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Old 04-07-2007, 12:13 AM
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Default Harvesting Herbs and Making Tinctures and Syrups

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I started a thread on Medicinal Herbs, but I thought I should just post some basic info here, so I don't have to keep repeating it with every herb. What I have written is how I, personally, use my herbs. I am not a doctor, and am NOT giving anyone medical advise. Information I am posting is from reference books and personal experience to be used as you see fit. There are other people, who use herbs in different ways. Additionally, I advise that you get a few good books on herbs. I can tell you information, but it is best if you do a follow up on ones that you think you might want to try. Some herbs aren't good for people with heart problems, some aren't good for diabetics, and there are quite a few that aren't good for pregnant women. Another thing to remember, herbs aren't a quick fix like antibiotics and drugs. They work slower to correct the problems and imbalances, without destroying your immune system, unlike some medicines, which only mask the symptoms. You need to learn to paddle your own boat, but hopefully I can give you a push to get you going.

Books - I have about 50 herb books, and I use all of them. When I hear about an herb, I will research it in every source I can find. Then I take the general concensus or middle ground, and go with that. Additionally, I have found some cautions that were listed in some books and not in others. When you find a book that says to, "Consult your physician" for every herb it lists ... throw the book away. The all time, best ever, first book I go to for any reason is:
Earl Mindell's Herb Bible, by ... here it comes ... Earl Mindell !!!!
It lists each herb by name, gives it's properties, different methods of use and dosages. Dr. Mindell is awesome, and sites a lot of information from "Lancet"
... the British Medical Journal. They do a lot more research in Europe, with herbs, than they do in this country. Most any book store will have a copy, and it costs about $13.00.
Herbal Remedies is another book I use. It lists symptoms and conditions, and then the herbs that work to correct that problem. It is written by: Asa Hershoeff and Andrea Rotelli, and sells for $13.95.
I like to use these two as a cross reference and a starting point.

Harvesting - Let me start by saying that the majority of herbs are perennial "weeds"! Most will grow just about anywhere they can find dirt and water, so saving seed is okay, but since most are perennials, they come back and unless you want to start another plot somewhere else, or save some for a friend, you really don't have to worry about that part of it. For me personally, I like to let the herbs get about 15 inches tall, and cut about 12 inches off of them. That works great for mints, but some have to be cut a bit different. I check each stalk for damaged leaves and bugs, and then tie them up about an inch from the cut end, in bundles of about an inch thick. I leave the string long enough to have extra on the end, and I hang them upside down on the back poarch to dry. Make sure you tag your bunches, cause once they dry, they all look pretty much alike. My poarch gets really hot in the summer, so it works well as a drying area. Once the leaves get crunchy, I take bunch at a time, put them in a brown, paper, grocery bag, and start scrunching them until all the leaves are gone off the stems and into the bag. When I have done all of that particular herb, I start bagging it into smaller plastic Ziplock bags for later use. MAKE SURE YOUR HERBS ARE TOTALLY DRY, before you put them in plastic; if any of them are a bit damp, they will mold the whole batch, and don't forget to label the bags with the herb name.

Tea - Making tea is a breeze, and you can use fresh or dried herbs. When I make tea with fresh leaves, I find it easier to make a pyrex pitcher full. I gather the herb I want to use, and with scissors, whack at the leaves and stems to chop them up and release the flavor. Tearing them up works just as good, but takes a few minutes longer. Then I steep them in boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes. To use dried herbs, I generally use a tea ball by filling it with herb and pouring boiling water over it. Steep about 5 minutes and drink. I have always been told never to boil the tea, but to boil the water and pour it over the tea. I think the boiling depleates some of the herb properties. Sugar or honey can be added, and both will take the herb straight into your tissue and blood stream, because the herb piggy-backs the sugar. Adding creamer is good for herbs that are used to relax or get to sleep with. Milk has triptophans (not sure of spelling) that make you sleepy.
*Note of caution - some herbs can't be used raw for teas, tinctures, etc. ... pleurisy root being one of them. Make sure you know about the herb you are using!*

Tinctures - Tinctures are stronger than teas by about 10 times. You can buy these at a cost of about $6.00 to $8.00 for an ounce, which I think is crazy! I make my own for pennies. To do that, take your dried herb and put it into a glass jar, filling it to within an inch of the top. I use the old Ball canning jars with one of the plastic jar lids you can get for them. After you put in your herb, fill the jar with alcohol until it covers the herb. NEVER USE RUBBING ALCOHOL - IT IS POISONOUS. I use Aristocrate Vodka, because you can get a half gallon for about $13.00, which goes a long way ... but it tastes like crap! Then again, I am taking this for medicinal purposes and not for enjoyment. I could never be an alcoholic, because I hate the taste of alcohol too much! Don't turn it upside down, but shake it a little to make sure all the herb gets wet. Every day shake it a little, and after about a week or two, it is time to strain it. (I have let some of mine sit for months) Get out a bowl and a screen strainer ... the finer, the better, and pour your jar through the strainer letting the bowl catch the liquid. Once it has completely drained, you can get rid of the plant matter. I like to put the liquid back into it's rinsed out jar, and let it sit a few more days with the top on. Usually it will develope a small cake of mud at the bottom which won't hurt you, and is nothing more than the remaining plant matter that the strainer couldn't filter out. Don't shake it once it is strained, and after two or three days, you can gently pour the liquid off, leaving the mud at the bottom. This is your working tincture, and it doesn't go bad or mold like tea does, because of the alcohol. I usually take about half a dropper full of most herbs I use, and have found that chasing it with a couple sips of coffee will kill the bad taste immediately on just about all of them ... except Goldenseal! That is a nasty taste! ... But a great herb. Personally, I prefer the tinctures, because lots of time, I am too busy to brew a cup of tea, wait for it to steep and then drink it. With a tincture, you can take it and be on your way. Additionally, alcohol is absorbed directly into the muscle tissue and body, and just like sugar, the herb will piggy-back the alcohol, so you get it quicker. I still make tea for the sleepy time herbs though. The hot tea by itself is relaxing, regardless of the particular herb you are using.

Syrups - To make a syrup, I mix the tincture, half and half, with honey, and stir it up really well. I have a Native sister who will cook the syrup on the stove, never letting it come to a boil, but heating it enough for the syrup to thicken a bit. This is a good way to take the herb, especially for kids, who don't like the taste of alcohol, and you are mixing sugar and alcohol together, which helps the herb get into your system faster. One note, because of the honey, eventually the syrup will start to get kinda yuckie, but it takes up to a year for that to happen. The alcohol keeps it good for quite a while, but I always save a bit of the tincture out just in case the syrup goes bad, and I need the herb for immediate use. That tides me over until I can make more.

Aromatherapy - This method usually uses essential oils, which is a highly concentrated form of the herb, and benifit is obtained by breathing the scent. Making these are a bit above my abilities, but they can be purchased fairly reasonably, and they last a long time if kept in their sealed bottle and in the dark. Air and light deplete any herb's potancy. A couple of good examples are:
Basil - Taking deep breaths of Basil essential oil has the wonderful effect of calming and relaxing a person. Someone who is terribly stressed would find this herb helpful.
Thyme - Works wonderfully in an oil diffuser. To use an oil diffuser, put a tea lite candle in the bottom section and light it. In the top section, or saucer if it has a removeable upper dish, fill with water and float a few drops of the essential oil on the water. The candle will heat the water and release the essential oil into the air. Thyme is great during cold and flu season, because it will kill flu and other viruses in the air, thus keeping everyone from getting sick, or at the very least, not passing it back and forth several times.
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils by Julia Lawless is a super reference book that I use.

Salves - You can make salves using your whole herb, tinctures or essential oils. ***NOTE: Most essential oils will burn the skin if used full strength. There are a few exceptions, like Lavender, but on the whole, you have to cut their strength by quite a bit.*** I like to use the Vaseline Creamy Petroleum Jelly as the base, because it is whipped, so it isn't really greasy. The amount of herb used depends on it's form, so start with a smaller amount and gradually increase it until you get the desired result. I have a friend who puts ground cayenne pepper in a cream like this, lets it sit until the cayenne disolves (you have to stir it, off and on, for a few days). Cayenne will not burn like black pepper, but stimulates the blood flow to help with sprains and sore muscles. It is also good used internally, but that is for the herb thread. When you use the plant, itself, you need to crush it, so the juices are released, and then let the cream sit for a while so the herb can be absorbed into the salve. When using an essential oil, you use very little, like maybe 10 drops into the entire jar. Stir it a few times, as it sits for an hour or so, and you can use it almost right away.

Lotions - Lotions can be made by using the cheapest, big bottle of hand lotion (I prefer one that has aloe or shea butter or cocoa butter and isn't super thick, because it makes mixing it easier). I add in 6 - 10 drops of the essential oil that I want to use, to the lotion and stir. Then I try it. If it isn't strong enough you can always add more of the essential, but you can't take it out if you add too much. I always write down what I have used, so I can duplicate the end product without having to go back through the trials again.
These work well for chapped skin, irritations, ect.

Oils - To make a working oil, I start with 6 or so drops of the essential mixed with about 3 or 4 ounces of carrier oil, and then gradually increase the amount of the essential, until I get the result I am looking for. A carrier oil is just what it sounds like ... it is an oil that carries the essential. Examples of carrier oils include, but are not limited to: Apricot Kernel Oil, Avocado Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Olive Oil, Palm Oil, Sesame Oil and Sweet Almond Oil. You can even use Vegetable or Mineral oil, but they tend to go rancid quicker than the others. Here is a recipe, given to me by another Native sister, for an oil that I used when I fractured my leg:
(This also works for pulled tendons and muscle strains)

>Start with 3-4 ounces of Almond oil or any carrier oil in a small glass bottle that has a cap which doesn't leak.
10 drops of Peppermint essential oil
6 drops of Rosemary essential oil
5 drops of Tea Tree essential oil
5 drops of Majoram essential oil

Blend and let sit for a couple of hours. Use as a rub on muscles, tendons, and in my case breaks. Can be used and then covered with a warm cloth to open pores. After 5 minutes, massage in the oil and top with another warm cloth for a little longer. (These herbs increase blood flow to an area, hence more oxygen, damaged cells are swept away quicker, healing results)

From personal experience, when I broke my leg, it was a fracture just above the ankle. I put a walking boot on it, cause I couldn't get to the doctor for a day or so, and also, I knew what I had done, cause it happened to the other leg about four years earlier. I went to my doctor, who took an x-ray, and then sent me to an orthopedic guy the next day, who also took an x-ray, and sure enough, there was a fracture. He let me stay in the walking boot with no cast, as I was using, and promised to continue using, crutches. He wanted to see me back in three weeks, and out the door I went. I rubbed this oil on my leg about five times a day, in the morning, at night and in between. 19 days later, I went back to see the orthopedic guy, who took another x-ray. After looking at it next to the original that he had taken, he turned and told me he was cutting me loose. I asked how long I should keep the walking boot on, and he told me he didn't care. Then he pointed to the new x-ray, and asked if I saw a fracture anywhere! To my amazement, the bone had healed in three weeks. Now not being a total dumb A??,:D , I kept the boot on when I went out for another week, but at home I was fine without it. And just between you and me, after the 6th day, I could walk on it very slowly and gently ... without a boot ... like to the bathroom and back, and it didn't even hurt. I am happy to share this recipe with you, but I hope you never have the occasion to use it!!!!!

Another quick note, be careful when you purchase essential oils that they are full strength for that particular herb. You see, Almond Oil, is a pure essential oil, and if mixed with say 10% Peppermint oil, they can still claim it is a "100% pure essential oil". Always deal with reputable sources. Some good companies are Penn Herb Co. out of Pennsylvania, San Francisco Herb Co. and Starwest Botanicals, both out of California. I am sure there are many other good companies, but these are the ones that I deal with, so I am confident of their product.

Well, this is all I can think of for right now, so I guess I will end this post. I hope it will help you get started, and feel free to add to this thread with other information that you may have. Hugs -- Graywolf
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Old 07-05-2008, 07:06 PM
2243OCL 2243OCL is offline
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What is the chance that we could get this moved to the top on a permanent basis?
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Old 07-05-2008, 08:55 PM
Lamb Lamb is offline
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GrayWolf, I use almond or safflower or sunflower seed oil for my carrier oil.
I use the sun to do most of the work for me.
My formula is one cup of fresh finely minced herb with one cup carrier oil in clear glass jar with tightly fitting lid. Set in sun for three days. Then strain..or leave the herbs in for awhile, your choice. Store in dark, dry place (like your pantry) until needed.
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Old 10-16-2011, 05:11 AM
nzbushbunny nzbushbunny is offline
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Default Hope this is helpful

I make a cream for Swollen Legs - u need 2tsps each of T Tree oil, eucalyptus oil + 2 cups Olive Oil + 1/2 cup Grated Bees wax. 1st boil 2lb Comfrey in S/Steel pot with 2 cups H2O, Mash, add Oils & Bees wax simmer gently & stir well. When wax melts allow 2cool put in2 jars. Massage in2 feet & legs.
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Old 11-20-2016, 10:41 PM
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Default To my surprise my Herbal Antibiotic-like Healing Salve actually does work

I worked on this recipe for a long time. I did tons of research. I'm not a medical professional, just a simple herbal crafter. I do wildcrafting too. I'm sharing what I use in this salve because I have had incredible results. Maybe others here would like to make this for themselves. I hope it works for you!

(I FIND IT TO BE: Antibacterial, Antiseptic, Anti-Microbial, Anti-Viral, Anti-Fungal, Anti-Inflammatory.)
I Use It For: Skin healing, cuts, scrapes, burns, dry chapped skin, insect bites, and bruises.
My Ingredients are: Olive Oil, Cocoa Butter, Home Infused Oils of: Yarrow, Calendula, Marshmallow Root, Chickweed, Plantain, Selfheal, Comfrey, Chamomile, Lemon Balm, St. John's Wort, Arnica & English Lavender.
Rosehip Seed Oil, and Active Manuka Honey.
Essential Oils of: Helichrysum, Melaleuca, Myrrh, Geranium, Frankincense, Rosemary, Bergamot, Blue Yarrow & Lemon.
*Always do a patch test for allergic reactions.
*Always cleans wounds well before using!!
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Old 11-21-2016, 02:16 AM
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mmamom mmamom is offline
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Thank you ladies, for sharing your information. nzbushbunny, I have been looking for something like this for my legs.
Bactrim almost killed my mom due to a severe skin reaction. I am hoping Gransgirl14's post will work for her.
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Old 11-28-2016, 11:40 AM
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GransGirl14 GransGirl14 is offline
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Default Hi mmamom, not sure, but are you asking for my recipe?

I will share it gladly if it helps someone. Just realize there's a lot of ingredients in it. My plants macerate in oils for 6-8 weeks before being strained and made into ointment, salves, and balms. If you know how to do the oil infusions, that's great, because you can't make the salve without the oil infusions. If you have any questions, you can ask me.
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Old 11-29-2016, 06:06 PM
strvger strvger is offline
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many folks here make remedies from the local fauna. very common as many believe the old ways are still better than modern medicine (and cheaper). some work, some don't.
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Old 11-29-2016, 07:36 PM
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HeavyHauler HeavyHauler is offline
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Lots of great info, thank you. Gonna look into those books.
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harvesting herbsl, herbs, medical herbs, syrups, tinctures

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