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A place for my Workings, my Weavings ...
oh, and my more mundane crafts as well.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Herbalism: Making Tinctures ... pt 2 - Decanting

So, it's been 6 weeks since I posted the Part 1 of this segment ...

I have been quite diligent about making sure, during the first 2 weeks, to check and top up the alcohol as the dried herbs absorbed it AND to take the time to vigorously shake the jars every single day to keep the plant material from settling too much.

All together, as of this morning, I had six tinctures brewing:

  • Echinacea root - ready today
  • Peppermint leaf - ready today
  • Elder flower - ready today
  • Catnip leaf - ready April 2nd
  • Mullein leaf - ready April 8th
  • Lemon Balm leaf - ready April 22nd

Being that the Echinacea root Tincture got all the attention in Part 1, I'm going to put the majority of the focus on decanting the Elder flower and the Peppermint leaf Tinctures today.

This part is just about as easy as the first part was ... what you need:

Either a filter set up (like shown) or a muslin or jelly bag to strain the plant material.
Glass jars or bottles (sterilized) to pour the strained liquid into and use as Stock Bottles.
Dropper bottles to use as Working Bottles that you can refill from the stock bottles.
Labels for both the stock and the working bottles which will indicate
the contents ,date decanted, and the % of alcohol used. 
Normally, I would use the jelly bag to strain my plant materials but not every one can find them so this time I'm going to use regular, plain, old, unbleached coffee filters which have the additional benefit of being compostable right alongside the plant remains I'll be using them to filter.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Herbalism: Analgesic Healing Salve

Kara's been healing up well, according to the Dr, from her surgery but one thing that is proving to be a real problem is the searing, electrical pain that accompanies nerve healing. Unlike muscle, bone or skin tissues, nerve tissue heals very slowly and can only successfully regenerate for the first 18 months after an injury ... after which time, there will be no new regrowth of damage. It has only been 5 months since she went under the knife, which means that her nervous structures are well underway in their efforts to heal up as much as they can before their time runs out. 

Being that her surgery restructured her whole pelvic floor (an area understandably nerve and sensation rich in men and women) as each healing nerve tries to regenerate itself it is accompanied with the most excruciating pain imaginable (if you've ever had neuralgia or sciatica you'll be able to empathize, only imagine the pain beginning in the vaginal region of the internal pelvis and then shooting down the whole leg). She is a trooper ... despite the fact that she is in pain a lot ... and that some of those pains are enough to have her clutching a nearby person or counter so she doesn't hit the floor ... she hardly complains at all. The Dr has prescribed her a fairly powerful pain killer, but nerve pain is a tricky thing and the pills often don't do much for her.

Still, no point in suffering needlessly if there's something that can be done. I recently managed to get a stock of Lemon Balm in; a plant which, among it's other wonderful properties, has a talent for treating nerve pain and is commonly used in salves and liniments to be used by people with neuralgia and other nerve based pain. 

I'm taking the recipe that I taught Kaylee while I was up there Thursday/Friday and altering it a bit to add an analgesic component to what is already a wonderful anti-bacterial skin healing salve.

The ingredients are:
7 grams each of dried Calendula, Comfrey, Lemon Balm, Plantain, and St. John's Wort
2 cups of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
33 grams pure Beeswax (note: if bee products are an allergy issue, use Soy Wax instead)
3 drops each container of Neroli, Nightqueen and Turkish Rose essential oils.

You also need a Bain-Marie pot setup, a wooden spoon, measuring cup(s), and jars to pour the end result into.

This is a Bain-Marie. A larger, water filled pot sits on the
heating element while a smaller pot rests within it, in contact
with the water. As the water in the bottom heats,
that is transferred to the contents of the smaller pot.
It prevents scalding/burning of the contents of the smaller pot.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Herbalism: Mullein leaf Draught - Pt3

How to use it once you've made it.

This is actually as easy as the making it part was ...

You need:

Gathered everything needed ...
you can see Kara's tiger mug and my black cat mug in the background.

  • milk (whole, organic is best but homogenized and 2% will work in a pinch)
  • a pot
  • approximately 1 cup of the Mullein infusion
Put the pot (non-metal is preferred) on the stove and pour in your cupful of infused Mullein. Add an equal amount of milk and heat, stirring gently, until it just begins to steam.

Herbalism: Mullein leaf Draught - Pt2

Well, the infusion was allowed to steep all day and overnight as Kara came home from work to show that her bug had resurfaced as a laryngitis, meaning that I had to maintain the focus on the throat for the night with Rosehip syrup - 1Tbsp for the Vitamin C kick added to the usual Elderberry Syrup and Peppermint leaf & Elder flower flu buster tea.

The upside of this is that the infusion has had the time to steep the maximum amount of the good stuff from the Mullein leaf as it could possibly have needed ... resulting in a very nice dark brown end product. Since Kara insisted in going to work today (thank goodness she has the next 4 days off to rest), I won't be able to dose her with it until she gets home, I strained it before putting it into jars and then popping it into the refrigerator where it will keep for about a week if not used.

I gathered the jelly bag, bowl, glass thermos, and
thermos pitcher in preparation for straining.

Strained Mullein Infusion in all it's dark brown glory.

Jarred and ready for refrigeration.
I'll be back this evening to post Part 3 ... how to use the infusion.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Herbalism: Mullein leaf Draught for the Respiratory System - Pt1

Being that the bug Kara caught has succeeded in settling into her chest (where she has a congenital weakness due to having been born 2 months premature) I'm going to be making an herbal draught of Mullein leaf today.

Mullein is a wonderful plant which has a multitude of uses ... you can infuse the little yellow flowers and it's tiny black seeds in oil to create an anti-microbial and pain relieving infusion that works wonders with ear infections (especially in children who are so prone to them) ... you can dip it's long candle-like flower stalk in wax to create a natural torch (strongly recommend sticking the torch in a bucket of sand to avoid being burned by dripping wax) ... and the leaves can be tinctured in alcohol or infused as a draught.

DO NOT ... I repeat do NOT make the mistake of using the large, woolly, grey-green leaves as TOILET PAPER if you find yourself  out in the wild and in need of some. As soft as these leaves feel to the fingers, they have some very unpleasant fiberglass-like guard hairs that will make things very uncomfortable for anyone foolish enough to draw them across sensitive mucous membranes. Often people will make this mistake due to the fact that the plant is commonly referred to, mainly in the USA, as "Cowboy Toilet Paper".
(No, I haven't experienced this first-hand and I have no wish to ;-p )

I have some Mullein leaf brewing as a tincture but, being that a tincture takes 6 weeks before it is ready to decant, it's not going to be ready in time to be of use for Kara's current situation.

Therefore, I opt for the draught. Now, when I was living up on the acreage where the Mullein grew aplenty, I wildcrafted and prepared my own draught regularly. Being somewhere between moderately and severely asthmatic, I found the draught brought a great relief to my breathing and the amount of mucous my lungs created allowing me to forego my cortisone inhaler.

Making it is really easy ... you simply need:

  • dried Mullein leaf - 28 grams (1 dry ounce)
  • water - 1 Litre (34 fluid ounces)
  • a glass container like a large Mason jar
28g of Mullein leaf and you just see my assortment of
brewing tinctures in the top right of the shot,
on the far side of  the blue honey pot.