Cleavers is a native to countries in Europe, North Africa, North America and also in Asia, but it is now found around the world, from Saskatchewan Canada to South Australia.

It grows in forests and other wooded areas, to fields and other cultivated crops, bush and shrubbery, gardens, to lawns and meadows.

The name Cleavers comes from the old English word, meaning “to cleave,” which means “to latch onto.” Not the other meaning of ‘to cleave’, meaning to separate or come apart.

The Greeks called it ‘philanthropon’, which means to ‘Love man’ as it has this spreading habit via clinging to people, as well as animals.

Pliny the Elder once suggested that “A pottage made of Cleavers, a little mutton and oatmeal is good to cause lankness and keepe from fatnesse.” he and the Roman physician Galen also understood its ability to prevent and treat oedema caused by water retention.

Due to its many hooked shaped hairs, which resembles velcro, and although the Greek physician Dioscorides had never heard of velcro, he also used it to curdle milk and filter. This tradition of filtering has been kept alive and is still used in countries such as Sweden, where people who milk cows would use the plant to strain out any animal hair, which may have fallen in during the milking process.

It was used by the Native American tribes to promote kidney health, and in China it has been used as an antiperspirant.

Some may not know it but, in the country of Turkey, it is called ‘yogurt otu’, meaning ‘yogurt herb’, this is because the plant literally contains an enzyme that can coagulate milk.

The Weed File

There are three main ‘cousins’ to Cleavers and they are: Sweet woodruff – Galium odoratum; Ladies’ bedstraw – Galium verum, and Madder – Rubia tinctorum.

Sweet woodruff: is a perennial plant that grows to an average height of 23cm with whorls of 6 to 8 shiny leaves and starry white flowers. Part used – leaves and flowers

Ladies’ bedstraw: (Yellow bedstraw or Our lady’s bedstraw) is similar to Sweet woodruff, but much more slender. It got its original name from its earlier use of ‘bedstraw’. Part used – leaves

Madder: is a perennial with more yellowy flowers, but is coarser and larger than Sweet woodruff, Parts used – roots


Another variety that some may know of is: the Three-horned bedstraw – Galium tricornutum. The South Australian and Western Australian governments consider this as serious weed problem.

In my own personal opinion, for all that it is worth, is if you have a serious problem with Cleavers, is to graze it out. As all the aerial parts are edible, therefore, one should rotate both their crops and grazing animals. It seems to be a specific issue in canola and therefore, we would need to make sure it is thoroughly eaten out before the seed has a chance to form and throwing in a few chickens or geese for good measure.

Most would say that I’m a nutter for suggesting this, but why couldn’t some folks literally carry several thousand chickens around in trucks going from farm to farm acting as weed cleaners and pest eradicators for farmers?


How To Use Cleavers

There are only a few culinary uses for Cleavers, but its principle use is medicinal. Which isn’t really a concern, as it is a fantastic herb to use medicinally.

Many of the common afflictions which humans suffer from, can either be helped greatly or even in some small way by adding it to a formula combined with other herbs.

We all face skin issues such as acne, dermatitis, dry skin, psoriasis and eczema throughout our lives, and this is one of its areas it excels in.

The other very important area in which Cleavers excels in, is the lymphatic system, and although this is related to many skin issues, it can help clean deeper into our bodies. This means it can clean our blood, help with swollen lymph nodes and infections, clearing them out of your system.

Herbal Teas

With most herbal teas, pouring in boiling hot water is usually just fine, but with Cleavers you should not use boiling hot water, just very warm, as it destroys some of its vital constituents. The infusion of Cleavers tea can be a beneficial wash for the skin, so if you want to have a more therapeutic infusion, it is even better to make a cold infusion.

Simple Cleavers Tea

To make a simple tea, place 1 teaspoon (or 2 teaspoons fresh) of dried Cleavers into a cup and pour in the very warm water, wait five minutes and drink.

Now how’s that for simple, being healthier just couldn’t be easier.

Customised Cleavers Teas

I don’t have too many recipes to offer here, but one that would work and especially with Urinary Tract Infections (UTI’s) would be to have equal parts of both Cleavers and Raspberry leaf, say, 1 heaped teaspoon of each, placed into a cup, pour in very warm water, not boiling, wait about 5 minutes and than add a sweetener, and enjoy.

Culinary Uses of Cleavers

There not many culinary uses for cleavers, mostly medicinal, but you can use it in green smoothies, as it does have a high chlorophyll content, which would also help with magnesium intake. In some places around the world, it is used as a ‘spring tonic’ because it cleanses the lymphatics and the blood.

The dried and roasted seed of Cleavers can be used as a coffee substitute.

Cleavers was consumed in China as a vegetable, probably steamed, as its the ‘furriness’ that throws most people off. Cooking it in some ways gets rid of the ‘fur’ and then could used in various dishes as a green vegetable.

Health Uses of Cleavers

Cleavers has been used now for many centuries as a folk medicine and most specifically for skin ailments.

Probably one of its most important benefits is that it helps to remove metabolic waste from your body. This is why it is called a ‘lymphatic’, meaning that it helps to move the lymph and the waste it carries along the lymphatic system, into the blood stream and ultimately out of the body.

That is why it is so good for skin conditions

Cleavers can be used in all sorts of herbal preparations, but the most effective method is to prepare a succus, that is, a well pressed fresh juice preserved in a little alcohol.

But another very useful method is to make a herbal oil, then after this process, it can be used in creams, ointments and salves, to treat the skin, or simply as a massage oil for dry skin.

Each herbal preparation tends to be more effective for different conditions, so when we come to other skin issues, such as, burns, blisters and open sores, or your skin has come in contact with a poisonous plant, then a poultice would be better.

To make a poultice for such, all you need to do is thoroughly mash up the leaves and stems into a thick pulp and layer it on fairly thickly. As its cooling affect will often soothe on its own let alone the medicinal benefits.

A specific formula for cleansing the blood is to use equal parts of Cleavers, Bladderwrack and Ground ivy.

Another for cystitis, is to use equal parts of Cleavers, Marshmallow and Iceland moss. This is prepared as a tea and drunk 3 times per day.

There is a homeopathic version too.

Gardening Uses of Cleavers

There really isn’t too many reasons for gardening with Cleavers, other than to use it as an addition to your herb garden, and then growing it for personal use. You could use it along a trellis as a shield, but personally I would use other more attractive plants for this.

One of the reasons it it called ‘goosegrass’, is that geese and as well as chickens, love the leaves and seed it produces. So you could grow it in the middle of the chicken run, (not on the outer edge) with a protective mesh around it just far enough away from the plant so the chickens or geese don’t over graze it.

Other Uses

Also, it can be used as a dried flowering plant or potpourri as it does have a fresh hay aroma to it.

Dyeing with Cleavers, Madders and Ladies’ bedstraw

If you make a strong decoction from the root, you can create a red dye, so much so, that it is said to even make your bones dyed red. Not sure what that would be useful for? You are best to wait at least 2 years before digging these up for dying purposes.


How to Grow Cleavers

Cleavers is a climbing or creeping annual that can grow to a height of approximately 1.2m / 4′ tall, and has small white to greenish white flowers. The lanceolate leaves form whorls of 6 to 9 leaves and fruits have small hairs that are hooked, helping to give it one of it’s names ‘Sticky willy’, thereby sticking to your clothes.

Due to its ability to spread so well and then grow up and over your favourite plants elsewhere, it is probably best to grow it in a large pot in a position that helps to prevent it spreading via dropping its seed and from people and animals passing by.

From Seed

Cleavers has very little trouble propagating from seed, and all that I would suggest here, is just follow basic plant propagating from seed procedures as common to growing from seed. The best time for attempting to grow from seed is about mid-spring.

The only other thing I would suggest specifically here, and what I mentioned above, is to be careful where you plant it, as it can take over areas and escape, so keep it in pots using a trellis for it to climb on, and place it in spot that it is preventive from self-propagating.

From Cuttings

I do not know much about it reproducing from cuttings, but I would say that it can quite easy to do. Simply because it is a fairly vigorous plant, of which most farmers personally hate, especially canola producers.

Maintenance

Cleavers likes a range of sunlight from full to partial shade, but prefers it more on the partial shade side.

If you are growing in the garden or in a pot, it would be a good idea to prepare a trellis, to train it on, this way, it would be easier to harvest and keep clean, as in, off the ground.

Pest and Diseases

Cleavers can get the odd pest or disease, but on the whole, it is generally free from these concerns. In fact, if a bug was more attracted to Cleavers instead your favourite flowering plant, well you are better off.

Soil and Fertiliser

Cleavers preference is for rich fertile loamy soils, and if you are going to fertilise it, then a more higher nitrogen content is preferred, and soils that are slightly moist are always better.

Climate and water

Being a plant that loves temperate regions, it can suit many places around the world and the reason I say this, is because even if your not in a temperate region, often one can adjust situations around them creating a microclimate and can accommodate the difference.


Collecting

The time to harvest Cleavers is in spring, but during the early part of the flowering stage. It is not normally grown as a ‘crop’ but is often harvested from wild sources. So if you are looking for this herb, first find out where it grows wild near you.

Drying

A particular issue when drying Cleavers, is that it has a very high water content, as much as 90%. So when drying cleavers, you will need to make sure that you supply plenty of good ventilation (air movement) with gentle heat, rotate or turn over frequently, or better still, use a fine mesh to place it on so as to allow air flow from beneath as well, and low humidity would be advisable.

If you dry it carefully following the rules above, you should have dry and crispy leaves in about 2 days depending on the climate.

Storage

Properly dried and stored Cleavers can keep for 1 to 2 years. Always store your dried herbs in dark coloured glass jars or bottles, out of the sunlight and in a dark, cool dry place.

Fresh Cleavers does not store well, due to its high water content of 90%, so you should use it fairly quickly, or you can store it in the fridge for a few days in the crisper.


Herbalism

The information below is for informational and education purposes only. So please do not “self-treat”. When seeking any ‘therapeutic’ advice always see a Qualified Health Care Professional first.

Common names:

Clivers, Goosegrass, Catchweed, Stickyweed, Robin-run-the-hedge, Sticky willy, Sticky willow, and Velcro weed

Botanical Name:

Galium aparine

Family:

Rubiaceae

Parts used:

Aerial parts

Dosage:

Daily minimum to maximum dosage: 6.0 – 12.0 grams

Main actions:

Depurative/alterative, tonic, lymphatic, diuretic, detoxifier, astringent, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, anti-obesity, adaptogen, and anti-neoplastic

Indications:

Chronic and dry skin disorders, such as dermatitis, eczema, acne, psoriasis, rosacea, urticaria, sunburn, enlarged/swollen or inflamed lymph glands (specific indication), cervical and neck nodes, nodular goitre, urinary tract infection, asthma, gout, and earache. Plus, Kidney stones and inflammation, dysuria, lymphadenitis, and lymphadenopathy

Constituents:

Iridoid glycosides – monotropein, coumarin glycoside, citric acid, galiosin, scopoletin, tannin, phenolic acids, flavonoids, derivatives of anthraquinone, and polyphonic acids

Safety concerns:

None known

Adulterants:

None known



Please remember, this blog cannot and should not replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment, and no cure is implied in any way. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.

Kind Regards,

Russell a.k.a Herbal Panda

Website: http://www.theherbarius.com.au

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Email: theherbalist@theherbarius.com.au

Sales: sales@theherbarius.com.au

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“We should always be sure of what we cleave to, to be safe from what we may be cleaved from.”

Herbal Panda

“Mister Elderberry, how are you today”, said the wayfaring man walking along the path. “I’m actually feeling quite well indeed, is there anything I can help you with, as those in the know, know I have so much to offer” replied Mr Elderberry. “Oh really!?” said the wayfaring man, “Yes, I am the ‘Poor Man’s Pharmacy” declared Mr Elderberry.

Elder, has been in use since the ancients Egyptians and has not been out of use right up until today, and since colds and flus are just so common these days, it should be in everyones ‘medicine cabinet’, or at least growing somewhere in the backyard.

Elder was once known by the ‘ancients’ as “rixus, ixus or akte”, but was later on called Sambucus, which dates from the early Greek times who called it Sambuke, coming from the name of a harp made from the wood and was then to become part of its botanical name.

The term Elder, is said to come from the Anglo Saxon words ‘Ellaern or Aeld’, which mean either fire or kindle, due to the fact that the stems could be hollowed out and used to start fires.

Elder, especially the common Elder – Sambucus nigra, is native to Europe, North Africa and Western Asia, and don’t forget the American Elder – Sambucus canadensis, a native to North America, was used by the first nation peoples there.

It is thought that the original pipes of pan were made from Elder, as the common Elder can be easily hollowed out, if it can’t, you have the wrong variety. Plus, the English boys of old used to hollow out its stems to make a ‘pop gun’, as Mr Nicholas, mentions in his book stating,

“I hold it needless to write any description of this, since every boy that plays with a pop gun will not mistake another tree instead of elder:”

He does go on to speak on behalf of Dwarf Elder, but this must only be handled by a experienced herbalist, as it is much stronger than the common Elder.

The book “Memoirs Illustrative of the Life and Writings of John Evelyn“, written by John Evelyn in the 17th century, mentioned Elder by saying,

“If the medicinal properties of its leaves, bark, and berries were fully known, I cannot tell what our countrymen could ail for which he might not fetch a remedy from every hedge, either for sickness or wounds.”

The Weed File

There are two types of Elder bush or shrub that are considered when thinking ‘Elder’, and they are the European or Common Elder – Sambucus nigra or the American Elder – Sambucus canadensis. The European variety grows to a height of 7m / 22′ tall and the American variety grows to a height of 3m / 11′ tall, both have value.

There is the lesser known Golden Elder – Sambucus nigra ‘Aurea’, known for its golden yellow leaves.

Ultimately, there are many other varieties, but a couple you may need to be careful of are the Dwarf Elder – Sambucus ebulus, as all parts are somewhat poisonous, and the Red Elder – Sambucus racemosa, as the seeds are poisonous until properly cooked.


How To Use Elder

Medicine, cosmetics and cooking are the three main ways the Elder and its various parts get used.

Medicinally in infusions, decoctions, syrups and tinctures, which are used either directly for specific conditions, or they are used in combination with other treatments, such as compresses, poultices, lotions, ointments, creams, salves and washes and soaks.

For cosmetics, it has being shown that the flower is good for the skin, which can be used in some kinds of creams or lotions, but even the infusion of the flower can help simply as a skin cleanser, especially for greasy skin. An extension of this could be to use the flower in poultices and compresses, or even a soaking bath, which sounds good to me!

The Elderflower can make an interesting flavoured cordial or an iced Elderflower water, also the berries and flowers can be used in pancakes, fritters, cakes, tarts and fruit minces, added to jams and jellies or even added to salads. Let alone in chocolate custard, hot beverages, soups, gingerbread men, and vinegars. Plus, the berries can be used as a replacement for capers or raisins.

Herbal Teas

Teas are one of my favourite ways to consume most herbs, and here you can use the flower in a tea, which makes a great night cap. Plus, they ensue many of its other benefits, as well as being enjoyable.

Simple Elder Tea

  • Place 1 to 2 teaspoons of the flower into a cup (Less, if using dried flowers)
  • Pour in boiling hot water and cover
  • Allow to infuse for 5 minutes
  • Either strain or drink as is

Good to drink 3 times per day, but if you are after more therapeutic value, then you’ll need to drink it every 2 hours until things settle down.

If you drink the tea ‘hot’, then it tends to have an excitable stimulating affect, but if you allow it to go cold, then it is more sedative and can have a laxative affect. You can also use cold tea to soothe and help to heal chapped skin and infected or sore eyes.

Customised Elder Teas

Simply by adding a little lemon juice, steeping with lemon grass or adding peppermint, can really excite you Elderflower tea. Plus, you could also add Lemon balm, Chamomile, Rose petals or Lavender.

To make a more interesting tea, and make it more therapeutic, you can use it with equal parts of peppermint and yarrow. This is great for preventing hayfever and reducing fevers.

Culinary Uses

There are many traditional recipes using its berries and flowers, so I am sure a little searching in the internet, should pull up a few very tasty treats.

The Elderberry is not eaten raw, but is used in some form of cooking process, such as making fruit mince pies (from dried berries) and tarts (with apple), jellies and jams go well with crabapple and in chutneys.

Being a berry, it can be mixed with any of the other berries, such as, blackberry, and raspberry, or frankly any other dried fruits such as raisins or sultanas.

Elderflower Fritters

Make a batter by combining 1 cup of flour, 1 beaten egg yoke, and add just a small amount of water until you have a smooth batter. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and add it to the mix, and finally, fold in 1 stiffly beaten egg white.

Dip the Umbels – Flower heads into the mix and fry in hot oil. Once fried, remove and place them on a rack to drain. Serve them up immediately, with a gentle dash of your favourite sweetener.

Health Uses of Elder

Those who know something about Elder, know that it is excellent for coughs, colds and flus, but it also helps in their prevention, so here, it is especially great for children, being a powerful antiviral, as they just seem to pick up everything.

You can it for sinusitis, and for hayfever, and many other fevers and causes of fevers. Plus, when added to fennel, it can be a help to those with sciatica.

For hayfever, you can drink three cups of Elderflower tea each day, several months before the hayfever would normally begin. Also, if you are already suffering, you can eat the flowers straight to get some relief.

Externally, you can make washes for the mouth and sore eyes, or make a warm or cold compress to put on the eyes to sooth them. If you add it to a cream, it can be used on sore, inflamed and irritable skin, chapped lips and hands or itchy ‘nether regions’.

A very common issue with children and medicines is that it is ‘yucky’, but if you make an Elderberry Rob, you can add it to the medicine, to greatly improve its flavour.

Elderberry Rob

Elderberry Rob is great for adding to cough and cold medicines, or simply as a flavouring in a suitable meal, dessert or drink.

Ingredients
  • Collect enough Elderberries to produce 500ml / 1 pint of Elderberry juice
  • 1 teaspoon of Allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Ginger powder
Method
  • Squeeze all the juice out of the berries
  • Compost the seeds and the skins
  • Place the juice and the spices into a heavy bottomed saucepan
  • Under a low heat reduce down until it is a very thick consistency
  • Scrap into a clean sterile jar, label and store in a cool dry place

Should keep for 6 months.

Elderberry Ointment

Elder leaf ointment is useful for painful piles, and similar swellings and swollen joints, plus, it can be used in poultices and compresses.

Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup of Beeswax
  • 1/2 cup of Olive oil
  • 1/3 of a cup of Elder leaves (heaped)
Method
  • Gently melt the beeswax in a double boiler until clear
  • When thoroughly melted, add the olive oil and stir in
  • Now add the leaves and heat (don’t boil) until the leaves are crisp
  • Remove from the heat, finely strain and place in a shallow wide mouth jar
  • Seal and label

Should keep up to 6 months.

Elderberry Syrup

  • Place 1 cup of dried Elderberries into a bowl with 2 cups of water and cover and allow to soak over night or at least 8 hours
  • After soaking, put them into a blender and smash them up
  • Put this into a cloth and press out the juice, such as a tincture press
  • You only want the juice, so the skin and seeds can be sent to the compost bin
  • Put this juice into a saucepan and gently simmer down until about half
  • Either add 1 cup of vegetable glycerine or 1 cup of honey
  • When thoroughly mixed, strain or filter out any final particles
  • Pour into a dark coloured bottle, label and date

Store in the fridge and it should last about a year.

Oil of Elder

The essential oil can be used in petaled perfumery, added to body oils, and blend well with many other essential oils. Such as, Chamomile, Jasmine, Rose, Linden Flowers, Neroli, Ylang ylang, Geranium, Vanilla, Lavender, Lemon balm, Frankincense, Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lemon, and Lime.

Gardening Uses of Elder

Elder has such wonderful and delightful sprays of flowers that visually they make good additions to the garden, let alone its powerful smell. But it should be remembered that it is only the European variety that has the strong fragrance, not the American variety.

If you don’t want a solid fence, then Elder is an excellent plant to use as a hedgerows, for either privacy screening, wind protection or just to hide an ugly structure or object.

Apart from being used in hedgerows, two of the main reasons to grow Elder is its flowers, which have a beautiful scent, that can hang around for up to two months, starting in early summer. The berries, which can arrive early summer and into the autumn, have many uses or even just to feed the birds, if you’re too slow at picking them. They also help to attract both butterflies and bees, which many are welcome in the garden.

An interesting gardening use for Elder is where you make a strong decoction from the leaves, which becomes a contact insecticide for greenfly, aphids and caterpillars.

Other Uses

You can spray a decoction from the leaves on yourself to repel mosquitoes and flies.

Dyeing with Elder
  • If your after a black dye, you can use the bark of the tree
  • The root and leaves with alum supplies a green colour
  • The berries give a purple to blue colour

It is said that if any livestock, which has ‘foot-rot’, eats the bark and leaves of the Elder, then they should soon be on the way to healing.


How to Grow Elder

The Elder loves full sun and doesn’t mind ‘moist soils’ and isn’t very fussy where it grows so long as it is ‘reasonable’ soil. If you are short on space you can use pots, and container growing is possible, but, not the best way to go, so getting a ‘large’ pot would be helpful. If you do have a small garden, but don’t want to use pots, it can be used as a hedge, so as to block nosey neighbours or fill a ugly corner.

Elder is a deciduous perennial shrub/bush or tree, that depending on your variety can grow from 2 to 7m / 6.5′ to 23′. That develop sprays or umbels of beautiful white to cream flowers, that are 0.5cm / 1/4″ in diameter, and star shaped.

Elderberries can just about grow anywhere decent but prefer, sunny to partially shaded areas, mildly acidic (5.5 to 6.5) fertile soils that are well drained.

Tip: Cross pollinated flowers tend to produce bigger berries.

From Seed

Yes, you can grow from seed, but, on the whole, this is a much slower way to propagate. And honestly, I wouldn’t bother, for several reasons. 1) It takes a very long time from start to getting your first crop. 2) The germination rate is very poor, sometimes complete failure, and 3), there is no consistency with what you end up with and its parents.

  • Gather your berries mid to late summer, once the fruit has ripened. Place them into a bucket and smash them up a bit to allow the seed to separate and cover them with water.
  • Allow them to stand for 24 hours stirring them from time to time, shaking the seeds loose. Anything that floats to the surface is of no good, so throw that away. After the 24 hours decanter anything that floats off the top and collect the seeds at the bottom.
  • Clean up the seeds so that there is no fruit pulp left. Fill up some small pots with equal parts of course sand and clean potting mix. Place a few seeds in each.
  • Place the pots in plastic bags and keep the pots slightly moist and warm for at least 2 months by either keeping them in a hot house/ glass house, sun room or near a sunny window, so long as they stay between 24 to 27 C / 75 to 80 F.
  • Now you need to reduce the temperature to at least 4 C / 40 F for 3 to 5 months to copy what would happen in winter. (Cold scarifying)
  • After this period, remove the plastic and keep them warm in between 20 to 30 C / 68 to 85 F for 1 to 2 months. Keep the soil slightly moist and hopefully something might come up.
  • If more than one seedling comes up, pluck out the weaker ones and keep the healthiest. You can allow the soil to become a ‘little’ drier to prevent any rot etc.
  • Once the seedlings have become well established, and have become somewhat hardened, especially if the roots start popping out the bottom, transplant them out into your garden at about 2 to 3m / 6 to 10′ apart.

From Cuttings

The best time for cuttings is late summer to autumn, you can use root cuttings as well, but these seem to be more difficult to do.

To do a cutting, choose a soft branch that is going from green to brown and hardening up. Cut it up into 10 to 15cm / 4 to 6″ lengths, remove most of the leaves from the bottom up, but leave a few on top.

You can then choose to use water or potting mix.

Water

Place these cuttings into a glass jar and fill until the cuttings are about halfway up. Leave this jar in a sunny area for 1 1/2 to 2 months, changing the water regularly. Occasionally spray a mist over these to help prevent them from drying out. By about 2 months you should start seeing roots forming, but wait until they look strong and healthy before attempting to plant them into the ground.

Potting Mix

Before putting your cuttings in soil, first give them a soak for 12 to 24 hours. Then make up a mix of equal parts of sand and peat moss, and dampen this mix but not soaking wet. Place this moist mix into 5 to 10cm / 2 to 4″ pots and then place your cuttings into these pots to about a depth of 1/3. Place these pots either into a hot house/glass house or cover them with a clear plastic bag and tie them with a rubber band. Keep them in a well lit area but not in direct sunlight. Keep the potting mix only slightly moist.

After a month and a half, the roots should be starting form, and once roots just start to come out of the bottom. Remove the plastic and allow the plants to harden for a week in sunlight and then transplant them out into your garden.

Maintenance

For Elder, it is best to mulch instead of digging out the weeds, as digging them out can damage the roots. If any weeds do get through, then get a sharp pointy object, like a Philip’s screwdriver, and dig down beside the weed and wiggle him out.

Elder likes about 2.5 to 5cm / 1 to 2″ of water per week, so make sure you keep up the water to them and watch out for dry spells, as they don’t like drought.

For the first 1 to 2 years, do not prune them, but allow them to grow wild, even allow the first crop to fall to the ground, as this allows them to get firmly established, then your harvests will be better.

There are two times when you can prune the Elder, and that is in late autumn or early spring before any growth starts and the sap really gets going.

Pest and Diseases

On the whole, Elder doesn’t get too many issues so long as you follow its basic needs, such as good rich mulching, regular watering, good sun, slightly acidic soils that are well drained, but they can get a few issues.

They do suffer from iron deficiency, so if you see yellowing leaves it may be an idea to check the levels of iron.

Also, Verticillium wilt can affect them from time to time, and the other is leaf spot, and they can get attacked from black fly.


Collecting

Harvest the flowers once they come out in full, and have had enough time to dry off from the morning dew, and be careful not to bruise them. Make sure that they are free from damage and foreign particles and any bugs of course.

The berries are harvested in the autumn, once they are shiny and of a deep purple to black colour. Do not eat the Sambucus canadensis – American Elderberries raw, only cooked.

Drying

To dry the flowers, you place the umbels or flower heads upside down on fine mesh or netting, and keep them from touchy each other. Make sure that there is plenty air circulation, in a shady spot that is dry. Once the flowers are fully dry, you can just rub the flowers off their stems and place them into air tight containers for later use.

When properly dried, which may take up to a week, they should look and smell the same as before you dried them, but they will be a bit smaller.

To dry the berries, make sure that there completely dry and have no damage or foreign matter in or on them, watch out for insects and their eggs etc, and make sure to remove any unripe berries.

Usually the best time to harvest Elderberries, is about mid morning on a cloudy day. Place your berries on clean dry paper, or fine stretched out mesh or dry towelling and spread them out to prevent them from touching each other, or at least move them around regularly to get even drying.

Try to dry them on days of low humidity and at least 25 to 32 C / 75 to 90 F and receiving direct sunlight is good, but watch out for birds and insects which may want to eat or ruin them. You can put a clear glass or plastic cover above them to protect from birds, bugs, and dust etc.

Drying time normally takes three days, but may take longer depending on the climate etc. So pick hot dry days for drying and to test them for readiness is just to pinch them and feel if they are still soft and moist, if they are, just leave them for a few days longer. In the end they should look like a lot like raisins.

Storage

The best way to store the blossoms and berries is to use dark coloured glass jars that seal very well, and keep them in a cool, dry and dark place. If stored properly, they should last up to a year, or at least until next harvest.


Herbalism

The information below is for informational and education purposes only. So please do not “self-treat”. When seeking any ‘therapeutic’ advice always see a Qualified Health Care Professional first.

Common names:

Elder, Common Elder, Elderberry, Elderflower, Sambuco, Pipe tree and Black Elder

Botanical Name:

Sambucus nigra, S. canadensis

Parts used:

Flower, berry, leaf or outer and inner bark

Dosage:

Daily minimum to maximum dosage: 6.0 – 12.0 grams (Varies on which part.)

Main actions:

  • Berry – Antiviral, anti-inflammatory, immune enhancing, antioxidant, diaphoretic, laxative, diuretic (urinary antiseptic)
  • Flower – Diaphoretic, emollient, anti-catarrhal, astringent
  • Bark – Laxative
  • Inner bark – Hydragogue / cathartic (purgative), emetic

Indications:

  • Berry – Influenza, common cold, all other acute viral infections.
  • Flower – Common cold, influenza, acute sinusitis – all acute doses, acute infections with fever, pleurisy, acute bronchitis, measles – all acute doses, chronic sinusitis, hay fever, otitis media – bacterial or serous, pharyngitis, laryngitis, nasopharyngeal catarrh, catarrhal deafness, sinus headache.
  • Flower – Asthma with sinusitis
  • Bark and berry – Constipation

Constituents:

  • Berry – Anthocyanins – sambucin, sambucyanin, flavonoids – rutin and quercetin; astragalin, isoquercitrin; essential/volatile oil, ascorbic acid, pectin, tannins, sterols.
  • Flower – Flavonoids, phenolic acids, triterpenes, essential/volatile oil.
  • Leaves – Sambunigrin
  • Bark – Resins
  • Seeds and Bark – Cyanogenic glycosides

Safety concerns:

  • Herbal preparation of the Berries – Safe for children. Anthocyanin constituent unstable in liquid form, although use caution with pregnancy and when lactating.

Adulterants:

  • Berry – None known.
  • Flower – Sambucus ebulus


Please remember, this blog cannot and should not replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment, and no cure is implied in any way. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.

Kind Regards,

Russell a.k.a Herbal Panda

Website: http://www.theherbarius.com.au

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Email: theherbalist@theherbarius.com.au

Sales: sales@theherbarius.com.au

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Typically, when someone says the word “Tincture”, what is meant, is a herbal extract via the process of using alcohol. A simple way to state the process is to soak a herb or part thereof in an alcohol.

They are normally better and stronger than infusions and infusions are only meant to last one maybe two days at most, of course decoctions, vinegar and glycerite extractions are good, but alcohol tinctures have very long shelf lives up to 2 to 3 years.

Thousands of years ago, humans would make their herbal extractions mostly out of water (infusions), vinegar and wine, and ultimately, the tinctures of today are the natural progression from the wine extractions.

I personally do not drink alcoholic drinks, but when it comes to tinctures, I am not ‘anti-alcohol’ due to their effectiveness, quick absorption, and that the actual alcohol consumption is very low, safe enough for young children right up to grandpa and grandma. I would not suggest it for babies, as their little bodies still haven’t developed yet and pregnant women.

Here, I would use a herbal glycerite at a much weaker dosage, and even then be careful. You can actually go through the mother, if she is breastfeeding, meaning she can take the extract and it will come out the milk.

I do very much respect that there are those who cannot and should not have alcohol for certain reasons, and this need to be kept so, and honoured.

A bit of history:

They have found ancient pottery as far back as 3150 B.C. in Egypt, containing herbal substances and resins with wine, and their ancient writings suggested: water, oil, and milk, plus a type of beer, wine, and honey. China has similar dates, with fermented beverages that contained rice, honey, plus fruit – Hawthorn, and the Talmud gives reference to a “potion of herbs’ using a wine.

And many years later even Nicholas Culpeper during the 1600’s, suggests a few recipes using alcohol.

Reasons why to do a Basic Tincture

A simple but not so obvious reason to make a basic tincture, is to learn. In other words, to become ‘expert’ at making some tinctures does require time and experience and some skill, that’s why most herbalist actually don’t make them, as they take time and it is easier just to buy them in from various companies.

That being said, there really is no reason why you can’t just start learning, develop and improve, making your own, and becoming a great herbalist and supplier yourself, or just making it for you family and friends, or even trading with your locals.

As mentioned above, if you want good efficacy, and longer lasting herbal remedies, then tinctures are the way to go, you often don’t need to make large amounts, and you can make many different ones all at the same time, really stocking up your ‘medicine cabinet’.

Another reason for making an extraction with alcohol, is that some constituents or properties will not extract well unless you use alcohol, such as gums, resins and oleoresins.

And I tell you what, making something as interesting as a tincture, is very satisfying, and not only that, when your little one gets sick (or big one sometimes) and you are able to administer a few careful drops and help them to mend, that is really empowering!!

Just like infusions, decoctions, vinegar and glycerites, they can be added to many other herbal tools, such as poultices and plasters, compresses, soaks and baths, syrups and succi, creams, ointments, and salves.

Although, it is one of the most involved forms of extraction, it really doesn’t require a huge amount of investment to start, especially if you are handy or there is someone nearby who is handy, like a hubby or father for example.

How to do a Basic Tincture

An old fashioned tincture press

Each and every herb, ‘technically’ requires having the right ratio of alcohol to herb, but if you are just starting out, and you are unsure, start at 55% or use the table below.

Percentage of alcohol for type of constituent
25%Water soluble, some glycosides and flavonoids, and a few saponins
45 – 60%Essential oils, alkaloids some glycosides and a lot of saponins
90%Resins, gums and oleoresins

An important point for beginners, when we say the percentage (%), it means actual alcohol content total within the mix. Because when you buy ‘any’ alcohol, it only has a percentage of ‘real’ alcohol and the rest is often water and other additives. So if the formula said, 55%, the rest is usually the water in the bottle. This is not a bad thing because, the ‘water part’, say, 45%, will help to extract the water-soluble constituents out of the herb too, making it even better.

With either dried or fresh herbs try to reduce the size of the herbs, by either crushing, chopping or grinding as this will increase the surface area, and extraction.

A Basic Tincture

So when calculating an average formula, you can use a 1:5 ratio, that is for every 1 gram of herb use 5mls of an alcohol. For some herbs you will need go up to a 1:10 ratio and a stronger alcohol percentage.

So lets say you want to make a Calendula tincture:

  • Take 120g / 4oz of Calendula flowers (Calendula flowers are best picked just as they are blooming and are dry)
  • Chop, bruise or lightly grind up these flowers
  • Put these into a suitable glass jar
  • Fill with 500ml / 1 pint of alcohol (for flowers you only need about 25% or more alcohol)
  • Put the lid on a shake vigorously
  • Label and date, and keep out of the sunlight
  • Continue to shake the jar each morning and afternoon for 2 weeks
  • After 2 weeks, filter out the particles and place back into the previous jar so long as its clean, but change the date to two years in the future
  • Store in a cool dry place out of the sunlight

For roots, stems and bark, you will need to continue shaking the jar for up to 3 weeks, more would be better, say 6 weeks, and you will want a higher alcohol content.

After you have made your tincture and now you want to use it, always give the tincture a really good and thorough shaking before taking it, as this is said to improve it, and think of it as a living entity.

If you want have a tincture but don’t want the alcohol, then put the dosage into just off the boil water, allow a few minutes and the alcohol will have evaporated leaving only the medication and water.

Choice of Herbs for a Basic Tincture

When it comes to choices of herbs for herbal tinctures, you can really just about do anything, but that being said, some just won’t do as well. Here you are either better off, using a different form of extraction process, or different ratios of alcohol and water.

Any part of the plant can be used in a tincture, such as flowers, leaves, fruits/berries, seeds, stems, bark, rhizomes, tubers and roots. Both fresh and dried herbs can be used, but when using fresh herbs, use 1 1/2 times as much fresh herb as dried herb.

If you are using dried herbs, always source the best you can find, that is certified organic, non-GMO, and ethically sourced. And if you are using fresh herbs, say from your garden, pick once they are dry, free from pests, diseases and damage, and choose the best season when the nutrients are flowing best. For example, the leaves before flowering, or when the flowers are in full bloom, and roots at a certain age or in a stage of growth.

Choice of Alcohol for a Basic Tincture

Some will require different ratios of water to alcohol or percentages, and some will require very high proof grain or similar alcohols and some don’t need it very strong at all. As a general rule, you usually use about 55% alcohol, but this is another area where things get more tricky and that is that for different herbs and herbal parts, you will often need to vary the ratio. See table above.

That is why it is best to start with some thing simple and work your way up. Don’t let this concern stop you from learning, just start simple, and you’ll get there.

But what if you can’t get high proof grain alcohol? But you can get, for example, a good quality white “cooking wine”. Well now here is the trick, water and alcohol freeze at different temperatures. And if you have a freezer, and a plastic container, you can raise the proof of the alcohol.

Simply pour the cooking wine into the plastic container, put the lid on, and put it into the freezer. Depending on the ability of the freezer, after one to two days, pop it out and have a look, and you will see, frozen bits of ice, this is water and the rest is mostly alcohol, remove the ice, and put it back into the freezer. Wait another one to two days and take it out again, remove the ice again. Each time you do this you are in fact, raising the ‘proof’ of you alcohol.

This was 29% Alcohol before I removed water out of it, therefore I started at 58-proof and increased it, just by freezing it in a plastic container.

If you want to be ‘technical’ you can measure the volume of water you remove and from there calculate its proof, if you love mathematics. As the proof is measured as ‘Alcohol By Volume’ (ABV) and therefore proof is measured by its volume of alcohol content.

In the US, For example 50% alcohol is called 100-proof, 75% alcohol is 150-proof, but the British calculate times by 1.75. Or you could measure it’s specific gravity using a hydrometer or alcoholmeter. But just remember, higher proof does not mean better extraction, sometimes higher means less.

For your ‘home made’ projects you can use a number of different types of alcohol, such as, vodka, sherry, brandy, whisky, rum and gin, just so long as it has a high enough alcohol content for the job. Commercial preparations typically use a food grade ‘ethanol’.

Never use rubbing/isopropyl alcohol, methylated or industrial alcohols!

Safety

  • Never use rubbing/isopropyl alcohol, methylated or industrial alcohols!
  • Always be aware of possible allergic reactions


Please remember, this blog cannot and should not replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment, and no cure is implied in anyway. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.

Kind Regards,

Russell a.k.a Herbal Panda

Website: http://www.theherbarius.com.au

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Email: theherbalist@theherbarius.com.au

Sales: sales@theherbarius.com.au

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“If we all had to ‘take our own medicine’ we would all feel better quicker”

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Long before there was the improved technology in distillation processes whereby they make high-proof alcohols, man made his extracts from water (teas and decoctions), vinegar and wines. Not only that, we used it for disinfecting, deodorising and using it as a preservative. Have you ever seen a bottle of vinegar go off, probably not.

A Bible verse used as an excuse to drink alcohol found in 1 Timothy 5:23 “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.” is really the Apostle Paul telling Timothy, “Take your medicine”. It was health advice! And it was a wine extraction in this case. Humans have for many thousands of years made herbal extractions.

Anyway, a liquid used in the process of drawing or extracting the goodies out of the herb is called a ‘Menstruum’, and here, it is vinegar. Vinegar is an acid, usually up to 5% or a little higher, and therefore has the ability to bite in and extract elements out of the herb. But it is not the best form of extraction, and does benefit with extras such as, a grain alcohol.

Next time you use a vinaigrette, especially when made from fresh herbs, you are basically using a type of culinary Vinegar extract, but not exactly as described here.

Reasons why to make a Vinegar Extract

Vinegar is relative cheap and easy to obtain for most people and often it is already in their cupboard, ready to be used on their fish and chips, therefore, it is an easy and cheap solution.

Vinegar acts both as a solvent, that is a menstruum, and a preservative and therefore, can be used entirely on its own. This is helpful to some who cannot take alcohol, such as young children, those with liver disease, alcohol sensitivities and strict religious reasons.

Since apple cider vinegar is excellent for the stomach and digestive tract, you could design an apple cider vinegar extract, which is excellent for digestion and the GI tract, with herbs that work synergistically to improve absorption, digestion of foods and assimilation of nutrients. Or you can add mucilaginous/emollient herbs to make things gentle on the stomach.

Alkaloids found in many herbs, when mixed with an acid, the alkaloid turns chemically into a type of alkaloid salt. This means they become more bioavailable.

Many of the vinegar extractions if made of the ‘right’ herbs, that is, aromatic and tasteful, can be applied to salads and other meals and therefore providing medicinal benefits as well as great flavour.

How to do a Vinegar Extract

My preferred type of vinegar is Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV), organic and unfiltered, as they say, with the ‘mother in’ as well, and I personally use it everyday, as it already has many natural benefits. Without even doing any extraction.

The only downside I have heard of ACV, is that it is so already full of ‘extras’ that it finds it hard to absorb any more, but it does still work.

There are plenty of vinegars you can use, such as, malt, rice, wine, cane and a less known one, raisin vinegar? Either way, try to make sure your menstruum is as organic, and natural as possible.

I wouldn’t use white vinegar unless you know exactly ‘what’ is was made from, as it can made from natural fermentation processes or from coal tar, petroleum products and in the laboratory then diluted, which could or would be poisonous. And another reason I would avoid white vinegars, is because they are basically nutrition less.

Vinegar extraction can use both dry and fresh herbs, but if you going to make a vinegar extract, you are on the whole, much better off using dry herbs, as fresh herb extractions are not as strong. This is partly because dried herbs are ‘semi’ broken due to the drying process, a bit like dried soil with its cracks, and if you reduce them to a more powdered form, then you have greater surface area for the vinegar to extract from.

One of the reasons for not using fresh herbs is that during the extraction process, a lot of juices flow out into the vinegar and prevent the more but slower constituents from coming out.

Sage Vinegar Extract

This one is good for weak constitutions and low metabolism

  • Fill a 500ml / 1 pint glass jar with crushed sage leaves almost to the top
  • Add and cover with your preferred vinegar and place a lid on it
  • Allow to sit, that is – macerate for 2 weeks
  • Shake each day
  • Strain and rebottle and label and date

Take it three times per day, by adding 20 to 40 drops in some water.

This exact same process above can be used for other herbs such as, Horseradish, Gentian, Wormwood (although this would very bitter), and Burnet. A balm to help in removing chickenpox crusts is a Burdock root vinegar. A Chamomile vinegar extract can be drunk as a health tonic.

A few culinary choices

Made to the same processes above, you could make some salad dressings out of either Basil, Nettle, Thyme, Fennel, Rosemary or Garlic.

Variations of Vinegar Extracts

Although you can use straight vinegar as a menstruum and that’s what this post is mostly about, you can add as a variation, additional grain alcohol or similar, as this will increase the extraction efficacy and shelf life.

A mixture of vinegar and alcohol is called an acetous mixture, a straight vinegar extract is called an acetum and plural – aceta.

As mentioned above, you can choose a range of vinegars and alcohols, but the alcohol does need to be very high proof.

Vinegar extracts on there own don’t seem to have a long shelf life, so you can either make an acetous mixture, vinegar/alcohol or add the alcohol later as a preservative, which sort of defeats the purpose of not adding the alcohol in the first place, or trying to avoid it.

Oxymel

An interesting variation, well sort of, is an Oxymel, ‘Oxy’ meaning acid, and ‘Mel’ meaning Honey.

This remedy is principally used as a means to hide the taste of bitter herbs, or reduce the ‘heat’ of some. It is simply made by placing the chosen herbs, and 5 parts honey and 1 part vinegar into a saucepan and simmering it down until it is the consistency of Treacle. Then bottle and label name with a date.

The dosage is whatever the prescribed use of the herb is.

Choice of Herbs for a Vinegar Extract

When it comes to choosing a herb or herbs for a vinegar extract, really you can use any herb, but as a guidance, I would suggest:

  • Only use dry herbs for real efficacy
  • If they are raw, and whole, grind them into smaller particles
  • Vinegar extracts are usually done at a ratio of 1:7
  • Vinegar/alcohol extracts are done at a ratio of 1:5 due the stronger combination
  • Some low-dosage herbs need to done at a ratio of 1:10

Low dosage herbs are ones that are very potent and should be used sparingly.

Safety

Always be careful of any possible allergic reaction to any herb, even though most are safe.

Though not really a safety issue, taking apple cider vinegar or most vinegars frankly, can be quite strong, I mean, if you take it straight, it feels like its stripping the lining off your oesophagus. I know, I do take small sips straight often.

So you can either dilute it a bit with water, which may dilute the original mixture, or add a little raw honey. But don’t use honey when consuming bitter herbs as this defeats their use.



Please remember, this blog cannot and should not replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment, and no cure is implied in anyway. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.

Kind Regards,

Russell a.k.a Herbal Panda

Website: http://www.theherbarius.com.au

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Email: theherbalist@theherbarius.com.au

Sales: sales@theherbarius.com.au

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“Just remember, we have tastes for salt, sour and bitter, just as much as sweet and savoury”

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Now what is a ‘Succi’, (pronounced either suc-eye or suc-sigh), I here you say, well Succi is plural for Succus, which is Latin for Juice, with reference to expressing a juice and using it medicinally. Now there, you learnt something new today.

Ahh, but you say, you mean a juice drink, I have them all the time, no, no, although I will grant that it is similar. But here we are thinking ‘herbally’ or ‘medicinally’, therefore there are some differences.

One of the main differences is that we add alcohol into the juice as a preservative, and this needs to be at least 20% up to 25%. The alcohol is not used in extraction, but only as a preservative. Also, we are choosing herbs, not just some fruit and vegetables to juice from.

Raw fruit and vegetable juices I think are wonderful and refreshing and highly nutritious, but when we think of a Succus, we are intending to treat a specific ‘condition’, of which the herbs we have in mind have a therapeutic purpose.

My wife had her Gallbladder removed some years ago, but the surgeon wouldn’t remove the ‘few stones’ stuck in her pancreatic duct, due to possibly causing more complications. After a series of special juice drinks, my wife suddenly had what appeared to be another gallbladder attack, and went to the doctor to investigate. When she had an ultrasound and x-ray, it was found that her ‘few stones’ were gone.

For a bit of history, they are not very common, but are documented in the ‘British Pharmacopoeia’, and were developed by Squire in 1830. The reason they are now not so well known is that most herbal companies don’t prepare them and have gone over to or prefer using alcohol tinctures instead. But I will say that a few companies do sell a few.

Reasons why to do a Succus

A specific reason to choose to make a succus is because we want a lot of that juice for the purpose intended, and normally we are looking for juices that are largely ‘water soluble’ as in some cases, if we try to extract with an alcohol base, we just cannot get all that we want.

A succus can be made at home and apart from a suitable press can be easily made.

A succus can really be made from nearly any part of the herb, so long as it is not dry and hard, and can be crushed to express its liquid. So, for example, you could make a succus out of roots like ginger root or even dandelion root, if it is soft and juicy enough, plus fresh, soft and succulent leaves, stems, rhizomes, tubers, and berries and fruits.

Succi can be used both internally and externally, this makes a succus more versatile.

Medicinally they can be used with poultices, compresses and syrups, or added to other tincture, but honestly can be used in drinks, such as smoothies and other beverages, and flavourings in meal recipes.

A couple of interesting points I found in one scientific paper was that a succus is high in enzymatic activity and can be used in escharotic treatment and cervical dysplasia in conjunction with standard treatments.

How to do a Succus

The process for making a Succus is very similar to making a freshly squeezed juice drink out of leafy greens etc., but in this case it is a chosen herb, for a specific indication. The process requires expressing the juice out of the herb or part thereof via some force, such as a ‘Cold Press’, which has one of those screw/augers that crush and squeeze out the liquid.

To draw the ‘extra’ bit you can re-squeeze it through the cold press, but add just a ‘little’ of pure water, but not too much.

You can use other presses, such as a tincture press or similar so long as it gets ‘enough’ pressure, as some items will be harder than others.

I would not advise one of those fast and spinning juicers as when the juice is extracted it gets somewhat heated (not a lot) and as it sprays through the air it becomes oxidised, therefore, it has the tendency to break down faster.

Basic Method

  • Gather sufficient leaf, flower or root etc., to make the quantity you need, this could depend on a lot of factors, such as, time of day, season, rainfall even, and the part you intended to ‘squeeze’
  • This isn’t so bad because often you don’t want much anyway
  • In some cases, it would be a good idea to first grind, mash or finely chop up the herbs, but try not to lose any juice in the process
  • Then put it through a quality cold press or tincture press
  • Filter or strain out the fibres and any other particles
  • The basic ratio for a succus is 3:1, that is, 3 parts juice to 1 part alcohol such as Vodka or a grain or similar type of alcohol
  • Divide the amount of juice by 3, and this is the volume of alcohol thereby making 4 equal parts
  • Mix this together well and allow to settle for at least three days
  • After three days, filter out the sediment and squeeze the sediment without getting the sediment back into the liquid
  • Pour this into clean dark coloured jars or bottle and label and date
  • This Succus should last up to 2 years

Variations of a Succus

Although not really a variation, succi can be used both externally and internally, which can make them more adaptable, and you can design them to suit your immediate needs. And you can mix and match, so to speak, by added some from one succus to another in another container and using them in combination like other extracts.

Or when you make your succus, you can start with a combination of herbs that have the therapeutic actions required, or you can mix the principle herb with herbs the reduce bitterness, an example of this could be dandelion leaves with Romaine, Lemon balm, Fennel bulb and Cucumber.

Choice of Herbs for a Succus

The choice of herbs is really based on two main points:

One is that when making a succus, you want thick and juicy parts of the herb, ‘succulent-like’, which can be just about anything so long as it is not dry and hard. In some cases, you can use several parts of the herb, for example, the flower and leaf of Calendula.

Two, you choose the herb that is suitable for the action you want to achieve, for example, vulnerary, anti-inflammation, expectorant, or antiseptic.

But, several herbs that could be used in making a succus could be:

Mother of herbs, Nettle, Chickweed, Dandelion, Plantain, Calendula, Lemon balm, Gotu kola, Jewelweed, Turmeric, Ginger, Skullcap, Violet, Cleavers and Purslane, even citrus fruit juice of a lemon or lemon skin

Safety

When using a succus you would be aware of any possible allergic reaction, and with the alcohol, you would watch against any stinging. If there is any sting, then slightly dilute with water.



Please remember, this blog cannot and should not replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment, and no cure is implied in anyway. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.

Kind Regards,

Russell a.k.a Herbal Panda

Website: http://www.theherbarius.com.au

Name Logo

Email: theherbalist@theherbarius.com.au

Sales: sales@theherbarius.com.au

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“Trouble coming always gets the creative juices going, ask any kid”

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Good old Cough Syrup where would we be without it

Syrups have been around for quite some time, and I believe that they have been ‘around’ since ‘ever’, but I do know that Mr Nicholas Culpeper wrote of them back in 1653 in his book, “Culpeper’s Complete Herbal and English Physician”. In fact, I think he says more than some, (not all) more modern writers do, in his short section on them.

And so, I also hope to give you my reader, lots of good and useful information too. Just remember I am very happy to take any enquires or questions.


Most of us remember in our childhood receiving cough medicine, and nearly every time it was a syrup of some form, but sadly most of us don’t remember it tasting so good, in fact, I can remember wanting to vomit at times. But if there is one way of getting that ‘it’s-good-for-you’ medicine down your child, it is a syrup.

So I know from Culpeper’s time till now, they have made syrups from both sugar and honey.

Most would prefer honey over sugar and so do I, but for some people, the amount of honey is very expensive. So I do understand why so many still choose sugar. As it seems that most people who often get sick, are often the poorer folks.

But there is a way around some of the costs, when you have a sore throat and it doesn’t take too long to get your ‘meds’ for a sore throat either, its a simply recipe that I have included in the Variations section of this post below.

Honey, there just isn’t anything else like it

Reasons why to make a Herbal Syrup

The first and foremost reason for making a syrup is honestly the taste, yes I know medicine is good for you, but it tastes disgusting. And if there’s one group it is hard to get medicine down, its children. But here, there is one solution that works, and many of us have heard the line from that song, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”.

Infusions and decoctions are very good for you and are simple and quick to make and I advise them to those who ask me for simple yet very beneficial helps. But they come with a very short ‘shelf life’, as teas should be used within the same day, and decoctions you will get sometimes 48hours. But syrups get around this problem.

With alcohol based tinctures, which can often last up to two years, the need for preservation is not necessary, but frankly most of them taste just awful, although some are used to improve flavour. So here Captain Sweetness come to the rescue, and down the throat it goes, and another poor child is saved from the evil Mr Yucky.

Glycerine extracts are an alternative to alcohol extracts, but don’t last as long, but here you can still add them to syrups getting around the shelf life problem, saving you money and time remaking them. Glycerine extracts are for very young children due to better taste and are not as potent as the alcohol, as for babies and infants the potency must be greatly reduced, as with all forms of medicine.

A syrup made from glycerine should be kept in the fridge and last about six months, say for the cold and flu season.

Glycerine extracts are also good for those who are needing to abstain from alcohol for medical reasons, such as allergic or have a liver disease, needing an abstinence due to reforming or religious reasons.

How to do a Herbal Syrup

I have given recipes in both sugar and honey, because as I said before, not everybody can afford large amounts of honey, and honestly they are usually interchangeable, in both weight and volume. And I want to help everyone, not just those who can afford the ‘better’ stuff.

As a general rule, most syrups are made in a ratio of 1:2, as in, 1 part herbal and 2 parts honey or sugar.

Ingredients and Method for a Basic Syrup

  • Infusion, decoction or tincture/extract 300mls / 1 1/2 cups
  • 450g / 2 cups / 1 lb of sugar or your preferred sweetener

Once you have made your infusion, decoction or tincture, place it in a saucepan and heat it up, but do not boil or burn. Add the sugar and continue stirring until either the sugar is fully melted or until all ingredients are fully blended and smooth. Add to clean/sterile jars or bottles, label with the date and contents and store out of the light and away from heat. It should last several months, but longer in the fridge. But if you see any mould, then do not use it and throw it away.

Syrup via Infusion

  • Take 85g / 3oz of your chosen herbs
  • Crush, bruise, grind or finely chop your herbs
  • Pour 290ml / 1/2 pint of boiling hot water over the herbs
  • Cover and allow to steep until cold
  • Strain out the herbs
  • Reheat the infusion till warm
  • Add 113g / 4oz of sugar
  • Continue heating and stirring until fully dissolved
  • And continue until it becomes a syrupy consistency
  • Allow to cool slightly
  • Pour into clean sterile glass jars, label and store in a cool place

Purple Marshmallow Cough Syrup

(Marshmallow is great in syrups due to its natural demulcent abilities) And this one doesn’t require any cooking.

Ingredients:

  • Three handfuls of purple Marshmallow flowers (Purpler the better)
  • 5cm / 2″ of a stick of cinnamon (optional)
  • Enough honey to completely cover the flowers
  • Place the flowers and cinnamon in a glass jar or bottle
  • Cover the flowers and cinnamon completely with the honey
  • Put the lid on and allow to stand for approximately two weeks
  • After standing, strain and store in a glass jar (You may need to warm it just a little)
  • Label and store out of sunlight in a cool place

Dosage is simply 1 to 2 teaspoons for a dry, sore or irritation cough

Elderberry Syrup

  • Place 1 cup / 100g / 0.22lb of dried berries into a suitable bowl
  • Cover with 2 cups of boiling hot water
  • Cover with a lid and allow to soak for 8 hours / overnight
  • Place the berry mix into a blender and finely mash
  • Sieve or filter out ‘all’ the particles. Pressing in a good press will push out more
  • Put this into a saucepan and simmer and stir until reduced down to 1 cup
  • Add 1 cup of raw honey and stir in
  • Pour into clean sterile jars and label and date and store in the fridge
  • Should last for 1 year

Should work both as a preventative and treatment for colds and flus. Dosage is simply 1 to 2 teaspoons for a dry, sore or irritation cough

Variations of a Herbal Syrup

There are several different types of sweeteners you can use, the most common are white sugar and raw honey, but you could try brown or raw sugar, or rapadura, or Jaggery, if your in India or Sri Lanka for example. But what about others, there is Coconut sugar, Maple syrup, and I have heard of Stevia being used, but I haven’t tried that one.

As I suggested above in my introduction, this is such a simple recipe for sore throats and mouth infections, but the ‘essences’ do travel throughout the rest of the body too.

  • Finely dice a small onion
  • Finely dice two cloves of garlic
  • Put them into a small jar of Manuka honey
  • Allow the onion and garlic to steep in the honey
  • At first it won’t change much, but as time goes by the honey will become more runny
  • Try to mix and shake up the mix at least once an hour
  • Optional: After 5 to 6 hours, strain out the onion and garlic and reuse the same jar
  • This will last easily two or more years, as the jar is full of things that kill the baddies, therefore it lasts and lasts and true or raw honey never decays

This was made over a year ago and is still safe and potent and I stored it in the cupboard and made it in the same container the honey came in. I didn’t choose to strain it as I thought it would be stronger as time went on. It has no mould and still has that oniony/garlicky flavour and still sweet.

Yep, this is just so easy and affordable, Manuka honey is not cheap, but occasionally it goes up for sale and buy it then, I do. But you may find different brands and alternatives in your own country.

Another idea for variations can be to add juices, this can be from citrus fruits, such as, oranges, lemons and limes, and also from berries such as Elderberries, Blue berries and Hawthorn berries, but also from ‘Succi’, that is, ‘plant juices, from fleshly and juicy herbs.

Choice of Herbs for a Herbal Syrup

Any herb or combination could be used in a herbal syrup, but when it comes to syrups, it is usually chosen for respiratory issues, such as colds and flus and sore throats and is obviously used internally. But in saying this, I do not see why you could not use it for other issues, such as tummy bugs, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, travel sickness, some pains, worms and Urinary tract infections.

I do believe that a syrup can be made to treat infections and ulcers for example on the skin. This would be made out of Manuka honey with added herbal healing properties such as, Ribwort and Comfrey, so instead of using a cream, you use a syrup.

Safety

On the whole, syrups are very safe, but if there were a few possible cautions that should be taken they would be:

  • The amount of sugar content, (honey and table sugars) could affect those with diabetes
  • Not matter what medicine you use, there is always a chance of an allergic reaction
  • Due to its wonderful sweetness, keep it out of reach of children, as they may want to consume the whole jar


Please remember, this blog cannot and should not replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment, and no cure is implied in anyway. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.

Kind Regards,

Russell a.k.a Herbal Panda

Website: http://www.theherbarius.com.au

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Email: theherbalist@theherbarius.com.au

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This reason I chose a pot for the post, is because many combine or confuse infusions with decoctions and use the word interchangeably. I believe that herbal infusions are just wonderful and drink them often, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to you, but there is a real difference between the two.

An infusion is when you pour boiling hot water onto herbs in a cup and allow it to steep for about 5 to 10 minutes, but a decoction is either boiled or simmered for a minimum of 15 minutes or much, much longer, say 2 to 3 hours.

One of my sons had a viral infection that just kept hanging on and on, so when he came to visit me, I simmered Echinacea root for 45 minutes and found it just fine and very therapeutic too, as I drank it with him.

Herbalist never get sick, they just get immune challenged.

Chinese herbal combinations are mostly made as a decoction, (they do have a huge range of pills too) and there is a rule in preparing Chinese herbal teas and that is, ” Start fast and end slow”. What this simply means is that you quickly bring it to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer.

Usually, the length of time simmering is approximately 20 to 30 minutes, but this depends on the practitioner of course. Also, if you are not told how much water to simmer in, usually you cover the herbs by about 2.5 to 3cm / 1″ to 1 1/4″.

Always follow the prescribed number of dosages they give.

Reasons why to make Herbal Decoctions

Many fantastic constituents are bound up in herbs, and are difficult to get the goodness out of, so a period of simmering is required to break open the tough cellulose shell surrounding the benefits.

Decoctions are used in other herbal preparations, such as poultices and compresses, soaks and baths, ointments and creams. How about culinary uses, of which there would be many. But what about cleaning products, such as, soaps and shampoos, hair rinses, and skin cleansers, and don’t forget about your pets, and their ailments. So they can be a final product and then drunk or added to many other products.

If done well, a decoction can become a interesting and very tasty beverage, in others words, you can use it as a replacement for coffee, which is still a herb of course.

I do not believe that ‘coffee = evil’ and that it must be avoided as some would have it, as studies are now coming out that show that it has health benefits too.

You can make decoctions for the sheer pleasure of drinking a rich beverage, it does not need to be medicinal. As you could add it to various recipes for flavouring, into smoothies or develop your own special ‘latte’.

How to do Herbal Decoctions

The basic idea with decoctions is that you ‘boil the life out of the herb and into the water’, but even more so, you use this process on very stubborn parts of herbs. These parts can be seeds, bark, stems, rhizomes, tubers and roots, especially if they are very dry. For example, fresh Ginger root = short time, or Astragalus root = long time.

When simmering a decoction, it is best not to keep lifting the lid to stir or checking on the process, as the therapeutic essential/volatile oils will escape.

If the herbs have become “burnt” not just a little crispy, as crispy is good, meaning the you have drawn out everything, throw out the herbs as they are now no good and have ruined the decoction. Now in saying this, I do mean burnt, because your decoction can become very dark and the herbs can get well ‘cooked’, and be just fine.

Now sometimes, you will be given, a selection of herbs by a herbalist, especially by a Chinese Medicine practitioner, and you’ll find hard tough pieces of root, bark or other dried products, from mushrooms, to fruit, nuts and seeds, to what you might think is a piece of wood. (Well, it sort of is really.)

Now unless you want to chew on these and possibly break your teeth, you can quickly understand why you need to boil it. But now here’s the issue, sometimes you will have very soft and easy products too, in the mix, so what do you do?

You only add each product as they vary in hardness to softness and ease of extraction of the constituents. An example of this would be where tough woody roots or bark will go in first, then thinner or softer items, then dried leaves and flowers, which may only be 5 minutes or less, as you’ll ruin the benefits of the soft light products, by putting them in at the same time.

Ginseng is often simmered separately, because it can be simmer for up to 2 to 3 hours.

A Basic Decoction

Unless given specific directions by your Herbalist, and you want make your own, this what to do:

  • Place the dried herbs in a suitable pot
  • Cover with water and bring to boil
  • Reduce to a simmer and continue until the liquid is reduced down to a quarter
  • Allow to cool down some
  • Strain and store in a bottle or thermos flask
  • Drink throughout the day

Usually, a well prepared decoction will only last a maximum of 24 to 36 hours, 48 hours max, so if it looks or smells different then throw it out.

The typical dosage for a decoction is half to 1 cup 3 times per day

When making a decoction, only use either: stainless steel, glass, earthenware, or ceramic saucepans, pots or utensils, never use aluminium or plastics.

Variations of Herbal Decoctions

Variations really come from what ever combination of herbs you want to try, and how hard or soft the product is.

But one thing that would be worth trying is to use additional herbs in the decoction that alter or improve the flavour, such as Sarsaparilla, Liquorice or Dandelion root, or herbs added right at the end such as Peppermint.

Choice of Herbs for Herbal Decoctions

As mentioned above, normally you would only use tough woody-like products in a decoction, so that would be what you would choose. But you can add other softer herbs, but these can be put in later in the process, or even added once you have turned off the heat, for example, fresh flowers or leaves. These can be added sometimes just for their taste or aromas, as sometimes a decoction can be tough to drink down.

Safety

Most decoctions are generally safe, but things you may need to be aware of are allergic reactions, and how long you store it.

Also, beware of low dosage herbs, which can become quite strong in the process, meaning some herbs should only be taken in very small amounts.

Some low dosage herbs are: Lobelia, Blue flag, Arnica, Bloodroot, Celandine, Wild indigo, Poke root and Juniper berries. So always check things out before trying anything ‘new’.



Please remember, this blog cannot and should not replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment, and no cure is implied in anyway. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.

Kind Regards,

Russell a.k.a Herbal Panda

Website: http://www.theherbarius.com.au

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Email: theherbalist@theherbarius.com.au

Sales: sales@theherbarius.com.au

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