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A Larger Herbal Community (And New Website Address)

Hello,

We have now expanded this herbal community to include a wider area and to involve more herbalists on the site and on the Facebook group. We are looking forward to more local herbal events being listed, more articles with a wider variety of subjects being written, more resources being added to the website, and, of course, welcoming more people from the local area. We hope that you will enjoy the changes.
Feverfew

If you would like to receive notifications of new events and articles being posted you can subscribe for free via email on the left. (If you were subscribed on the original Herbalism in Chepstow website you will need to renew your subscription here too if you would like to remain subscribed).

The website will be changing a bit over the coming weeks with more resources, links and articles being added. As always, if you would like to make any suggestions or contribute to the site in any way, please leave a comment below or send us a message on the contact page. We are always happy to hear from you!

Best wishes,

Mark Jack
BSc(Hons) MNIMH
Medical Herbalist

Making Herbal Tincture: Part 2

Homemade Vervain Tincture

Homemade Vervain Tincture

In my last post I talked about the advantages of making herbal tinctures and gave instructions on how to start your tincture brewing. If you have followed the first part of the instructions you should now have a pot containing a liquid that contains all of the goodness of the herb and the leftover plant matter.

So now what we want to do is squeeze all of that lovely tincture out of the mixture in the jar and label it up ready for when your health needs it.

As always, keep hands and equipment clean and keep herbs separate and well labelled. It is very important that you know exactly what is in a bottle and that it is of good quality.

Needed:

  • A bowl (large enough to hold all of the tincture and herbs).
  • A piece of muslin cloth.
  • A tincture press (optional).
  • A jug.
  • Brown glass bottles or brown PET plastic.
  • Labels.

Instructions:

Vervain Tincture Pulp

  1. Rinse the muslin cloth and boil it in a saucepan to make sure it is properly clean.
  2. Line the bowl with the muslin cloth then tip the contents of the jar into the bowl.
  3. Gather up the corners and edges of the cloth together so that the herbs are collected together in the middle and the liquid drains into the bowl.
  4. Squeezing Out the TinctureSqueeze as much of the liquid into the bowl as possible. Twisting the cloth up can help. It is very useful to use a tincture press to help get all the tincture out (see below).
  5. Tip the tincture from the bowl into the jug, and use the jug to fill the bottle.
  6. Label the bottle straight away, making sure to put the name of the herb, the ratio of dried herb to water (such as 1:4 – 1 gram dried herb to 4 millilitres of liquid), the date you made it, and you can also add the strength of the alcohol used.
  7. Store it in a cool dark place to help it keep its potency for longer.

Tincture Presses

It is quite difficult to squeeze all of the liquid out of the herbs by hand and as much as half the tincture may be left still trapped in the plant material. What is more, the liquid left trapped in the pulp can be the stronger tincture. So this is why a tincture press really helps. Unfortunately tincture presses can easy cost a hundred or a couple of hundred pounds. You can however make one for £10-20! I followed the instructions on Practical Primitive to make mine, altering it slightly due to not finding the exact parts needed (see the picture below). It works pretty well! If you have any questions about making your own like mine leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to help.

Tightening the tincture press so as to squeeze out the most herbal tincture.

Tightening the tincture press so as to squeeze out the most herbal tincture.

So how did you find making your tincture? Share your experiences or any questions you may have in the comment section below.

Best wishes,
Mark

 

Mark Jack BSc(Hons) MNIMH is a medical herbalist practising in Chepstow, Newport and Monmouth. For more information check out his website at http://markjack.co.uk/.

Making Herbal Tincture: Part 1

Herbal TinctureThis week I have been making herbal tincture from dried herbs and thought I would share with you how it is done.

A tincture is an extract of a plant made in a mix of alcohol and water. It is a great way to make herbs last longer as the alcohol preserves the herb (dried herbs denature a lot quicker) and it makes taking herbal medicine a lot easier (no need to keep making teas, just have a few drops or a teaspoon of tincture). Because tinctures use both water and alcohol as a solvent for extracting the plant constituents it can sometimes also extract more from the herb than water alone (as when having it as a tea). It is not difficult to do and there is something really satisfying about making your own medicines!

What Are the Aims When Making a Tincture?

What we want is a tincture that will last well, that we can easily calculate the dosage of (so we know how much we are taking), that has extracted the constituents well, and that is pure and of a high quality.

Having at least 25% alcohol will preserve the tincture, but to make sure that the constituents extract well the percentage of alcohol required depends on the herb. Some things extract better in water and some in alcohol and this can change a lot depending on the herb. For example, if something contains a lot of resin, such as myrrh, it needs a lot stronger alcohol to make a good tincture (90% strength alcohol for myrrh!). A knowledge of the particular herb’s constituents can help guide this, or alternatively just look it up in a textbook!

In order to be able to work out the strength and therefore dose of tincture it is important to know how much herb is in each unit of liquid and for this the ratio of herb to liquid is given. For example, a 1:4 tincture means a tincture that has 1 unit of herb by weight to each 4 units of liquid. As the metric system is always used this means 1 gram of herb is extracted in 4ml of liquid, or 200g of herb in 800ml of liquid.

To make a good tincture it is important to use high quality herbs and it is absolutely essential that you don’t mix herbs up, so be really careful where you get them from and that you label them well!

An Example: Making Vervain Tincture.

Vervain (verbena officinalis) is a bitter herb that, amongst other things, has a strong traditional usage in aiding digestion and helping with stress and low mood. It has often been put to good use in aiding with convalescence, helping people regain their strength.

It is best extracted in about 40% alcohol and as vodka is 37.5% it will do nicely. I am making it as a 1:4 tincture (1 gram of the herb to 4 milliliters of alcohol/water).

Needed:

  • Making Vervain Tincture 1800ml vodka.
  • 200g dried vervain.
  • Scales.
  • Electric coffee/spice grinder (not absolutely essential).
  • 2 bowls.
  • Measuring jug.
  • A large (1.2+ litre) jar with a well sealing lid.
  • Stirring spoon.
  • Label and pen.

Instructions:

  1. Weigh out 200g of the dried herb into a bowl.
  2. Use a clean coffee/spice grinder to powder the herb into the other bowl. This isn’t absolutely essential but can result in a better extracted and therefore stronger tincture.
  3. Tip the powdered herb into the jar.
  4. Measure out 800ml of vodka in the jug and add it to the jar.
  5. Stir the herb and vodka mix until all of the herb has been moistened.
  6. Close the jar firmly and make sure it is properly sealed.
  7. Label the jar with the name of the herb, the strength of the alcohol (e.g. 40%), the ratio of herb to alcohol (e.g. 1:4), and the date you made it.
  8. Store out of direct sunlight and shake the jar twice a day for 14 days.
  9. Check back here in two weeks when I will show you how to squeeze the most tincture from your mix!

That’s it for part 1, check back in a couple of weeks for the next part. In the meantime, if you do have any questions on making tinctures feel free to post them below.

All the best with your tincture making!
Mark

Making Vervain Tincture 2
Mark Jack BSc(Hons) MNIMH is a medical herbalist practising in Chepstow, Newport and Monmouth. For more information check out his website at http://markjack.co.uk/.

Thyme for Coughs

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

So we are well into the season of getting an annoying cough! There are plenty of things sold for this, but one of the things I find most effective is something you will likely find in your kitchen cupboard: thyme (Thymus vulgaris).

Thyme has traditionally been used for coughs and colds, chest infections, tightness in the chest and asthma, and it is greatly thought of as a tonic for the lungs. It has other uses too however: it can be used as a mouthwash for bad breath; as a gargle for a sore throat (although for a sore throat I would tend to favor sage, another kitchen cupboard herb); for aiding poor digestion; and as a mildly stimulating general tonic.

Scientific studies have shown support for the antimicrobial effect of thyme as well as its ability to give certain aspects of the immune system a boost. I cannot find any clinical studies that have been performed on thyme on its own, but there have been placebo controlled studies done on thyme in combination with either primrose root or ivy leaf. These were done on people suffering from acute bronchitis (with a cough), and showed very positive results compared to placebo.

So why not give a cup of thyme tea a try?

Tips for getting the best results:

  • Use the best quality herbs you can find – dried naturally and preferably organic.
  • Use one teaspoon per cup of boiling water.
  • Make sure you cover the tea while it is brewing, otherwise the important essential oils float off with the steam.
  • You can add honey to it to make it more soothing and taste nicer.
  • Always drink it warm, the heat is helpful for coughs and colds.
  • NOTE: this is not a replacement for medical attention where needed. Any long-term coughs should be checked out by a doctor.

Mark Jack MNIMH – Medical Herbalist

What would you like to see on this site?

I have set this website up as a community page for anyone interested in herbal medicine in the area in the spirit of ‘by the people, for the people’! So if there is anything you would like to see added to this website or posted about, just send me a message and I will get onto it!

If you would like to write a blog post yourself, that is great! Just drop me a message. If you have an event you would like to put up (preferably related in some way to herbalism, if only a little) let me know the details and i’ll get it done! Or anything else, just get in touch…

You can do so by leaving a comment at the end of this post, writing on the Facebook Group, or by using the contact form.

Thank you for being part of Herbal South Wales and Gloucestershire!

Mark