Monday, July 25, 2011

How To Make a Decoction

Herbal Decoctions and Syrups

Decoction, or simple decoction, is my term for an infusion which has been reduced to one-half its volume by slow evaporation. A double decoction is an infusion reduced to one-fourth of its original volume. Some herbalists use "decoction" to refer to what I call an infusion; others use it to mean something closer to tea.

Decoctions keep longer than infusions if carefully stored under refrigeration. Decoctions are more potent than infusions; this makes them invaluable when dealing with children and animals. The smaller dose is more easily administered.
herbal2 Pictures, Images and Photos

Decocting is an excellent way to prepare an herb with a terrible taste, such as Yellow Dock root, so it can be consumed without gagging. Adding a bit of some nice tasting brandy or liqueur to decoctions enhances the taste and the keeping qualities.

Yellow Dock Pictures, Images and Photos
(Yellow Dock) Looks Like Coffee, or Kawi Iyusdi Rumex crispus or Yellow Dock ,It can be used as a wild leaf vegetable; the young leaves should be boiled in several changes of water to remove as much of the oxalic acid in the leaves as possible, or can be added directly to salads in moderate amounts.[3] Once the plant matures it becomes too bitter to consume. Dock leaves are an excellent source of both vitamin A and protein, and are rich in iron and potassium. Curly Dock leaves are somewhat tart due to the presence of high levels of oxalic acid, and although quite palatable, this plant should only be consumed in moderation as it can irritate the urinary tract and increase the risk of developing kidney stones. The roots have also been used medicinally as an astringent, tonic, and laxative. Compounds contained in the plant's roots have been clinically verified to bind with heavy metals such as lead and arsenic and expel them from the body by stimulating biliary function in the liver. The plant is considered a highly effective blood cleanser and is used by herbalists to assist the body in eliminating heavy metals and to treat other This plant is not only a medicinal herb, but also a food. It is much like spinach, but believe it or not, contains MORE vitamins and minerals. Because of the long taproot, it gathers nutrients from deep underground. The leaves are a source of iron, and also have laxative properties. Juices from the stems, prepared in a decoction, can be made into an ointment with beeswax and olive oil, and used for itching, minor sores, diaper rash, and other irritations. Cherokee herbalists prescribe a warm wash made from the decoction of crushed roots for a disinfectant. Juice from the root, not prepared in any certain way, is said to be a cure for ringworm,Yellow Dock Root helps to eliminate toxins from your body. In this manner, Yellow Dock Root effectively aids in eliminating foreign substances that can overburden the liver.

Decoctions of roots and barks are often prepared; decoctions of leaves, flowers, or seeds are rarely prepared. Since decoctions are made by evaporation, the volatile essences are water-soluble vitamins in the leaves, flowers, and seeds are lost in the process.

I always make decoctions when I have to be in the same room as the stove for the entire evaporating time. With such a low heat, decoctions rarely burn, but if you become involved in something else, there is the danger of reducing the liquid to a scorched nothing. For a pint of infusion (two cups), about an hour is needed to reduce it by half.
Boiling the Decoction Pictures, Images and Photos

Making a Decoction

Begin by straining the plant material out of the infusion and discarding it.
Measure the liquid.
Heat the liquid until it begins to steam; this is before it simmers and long before it boils.
Stand right there and watch for the steam to start rising. When it does, turn the heat down very low.
Steam until the liquid is reduced to half or one-quarter of what it was in the beginning. A little stainless steel pan with measuring marks on the side is of invaluable assistance in this process, but you can also judge by the mark left on the side of the pan as the liquid level falls. Or you can measure it.
Pour the decoction into a clean or sterile bottle.
Label with the contents, strength, and date. Example: Simple decoction of Witch Hazel bark, Dec. '84.
Optional: Add one tablespoon of brandy or spirit per four ounces of decoction.
Cap well
Cool at room temperature, then store in the refrigerator. Some decoctions may keep for as long as a year, others ferment and sour within a few months.
Dosage: A simple decoction is four times as potent as an infusion. One cup (8 ounces) of infusion is equal to one-quarter cup (2 ounces) of a simple decoction. Use up to one tablespoon for an infant.
Double decocting increases the strength of the infusion by a factor of sixteen (four times four). So the dose equivalent of one 8 ounce cup is only one tablespoon (1/2 ounce). The usual infant dose is half a teaspoon of double decoction.

Making a Syrup

Add sugar or honey to any type of decoction, and you have a syrup. The extra sweetness makes some herbs more palatable, soothes the throat, and can improve keeping qualities.

How much sugar or honey should you add? The exact amount is determined by weight. A standard for syrups is an equal amount, by weight, of sugar and decoction.

One cup (8 fluid ounces) of water or decoction, weighs half a pound (8 ounces). So one cup of decoction requires half a pound of sugar.

Honey is about twice as sweet as sugar. Use a quarter of a pound (4 ounces) of honey to every cup of decoction. One level tablespoon of honey weighs about one ounce.

Add the sweetener to the hot liquid
Increase the fire until the brew just comes to a boil.
Pour the boiling hot syrup into a bottle and cap it. Sterilized bottles reduce the risk of producing unexpected herbal fermentations. But the boiling liquid kills many yeasts in the bottle.
Optional: Add one tablespoon of brandy, vodka, etc. to further stabilize the syrup.
Store the syrup in the refrigerator once it cools. Syrups keep for 3-6 months.

Depending on the herbs in your original infusion, you can make a cough syrup (Comfrey root and Wild Cherry bark), an iron tonic (Yellow Dock and Dandelion roots), a soothing syrup (Valerian root), or any other medicinal syrup.

Dosage: Generally, one teaspoon of syrup is a dose for a 125-150 pound person. The dose is repeated as needed, up to 8 times daily. Use a half teaspoonful for 60-75 pound children and a quarter teaspoonful for 30 pounds or smaller.

Summary of Syrup Proportions

Begin with one pint (16 ounces) of infusion
Reduce the liquid to half its original amount (8 ounces).
Add an equal amount, by weight, of sugar (8 ounces or 1/2 pound), or half the amount, by weight, of honey (4 ounces or 4 tablespoons).

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Making Tinctures(and Dosage)

Usnea Tincture Pictures, Images and Photos

After posting so much I never know if I am repeating a similar post or not.
For those that dont know how to make a Tincture I will explain.

Making an Herb or Wild Plant Tinture.
You can make tinctures from fresh and dried roots as well as from fresh flowers and leaves.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.A little goes a long way.

pressing tincture 1 Pictures, Images and Photos
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.

To make a tincture from dried roots:
Buy an ounce of dried Echinacea augustifolia or Panax ginseng root or better yet...Grow your own.
Put the whole ounce in a pint jar.
The dried root should fill the jar about a third full. If not, use a smaller jar.
Fill the jar to the top with the alcohol. Cap tightly and label.

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.

filtering sediment out of jewelweed tincture Pictures, Images and Photos

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.
With great respect for the plant, dig up its root.
Gently rinse mud away.
Chop root into small pieces and fill a jar to the top with the chopped root.
Fill jar to the top with alcohol. Cap tightly. Label.
Fresh root tinctures are ready to use in six weeks.
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").
strained jewelweed tincture Pictures, Images and Photos

Plant Poisons

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.

Tincture of Squills Pictures, Images and Photos
Taking Tinctures

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.

Yarrow Pictures, Images and Photos

Using Your Tinctures

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.
Bacterial Infections (including boils, carbuncles, insect bites, snake bite, spider bite, staph): 30-50 drops Echinacea or Yarrow tincture up to 5 times daily. For severe infections, add one drop of Poke tincture to each dose.
Colds: to prevent them I use Yarrow tincture 5-10 drops daily; to treat them, I rely on Yarrow, but in larger quantity, say a dropperful every 3-4 hours at the worst of the cold and tapering off.
Cramps during menstruation: 10 drops Motherwort every 20 minutes or as needed. Used also as a tonic, 10 drops daily, for the week before.
Cramps in muscle: 25 drops St Joan's every 25-30 minutes for as long as needed.
Cramps in gut: 5-10 drops Wormwood, once.
Diarrhea: 3 drops Wormwood hourly for up to four hours.
Energy lack: 10 drops of Dandelion or Ginseng tincture in the morning.
Fever: 1 drop Echinacea for every 2 pounds of body weight; taken every two hours to begin, decreasing as symptoms remiss. Or a dropperful of Yarrow tincture every four hours.
Headache: 25 drops St Joan's plus 3-5 drops Skullcap every 10-15 minutes for up to two hours. 5 drops of Skullcap may prevent some headaches.
High blood pressure: 25 drops of Motherwort or Ginseng tincture 2-4 times a day.
Hot Flashes: 20-30 drops Motherwort as flash begins and/or 10-20 drops once or twice daily.
Insect: prevent bites from black flies, mosquitoes, and ticks with a spray of Yarrow tincture; treat bites you do get with Yarrow tincture to prevent infection.
Nervousness, hysteria, hyper behavior: 15 drops Motherwort every 15-20 minutes.
Premenstrual distress: 10 drops Motherwort twice a day for 7-10 days preceding menstruation or 10 drops daily all month.
Sore throat: Gargle with Yarrow tincture.
Swollen glands: 1 drop Poke root tincture each 12 hours for 2-5 days.
Viral infections (including colds and the flu): 25 drops of St. Joan's wort tincture every two hours. Add one drop of poke root tincture 2-4 times a day for severe cases.
Wounds: I wash with Yarrow tincture, then wet the dressing with Yarrow tincture, too.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ground Ivy...Creeping Charlie

ground ivy Pictures, Images and Photos

Ground ivy is a creeping European perennial evergreen, naturalized in North America and found in moist shady areas, along paths, around hedges, and roadsides from Ontario to deep south, west to Kansas, and along the Pacific Coast. Cultivation: it is easily cultivated through root division and thrives in moist shady areas. A member of the mint family it is finely haired all over and has a square creeping stem which grows from a few inches up to two feet long. The leaves are heart shaped, opposite, scalloped, and dark green, sometimes tinted purple. The main root is thick and matted it sends out runners as long as 36 inches. Flowers appear in march and are purplish to blue, two lipped and grow in axillary whorls of six. Gather leaves, flowers and stems year round. Can be dried for later herbal use.
Alehoof, or Ground-Ivy Pictures, Images and Photos

Medicinal and edible, a light taste very agreeable in salads. Ground ivy is used in alternative medicine and is an excellent spring tonic, it is an appetite stimulant. It contains a volatile oil which aids in relieving congestion and inflammation of mucous membranes associated with colds, flu, and sinusitis. It is Anti-allergenic, Antibacterial, Anti-flu, Antihistaminic, Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant, Antiseptic, Antispasmodic, Antiviral, Cancer-Preventive, Expectorant, Immuno-stimulant, and Sedative. Ground ivy tea or juice is well tolerated and can be given to small children. Some of the most valuable plant constituents are 1,8-cineole, alpha-pinene, apigenin, beta-sitosterol, borneol, caffeic-acid, ferulic-acid, hyperoside, iodine, luteolin, menthol, oleanolic-acid, rosmarinic-acid, rutin, ursolic-acid. Ground-Ivy is being studied for use in preventing Leukemia, Bronchitis, Hepatitis, many kinds of cancer, and HIV. The fresh juice or a medicinal tea is used to treat digestive disorders, gastritis, acid indigestion, and diarrhea. It is also beneficial for liver and kidney function, said to relieve gravel and stones. Although results are not conclusive it is being used as an antidote for lead poisoning. Added to bath as an emollient to soften skin and has a sedative effect.

Ground ivy has a long history of use in alternative medicine and as an edible herb, dating back to the first century A.D. it was long considered a panacea (cure-all). Known for it’s hi vitamin C content it is said to be one of the first herb and edible plants brought to the North American continent by early settlers.

Spring Tonic: Steep 2 tsp. of fresh or dried herb in 1 cup water for 10 min. flavor with peppermint or honey to taste take in ½ cup doses twice a day.

Colds and flu: Express fresh juice with press. Take in 1 tsp. doses 3 times a day, ½ tsp. for children. Use 2 or 3 drops in nose twice a day for sinusitis.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Blue Violet

Common Blue Violet (Viola papilionacea)This grows rampant in my neck of the woods.
violets Pictures, Images and Photos

This is the most common species, with a sterile violet-colored flower that blooms in the spring. There are no leaves on the flower stalk. The heart-shaped, shallow-toothed leaves arise separately from the ground. They're good to eat in springtime, but become tough and coarse in the summer.

Poisonous dwarf larkspur (Delphinium tricorne) has a similar violet flower, but with a "spur" behind the flower, and a different leaf. Monkshood (Aconitum uncinatum), also poisonous, has a large, helmet-like upper sepal that covers 2 petals.
Violets grow in partially shaded spots in moist woods, and in meadows and gardens. They spread by underground rhizomes (which are toxic), creating dense stands of plants.

violets Pictures, Images and Photos
Sherbets usually contain water, sugar, and artificial flavors. This one, using natural thickeners and sweeteners, provides an especially rich setting for these luxuriant flowers.

4 cups water
1/4 cup grape seed or canola oil
1/4 cup vegetable glycerin
1/4 cup raw cashews
1?4 cup lecithin granules (available at health food stores
2 tbs. flaxseeds
2 tsp. liquid stevia
2 tsp. freshly grated orange rind
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups violet flowers

1. Pur├łe all ingredients except the violets in a blender.

2. Freeze in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's directions.

3. Stir in the violet flowers

Makes 5-1/2 cups

Preparation time: 20 minutes

White Violets are also edible.

violets Pictures, Images and Photos
Violets have been used medicinally for centuries. There is some speculation as to whether Violets and their extracts are useful in cancers and tumors, and an experiment done in 1960 allegedly resulted in a Violet extract damaging tumors in mice. Another story has it that a man with colon cancer was cured by eating Violet leaves, but apparently he had to eat a 1,600 square foot nursery bed of them to get this effect.
Wild Sweet Violet Eye Cream Pictures, Images and Photos

The leaves and flowers of Violets do have expectorant properties, and work well in cases of respiratory disorders such as bronchitis, colds, and coughs. One recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of Oil in a cup of water to be sipped slowly four times a day. Alternatively, making a Tea to use as a gargle, or making a syrup by adding honey to thicken the tea are also valid ways to use this plant to combat these symptoms. Ingesting a tea made of violet leaves is reportedly also effective as a laxative and for insomnia, and there are reports in the literature that Violets contain an aspirin-like substance that in a tea may be helpful in reducing the symptoms of hangovers. This aspirin-like effect has also been reported as being effective externally in reducing headache and neck pain. Pound the leaves into a paste, adding water and oatmeal as needed, then apply to a warm compress and place on the back of the neck. This also works for the pain of rheumatism when applied to the affected area. Capsules can be made for internal use by pulverizing the leaves and making a powder.
Violets have antiseptic properties that may be helpful in relieving symptoms of various skin eruptions and sores when made into an Ointment and applied as needed.
Wonderful for eye and face creams.

Wild Violets-Viola macloskeyi Pictures, Images and Photos
Although it is reported that ingesting large quantities of Violet seed may cause vomiting, these plants are safe, and as such are a good plant for the inexperienced herbalist to use for experimentation.