Dreaming of an Apothecary Shop…

I have began my journey into the world of natural medicines and the best way to describe my feelings about it; giddy! Being a holistic minded person who believes strongly in the central idea that “food is medicine” which is upheld in the philosophy of Ayurveda medicine, I am so excited to be increasing my knowledge of herbal remedies and creating some of my own tinctures. The phrase, “food is medicine” is one I heard and that resonated with me after listening to a podcast of “The People’s Pharmacy” on NPR: How to Stay Healthy with Principles of Ayurvedic Medicine, and it has stuck with me ever since. This is something that I already believed and when I heard Dr. Chaudhary say this in the very beginning of her interview I couldn’t help but agree out loud and think, “Of course it is!” What we put in our bodies is vital for how it develops, functions, and heals itself. Making these tinctures is something that is just another addition to my healthy lifestyle by utilizing plants in my natural environment to produce holistic alternatives to some over the counter pharmaceuticals.

The herbs I have used so far in my concoctions are: Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), Skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis), Toothache Plant (Acmella oleracea), Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca), and Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris). Each of these herbs I gathered from my garden or yard. The Motherwort was just growing wild in the yard across from our driveway and when I noticed it, remembered that the landlord was cutting it all down/pulling it out last year to try and get rid of it. Once identifying it and looking up its benefits, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to harvest some for both a tincture and drying for tea. All of my tinctures have been made with organic Prairie vodka (80 proof) and fresh herbs. Soon I also plan to make an infusion (with organic olive oil) and dried Mullein flowers, but I am still collecting and drying them little by little until I have enough for a small batch. From my research I have found it is best to make tinctures from fresh herbs and infusions from dried plant parts.

Every year for the past three years I have made a large batch of fire cider. This was my first experience in steeping fresh herbs, vegetables, and fruit in apple cider vinegar to make a natural cold/flu remedy. I find it is best to drink a little each day during flu and cold season to boost the immune system. It is strong but can be tamed with a bit of organic honey or maple syrup. It is wonderful as a salad dressing and a friend of ours actually used two jars of the batch I made last year within a couple of months because he started using it this way and loved it!

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Now I am in the process of steeping several herbs in jars with vodka (40%/80 proof). The first one is Lemon Balm which is known to have many medicinal properties to battle the following bodily issues: nervous agitation, functional gastrointestinal complaints, menstrual cramps, urinary spasms and symptoms of PMS. It is also said to improve memory and mental function.  It has been useful for combating cold sores, caused by herpes and is even said to prevent baldness. It has many effects including: antiviral, antibacterial/fungal, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.

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The next is Skullcap tincture which I am slowing collecting just the flowers for as they appear on only one of the many plants outside. I am making a small batch and used less vodka since there is not as much herb to steep (makes it more potent), but if I get a lot of blooms at some point I will add more vodka. Skullcap is known to help in reducing anxiety, soothe the nervous system, treat diabetes, help with weight loss, prevent certain cancers, lower inflammation, balance hormones, and aid sleep issues. My husband gets slight tremors from time to time and has problems staying asleep, so I am hoping this tincture will reduce some of those issues for him! It has been used in medicine to treat withdrawal symptoms, treat epilepsy/seizures and treat muscle spasms. From what I have read, Skullcap is used in over the counter medications in modern medicine. I have found sometimes herbs, without us readily knowing it, are incorporated into some current pharmaceuticals.

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The next one is vodka and Toothache plant. I “took the toothache plant challenge” popping a whole flower in my mouth and chewing it. I ended up spitting a lot, while rinsing my mouth constantly with water. The entire plant is edible, but it produces an intense sensation in the mouth and since I have a severe nut allergy, it gave me some anxiety popping one of the whole flowers in my mouth and chewing it all up. It numbs and tingles so much that in the following video it is referred to as the  “Tongue Tickler” as this gardener calls it! The feeling is best described, truly, as “nature’s pop rocks.” It’s such a range of different sensations, but its intensity honestly gives the impression it is enlivening and freeing your mouth of all bacteria and decay. Oh, and it is VERY numbing! When deciding to make a tincture the idea I had was it would allow me to topically apply it as a spot treatment for what it indicates; toothaches/other mouth sores. Lemon Balm is supposed to be the best way to get rid of cold sores and this tincture is for numbing so if used simultaneously, they could help combat the mouth sores and numb the pain; making the two a great combination!

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The Motherwort tincture (pictured below) is the fullest jar out of all of them because there is tons of it growing all around our property and in nearby neighbor’s yards, who don’t use any pesticides or chemicals on their lawns. I cut a bunch from across our alleyway and was able to fill a jar full for a tincture and another bag full to dry. This herb has many health benefits, but the most important to me were its usefulness in keeping the heart healthy and for intestinal issues. It is also known to help women with regulating periods and symptoms related to menopause.

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Lastly is Shepherd’s Purse, which is something I tried to grow by direct seeding, and I am not sure whether any of it actually came up. Yet, when looking through the various things growing in my herb garden I noticed something that resembled what I thought I remembered this herb looking like. I used the APP Pl@ntNet and sure enough, it was identified as Shepherd’s Purse. I continued to forage around our and my mother-in-law’s yard next door searching for as much as I could find. In the end there was enough to fill a small jar full. This is one that I need personally and hope will be helpful because it helps as an anti-hemorrhagic (or hemostatic) as well as being an astringent, styptic, vasoconstrictor and blood coagulant. When looking for this plant, it was usually in cracks and crevices between soil and cement, and I’ve read it starts to grow (the seeds can stay dormant for a very long time) after the soil has been disturbed/cultivated by digging it, running over it, or walking on it.

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The tinctures are a new addition to the only other thing I have really done to preserve and utilize my herbs for future use; drying. Another new, wonderful discovery I made is the deliciousness of herbal water. I have been making it every day or so, and it is my new addiction. I have never had such refreshing water in all my life. I usually use several different mints, Peppermint Sage, Anise Hyssop, Thyme, Lemon Balm, and Rosemary. Since it has been hotter I put the carafe of herbal water in the refrigerator to keep it cold, and every time I drink it, it is so invigorating and refreshing!

I am still drying my herbs as well. The flowers I’m drying are for tea (Calendula, Rose, Cornflower & Bee Balm) and oil infusions (Mullein & Calendula). Calendula grows and produces flowers abundantly as well as, the Cornflower. I honestly can’t believe most of the full, abounding plants in my new garden were only seeds just a few months back!

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Love your environment; it’s what feeds, nourishes, & sustains your life!

Happy gardening,

~Anne

Disclaimer:

The research I have compiled is not meant to be a medical treatment or cure. It is based on information I have gathered and should be read as a suggestion/basic information for educational purposes. If you have not used herbs and are unsure about possible side effects please contact a licensed medicinal herbalist or medical doctor. Most herbs are not recommended for children or women who are pregnant/breastfeeding.

 

 

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