And all is revealed. I went out to Ohio to visit Josh! You've read about him before here, and here, and here, and here and here. In July, when he applied for a 6-week internship with United Plant Savers, an herbal medicine sanctuary, I'll admit, I was a bit jealous. I was in the midst of a kitchen renovation and in prep mode for my fall classes so there was no way I could up and leave for my busiest time of year. When I waved him off as he headed south for his herbal adventure I yelled after him "I'll see you sooooooooooon". Once his car was out of sight, I went straight inside to book my flight for a visit.
Wowwy! What a weekend we had. He has learned so much about herbs and herbal medicine and I plan to mooch as much out of his info loaded brain as I can, and I started the mooching this weekend when we ventured into the world of tincture making. Stinging Nettles were to be the herb of choice.
First stop, of course was to harvest some.
They really do sting and someone forgot to remind me to wear long sleeves. My arms were all welted up by the end but it was worth it.
- remarkably high in Vitamin A, calcium, chlorophyll and plant digestible iron.
- action as an alterative that gradually and favorably alters the condition of the blood.
- a diuretic and liver tonic
- helps reduce water retention, PMS, balance menopausal extremes and toning the whole female system.
- helps control hemorrhaging, cramping and headache associated with menstruation
- can be a significant remedy for hay fever and allergies
Now of course, you can make a tincture with any herb you've got growing in your garden, or neighbour's garden as the case may be. Here is a great reference list.
Josh and I went for what is referred to as the Simpler's or Folk Method. I like to call it the Easy Method because you don't need math.
Tincture Making 101
- Chop your herbs finely, using fresh herbs when possible. High quality dried herbs will work well, but one of the awesome things about tincturing is the ability to preserve the fresh healing goodness of the plant.
- Fill a clean, dry jar to the top with the herbs.
- Pour the menstruum (alcohol or vinegar solution) over the herbs. The menstruum is the alcohol/water or vinegar/water combo. 100 proof vodka works well as it has the standard 50/50 water to alcohol ratio. Fill the jar to the top ensuring the herbs are completely covered.
- Seal with a tight fitting lid. If you are using a mason jar or lid with a plastic liner, cover it first in wax paper.
- Place the jar(s) in a warm, dark place and let macerate for about a month. The longer, the better.
- Shake your tincture twice a day and do so mindfully- putting your energy in to it. I have read that singing to the jars is a common (though wonderfully cooky) practice.
- At the end of the appropriate time, strain out the herbs using a large stainless steel strainer lined with cheesecloth. You can use the cloth to wring out every drop of herbal essence.
- Reserve the liquid and compost the herbs. Rebottle and label
Now isn't that an awesomely easy way to make some good healing natural medicine. If you are wondering how much to take, well it kind of depends on your needs. It is best to check out the recommendations on each specific herb first but typically 5ml or 1 teaspoon every morning works well as a preventative and 3-4 times daily for treatment. Always best to check to check with a natural health care practitioner, as herbal tinctures can be a very powerful medicine.
And for your peeping pleasure, here are some more photos from the property where we harvested our nettles. Magic I tell you! This place is owned by an herbalist who, as Josh describes, is like the Willy Wonka of the herb world. See for yourself!