I’ve been a busy gal of late getting my medicines for winter ready. For those of you who do not make your own or have no idea what I am talking about I have my tinctures started. What is a tincture? A tincture is an alcoholic extract (e.g. of leaves or other plant material) or solution of a non-volatile substance (e.g. of iodine, mercurochrome). To qualify as a tincture, the alcoholic extract is to have an ethanol percentage of at least 40-60% (80-120 proof) (sometimes a 90% (180 proof) pure liquid is even achieved). In herbal medicine, alcoholic tinctures are often made with various concentrations of ethanol, 25% being the most common.(wikipedia.com).
Tinctures take roughly 6 weeks to make using the folk method of 1/2 jar of dried herb fill the rest with vodka. So what do I have brewing you may ask… and why more importantly:
Valarian: One of the most useful relaxing nervines, valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a perennial plant native to Europe and Asia. Valerian root tincture is an effective remedy for insomnia, reducing tension and nervousness, and for menstrual cramps.
An ancient, effective, and well recognized medicinal herb, Valerian has been used in medicine since at least the time of ancient Greece. Valerian has also been used for gastrointestinal spasms and distress, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.(http://www.localharvest.org/valerian-tincture-valeriana-officinalis-C3268)
Yarrow: Yarrow tincture in an indispensable part of our herbal medicine cabinet. It has been used traditionally as a wound healer, and antimicrobrial and anti-inflammatory herb. (http://www.localharvest.org/yarrow-tincture-C15288)
Calendula: The most notable use of calendula, however, is for its use externally on wounds, burns and abrasions – and especially for rejuvenating skin and helping the body to prevent and/or overcome abnormal skin growths. Scientific studies have shown that ointments made with calendula extract are particularly effective for healing wounds, including leg ulcers and other wounds that heal with difficulty. A recent study has shown efficacy for helping to heal surgical wounds after caesarian section. Another recent study showed that a naturopathic preparation containing calendula extract was effective in the management of ear pain associated with acute otitis media.
The flowers contain high concentrations of colorful orange xanthophylls, carotenoids and other flavonoids that are powerful antioxidants and the flavonoid extract has been shown scientifically to be effective against inflammation, fever and to stimulate bile flow for aiding digestion and cleansing the liver. The aqueous extract has also been shown to have an uterotonic effect. Studies done of the flowers of Egyptian Calendula officinalis L. conducted at the Kyoto Pharmaceutical University, Japan, found hypoglycemic and stomach protective properties for calendula flowers. The principal saponins inhibited an increase in serum glucose levels in glucose-loaded rats and prevented gastric lesions in rats. (http://www.localharvest.org/calendula-tincture-calendula-officinalis-C2682)
St. John’s Wort: We are all aware of SJW effective use in treating anxiety, depression, irritability, fatigue and insomnia. But it can do so much more!
It is a commonly used pain killer, and is useful as a topical treatment in treating wounds, bruises, herpes sores, varicous veins and burns, including sunburn. Also effective in easing pain of arthritus, sciatica, nerve pain, menstral cramps, hemorroids, and gout. In addition, has been known to help regulate menstrual cycle. (http://www.localharvest.org/st-johns-wort-alcohol-tincture-2-oz-C17543)
Chamomile: The beautiful fragrant Chamomile plant is a great sleep aid and mild sedative for children. It helps calm and cool a person down, and may help with occasional sleep issues. Use this tincture to ease a stomach ache due to over eating or flatulence. (http://www.localharvest.org/zzzs-please-sleep-aid-chamomile-tincture-C9903)
Beyond my tinctures I am also making homemade vanilla extract. Who knew it was so easy! I am currently extracting using vodka but may try other alcohols in the future. I think I am going to try more extracts in the future too! I took 3 whole vanilla beans and split them mostly in half keeping one end together. Add 1 cup of alcohol (i used vodka but I have heard others using rum or brandy). Put in a dark place and shake everyday for about 8 weeks. Strain you and now you have homemade chemical free pure vanilla extract. Total it cost me about $7.00 to make about 8 oz of extract which equals to about 87 cents an oz!