctures, though it’s not the preferred method, I thought I’d give it a try. It seems more cost effective. My budget constraints have me shopping around for cost effective alternatives to Mountain Rose. The strains of powdered mushroom are much easier to find as well.
I have not yet started the batch and will take everything you wrote to heart. I will also say to you that you don’t need to overthink this too much. So many recipes and remedies have been passed down through generations. The one consistent thing I see is relative simplicity with an occasional tweak here and there. It’s just as nature intended and I respect that. Sometimes, we get into a rut of perfectionism and forget what the hell we were trying to do in the first place. I’m so guilty of this. I’ve messed up more things than fixed them in my quest for awesomeness. Anyway, I’ve recently gone back to the beginning and my healing nature. This is after much overthinking, over doing, re-doing, and wasting. I have this dichotomy about medicine making. The perfectionist in me wants to take excessive notes and work on the math of it all day long. The intuitive healer in me says to simply go with your gut, put your intentions into your work, and do what has been done for centuries. I have decided (as much as my brain will allow) to try and keep it simple. What feels right. At the end of the day it’s really all about using what the earth gives us to heal ourselves naturally. If we have been given the gift of healing, which not that many have, we should also consider everything that goes into true healing. The energy, the intention, the effort and the ingredients all together along with a smidge of humility and gratefulness. I first realized this concept when I was young and would get sick. My dad would make a pot of chicken noodle soup. Sure, I took over the counter stuff and had Vicks on my chest and a humidifier running day and night. But….I swear to this day it was the soup. The soup was the most healing and comforting thing of all. Why? Because there’s something to be said for the energy and love put into a pot of soup by a parent who’s trying to heal their sick child. That is truly more powerful than anything you could buy at CVS. I know you’ve heard many people swear by the magic of chicken soup. I think that’s what it is. The love and intention AS WELL AS broth and carrots, etc. blah blah…….
Anyway, now that I’ve rambled on incessantly, I will say to you the same as I tell myself. Take a step back, take a breath, and make a tincture. Condense all of that wonderful energy you have into those jars with joy and healing and gratitude. Minimal math (I worked for years in film and television accounting so I get you!) and put a little magic into your crafting. Dare I say be witchy for a day? Whatever!
Finally, try both of the tinctures. Get some other opinions. You may find that people respond differently to the different methods and ideas you put into your medicine making.
I’ll be here trying the powder and I’ll let you know how it turns out!
I’m so sorry that was soooo long. Geez.
Katrina, Thanks for the kind words. I like to grind/powder whole mushrooms because I feel like the compounds extract out better than chunked mushrooms. But, one downside is the straining becomes more difficult… specifically for softer (gourmet) mushrooms like lions mane or oyster or maitake which can get kind of gluey. That said, I usually eat the gourmet mushrooms, and make tincture out of the medicinals like reishi, turkey tail, artist conk, chaga, etc…
Hi Trent, awesome informative read. Could you perhaps advise me on any possible downsides to combining 3 medicinals (birch polypore, Turkey tail & artist conk) in a dual extraction method (alcohol/water simmer) in the one tincture?
I came here, specifically, to do one of two things: 1. see if someone had already asked this question or 2. ask it myself. But I was only going to ask about combining two into the same preparation; turkey tail and reishi.
Does anyone have more information on this, has anyone tried?? I appreciate any input, (I will read books). Haha
This is so helpful Trent! One question about your first step. You list the ratio as 4%, but if you’re using 50g, not mg, isn’t the ratio actually much higher for that first step? 50,000mg: 1200ml would be over 41%. Unless I’ve just totally bungled the math here.