I am writing this during the spread of the ‘Corona virus – Corvid 19’ in Australia, and observing the hysteria and panic buying, reminds me of why I started learning about herbs and self-sufficiency in the first place, what will you do when these things happen?

Any form of natural disaster, or break down in the system can possibly cause massive shortages in supplies of food, water and energies.

But worst of all, what about medical supplies:

How will you survive without your medications!?

Now the purpose of this is certainly not to cause undue worry and serious concern, but to encourage us into some preparedness. The purpose is to get us all to start thinking, hmmm, it would be a good idea to start moving in this direction.

Anyway, let’s chat about our main subject today.

Purslane is an annual herb, that is a native to Australia, (nobody really knows its exact origin, some say from Greece to China), as it has been around for such a long time now, but is found in temperate regions all around the world.

Its botanical name comes from the Latin potare, which means to “carry,” and lac or “milk,” the milky like sap of the plant, which may be why so many believe it helps with lactation.

Purslane or as it is sometimes ungraciously called, ‘Pigweed” has been used as a food for thousands of years, as it was eaten by the Indians and Persians (Iran) in the Middle East, and it was used as a green to go into salads in the Mediterranean, and was probably carried into Europe through Spain due to the Saracens in the Middle Ages.

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st, it was first recorded to have been planted in England in 1582, and it was used as a common garden vegetable.

It was even used as a treatment for scurvy on the high seas, due to its very high Vitamin C content.

The Australian aborigines use to make a flour out of the seeds, which have the highest known source of omega-3 fatty acids* from a plant. (*Alpha linolenic acid).

They collected the seed simply by heaping the plants up side down on a smooth flat surface and allowing the seed to fall out, and found it easy to gather up.

The Australian aborigines really had an excellent, healthy and very nutritious diet, and this can be easily proven by observing the very old photos of fit and active men and women, with full sets of teeth and practically no disease to be found anywhere. We could and should learn a lot from these people.

The African Zulu used a variety called Portulaca quadrifida as an emetic.

It grows as a thick matting on the ground, but can grow up to 20cm / 8″ tall, as the branches and flowers try to reach upward towards the sun. Its leaves are generally light to dark green with green to reddish stems. Common Purslane has 2 to 3cm / 1″ long leaves, which form in clusters at the stem nodes with small yellow flowers. The seeds appear after the flowers drop off, and are black in colour and are the size of fine sand.

There are varieties that produce a whole range of bright colours and these don’t seem to be as invasive as the common Purslane, so can be used in gardens.

The Weed File

There are two other types of Purslane worth considering, and they are Golden Purslane – Portulaca oleracea var. (Sativa) and the Jade Plant – Portulacaria afra, sometimes called Elephant Food or Spekboom.

Golden Purslane is an upright (45cm / 18″) annual that has obovate fleshy yellow to lime coloured green leaves that are about 4cm / 1.5″ long. On the whole it is bigger the common Purslane in both leaf and plant size.

Jade plant is a hardy perennial, which grows much taller than both other varieties, up to 60 to 150cm / 2′ to 5′ tall. It is great for pots and other containers, as well as rock and dry gardens.

It is happy in either full sun or partial shade, and it also has succulent obovate leaves that are 1cm / 3/8″ long with red to brown stems.

My very own Jade plant, sitting in a marine/boat/macerating toilet

Also there is a Yellow Purslane – Portulaca lutea var. Soland, which can be found in New Zealand.


How To Use Purslane

There are two main ways to use Purslane, and they are cooking and as a medicinal herb. Sadly, many people just don’t know either, all they can do is complain about some ‘weed’ in their garden or lawn and spray it with something which would harm them more then help them.

In a era of anything made with Kale, has to be good, we completely over look good ole Purslane. But all you need to do is go out and pick a handful of bright green leaves and cast them into your salad bowl with other greens etc., and voila, there you have an interesting green salad, full of nutrition.

Medicinally, it is extremely high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are very necessary for good health and especially heart and nerve health, which we all need to be aware of. Topically, it can be used on insect bites and burns, plus, sore, irritable, and inflamed skin, such as eczema for example.

Those with gout shouldn’t not eat it raw, due to its oxalic acid, but used as a poultice externally has benefits.

Herbal Teas

Purslane tea itself was once drunk as a tonic for the whole body.

Simple Purslane Tea

Being easy and simple to make, plus the benefits of its nutrition, why not have a try at making Purslane tea.

To make Purslane tea, just grab a small amount of the leaves and stems, (younger leaves are better) place them into a cup, pour in boiling hot water, allow it to steep for about 15 minutes, and drink.

You can add a little sweetener such as raw honey, or stevia if needed.

Customised Purslane Teas

Some say it has a lemony or acidic flavour, which could mean adding lemon or lime juice or herbally you could try lemon balm, or lemon grass, which could make things interesting. But don’t let yourself stop there, why not add Chamomile or Peppermint with a bit of Ginger.

So why not develop your own personal favourite?

Culinary Uses of Purslane

When picking Purslane for cooking, it is best to pick all the young and tender leaves as these are nicer than the older ones, and the best time for picking is before the flowers come on. Some actually use the flowers in salads and meals too.

So if you want to experiment with Purslane, just think of where and how you could use a green vegetable, like spinach? And most likely you have an answer, for example, any type of salad, stir-frys, coleslaw, steamed veggies, juice drinks and smoothies, soups e.g. sorrel soup, stews and broths, casseroles, dumplings, any egg dishes, and omelettes, pancakes, fritters, and you can even pickle it with apple cider vinegar.

A few more specific uses could be steaming the young shoots and serving them up in a buttery sauce with a little salt and pepper, mixing the leaves in a sandwich with cream cheese or an egg and Purslane sandwich.

Purslane is one of the traditional ingredients of the French soup called Bonne femme, and in the Middle Eastern salad called Fattoush.

Before I got married, I use to work on a farm growing various fruits and vegetables and the farmer described one day how he use to eat Pigweed soup, when growing up as a child, and I was quite surprised, as at that stage I only of thought Purslane as a ‘weed’.

Yes, Pigs love Pigweed too!

PigWeed Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 heaped cup of Purslane, chopped
  • 1 large potato finely chopped
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 6 cups of stock, usually chicken
  • Salt and pepper for taste
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of cream (optional)

Method

  • Place all ingredients into a suitable saucepan except for the milk and cream
  • Place it in low simmering water for five minutes
  • Take off the heat and use a stick blender (or similar) to blend until smooth with no lumps
  • Just before serving, reheat and now you can add the milk and cream
  • Serve and enjoy

Health Uses of Purslane

There are two minerals that men and women generally need and that is zinc for men and iron for women, and Purslane is quite high in iron assisting them in this nutritional requirement.

It is also high in other minerals such as, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and lithium, and Vitamins such as, A – via its betacarotene, Bs such as folate, C and E, and being so rich in so many goodies makes it a wonderful tonic for the whole body. And I have found that most of humanity is deficient in magnesium.

As mentioned above it is high in Vitamin C, so if you cannot get a hold of Vitamin C, then eat plenty of Purslane.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Purslane or Ma Chi Xian – 馬齒莧 or what Chinese practitioners would call the “vegetable for long life.” and what an amazing title for what most people want to kill.

From the TCM view point, it is classified as sour and cold in treatment and is used for the organ meridians of liver, heart and large intestine.

Its actions include: Clearing heat, cools the blood, plus, clearing damp heat of skin disorders, and they use it for swelling and pain of insect and snake bites, amongst many other indications.

Purslane Health Recipes

Poultice for Inflamed Breasts

This is made by mixing an oil such as a little coconut oil, a raw egg and Purslane. Place all the ingredients into a blender, and blend until you have a thick paste, and apply thickly and cold to reduce inflammation. This poultice can be left on for several hours or overnight.

Inflammation of the Urethra

Make a decoction by bringing to a boil and then simmering low for a few minutes, 60 grams of Purslane, 6 grams of Liquorice root and a cup water. Allow to cool slightly, strain and drink.

It can be turned into a mouth wash and gargled for any infections in the mouth. For coughs and shortness of breath, crush out the juice and mix it with a little honey, and gargle.

Those with reflux can eat Purslane to assist with alleviating stomach acid issues.

Gardening Uses of Purslane

Because Purslane is frankly one of the easiest things to grow, it is a great plant for those who want a pretty garden with colour and greenery, but just don’t want to put in the effort, like no effort. There is quite a range of varieties that produce many different bright colours, sizes and shapes. Plus, it doesn’t just flower for a short period and then disappear, but stays around for quite some time, providing lots of colour.

This simplicity makes it great for rock gardens, and for example, just stick it into those gaps and holes in between the rocks or logs if you want and let it grow with splashes of colour coming out for you to enjoy.

It also makes a excellent ground cover, thickly growing up and over whatever is near, but not over very large objects, which is another reason to grow it as a ground cover or in rockeries to fill in gaps.

Other Uses of Purslane

Grazing stock just love the stuff, and if you have any in the paddock they will find it and it will be gone, so encouraging it to grow out in the meadows for animals to eat is a good thing, as it is quite nutritious for them.


How to Grow Purslane

Purslane is just so simply to grow, and probably the best plan to grow it is to neglect it, and you’ll find that you can love it to death. But if you must, a little organic composting or fertilising (nitrogen) will give you thicker and more succulent leaves.

From Seed

The black seeds of Purslane are quite small and can lay dormant for up to seven years or more, so even if it dies down, and disappears, it may just as easily pop up next year. Each plant can produce thousands more of its own kind.

The best season to plant Purslane is in early spring, or once there are no more frosts, but if you are in tropical regions then you would be best to plant in Autumn.

Simply spread out the seed into a seed container filled with equal parts of sand and potting mix, and lightly water in. In a short while you should have germination, and just transplant these into pots, to get established and harden up a bit, then plant them into your garden etc. They should be ready to harvest in about 6 to 8 weeks.

From Leaves

You can propagate Purslane directly from the leaves, like most succulents, but it can be a bit of a ‘hit and miss’ affair. Just carefully break off whole leaves from the variety you want, and place these onto the soil/seed raising mix and just keep the soil slightly damp. Eventually, it will put down roots and grow.

From Cuttings

From about the middle of spring, take your cuttings of about 5cm / 2″ long, remove any bottom leaves, and place these into a sandy potting mix, keeping the mix slightly damp and warmish. Keep the container out of direct sunlight, and once growing roots, you can transplant these out into your pots or garden.

From Layering

Purslane as it spreads out and touches the ground will put down roots all on its own, and from these, you are able to propagate more plants, just follow what you would do if you were normally transplanting, and water in.

Maintenance

Purslane, is one of the most easiest plants to grow, in fact, if you just leave it alone, it will just keep coming back, this is why so many people consider it, dare I say, a ‘weed’. So neglect is the order of the day, as it grows in both sun and partial shade, in any soil type, and you can forget fertilising it and can often have no water given to it for ages.

Probably the only thing to be concerned about is the fact that it can spread quite easily, I guess this is why most people consider it a weed, as it can be propagated by both seed and its leaves, so if you bump it and some of the leaves fall off, most likely the plant will regrow.

So, I have not bothered with adding my usual extras on pests and diseases, soil and fertilisers etc., and apart from the occasional slug, as it just doesn’t matter.

If you really want to keep it under control due to its ability to spread, then just eat it, don’t poison it.


Collecting

When collecting it fresh, it is best to wait at least until the plant is about 10cm / 4″ wide, that way you can get enough for at least a salad or meal and it helps you not to strip the plant too much, then it should quickly recover supplying you with even more free food.

If you are harvesting for a future meal soon, then you can leave it with its whole stems, and keep them fresh in the fridge for a few days.

Always make sure that you only collect clean and healthy leaves and stems, free from damage, grubs and insects and their eggs and any other foreign matter and dust.

Drying

To dry Purslane you can do this in either an oven or a dehydrator keeping it at about 46C / 115F, but it is just as simple to dry it in the open air, say, on dry paper towelling or cloth towelling or on a tray of fine mesh. Just keep the leaves and stems apart so that they don’t come in contact with each other or you’ll need to move them around regularly to help them dry evenly and prevent mould.

Place your Purslane in a dry and airy room away from bugs and dust etc. They usually only take 2 to 3 days to dry, depending on your weather conditions. They will need to be dry, crispy and crunchy to touch and should have kept the basic shape, colour and flavour.

Once fully dried, it can be turned into a powder and put into a huge range of meals, teas and drinks, and although you don’t have to, it is better to turn it into powder just before using it as this holds in the goodness in slowing down oxidation.

Storage

Properly dried and stored Purslane 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 Purslane does not store well, due to its high water content, 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:

Wild Purslane, Pig weed, Common Purslane, Pussley, Horse Coin, Horse Money, Green Purslane, Kitchen or Garden Purslane, Yellow Portulaca

Botanical Name:

Portulaca oleracea, P, sativa

Family:

Portulacaceae

Chinese Name:

Ma Chi Xian – 馬齒莧

Parts used:

Leaf, stems, juice (The entire plant is edible)

Dosage:

Daily minimum to maximum dosage: 6.0 – 12.0 grams

Main actions:

Refrigerant, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antibiotic, tonic, alterative, mild antispasmodic, diuretic, emollient, mucilage, and emmenagogue

Indications:

Headaches – nervous excitability, sore throat, sore gums, gingivitis, mouth wash, urethra pain, dry cough, muscular rheumatism, jaundice, gout – poultice, skin ulcers and sores. Plus, Dysentery, post partum bleeding, anti tumour, parasites, and promotes contraction of uterus

Constituents:

Extremely rich in n-3 fatty acids, Vitamin C, carotenoids, alkaloids, sitosterol, volatile oils, resin, galacturonic acid, tannins, lupeol, glycoside, sterols, oxalic, citric, malic and glutamic acids, dopamine, B – Amyrin, noradrenaline, sacchariferoid, and protein

Safety concerns:

Do not use during pregnancy. Those with rheumatism and gout should avoid raw Purslane.

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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“Our misunderstanding about ‘weeds’ is that we haven’t come to use them correctly, then they will cease to remain weeds”

Herbal Panda

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

Name Logo

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”

Herbal Panda

A Herbal Glycerite is easier to make than most extractions and therefore can be done at home by anyone. You just need to follow one main rule, keep your glycerine content always about 60% or more.

So if you are considering purchasing some glycerine, there are actually quite a few other possible uses from your purchase other than herbal glycerite.

But what is a Herbal Glycerite?

Herbs are great, and as you would have guessed by now, I have a very high opinion of them, but at times, you don’t have instant access to them, that is, difficulty with storage, accessibility, time of harvest or season, and transport, for example. So often you need to make an extract out of the herb, and store it for a period of time for use later on, and also to increase the concentration of the herbs constituents for more efficacy.

Early in man’s history he used water, vinegar and wines to store and transport these herbal qualities, and later on, he used stronger alcohols and also he discovered glycerine.

Glycerine was found to be a reasonably good solvent and a preservative as well, this makes it a suitable menstruum for herbs.

Glycerine comes from fats and oils, which are basically the same thing, sort of, and can come from both animal and plant sources and both will work. A Swedish chemist by the name of Karl. W Scheele, first discovered this in 1779, and called it the “sweet principle of fat”. It was named Glycerin, from the Greek – glykys meaning sweet, in 1811 by a French guy, called Michel Chevreul.

A man by the name of T. E. Groves originally introduced Glycerine to the herbal scene in 1867, and it was a few years after that it began to be widely used for both herbal/medical and personal and cosmetic uses. And this really is just so natural, because glycerine is a natural by-product of making soap.

Being a Humectant, which is a substance the encourages the holding of moisture, they do this by attracting water molecules to itself. This is why it is often used in skin moisturises. But it is used in a huge range of products such as, toothpastes, shampoos, moisturisers, deodorants, and makeup.

Culinarily, it can be used to blend oil and water, sweeten and moisten foods, and prevent crystals from forming frozen foods. Plus, candles and a range of other medications.

I do believe that there is a place for herbal glycerites, but some push them for reasons that are not well established, such as, that being from a ‘fresh herb’ it has more vitality or energy, but this has not being well proven. Plus, there is a ‘concern’ with the appearance that often during the process of macerating, the naturally occurring enzymes in the plant are still functioning, and therefore actually breaking down the extracted juices before preservation.

During the late 1800’s a Guy by the name of Alfred Nobel discovered the ‘peacefulness’ of nitroglycerine and then demand for glycerine “Exploded!” This does not mean that using a Herbal Glycerite will cause your kids to blowup when they irritated you.

In the 1940’s they did develop a synthetic version of glycerine from propylene, which is a byproduct of petroleum.

It is also a by-product of biodiesel manufacture, I know, I have made biodiesel too.

Reasons why to make a Herbal Glycerite

Glycerine is a viscous and syrupy like liquid, that is both colourless and odourless with a sweet taste. It’s abilities to extract are in between water and alcohol. It isn’t the best menstruum for extraction processes, but it does have a few other advantages, one is the taste factor, meaning, that it is quite sweet, and therefore, gets around the child who won’t accept the “its good for you” argument.

Another is the problem with the alcohol, that is, some cannot take any amount or form of alcohol due to alcoholic sensitivities, possible allergic reactions, serious liver disorders and religious reasons. For example, if someone from the Islamic Community came to me and wanted a herbal remedy, but would not receive any tincture made from ethanol. This way, I can give help without offence, and also follow a major rule for alternative practitioners, “First do no Harm”.

If you want to remove the ‘alcohol’ from the alcoholic tincture, but aren’t so bothered by the fact that it was originally made from alcohol or the taste, you can remove it. This is done by a placing the specific dosage into a cup of water that has just recently been boiled. Allow this to stand for about five minutes, as this will cause the alcohol content to evaporate.

Although not the best menstruum for herbs in general, glycerine does work fine with a few herbs, which have the ‘water-soluble’ constituents you require, for example Marshmallow root.

A glycerite preparation can be designed to be used both internally and externally, and this increases their use and scope greatly.

Glycerites can be added to alcohol extracts to ameliorate its taste, and to add actives, and glycerine works well tannins.

Once you have made your glycerite, you can use them in recipes and formulas that can be part of creams, lotions, gels, cleansers and exfoliants. And glycerites do have an added ability to possess the aromas of the herbs being extracted. So this gives them a special natural advantage in making topical applications both medicinally and aroma-therapeutically.

Also, glycerites are great for using alternative medicine on animals, especially due to its taste internally or even topically.

Similar to a Succi, you can use it to preserve expressed herbal juices instead of alcohol, but it won’t have the shelf life of the grain alcohol, and you will need to keep the ratio at least 1:3, that is one part juice to 3 parts glycerine.

How to do a Herbal Glycerite

Glycerine is often readily available from chemists, supermarkets, sometimes hardware and even some farming suppliers, plus there are heaps of online suppliers too, so obtaining glycerine shouldn’t be a problem.

Always choose a organic, GMO free version, and ethically sourced to your preferences.

An important point when making glycerites is to try to be meticulously clean and hygienic, glycerine is not such a killer of bacteria as alcohol. So make sure your herbs are clean of any bugs, or other foreign matter, dust and soil, and manure etc.

Basic Herbal Glycerite

Glycerine and Water combination

  • Finely chop, grind 50g herbs and place in a suitable jar
  • Add 500ml glycerin
  • Add 340ml pure water
  • Give it a good shake to combine the glycerine and water and to cover all of the herbs
  • Replace the lid tightly and shake it every day for 2 weeks minimum, longer is better
  • Strain or filter out the herbs (this may be slow)
  • You can use a tincture press with cheese cloths or similar (faster)
  • If you are using powder, you will need fine filtering

Glycerine only

  1. Collect your herbs after the moisture has dried off
  2. Check for and remove any dirt, dust or foreign matter, such as insects and their eggs
  3. Finely chop or grind up the herbs being processed
  4. Fill a suitable jar to about 1/2 to 2/3 of jar with the herbs
  5. Completely cover the herbs and fill with 100% glycerine
  6. Make sure you glycerine is approximately at least two times the herb
  7. Put the lid on the jar and label the contents and shake the jar
  8. Allow to macerate for two to four weeks, shaking it daily (4 to 6 weeks is better)
  9. After 2 weeks, press it out using 2 or 3 layers of cheesecloth and tincture press
  10. You may need to go finer if you were using a powder
  11. Pour into a clean sterilised glass jar and label and date
  12. You can immediately use it, if needed

Dosage would be about 2/3 of a teaspoon, 3 times daily, can be taken in a little water.

On the whole, your herbal glycerite will have a shelf life if stored well, of about 1 to 2 years, and make sure you store out of the sunlight and in a cool dry place.

Choice of Herbs for a Herbal Glycerite

Two things that make a herb, a ‘better’ choice of herbs, is that they work best with fresh herbs, and the more water soluble the constituents are the better the choice of herb. That being said, you can honestly use either dry or fresh, or just about any herb, they just get a little more complicated. But start with an easy herb first.

A minor point here in Australia, but more important in colder countries, is to pick your fresh herbs in the spring and summer, to get the most ‘juiciest’ herbal parts, even picking shortly after rain can add to the water content. If they are very watery, then be careful, as too much water content can cause problems, particularly with preservation, and you may need to alter the formula.

By no means a complete list, but here are some herbs you could try:

German chamomile, Burdock, Calendula, Echinacea spp., Fennel, Ginger, Peppermint, Hawthorn berry, Mugwort, Elderberry flowers, Cleavers, Lavender, Bee balm, Lemon balm, Oregon grape root, Skullcap, Mullein leaves, Golden seal, Nettle, Oats, Plantain, Rose petals, Chaste tree, Turmeric, Valerian, and Yarrow.

Variations of a Herbal Glycerite

Apart from the possible variations of a huge range of herbal choices, and using them internally and externally, plus for cosmetic and culinary uses, you can also add essential oils to them. This is due to glycerine’s ability to solubilise them into the mix. Don’t use essential oils internally, only externally.

Although I have not tried it myself, you can actually make glycerites out of ordinary foods, such as fruits and vegetables, but you’ll need to pick fresh and high in water soluble constituents.

Safety

  • Always be aware of a allergic reaction to any new herb you try
  • If adding essential oils only use that glycerite ‘externally’
  • Some people do react against glycerine itself although it is generally considered safe.


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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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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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

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Email: theherbalist@theherbarius.com.au

Sales: sales@theherbarius.com.au

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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

Sales: sales@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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