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

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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

Storing Your Herbal Infusions

What’s easier? Grabbing the bottle of Ibuprofen/tube of diaper rash cream/oragel to suppress symptoms or just researching what the problem is, finding the appropriate herb, making an infusion, waaaaaaiting for it to infuse, filtering it, and using it? Obviously the second option, right? Not really, especially when you are sick, in pain, holding a screaming baby etc.

storing infusions

However it CAN be just as easy to grab the herb as it is to grab the pain medicine or diaper cream. All you need to do is plan ahead (which I know can feel overwhelming.) Just follow my blog 😉 I’ll do the planning and sharing and you do the prep work.

Today I want to share some thoughts on storing infusions so they are ready to go when you or a loved one needs one! What is important to consider when stockpiling your finished herbal infusions for the future?

First, they need to be easy to access.

Sometimes even running downstairs to my basement freezer seems like too much effort, so I keep a small sample of ready herbs upstairs in my kitchen.

Store The Right Size.

Next, you need to be able to store them in the appropriate sized amounts. If you need a spritz of diaper rash spray, having a mason jar in your fridge isn’t going to help you very much. On the other hand, if you need to drink a cup of raspberry tea each day during your pregnancy, storing little bottles is not going to go very far. Think about how you will be using this herb and plan accordingly.

Make Sure They Don’t Mold

Why worry about it & not just make a TON while you’re at it (my usual approach to anything . . . bigger is better) Because big batches of things WILL go bad when you don’t take care of them properly and things do get forgotten in the back of the fridge, pantry, etc. So be smart & store your herbal infusions so they don’t mold or attract bugs. For example, making a gallon of elderberry syrup then realizing you don’t have the lid for the container, or leaving it out on the counter because there is no space in the fridge is not the best idea (ask me how I know.) It will attract fruit flies & ruin the whole batch. Even in the fridge, a whole gallon will likely go bad before you can use it if you have a little family like ours.

Stash a variety of herbs in smaller amounts

Another good reason for not keeping huge batches, unless you use huge amounts, is that you don’t want one infusion taking up too much storage space. As you learn more & get more prepared, you will want a wider variety of remedies at your fingertips. I would rather have four quart jars in my fridge of Elderberry syrup, anti-nausea tea, gripe water, and rash spray rather than one giant gallon of gripe water. So consider keeping a smaller amount of a wider variety of herbs easily accessible and storing the rest elsewhere like the basement, chest freezers, etc.

Label Everything

Another quick note; You will want to be able to label your infusions. Again, ask me how I know! A lot of herbs look very very similar once they are all packaged in jars and smell a lot more similar when frozen.

So how do you store your herbal products?

My first suggestion is to freeze your infusions in ice cube trays. Use a tablespoon to measure how much will fit into your specific tray because I have found that they vary greatly, then write it in permanent marker on the side of the tray so you don’t forget. After your infusion is ready, just fill your trays and set them in the freezer until solid. I then pop them out and stash them in a zippered plastic bag in my freezer until I need to thaw them.

To thaw I put them directly in the container or, if they don’t fit, I put them in a covered bowl on the counter until they thaw. Of course, if you need them quickly you could melt them in a saucepan on the stove too. Just please don’t zap them with the microwave.

Another excellent option for things that you use topically is to fill little spray bottles. I have a stash of spray bottles from some homeopathic medicine I was taking, but you can buy them in bulk relatively inexpensively too. This is great for treating babies & little kids especially because they can’t spill them and the bottles are easy to use while your hands are full.

For things you use in larger servings, you could also freeze cup-sized servings of infusions in muffin trays, yogurt containers, or even fill cups, freeze them, and store the infusion blocks in plastic bags. Imagine how convenient it would be to wake up to a vomiting toddler and be able to quickly run to your fridge and pull out a few servings of stomach soothing infusion? Or grab a cube of elderberry syrup when you are so congested you can’t think straight? Or just thaw the ready-made gripe water when your head is echoing from a baby screaming?

One way I have made life much easier for us is by freezing ice-cube sized blocks of diaper rash spray that fit perfectly in a little spray bottle when thawed. When I see one of my children is getting red, or if a rash pops up overnight, I quickly thaw my infusion and am ready to go in a matter of minutes, compared to at least overnight when making the diaper spray from scratch. This saves us a whole day of my baby being miserable & me having to deal with a cranky baby. It also keeps the rash from progressing and becoming more difficult to treat.

I encourage you to joining me in thinking ahead to problems you & your family may encounter and preparing your treatments ahead of time. You will be a blessing to your family/friends and make serving them more convenient for yourself!

 

Pineapple Sage; Growing, Harvesting, and Using

p sage 2

I’ve had Pineapple Sage growing in my garden for two years and have finally gotten around to harvesting it! I’ve appreciated that it has grown enthusiastically and has produced beautiful flowers, but I haven’t thought of anything off the top of my head that I NEED to add a Pineappley flavor to. So, instead of waiting for inspiration to strike, I finally have done some research and learned what to do with this delectable smelling herb.

But first, a quick Pineapple Sage primer

This fragrant herb is native to Central & Southern America. It is considered a tender Perennial, meaning that it will happily overwinter in warmer climates, but needs to be brought inside overwinter, babied by planting strategically & mulching, or grown as an annual in colder climates. I have found that it grows very well as a perennial with minimum TLC in our zone 7/6b. I have it growing against a concrete wall on the south side of our house to block any wind that might strip the leaves off. Here it reaches 4-5 feet tall, but in less suitable climates or in a pot it will not grow as high. Consider planting this in an area you frequent because it releases a glorious Pineapple scent when you brush against it and produces beautiful tropical red flowers that are also edible. If you just can’t get enough Pineapple Sage, most gardeners say that this is best propagated from cuttings.

Medicinally Pineapple Sage has been used to treat indigestion and heartburn. A 2009 study suggests that common sage may assist in the digestion of meat products. Traditional Mexican medicine also uses Pineapple Sage to treat anxiety, depression, and level out blood sugar. (ramblingtart.com)

How to harvest Pineapple Sage

p sage1

I used some scissors to trim back my Pineapple Sage bush a few feet on each side and ended up with a huge armful of sage. I also ended up with an armful of creepy bright green beetles that were covering my plant. I learned my lesson quickly and left the sage out on the porch instead of bringing all the bugs in the house. To harvest, I had my two year old help me pick the leaves off the branches and put them in a strainer then rinsed them under the sink. I dehydrated them in my Excalibur dehydrator overnight and have them stored in Mason Jars in my pantry. Some sites claim that it’s flavor intensifies as it dries and others claim that drying it makes it lose its fruity flavor. I guess I will have to experiment with it .

What to Use Pineapple Sage for?

I found many relatively similar ideas for using Pineapple Sage when I searched online, so I have distilled the many ideas into some guidelines to give you some inspiration when you are up to your knees in sage leaves. Pineapple Sage is a relatively mild herb, so I would suggest using it larger quantities than you would use other more potent herbs.

– As a general rule, Pineapple Sage is best in light and fruity things. It makes an excellent addition to desserts such as ice cream and fruit salads.

Pineapple Sage can be used as a flavoring for chicken, pork, and fish. I made a delicious Pineapple Chicken using frozen pineapple, pineapple sage, Turmeric, a bit of maple syrup, and sautéed onions as a counterpoint. My husband was skeptical at first, but the first bite had him convinced! I did not find anyone else using this more delicate herb for red meat, and just can’t picture Pineapple flavored venison, so I believe I will be skipping that and sticking with the white meat when getting my Pineapple fix.

Pineapple Sage can be added to cream cheese. Let me know if you try this one; I am very allergic to Milk & milk products and will not be doing this myself, but I would love to hear your experience!

Make herbal sugar; layer leaves in sugar & let them sit to infuse them with the flavor. I did this & it definitely has a fruity aroma. I need to test it on my husband and see if he notices anything different or likes it more than the plain sugar.

– Some sites suggested using Pineapple Sage as an addition to syrups. They also suggested making it into jelly. I am not looking to get more sugar into our diet (the opposite actually!) so I won’t be doing this, but it could be a good option if you enjoy more delicate jellies.

And there you have it; some fun ideas to make your cooking more exciting. Leave a comment to share how you have used your Pineapple Sage and please share if you found this interesting or helpful!

How to Make Echinacea Tincture

echinacea-tincture

As promised in my post on the benefits of Echinacea, here is how I made my Echinacea tincture. I’m not even sure you could call this a recipe because it is SO easy and such little work, but to make it look more official, we will call it a recipe still 🙂

How I made Echinacea tincture:

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Tinctures: The Basics

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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!

 

 

Creating a Herbal Notebook

dsc_1054Creating a Herbal Notebook

I want to share with you an exciting tool I’ve put together to wrangle all the new information we are gathering about herbs; a Herb Notebook! I’ll share the benefits & purposes of an herb notebook, break down each category I have included and give ideas for filling each section, post photos of my own notebook in progress, and

best of all, I have included FREE printables of the beautiful title pages I designed for each section for you to start your own notebook.

Why Maintain a Herb Notebook?

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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 . . .

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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

New Week New Recipe: Elderberry Syrup

elderberry-syrup-recipeMonday is a day for fresh beginnings, tackling everything you ignored to spend time with your family on the weekend, and making new plans. My plan, especially as the cold sets in and winter is officially upon us, is to figure out how to prevent my family and myself from getting the flu bugs and colds that are going around. That means trying a new recipe!

Cue the Elderberry Syrup!

What is Elderberry Syrup, you ask? Continue reading