|What do you do with your valued weeds and helpful herbs? There are four main methods of processing them, infusion, decoction, maceration and tincture.
First you must pick the plant material (and allow the bugs to escape!) Place your herbs in cardboard flats in a shady place, or hang up in loose bunches and allow to dry naturally. When they are dry, sort the parts of the plant that you wish to use and compost the rest. If you are using large leaves, crumble or cut them into small pieces. Store in glass jars in a cool dark place until you are ready to use them.
- INFUSION is what you do every time you make a cup of tea. Pour boiling (or very hot) water over the dried herbs and allow them to steep for a period of time. If your main gaol is flavour, as in tea, boiling water is essential, but if you are collecting medicinal elements, boiling water may damage them, so use it hot and allow to steep for an hour or so.
- DECOCTION is similar, except that you put the plant material in a pot of cold water and heat it to simmering. The time involved depends on the toughness of the material being processed, but about 15 minutes is average. Allow the mixture to cool before straining and using. Decoctions and infusions are both meant to be used as soon as they are made.
- MACERATION is a little more complex, but it will give you a product that you can keep. The dried plant material is added to oil, wine or vinegar, at the rate of approximately one part of plants pieces to two parts of liquid. I use oils for cosmetics. Use one that will keep well such as olive, grapeseed, sunflower or sweet almond and put everything into a glass jar, cap tightly and place in a dark cupboard. Shake gently every three or foud days for about three weeks. Strain the oil from the vegetable matter. It can be thickened with beeswax to make an ointment, incorporated into creams or lotions, or used just the way it is. Store in a cool place.
- A TINCTURE is made by using high quality grain alcohol in place of oil. Vodka works best, but make sure you use one that has been distilled several times. Although some people like to make their tinctures with fresh herbs, I prefer mine to be dry. Use one part of herbs to five parts of vodka, jar, cap tightly and invert the jar daily for two to four weeks, depending on the density of the herbal material (finely ground material will process more quickly than heavier stems and leaves). Strain through a filter, bottle and cap tightly. This will keep for up to two years.
|Other herbal tinctures you can make easily are
- Willow Bark for headaches and pain
- Dandelion Root for indigestion or lack of energy
- Wormwood for food poisoning or parasites
- St. John’s (or St. Joan’s) Wort for muscle spasms, tremors or pain
- Yarrow flowers for an antibacterial spray, insect bites, insect repellent or a gargle for sore throats
- Arnica flowers and leaves for topical application to bruises and sprains
- Many, many, many more…
Meticulous measuring is not required when making these tinctures. Use the ingredients that you have on hand and like nature, they will work regardless of precise measuring. Just add common sense.