I grew up in a gardening family. This meant that I learned a lot about taking care of my body while standing on a stool in the kitchen. Both my parents and my grandparents knew a lot about how to use fresh produce to whip up a long list of delicious dishes. They also knew how to preserve the summer taste and nutrition for those long winter days. “Putting up” fruits and vegetables, therefore became a commonplace skill for me.
When I was 30, I was diagnosed with infertility and all my skills at preparing and preserving fresh garden vegetables seemed to be “not good enough”. I was still broken. I began to learn about all the other plants, the ones I had been weeding out of my tomatoes, the ones in the grassy places beside my garden. It seemed at the time that to learn about these “wild” plants, I would have to learn an entirely new skill set from the one I had so easily added into my life as a child.
I spent a long time learning how to make tinctures, pills, teas and more. There was an endless search for the right gadgets to make these new necessities. I’ll admit right now that I probably like a good gadget more than the next person. My kitchen is filled with all manner of specialty equipment. But, when it comes to making natural health in the kitchen, I found my new reality in simplicity.
The bottom-line truth about making home healthcare goods is that it really isn’t any different than what grandma taught us about “putting up” our vegetables. The harvest is a little different, but the thought process and the equipment is just the same.
How To Choose?
How do you decide whether you want to can, freeze or dry a tomato? You make that decision knowing that each way will cause you to lose a different set of nutrients. You decide which will be the most practical form to have it in when you want to use it in the winter. I like canned tomato juice for chili making, it’s quicker to the table than if I have to thaw a bag of juice.
The same mentality goes for our herbs. Will we want to use them dried in a tea? Do we want to drop a frozen cube into a smoothie? When it comes to herbal tinctures, there are two reasons to choose them:
- Some plants can’t bear to be dried. They are too fragile and begin to lose too much of their nutrition and benefit unless they are “processed” quickly. Herbal tinctures capture the peak of this type of produce.
- Herbal tinctures enter the bloodstream faster than most other supplementation methods. We use a tincture under the tongue (usually 30-40 drops at a time, repeated 3-4 times a day) and it does not need to travel through our digestive system to give us benefit.
Tinctures are best for issues that crave immediate relief.
How to Make Herbal Tinctures (The Simple Kitchen Way):
- Select a glass container (remember, no fancy stuff right? I like a simple canning jar here).
- Fill the container 1/3 full with dried or fresh herb (If fresh, let it wilt down a bit first. Too much water content can make your tincture less shelf stable and dilute its goodness.)
- Cover herbs with your choice of vodka, gin, rum or brandy. Truthfully any alcohol that is above 80 proof will do in most cases. You might also like to select apple cider vinegar.
- Secure the lid. Label the jar and leave it sit for 4-6 weeks.
- Shake the jar as often as possible to distribute the herbs inside.
- At the end of the 4-6 weeks strain the herbs out of your tincture and bottle it (or keep it in the original canning jar and dip it out a spoonful at a time).
Next time you get intimidated by a supplement in the grocery store, remember, the idea of using plants in your backyard for health started with “putting up” what we needed for the winter. While you can and freeze those zucchini, you should be putting up your medicine as well!
Dawn Combs is the author of Heal Local: 20 Essential Herbs for Do-it-Yourself Home Healthcare and Conceiving Healthy Babies: An Herbal Guide to Support Preconception, Pregnancy and Lactation. You can find her online at her Mockingbird Meadows website or on her Facebook page.
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