3 Ways to Dry Herbs

“The purpose of drying is to take out enough water from the material so that spoilage organisms are not able to grow and multiply during storage.” (Putting Food By)dryingherbs
Technically the USDA defines dehydrated food as having only 2.5 to 4 percent water left; this is unattainable with home drying. Dried foods are defined as having about 10 to 20 percent water left in them, which is very achievable with methods available at home. This does not apply to dehydrating/drying herbs as much, but I want to explain why I am talking about drying herbs versus dehydrating them.

As a note, when I refer to herbs in the rest of this post, I am talking about the leaves, whole flowers, or petals used for cooking or medicinals. Roots can also be dried, and I have a short bit of information on that by the information below on using the oven to dry herbs.

What does drying food require? Two things . . .

First, drying food requires heat strong enough to remove the water from the herbs, but not too strong that you end up cooking what you are trying to dry. It is the same principle as raising bread; don’t get impatient, set it to rise in too high of a temperature, and end up cooking the top layer of dough.

Drying herbs also requires enough dry, moving air to carry away moisture from the drying herbs. Attempting to dry herbs outside in very humid climates may not work very well even if it is hot.

Basic Steps to Drying Herbs

Regardless of how you dehydrate your herbs, the first few steps and the general principles are the same.

Harvesting Herbs

First you need to harvest your herbs by either trimming the whole sprig or just the top 5-6 inches of growth. Different herbs may benefit from different types of pruning, so be sure to learn about the specific herbs you are growing. The herb profiles here on the blog are a great way to do that!

Harvesting should be done at the herb’s peak, most likely in midsummer before they start to flower. (unless of course you are growing the herb for the flowers.) The ideal time of day to harvest is after the dew has dried, but before the heat of the day has caused the plant to lose any essential oils.

Cleaning Herbs

Pick over them to make sure you are not inadvertently bringing any bugs with you. Yesterday I found a butterfly chrysalis on my lavender plant that I was harvesting from; glad I didn’t dry that! Rinse your herbs in clean water, and pat dry.

Drying Herbs

Next, choose one of the methods below to dry your herbs. Each has their pros and cons, and you will probably end up finding a favorite. Personally I like using a dehydrator because it goes faster thus is easier because I have to think about it for a shorter period of time.

Different methods will take different amounts of time to dry your herbs. Thicker, larger leaves will also take more time than thinner, smaller ones. Keep an eye on your herbs as they dry to get an idea of how long your preferred method takes. You know your herbs are dry when they crumble easily and you can rub them together to crush them.

This applies more to food than to herbs, but the products you’re drying need to be protected from insects at all times. Nylon mosquito netting or a currently unused window screen can be laid on top of your drying herbs for this purpose. If you are drying them outside don’t forget to protect them from dew at night by either bringing the herbs inside, or covering them with a large box, etc.

Storing Dried Herbs

How do you store your dried herbs? Once you strip the leaves off the stems, they should be stored in an airtight container away from light. A pantry or cupboard is ideal for this, though a damp basement or root cellar is obviously not a wise place to store dry herbs because it is too wet. I wash and reuse glass jars that I can’t use for canning such as salsa jars or tomato sauce jars. If I have extra mason jars sitting around I use those, but save a lid by recycling one from a jar of canned goods that has already been used up. (Draw an X on the lid so you remember not to try to use it again for canning.) Also, remember to label your herbs with the name of the plant and when you harvested it. You may think you will be able to tell your herbs apart by appearance and smell, but I know from experience that you will not always remember what is what. Even if you are 90% certain that you are using the right herb, labeling them and being 100% confident provides valuable peace of mind!

Different Ways to Dry Herbs

So what are your options for drying your herbs?

Air Drying Herbs

The first, cheapest, and probably most straightforward way is to air dry your herbs. Herbs are particularly suited to air drying because they do not need to be dried at high temperatures.

A great way to air dry your herbs is to place a large brown paper bag like you would get from the grocery store over your bunch of herbs (10 to 15 long sprigs of herbs per bundles) and tie the opening of the bag around the stems. Hang up the whole contraption in a dry room with good airflow (not somewhere humid like the basement, laundry room, bathroom, etc.) When the leaves/flowers are dry, you can simply shake them off into the bag.

You can also air dry herbs by spreading them out on a screen, such as a window screen, and setting them up on something like chunks of firewood, cinderblocks, sawhorses etc. to allow air to circulate all around them.

Using an Electric Dehydrator

Your next option for drying your herbs is to use a dehydrator. Using an Electric dehydrator for drying herbs is not necessary because they dry so well at room temperature, but if you want to dry them more quickly, it will work very well. There are two types of electric dehydrators, a vertical flow dehydrator or a horizontal flow dehydrator. A vertical flow dehydrator houses the heating element at the bottom of the unit and blows the warm air up. This will work but is not ideal because the trays will not heat evenly, flavors will mix, and things can fall into the heating element. A horizontal airflow dehydrator houses the heating element at the back of the dehydrator, which allows the hot air to blow evenly over all the trays at once. Most dehydrators have an herbs setting, which is their lowest heat setting. I use my Excalibur Dehydrator to dry herbs almost overnight with excellent results. My only tip would be to make sure not to cram the dehydrator too full. Remove some trays and leave enough space between the herbs and the tray above them that they don’t touch.

Using an Oven

You can also use an oven, which can be used like a dehydrator with a bit of creativity. Using the bake setting on an electric oven (as opposed to broil) or just the bottom heating element on a gas oven, preheat the oven to 140 F/60 C, then turn it off to let it drop to around 100 F/38 C. Check the temperature with an oven thermometer. Herbs need a lower drying temperature than most foods do. Once the oven is warmed up, load it with your herbs. Putting Food By suggests using cake racks set on cookie sheets as an alternative to trays built for drying food, which I think is brilliant. This allows air to circulate and won’t accidently melt anything (Though your oven should not be that hot anyway- just a disclaimer!) Leave the oven door open a crack to improve air circulation or prop it open with a rolled up hot pad. Keep a close eye on your herbs as they dry- remember you want them to be crumbly, not charred!

A Note on Dehydrating Roots

The Reader’s Digest Back to Basics book has some notes on drying herb roots. This is not something I have tried yet, but it’s always good to be collecting knowledge! It says to dig the roots up in early spring or fall. After they are thoroughly washed, slice them thinly and set them out to air dry partially. They suggest finishing the drying process in a oven on low heat because air drying completely can apparently take up to two years! Roots are completely dry when you can snap them and they feel brittle.

Summing it Up . . .

So there you have it, the basics of drying, how to tell when your herbs are dry, different ways to dry them, and how to store them. Drying herbs is a great step towards further self sufficiency. The feeling of knowing what herb you need to treat a problem and reaching for a jar of herbs you grew and dried yourself to make the remedy is amazing! I want to strongly encourage you to start experimenting with saving your herbs for when your family needs them this winter. And remember, always keep learning!

Growing & Enjoying the Benefits of Lavender for Beginners

lavender

Lavender. Who doesn’t love a row of perfectly curved bushes surrounded by that glorious purple haze of flowers and the even more incredible aroma? I love the look of lavender and I love the scent.

While I did appreciate the glories of lavender, I really didn’t know how to use it. Looking on Pinterest, I’ve found a lot of great ideas to use lavender for decorating and making crafts and some about growing it, but not so much about actually using it medicinally. Side note, I may have to do another post of my favorite Pinterest ideas to keep me busy once I have more lavender to play with! There also seemed to be a lot, and I mean a LOT on using lavender essential oil, but not so much on using lavender right off your bush.

So while essential oils are great and many of the benefits of lavender can be reaped using the oil, I want to talk about lavender in general and share how to make a lavender infusion.

Benefits of Lavender

Lavender is aromatic, fights gas, is antibacterial and antiseptic, is an expectorant, and is considered an antispasmodic. The use of Lavender dates back to ancient Egypt and China. Lavender has been used to soothe headaches, toothaches, sore muscles, and coughs , ease anxiety, and eliminate digestive issues. (Doctor’s Health Press)

Lavender for Calming

Lavender is probably most well known for its calming, sedative properties. Studies have shown that breathing in the scent of lavender can promote deeper, more restorative sleep. In fact, I found one study done in a nursing home that found that residents slept just as long and even more soundly when they used lavender aromatherapy as when they used a sleep inducing drug. (Prescription for Herbal Healing) Wow, that is impressive. I know I have reached for the lavender at night when my first daughter was awake screaming for hours at a time and it seems to have helped. It either soothed her, soothed me, or just made me feel better because I was actually able to do something for her. I’m not sure & wouldn’t be able to tell scientifically, but when you’re a mama up in the middle of the night, you want results, not science.

Lavender for the Heart

Interestingly, Lavender is also good for the heart. It slows the cardiovascular system , which allows it to release constricted blood vessels. (Doctor’s Health Press) Lavender been shown to decrease blood pressure and improve blood circulation.

Lavender for the Lungs

Lavender has been used to treat respiratory issues including asthma. As an expectorant, it can be useful when you have a cold or a cough by clearing mucus. (dherbs.com) According to Prescription for Herbal Healing the American varieties of Lavender have been shown to reduce the severity of bronchitis symptoms by acting as an antihistamine. This is definitely one tidbit I’ll be keeping in mind as we enter cold & flu season this year.

Lavender for the Skin

This beautiful purple plant has many uses for the skin as well. Lavender water (just an infusion of lavender) spritzed on the face or irritated skin can be soothing. Because Lavender is an antimicrobial, Lavender oil can be used to treat acne. It balances out overactive sebum production, which the bacteria grows on. (Eden’s Garden)

Speaking of skin, you can also protect your skin with Lavender by using it as a mosquito repellent. Simply make a very potent Lavender infusion using 4 cups of water to 4 tbsp of Lavender.

Using Lavender in an Infusion

How do you make an infusion, which is really just another work for a stronger tea? Check out my post here for more details or read on for a brief summary.

Simply boil 4 cups of water then, once it reaches boiling, pull it off the heat. Add 2 tablespoons of Lavender, either loose or in a tea ball, and allow it to steep for at least 15 minutes. I would do much longer then this because one, I would forget about it and two, I would want it very strong. To learn more about storing your infusions, check out my blog post on the subject.

Growing Lavender at Home

Knowing the benefits of Lavender and how to use it is all well & fine, but you need to know how to grow it so you have some to work with! As I have learned more while writing this, I have realized that my poor little Lavender plant has not been taken care of all that well . . . Oh well, live and learn.

To begin with, Lavender is a perennial native to the Mediterranean region. The “four necessities” of Lavender are heat, air, drainage, and dryness.

It loves sun and warmth; Plant in full sun or grow in a south facing window indoors. Many people even suggest planting it against a stone wall/foundation to give your plant extra radiant heat.

The next three needs all have to do with dryness. Give your plant plenty of space so that it has sufficient air circulation and does not stay wet. I found suggestions to give it as much space around as it will grow tall; they seem to grow in a pretty ball shape when given ideal conditions.

The next need is drainage; again this is important so the roots do not stay wet and rot, especially in a pot. You can line the bottom of the hole or pot with gravel to increase drainage.

The last need IS dryness. I included this because you need to specifically make sure not to overwater your plant. Water only when the planting soil has dried out an inch deep. Also make sure, if growing in a pot, not to use a container that has a tray under it to retain water. I would water the plant in the sink or tub, let it drain, then return it to its window so it doesn’t drip everywhere.

Lavender plants like an alkaline soil. You can supplement your soil with oyster shells or add lime to increase alkalinity.

When to prune or harvest your lavender plant? To slow woody growth, I found suggestions to prune after flowering and before winter. Harvesting is pretty straight-forward cut it above the woody line and allow it to dry for two weeks before storing. You can bundle it & hang it, tie it into a wreath, or put it in a vase to do double duty as a decoration while it dries too!

If you live in the south and don’t experience very chilly winters, your Lavender plant should do great outside all year round. However, if you live in the north and have to deal with cold, wet winters, either growing your Lavender in a pot or potting it to bring it inside in the winter is probably your best option. I left my lavender outside last winter, but will be potting it to bring it inside this year. (Though it is 85 degrees today and doesn’t really feel like winter is coming yet!) As a side note for potting your lavender, find a pot around the same size as the root ball of your plant because they like to have their roots more tightly compacted in the pot.

So there you have it . . . a crash course on the benefits of lavender, how to make a lavender infusion, and how to grow lavender in your home garden. Please share if you found this helpful and click on the photo below to pin it to Pinterest!

lavender

Planter Ideas for Indoor Gardening

growing herbs2

There’s a hint of cool in the air, it is officially after Labor day, the kids are back at school, and pumpkin flavored everything is making an appearance. Sounds enough like fall to be thinking about bringing the outside herbs in!

I began looking on Pinterest to get some ideas for my indoor herb garden and was quickly overwhelmed by just how many different posts there are, and just how many of them are SUPER similar to each other.

So, wanting to streamline things, I decided to narrow them down into categories, post a picture of each category, and share some thoughts on each one to help you decide how  you want your garden to grow.

First I want to talk about some of the issues you’ll have to contend with: The two biggies are light and watering. Obviously, it is super important that your herbs get enough light. .Window sills, the sides of cabinets next to windows, stand alone shelves in front of windows or the unused side of sliding glass doors, sunny table tops or desks, etc. They don’t all have to be in the kitchen either. I have plants tucked in my laundry room, bathroom, the window sills behind my couch, and on the dining table. The only thing to consider is that they need to be accessible or you will forget to use them and forget to water them.

Which leads me to my second point; indoor plants are completely dependent on you for water. You can’t forget about them and hope it rains enough to keep them happy like in an outdoor garden. I am absolutely terrible at remembering to water my houseplants and am working on developing some ideas for remembering. That will be a post in itself once I prove to myself I can actually keep them alive. Like I said already, make sure that your plants are accessible; a plant on top of your kitchen cabinet is likely NOT going to get watered as much as a plant sitting on your sink windowsill.

On the flip side of NOT watering your plants is OVERWATERING your plants. With a toddler who really likes to “help mama” I can see this becoming more of an issue. A damp plant will become moldy or get root rot, so let your pots dry out between watering.

Consider drainage too. Some planters like mason jars or tea cups won’t have drainage holes and will need to be watered less. Keep trays under your plants with drainage holes so you don’t damage your window sills or set them in the sink to water them and let them drain for a bit before putting them back.

With these general guidelines in mind, here are a few broad ideas for growing an indoor herb garden.

Shoe Holder Gardens:

indoor1

I don’t know how I never thought of this before, but it is brilliant! You could stash it behind a door that gets a good bit of light, or mount it directly on the wall. You would just have to be sure to mount it securely because that much dirt could get very heavy when wet. Which leads me to my next concern. Some shoe hangers are made from breathable fabric, and that could very likely start dripping on the floor when wet, stay damp and damage the door/drywall, or cause mold to grow. If I did this, I would definitely stick with vinyl and potentially cycle my watering schedule to only water 1 or 2 rows at a time. Just a thought.

Cup Gardens

indoor2

A Cultivated Nest

How cute are these! I don’t drink coffee, but I have some super cute giant sunflower coffee cups that I would love to display in my kitchen and I think this would be the perfect reason to do so. Only downside is that my husband DOES drink coffee and might not appreciate me filling all the good-sized cups with dirt & plants. This would also be a good use for cups that you love but have a crack in them.

Upcycled Cans as Planters

indoor3

listotic

Any sort of cans headed to the recycling bin can be washed out and used as is or spray painted your favorite color. I especially love the idea of copper spray paint to make plain silver cans look a bit more expensive. Adding labels to them is a great touch too because I tend to forget what I have planted in each pot. Another benefit is that unlike other planters such as tea cups or mason jars you could easily drill a few holes in your recycled cans for drainage.  I love the look of matching tin cans lined up along a window sill, but if you are limited on window space, you could also mount them on a board by screwing them on from the backside of the board then mount the board on the wall.

Hanging Bucket Garden:

indoor4

HGTV

This looks a good bit more time intensive than simply washing out a can or filling a cup with dirt, but I love the effect! This would be great to add to a window that didn’t have the best view (as long as you don’t open the window very often) It would be fun to put hanging plants in a high row and let them cascade down the window. Another benefit for home herbalists with kids is that could mount them out of reach of tiny fingers and there is no way they would get knocked over during any rough housing. I’m actually talking myself into this as I type!

Tiered Organizers:

indoor5

There are so many beautiful tiered organizers available that could be used to display your herbs. It would save space on your counter, catch water that drips out when you water your plants, and be moveable. It could also double as a centerpiece on an island or table, yet be easy to move out of the way when you need the additional space.

Mason Jar Planters:

indoor6

Domestically Speaking

We can’t forget the quintessential mason jar! Whether you want to mount them on a cabinet like this photo suggests or spray paint the inside and line them up on your window sill, I love the country touch a mason jar adds (even if it is a bit stereotypical).

So there you have it . . . six broad categories of indoor planters to spark your imagination and help you get your creative juices flowing as you bring your herbs inside. Have another idea that I didn’t cover? I would love to see your ideas & photos of your indoor gardens in the comments!

 

 

 

 

Chamomile: Benefits & Uses

chamomile” The finest and safest of all medicinals”

is how Chamomile is described by Rosemary Gladstar. What’s not to love about Chamomile? It’s has beautiful little daisy-like flowers that would look great in any garden, it’s gentle enough even for babies, and it has so many uses! It is “commonly used for

-stomach stress,

-digestive complaints,

– nervous system disorders,

-inflammation in the joints,

-wounds.” (Herbal Healing for Women)

Quite a list isn’t it! As I typed that out, it struck me; that list is a relatively accurate summary of Lyme disease complaints, which might be one reason I’ve enjoyed using it so much!

What makes Chamomile so effective? It’s anti-inflammatory properties and its positive effects on the nervous system and digestive system can apparently be traced in part to Azulene, an active chemical in Chamomile. This blue volatile oil has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anodyne properties. ( Herbal Healing for Women)

Using Chamomile

Chamomile has been used for hundreds of years by cultures across the globe, mainly as a tea, topical treatment for skin issues, and as a tincture. It is safe for pregnant mamas & can be used to treat morning sickness in combination with ginger. Wish I had known that a few months ago! It is also an excellent addition to skincare products; you will likely find it in many if not most natural products on the market. Apparently the flavenoids in Chamomile soak into the skin easily and protect it from free radical sun damage. Over the last few weeks I have experimented with using Chamomile as a relaxing drink while snuggling on the couch with my husband at night, adding it to my cough & cold remedy as we’ve battled sickness, and using it as a diaper rash spray on my toddler. I’ve also started a Chamomile tincture, though that has a few weeks before it will be ready. So far, I have not been disappointed with it! And I am definitely making a prominent spot for it in my garden this summer!

When making Chamomile tea, most sources recommend anywhere from 1-2 tablespoons of herb per cup of boiling water. Chamomile has bitter properties that tones the digestive system; these properties become more pronounces the longer it is steeped, so if you would like a strong , but bitter tea, steep for about 20 minutes. If you are looking for a more mild, relaxing tea, steep for only 5-10 minutes. Of course these numbers are not set in stone, and if you happen to forget about your tea for a long while like I do, I can assure you that it still tastes great and seems to have a positive effect!

While Chamomile has a plethora of uses for stomach issues, digestive issues, and use as an ingredient in skincare, I want to talk a bit about a use very close to my heart;

Using Chamomile for babies & children.

Having a toddler and a new little girl on the way I am always looking for herbs that are safe and effective for babies. Many sources have strongly recommended using Chamomile to treat colic and digestive issues in little ones. After using gripe water, which contains Chamomile as well as Fennel and Catnip, to treat colic in my daughter Elsie as a baby, I can happily confirm that this worked. It wasn’t a miracle drug by any means, but it definitely calmed her down and it felt so good to be able to do something for her besides nursing nonstop.

Rosemary Gladstar suggests using Chamomile baths, both for adults and children, to relax and sooth. Since Chamomile is so gentle, she even suggests using it in baby’s first bath to make it extra comforting. Now, it took me months and months to work up to being able to give my daughter a bath without having her scream in terror (we did a lot of snuggle-with-mama-while-she-sponges-you-off type of baths) , so this would not have been super helpful for us. However, if you have a baby who enjoys the warm water, this may be just the extra bit of relaxation you both need for those extra cranky days.

Another way to use Chamomile for little ones is as a teething remedy! The blog Growing up Herbal suggests using a Chamomile tincture both topically on the erupting tooth and internally to help sooth teething pain. Something natural and DIY that can effectively treat teething pain? Yes please! I literally did not even finish reading the article before I jumped up and ran into the kitchen to start my Chamomile tincture and am very much looking forward to trying this with my daughters in the future. For your reference, here is blog post I wrote about making tinctures. The average adult dose of Chamomile tincture is 30 drops; here is my post on safely calculating children’s doses based off of adult doses for your convenience.

The last way I have used Chamomile with my daughter is as a diaper rash spray. She was having tummy problems that consequently led to a very red, sore, irritated diaper area that traditional diaper cream and antibiotic ointment were not helping. Instead, I made a strong infusion of Chamomile and Calendula and put it into a little bottle to spray her with after wiping. I also used bentonite clay as a diaper powder to sprinkle on after the diaper spray. They worked wonders! No I didn’t take before & after pictures, and no I’m not sorry because I respect my child’s privacy, but it was incredible. We went from a red painful diaper area to perfectly clear in a day or two. Better yet, she actually LIKES getting her diaper changed now. Instead of a flailing, kicking maniac, she cooperates and even hands me her spray and her “sprinkles” (powder) and laughs while I use them. I call that a success.

I’ll be updating this post with our experience using Chamomile tincture for teething after we try it. In the meantime I want to encourage you to add this wonder herb to your collection and to your garden come spring! I’d love to hear of any other experiences you have had using Chamomile as well; I’m always looking for new ideas!

 

Echinacea; Benefits, Uses, & Doses

echinacea

Echinacea; your immune boosting super star!

This pretty purple herb is great for activating your immune system to fight colds, the flu, and respiratory issues. It’s safe for kids, and according to the Mayo clinic is safe for pregnant and nursing moms as well. This week after my husband’s entire extended family including us got a horrid stomach flu/ severe cold from being together on Christmas, I was REALLY WISHING that my Echinacea tincture was done already and I could load absolutely everyone up with some immune support. Sadly for me, it had only been 1 week since I made the tincture and I still needed another 1-5 weeks to bring it to full strength. Goes to show the benefit of being prepared!

Echinacea is a strong, potent perennial that everyone should have in their herbal apothecary. Even the traditional medical community used to value it very highly before the advent of antibiotics in the 50s. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, 13 separate European studies have found that when taken properly, Echinacea will reduce cold symptoms and shorten the duration of a cold. Continue reading

Tinctures: The Basics

tincturesweb

So what is a tincture?

The Prescription for Herbal Healing says that, “Tinctures are made by soaking an herb in alcohol. This causes the active constituents of the plant to dissolve, and gives the tincture a stronger action than teas or infusions.”

Tinctures are beneficial because they are much more concentrated, meaning it is easier to take or administer the amount of herbs you need for a treatment. For example, instead of trying to force down multiple cups of an infusion you can easily take a dropperful of tincture and carry on with your day. The downside is that you have can’t just whip up a batch of tincture like you can make a cup of tea; you have to plan ahead and wait 2-6 weeks for the alcohol to break down the plant suitably.

Technically, a tincture must have an alcohol base; anything else made with a glycerin or vinegar base is called an extract.

If you are morally opposed to the bit of alcohol in the tinctures, or are not comfortable taking them for any reason, you most definitely can substitute glycerin, which has the added benefit of being sweet without affecting blood sugar, or apple cider vinegar, which is healthy but not exactly palatable.

There are some benefits exclusively to alcohol however. According to wildernesscollege.com, alcohol will extract alkaloids, glycosides, minerals, essential oils, and other medical components that water (in an infusion) or glycerin will not. Alcohol also has the benefit of going directly into the blood stream, which obviously helps it to have a quicker affect. This is particularly helpful for treating things that need a quick response like relieving headaches or stopping bleeding. (The Herbal Apothecary)

Are Alcohol Tinctures Safe for Kids?

You may still be wondering, “Great . . . for me as an adult, but what about my toddlers or children?” I was wondering the same thing until I came across this AMAZING article on growingupherbal.com that explains perfectly why it is safe to use alcohol tinctures with your children. She explains it clearly, makes some excellent points, and will set your mind at ease without feeling pushy. She shares her reasoning based on the benefits of using an alcohol base, common foods our kids already may be eating that have notable levels of alcohol in them, just how very very very little alcohol they are actually consuming, and what a professional herbalist has to say on the subject. Basically, the gist of it is that in her mind the benefits outweigh the risks, common foods our kids go crazy about like bananas, orange juice, and fermented foods have more alcohol than a dose of tincture would, and then gives an example using the conversion formulas that shows you will find that a 70lb. 10 year old would be ingesting the equivalent of less than 1% of the maximum dosage of alcohol for his/her size when taking a dose of tincture.

If you are still concerned about the amount of alcohol in your tincture, you can evaporate much of the alcohol out by placing the dose in a hot tea and serving once it has cooled, according to growingupherbal.com

At this point my husband and I have decided that we would not give an alcohol based tincture to a baby just because it is more concentrated and we are trying to follow the principle that gentler is better for little ones. However after learning just how little the tincture dosages are for toddlers, and how to further eliminate some alcohol, we feel that we would be comfortable giving necessary amounts to our children from toddlers on up. (Especially seeing just how many bananas our daughter already eats!) Obviously this is something that you must talk over with your own family and come to your own decision that you will be comfortable acting on.

Once you have decided to go for it and lay in a supply of tinctures, what are some basic things you’ll need to know?

tincture-ingredientsweb

For anyone still wondering, the process for making a tincture is ridiculously simple. Almost as simple as taking your herbs out of storage, admiring them, and putting them back (which I have to admit to doing sometimes!)It is also not an exact science, which bothered me when I first began researching tinctures, but which I can now appreciate because of the flexibility you have in tailoring recipes to suit your needs. You will need . . .

Supplies:

-an appropriately sized glass jar (I’ve been using pint jars) and a lid,

– some 80 proof vodka,

-your herbs

– some patience.

Process:

– First you fill your mason jar up with the appropriate amount of herb, which will vary whether you are using fresh or dried herbs. See my guidelines below to help you determine how much to use (this is the “not exact science” part!)

-Next, fill the jar up to the shoulder with your 80 proof alcohol and tighten the lid on.

– Label it with what herb it is, what proportion of herb to alcohol you used, and when you started it. You may think you will remember these details, but trust me, once your pantry starts filling up with little jars of chopped weedy looking things, you will be glad you wrote down the details!

-Next find a dark place to store it for 2-6 weeks. If you remember, try to give the bottle a good shake every day to keep everything covered and well mixed. This is a good part for your kids to help with if you want to involve them!

– After 2-6 weeks, strain the tincture into a fresh container, store it away, and don’t forget about it or be afraid to use it when you need it!

Guidelines:

Alcohol: What kind of alcohol should you buy? According to Mountain Rose Herbs, 40 to 50% pure alcohol (which is the same as 80-90 proof Vodka) is standard. They say that a higher alcohol percentage is better when using more high-moisture herbs and will pull out more volatile oils. We bought 80 proof vodka to make our tinctures from. However, because he couldn’t find plain vodka, my husband bought one bottle of vanilla flavored (smells AMAZING) and one bottle of mango flavored, so our tinctures will have a little extra pizzazz to them!

If you purchase The Herbal Apothecary by JJ Pursell, she includes a great list on pages 221-224 of individual herbs and what percentage of solvent they need.

Herbs: The amount of herb you use is also obviously important; I was very pleased to find some general guidelines on Mountain Rose Herb’s website that can be applied to whichever herb you are working into a tincture.

Fresh leaves & flowers; fill the jar 2/3 to 3/4 full of chopped herbs.

Dried leaves & flowers; fill the jar 1/2 to 2/3 full of herbs.

Fresh roots, bark, and berries; fill the jar 1/3 to 2/3 full.

Dried roots, bark, and berries; only fill the jar 1/4 to 1/3 full because they will expand.

In conclusion, I’ve noted some of the benefits of tinctures, some of the possible concerns involved with using tinctures, basic guidelines for using herbs in tinctures, and the very easy process for making a tincture. So far I have made an echinacea tincture for beating colds, a chamomile tincture to help with teething, and will be making a nettle tincture to use as a tonic & replenish minerals, and give us an energy boost.

Now I want to encourage you to start thinking ahead to what health concerns your family may encounter in the future and prepare some tinctures so you are ready to meet any common health issues head on!

 

 

Fennel: Benefits, Uses, & Concerns

fennelFennel. Delicious, aromatic, soothing, and a Godsend to anyone with a colicky baby.

Fennel seeds have been described as one of the best herbs to use for digestive issues. It is safe enough to use for cranky babies yet gently effective enough to be described as nature’s Pepto Bismal. It is an antacid that neutralizes excessive amounts of acid in the stomach. (Herbs for Children’s Health) The seeds can be ground and made into a tea, infused into an oil to rub on irritated tummies, or taken as a tincture.

What do these little licorice scented seeds do? Prepare to be amazed . . .

Continue reading

Garlic & Mullein Oil for Ear Infections

dsc_1028Crying, pulling on red, irritated little ears, boogery noses & cold symptoms that go along with it. Uhg. The dreaded ear infection. Fortunately we have not dealt with ear infections with our toddler yet, but I like to be prepared with the knowledge and supplies to treat things as they come up. Continue reading

Using Herbs for Babies & Kids

addtext_com_mtuwnza0mjkxmdy3-This post contains affiliate links-

Using herbs for kids can be incredibly beneficial, but also rather nerve-wracking. Sometimes it seems easier to just head to the pediatrician for some professional advice on your little munchkins’ earache or cough. Now I want to make it clear that  I definitely believe conventional medicine has it’s place. However I also want to encourage you to educate yourself enough to be able to confidently treat the everyday issues that crop up like colic and colds, as well as provide complementary treatment for more serious issues that you decide to treat more conventionally.

Discussing EVERYTHING pertaining to using herbs with children or EVERY herb to use/avoid would be outside the realm of one blog post. That said, I do want to share some basic principles regarding using herbs for kids that can help guide your treatment. I also want to share a short list of go-to herbs that are considered very safe for babies & children. Continue reading

What do Herbs have to do with Homeschooling?

herbalism-and-homeschoolingWhy an herbal homeschool?

I just updated my domain name to be theherbalhomeschool.com. This has led to some reflection on my blog name and what it really means to be an herbal HOMEschool as opposed to sharing information as a herbal “school” or our homestead or any other cheesy name I could think up (and I am pretty good at that, let me tell you!)

I was homeschooled for 10 years, from 2nd grade through graduation.

Best Christmas present EVER! After spending a year in public school and 1.5 years in a private Christian school, I was more stressed and uptight than any eight year old should be. I begged to be homeschooled for months before winter break and all I asked for at Christmas was a note saying we could homeschool. I got it! We gathered up all my school supplies & books from the school and never looked back. Aside from repenting & becoming a Christian at a young age, being homeschooled by my incredible mom was easily one of the top things that has most influenced me throughout my life. Let me elaborate on how our vision for education influences my interest in herbalism. . . Continue reading