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Be Your Own Herbal Expert
In your first lessons, you learned how to "listen" to the messages of plant's tastes, how to make effective water-based herbal remedies, and how to distinguish safe nourishing and tonifying herbs from the more dangerous stimulating and sedating herbs.
In this lesson, you will learn how to make herbal tinctures. You will make tinctures from fresh and dried roots as well as from fresh flowers and leaves.
Then you will collect your tinctures into an Herbal Medicine Chest and begin to use them. Shall we begin?
Tinctures Act Fast
Tinctures are alcohol-based plant medicines. Alcohol extracts and concentrates many properties from plants, including their poisons. Alcohol does not extract significant amounts of nutrients, so tinctures are used when we want to stimulate, sedate, or make use of a poison. (Remember that nourishing herbs are best used in water bases such as infusions and vinegars.)
The concentrated nature of tinctures allows them to act quickly. It also makes them perfect for a first-aid kit or herbal medicine chest: a little goes a long way.
I have dozens of tinctures in my cabinet. But these are the ones I carry with me when I travel; they are the ones I don't leave home without. This is my traveling herbal medicine chest.
Making Dried Root Tinctures
I strongly prefer to make tinctures from fresh plants. But
many people have a hard time getting fresh plants. Most books
therefore ignore fresh plant tinctures and focus on making
tinctures only from dried plants. The only dried plant parts
I use to make tinctures are roots and seeds. All other plant
parts I use fresh when making a tincture. And I actually prefer
to use fresh roots too.
Almost any alcohol can be used to make a tincture. My preference is 100 proof vodka. A lower proof, such as 80 proof, does not work nearly as well. Higher proofs, such as 198 proof or Everclear, can damage the liver and kidneys, so I don't use them to make medicine.
The tincture is ready in six weeks, but gets stronger the longer it sits. I like to wait about six months before using my ginseng tincture and a year before using my echinacea tincture.
Making Fresh Root Tinctures
Roots generally hold their properties even when dried. But two of my favorite root tinctures must be made from fresh roots are the dried ones have lost much of their effect.
Making a tincture with a fresh root is similar to
making one with a dried root.
Making Fresh Leaf and Flower Tinctures
I use only fresh flowers and leaves in my tinctures. These delicate plant part lose aroma and medicinal qualities when dried.
Tinctures can be made from dried herbs, but I find them inferior in in both effect (how well they work) and energetics (how many fairies are in it), not to mention taste (how many volatile substances remain) and somatics (how something makes you "feel").
What if the plants you need to make all the tinctures in
your medicine chest don't grow where you live or you can't
find them? Try one or more of these solutions.
Even if the plants do grow where you live, it may take a year or longer for you to find them, harvest them and make tinctures. While you are "in limbo," it's fine to buy tinctures to use in your herbal medicine chest.
When you finally find the plants you want, don't be afraid to make several quarts of tincture. Tinctures last for hundreds of years if protected from heat and light.
St. John's wort tincture: Eases muscles spasms,
Motherwort tincture: Eases menstrual cramps, mood
Skullcap tincture: Pain-relief, headache remedy
Wormwood tincture: Counters food-poisoning and parasites.
Yarrow tincture: Counters all bacteria internally
and externally, repels insects.
Double and Triple Tinctures
An herbalist in Austin Texas shared her special way of preparing a tincture that helps her keep her cool in stressful situations. She tinctures fresh lemon balm, gathered before it flowers, for six weeks, in 100 proof vodka. She pours that tincture over a new jar of fresh lemon balm leaves.
After that sits for six more weeks, it's a double tincture. She then pours the double tincture over another new jarful of fresh lemon balm and lets that sit for six weeks.
After which she has a triple tincture. She uses: "A dropperful sublingually works absolute wonders for me when I'm stressed out and ready to scream."
You remember that there are four types of poisons in plants: alkaloids, glycosides, essential oils, and resins. The first three are fairly easy to move from plants to a tincture.
Resins, because they "fear" water (hydrophobic) are difficult to tincture. When I want to tincture a resin I do use high proof alcohol. Some examples would be: pine resin tincture, balsam bud tincture, calendula flower tincture.
I see many people put herbal tinctures under their tongues. I prefer to protect my oral tissues from the harsh, possibly cancer-causing, effects of the alcohol.
I dilute my tinctures in a little water or juice or even herbal infusion and drink them.
Here are a few of the ways I use the tinctures in my herbal medicine chest. For more information on using these tincture, see my books and my website.
Acid indigestion: 5-10 drops of Dandelion
root or Wormwood tincture every ten minutes until relieved.
I use a dose of Dandelion before meals to prevent heartburn.
In the next installment of Be Your Own Herbalist, you will learn about herbal oils, inlcuding infused and essential oils. Future lessons will explore the difference between fixing disease and promoting health, applications of the three traditions of healing, and using the six steps of healing to take charge of your own health and make sense of medicine.
Experiment Number One
Experiment Number Two
Experiment Number Three
Reprint Authorization Information- The following 8 articles are provided by Susan S. Weed © 2002 (Link: http://www.susunweed.com/An_Article_Weed_Self-help1.htm) These articles are designed as lessons for my students in herbal medicine and are not intended for any use other than learning and personal use. To contact Susan S. Weed for reprint authorization contact her at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.