Friday, October 8, 2010

Making Herbal Medicine

On a glorious spring day what better thing to do when one has a moment than to gather Coltsfoot (Tussilago farara).

Coltsfoot is a powerful anti-tussive and can be gathered, its properties extracted and then preserved for future use when one is suffering from a cough.  It is simple to make either a cough syrup or an extraction in alcohol.

HARVESTING:  Choose a nice, sunny day to harvest herbs.  Give the sun time to warm the flowers and draw the healing oils from the roots, where they rest during the night, to the petals, where they are most potent.  Harvesting before 10:00 a.m. is too early harvesting between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. is best.  In the spring I wait until afternoon to do my harvesting.

HARVESTING TOOLS:  Get your sharp, clean scissors, grab a basket from the beams in the kitchen (if that’s where you keep them), tap the winter dust out of it (or any dried herbs that you didn’t use during the winter!) and you’re ready to go.  Throw on a pair of wellies because springtime ground can be wet.  Got your herb guide with you?  Off you go.

You’ll find that Coltsfoot grows in patches.  Use your fingers as “rakes” and pick a bunch of flower heads at a time.  You can use the stems also; a good general rule to remember if you want to use the stems of a plant is that if the stems are “juicy” they are full of the properties of the plant, too.  So, enjoy yourself!  Smell the spring air, listen to the spring sounds the water babbling and gurgling as it tumbles over the rocks, so happy to be out from under that restrictive ice that’s kept it prisoner all winter!  Fill your basket as full as you need it.  If you are gathering herbs for a family of four, two cups will be about enough flowers.

Bring home your harvested flowers and wash them twice in your salad spinner or colander to rinse off any dust or loam.

 Put your flowers in a mason jar that has a tight-fitting lid.  Cover the flowers with a 25% solution of vodka (use a cheap vodka – this isn’t about the flavor, it’s about the ability to extract and “hold” the properties of the herbs.)

The alcohol content is half of the proof.  In other words, if you have 80 proof vodka, you have 40% alcohol.  Since we are not a science lab, this is FOLK MEDICINE that has worked for centuries, you do NOT have to worry about being perfectly exact with your measurements.  Your remedy will be quite effective.

Cover your rinsed flowers with 2/3 vodka and the rest of the way with distilled water.  That will be about a 25% solution.  Put a piece of plastic wrap doubled over for thickness over the top of the jar, then screw the top on tightly.

Label it with the contents, the % solution, the day you put it together and then the date that is 3 weeks from the put-together day.  Shake your mixture a few times a day.  There are differing schools of thought as to whether it should be kept in the sun or the dark, so do whatever seems right to you.  It seems to me that if you put it in the sun, the sun will pull the properties out of the herb into the vodka, but there are others who think it should be extracted in the dark.  Either way you will have a powerful extract!

In three weeks (you can even use it after two weeks), strain it through a cloth.  Be sure you squeeze it really well to get all the properties that are lingering in the petals!

DOSAGE:  30 drops = 1 dropperful = the equivalent of one cup of tea.  Take your medicine 3 to 5 times a day.  No more than that.
If you’d like to make a syrup, just put 1 Tbs. +/- into 1/2 cup of honey +/- and mix well.  Take 1-2 tsp. to alleviate a cough.  You will be so happy and heal so quickly with medicine made from nature and the work of your own hands!

Finished Coltsfoot Extraction

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