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    Making Medicinal Plant Tinctures

    Working with Medicinal Plants

    Medicinal plants have been used to heal for millennia. They are readily available,

    usually growing as "weeds" everywhere that humans live. Herbs can be used to safelyand effectively heal a wide range of imbalances and disorders. They heal by stimulating

    the innate healing wisdom of the body. Because people and plants have evolved togetheror have grown in the same environment and have been subjected to the same stressesof life, using local herbs as medicine can be one of the most effective ways to cure

    disease.

    Herbs, respectfully harvested from the wild, are basically "free," and the techniques of

    processing them into medicine require little monetary input. One needs only a small

    room to dry the herbs that will be used for teas. In many cultures this is done in thefamily living space. For making tinctures, a supply of alcohol and glass jars are needed.

    Other tools that are helpful are strainers, cheesecloth, funnels, a scale, measuring

    cups, and a small herb press. Oil and beeswax are necessary for making topical

    preparations.

    Harvesting Guidelines

    Leavesharvest midmorning after dew has evaporated. Leaves are usually most potentjust before plant flowers. Leaves of biennials best harvested in the summer of first year.

    If stems are succulent and have the taste of the plant you may want to include them

    with the leaves.

    Flowersharvest in early stages preferably just after opening and prior to pollination.

    Rootsusually dug in the fall at the end of the growing season or when dormant. At this

    time they are full of the energy they have stored for the winter. Roots are generally moresweet and tonic when dug in the spring and have a gentler effect.

    SeedsGenerally the best time to harvest is just as they have fully matured. The time of

    greatest potency can be ascertained by tasting seeds in various stages.

    Wildcrafting Ethic

    1.

    Make positive identificationbefore harvesting.

    2. Know the rare and endangered plantsof the area and don't pick them.

    3.

    Make Assessments: Ecological Implications-Will your impact be noticeable?Will it adversely effect the often delicate ecological balance of the stand or theintricate web of interrelations that ensure its continued existence?

    Animal/Insect Interactions-Are there animals or insects that depend on this

    plant for food or other uses? How will your harvesting impact theserelationships? Personal-Are you in the proper emotional state to make a

    harvest? Are you prepared to be honest with yourself in regards to making

    decisions about your impact on this stand? How much of this medicine can orwill you realistically process and use?

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    4. Ask permissionfrom and make offeringsto the plant. Remember that whenyou treat plants with respect, they will not only be more effective as medicine,

    but they will be more likely to reveal themselves to you.

    5.

    Pick from different standsor spots in a stand to minimize impact.

    6. Care for and develop a relationshipwith the stand. Leave any area you harvest

    from in the same or better condition than you found it (e.g. fill in holes afterharvesting roots, don't leave discarded leaves or other plant parts lying around

    where others can see them, and whenever possible replant root crowns or

    disperse seeds.) Observe the stand over time so that you can continue to refineyour personal assessment of any harvesting impact you have had or any natural

    environmental changes that may have an effect on the health of the stand.

    Based on this information, be prepared to alter your wildcrafting practices orstop harvesting altogether from this spot.

    What are tinctures?

    A tincture is made by macerating (i.e. soaking) plant material in a solvent to

    extract its medicinal properties. Generally alcohol is used, but sometimes other

    solvents such as glycerin or vinegar are used.

    The solvent has both the effect of extracting the medicinal constituents from the

    plant material and acting as a preservative. Alcohol is not only the best solvent

    but it is a better preservative than either vinegar or glycerin.

    Why do we make plant medicines into tinctures?

    Because they are processed without the use of heat they generally represent the

    actual chemistry of the herb more closely than other preparations. If preserved with alcohol, they will (in most cases) remain stable for many years.

    They are a convenient way to take medicine. Dosages can be carefully measured.

    Tinctures are quickly and readily absorbed into the bloodstream. For this reason

    they are especially useful for acute cases.

    Menstruum Ratios, Alcohol Percentages, Etc.

    Standard Herb to Menstruum ratios are generally 1:2 for fresh herb or 1:5 for

    dried herb, which is the weight!of herb to volume of menstruum.

    The menstruum is the solvent or liquid used to extract the medicinal

    constituents from the herb. You will usually see it written as a ratio of Alcohol toWater (e.g. 50A:50W, 50% grain alcohol to 50% distilled water.) Sometimes otheringredients such as Glycerin (to stabilize tannins) or Vinegar (to extract alkaloidsor minerals) are added in which case it would look something like this:

    50A:40W:10Gly. I prefer to use pure grain alcohol (190 proof) so that I can easily make the

    menstruum equal the ratio I need by adding distilled water.

    !I use grams and liters because it is much easier to make calculations metrically.

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    22% alcohol is the minimum to preserve. Divide proof in half to get percentage

    (e.g. 80 proof Vodka is 40% alcohol.)

    Making Tinctures

    Folk Method1. Finely chop fresh herb or grind dried herb to the consistency of corn meal with a

    coffee grinder (if you grind it too fine it will clump leading to a less consistentextraction.) Place in jar.

    2. Add vodka or other alcohol"to cover herb (must be at least 22% for dry herb or

    40% for fresh herb to ensure preservation.) Label accordingly.

    3. When making a dry herb preparation shake twice daily as it is necessary forherb to be in contact with menstruum so that full extraction is possible. Fresh

    herb constituents are extracted by alcohol breaking cell walls so shaking is notnecessary.

    4.

    After about 2 weeks, depending on the herb,# filter out plant material. Press

    remaining liquid through cheesecloth.

    5.

    Let settle overnight. Filter sediment through coffee filter.

    6.

    Store in a cool, dark place.

    Fresh Herb Tincture 1:2

    1. Place 1 part (by weight) chopped fresh herb in a glass jar.2. Determine proper ratio of menstruum. Cover herb with 2 parts (by volume) of

    this menstruum.

    3. Follow steps 3 to 6 of the Folk Method.

    Dry Herb Tincture 1:5

    1. Place 1 part (by weight) ground dried herb in a glass jar.

    2. Determine proper ratio of menstruum. Cover herb with 5 parts (by volume) ofthis menstruum.

    3. Follow steps 3 to 6 of the Folk Method.

    Solubility Factors (Cech, pgs. 46-48)

    Alkaloids are very soluble in alcohol and slightly in water. Sometimes vinegar

    will increase potency. Essential Oils very soluble in alcohol, generally in oils, and only slightly in

    water.

    Glycosidesusually soluble in both alcohol and water. Mucilage (Gums) only soluble in water. They are precipitated out of solution

    with the addition of alcohol. Best to make as teas with minimum amount of

    alcohol added to preserve. Polysaccharidesare water soluble and precipitated out of solution by alcohol.

    Resinsare not soluble in water but are very soluble in alcohol or hot oil.

    Saponinsare water soluble.

    "Colorless alcohols without flavoring agents are best. Any solvent has a limited capacity to hold

    constituents in solution; therefore, the less stuff already in solution allows more of the plant's constituents

    to be extracted.#In general, the more succulent the shorter the time needed for maceration (if it sits to long may get an off

    taste that will interfere with the taste of the herb) and the more woody and dense the longer you will want

    to allow herb to sit in menstruum with little danger of the taste going bad.

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    Tannins are soluble in water and glycerin. They are bound up and rendered

    inactive by the addition of milk.

    Dosages

    1.

    The smaller the person and the faster the metabolism the smaller the dose; thelarger the person and the slower the metabolism, the larger the dose.

    2. Tinctures are more effective if taken between meals. The most important time totake is before bedtime as the body is more receptive.

    3. Acute conditions should be treated with small frequent doses. Chronic cases

    less frequently.4.

    Some herbs can be taken on a regular basis or indefinitely with no adverse

    reactions while others that contain toxic or potentially toxic substances should

    be taken only at dosages recommended by qualified practitioners and for a shortperiod of time. Even using these prescribed guidelines it is important to monitor

    reactions as each person will have a unique reaction to different substances.5. Herbs work gently by stimulating the innate healing wisdom of the body. As our

    knowledge and expertise of particular herbs and patterns of disharmony become

    more intimate and precise we can move toward lower doses to effect desi

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