Plants have been healing and caring for us since the beginning of our human history on this planet, they are always at our service. When I pick one to make an infusion or tincture, I approach it with care, respect and familiarity. I ask permission and take a very small portion, making a clean, oblique cut with sharp, sanitized scissors, taking care of it, and that’s also a priority.
By Horacio Meson
When harvesting, keep in mind that the flowers are picked at their peak. Leaves before flowering. Bark in autumn and roots after the life cycle of the plant. Never collect weeds found on roadsides as they absorb toxins from smog, or in fumigated or polluted areas. Harvest on a sunny day, ensuring plants are free of dewdrops and avoiding hours of strong sunlight.
Flowers and leaves are not washed, only shaken to remove dust. The roots are washed only with water and a brush. The leaves and flowers are dried in the shade and in an airy place, the bark and roots in the sun. Once dried, they are stored in a wooden paper bag with a name and date on it. Dried herbs last about a year and weigh half as much as fresh herbs due to water evaporation.
The best-known ways to extract their properties are:
Infusion, herbal tea or tea: it is done by pouring boiling water over the leaves and flowers. You have to cover it, let it steep for a few minutes and then strain it.
Decoction: Place tough roots, bark and/or stems in cold water. Put on the fire and boil for 3 to 5 minutes from the first boil, then cover and let stand a few minutes before straining.
For both preparations, the ratio is about one teaspoon of dry herb or twice as much fresh herb per cup of water. The containers that can be used are made of glass, or enamelled, terracotta or stainless steel, but not aluminum because it is toxic. They can be sweetened with honey and the sweet herb Stevia can be recommended for diabetics.
Mother tincture: it is a hydro-alcoholic extract containing the active ingredients of the plant in high concentration.
It all starts with the selection of the herb to be prepared and ends in a few weeks with careful filtering. Between the two there is a series of stages and moments that must be linked by a careful procedure, at each of these stages the product can be improved or degraded. The procedure is as important as the elements, as are the health and quality of the plant, the cleanliness of the objects and the place, and the condition of the operator.
We will need a sterilized (boiled) glass jar, those used for sweets and jams about two hundred cubic centimeters or so. Also ethyl alcohol 96 degrees “tridistilled”, it is a medicinal alcohol just like the classic. Only this peculiarity of having two distillations more than the other makes the flavor and aroma disappear, there is no invasive impact. It is used in perfumery, gastronomy, spirits and herbal medicine as well; it is found in pharmacies, drugstores and markets.
It is necessary to have at hand a measuring jug of liquid, a disposable syringe without needle, some labels and a pen. As the tincture is a hydroalcoholic extract, we need water. The most convenient is bi-distilled (not distilled) water, which is available at pharmacies or pharmacies. Boiled tap water can be used, but depending on its alkaline value, if the pH is high when mixed with alcohol, it changes the color of the whole liquid; it then becomes milky and loses its crystallinity, due to the minerals entering into its composition. Bi-distilled alcohol is pharmacopoeial grade and, like tri-distilled alcohol, both are fit for human consumption.
Twenty grams of cedar fill the bottle, in the case of oregano, because its leaf is smaller, more than twenty grams can fit in it. In the case of eucalyptus it is the opposite, it has a more crystallized leaf, with less weight and more volume. But in any case, the container (pot) is not filled, only three quarters (almost full). If the cedar leaves are large, I grind them with my fingers, with my own clean hands, look at their color and shape, feel their texture, feel their temperature, and feel their depth.
The proportions between water and alcohol depend on the type of leaf or if it is a root. If it’s a root, there’s no water, it’s 100% tridistilled alcohol. It all depends on the hardness, if it is a soft leaf like cedar or oregano, the proportion is 70% alcohol and 30% water, and if the leaf is harder, the amount of water decreases.
The material from which the active ingredients are to be extracted must be immersed in the solution and then passed through the solution for one to two fingers. It has a name and date tag on it, and I also put the day I consider it ready. It’s at least two to three weeks, I prefer three and every day you have to move it a little. It is convenient to keep it in a place that does not have light and is cool, it is not necessary to have a refrigerator, it can be in a cupboard or a sideboard.
When the expected moment arrives, with an unused paper filter, I filter it and transfer it to another container, which I also label with the title and the date, always like this. With the syringe we transfer it to a clean dropper that we label and that’s the end of the procedure. The product is finished, it remains only to start taking it.
Dosage: we have to do a calculation and for this we have to know what our weight is, let’s give an example. If you weigh sixty kilos, count one drop of mother tincture for each kilogram. This number (sixty) is divided by the number of doses taken during the day. If you take them in the morning before breakfast and in the evening before dinner, divide by two giving thirty drops for each dose. If we add half a day, we divide by three, it gives twenty drops at a time.
The drops are placed in half a glass of water and drink it, if you want to eliminate alcohol (this is the most advisable), this can be achieved with very simple practice. In this case, it is half a glass of hot water at about seventy or eighty degrees (before boiling), put the drops in it and a few minutes after it cools you can drink it. The alcohol has evaporated. Finally, if you only want to take it occasionally, thirty drops are enough.
We still need to go deeper into the dosages, especially the micro doses. We need to talk about progress indicators, treatments and a central theme, which is lifestyle.
I will now pause to take a tincture of lemon balm, which is already hot. I add a bit of rich, creamy honey which makes it sweeter and healthier, generating a feel-good register that I want to share with you.
See you next time.
Consulted bibliography: “Plantas de la Patagonia para la Salud” by Dr. Sara Itkin, naturopathic doctor and phytotherapist. Editorial Caleuche San Carlos de Bariloche, Negro, Rep. Argentina. November 2004.
Contact with H. Meson