Ah, summertime! It’s my favorite time of the year, hands down. I just adore the hot summer sun and nearly every conceivable summer activity. Preserving the fruits of my garden labor is one of my very favorite summer activities. I find it so rewarding and even therapeutic to make jams and jellies, can veggies, and freeze and dehydrate our produce. It is really no wonder that discovering yet another way to preserve my garden harvest has me just as giddy as a school girl. But tincture making really goes beyond just being a method of preservation, it’s a way to extract and concentrate the healing and beneficial properties of an herb and preserve them for a long time, often for many. many years. Cool, huh?!
As is true with many of my adventures I share on my blog, I am about a green as a bean when it to working with herbs outside of a culinary setting. But, as is also true, I absolutely LOVE learning new things so I am finding studying herbalism and all about the healing properties of herbs utterly fascinating! But please, please understand that I am not a certified herbalist and I don’t play one on T.V.! Don’t take my word as gospel when it comes to working with herbs and please do your own research and consult your doctor before making and using your own herbal medicines. Herbs are powerful healers, but they can also be dangerous depending on your medical condition and dosages. Okay, end of lecture. Moving right along…
About a week ago I started my first tincture using one of my absolute favorite garden herbs: lemon balm. I am really excited about using this particular tincture. I often drink lemon balm tea at bedtime as I find it really helps ease me to sleep. But I don’t necessarily enjoy the middle of the night bathroom run to relieve my swelling bladder. My hope is that the lemon balm tincture will serve the same sedating purpose as my tea, but without the middle of the night potty run. Though it’s still steeping away and not quite ready yet for the final step of straining off the plant matter, reading all about the helpful properties of so many of my garden herbs had me anxious to get busy starting more herb tinctures. I began tackling my ever-growing list of herbs today and would have kept right on going if I hadn’t run out of vodka!
The first tincture on today’s to-do list, red clover, was actually not something I have growing in my yard, but rather something that grows all around me in the empty lots around my neighborhood. I first started learning about this wonderful “weed” last year during my wine making research. I had really hoped to make a red clover wine, but sadly missed the blossoming boat so it’s been in the back of my mind for quite a while. When I read about it’s wonderful healing properties I just knew I had to tincture it!
My littlest helper and I didn’t have to go far to find enough blossoms for our tincture. We had just what we needed in no time and came right home to prepare the blooms.
I wasn’t sure if the leaves and stems were acceptable for the tincture so, just to be on the safe side, we set about trimming them away from the blossoms.
Once we had trimmed away most of the stems and leaves we put the blossoms in our mason jar.
I had pre-measured 2 cups of vodka to cover the blossoms according to a recipe I was following, but found I needed to add a bit more to submerge them completely. Mold and bacteria can develop and ruin a tincture if the plant matter isn’t completely covered.
The only things left to do are label our concoction, shake the jars a few times a day to assist the extraction process, and allow it to steep for a few weeks before straining off the plant material. It’s also important to “top up” with the alcohol as the plant matter expands or alcohol evaporates. Yes, it really is that simple! The healing properties of red clover are extensive but include helping with respiratory problems, cancer, cleansing the liver, cardiovascular health, treating colds, infertility, digestive problems, and skin issues such as acne and psoriasis. Now that’s just super cool as most people just look at it as a lowly weed. 🙂 I am hoping I will have soon have time before the blossoms fade to gather more red clover to make a syrup and perhaps even enough to finally start a batch of red clover wine.
For our next tincture I decided to tackle my chamomile. I planted this last year, but sadly never did anything with it besides watch it grow and admire its beauty. I was aware of its renown for its calming and soothing properties, but that was the extent of my knowledge. But as is true of many herbs, the healing properties of chamomile are vast including being an anti-inflammatory, assisting with healing wounds, fighting colds, and soothing the stomach.
I particularly enjoyed the task of harvesting my chamomile blossoms. Their petite, daisy-like appearance coupled with their sweet, somewhat earthy scent was balm to my very soul! I couldn’t help but sniff and sniff the contents of my mason jar over and over as I collected the delicate blossoms. No wonder there are always so many little critters flittering about these lovely plants! They are utterly delicious and oh, so pretty!
After collecting and sniffing, sniffing and collecting I covered them in vodka. Aren’t they lovely? I can hardly wait to try the tincture! I plan to mix it with a bit of water, some lemon balm and lavender tinctures as a soothing bedtime sleep aid.
So with two tinctures brewing I was on to the next! My lovely lavender plants have been covered with blossoms for a couple of weeks and I was anxious to harvest some before they passed their prime. So a few days ago I gathered a bunch and put them in my dehydrator. Once they had dried I separated the buds from the stems, all the while taking full advantage of the free HBO and Starz preview weekend on Dish! Bonus! When it was time to make my tinctures I had nearly enough from my harvest to make a full batch. I added some purchased culinary lavender to my harvested buds and topped it all with vodka.
Finally, my last tincture of the day was sage. This poor herb is so infrequently used in my garden and yet grows so well that I was delighted to discover its many touted healing properties. Useful for not only its antiviral, antiseptic, astringent, and anti-fungal properties, sage is also great for memory issues as well as a beauty aid. Yep, they had me at “memory issues”! I just gotta try this!
I didn’t have to snip for long before I had all that I needed for my tincture.
This last shot is of a few Plantain leaves I found while collecting the red clover blossoms. This powerhouse herb that can be found just about anywhere as it’s one of the top three weeds found in yards everywhere. It is a remarkable healer for all types of skin rashes, insect bites, cuts, bee stings and even snake bites! I plan to go plantain foraging in the near future, but decided the best way to preserver these for now was to dehydrate them. Once I collect more I plan to make a tincture and an oil to have at the ready in our first aid kit.
With so many more healing plants growing in my garden and beyond, I am excited to learn more about them and how to use them not only for culinary purposes, but to begin understanding and harnessing their healing properties for myself and my loved ones. Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave comments below about your experience with the healing properties of herbs, tincture making, or using herbs as medicine. Also, if you have any corrections or suggestions for my blog, please let me know! I welcome your input. Blessings!