Homemade Medicine

These healthy herbal tinctures are easy to make at home.


| September/October 2004



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Herbal medicine has long been considered “the people’s medicine” for its accessibility, safety and the ease with which remedies can be made. Commonly throughout history, if someone wanted a particular medicine, they needed only grow it in their garden or find a place where it grew naturally and could be gathered. Thoughtfulness was required about when to harvest the plant, and often the medicine used was a tincture, the recipe for which had been passed down for generations. These practices were environmentally and financially sustainable and remain a cornerstone of herbal medicine.

Those who want an alternative to conventional medicine often buy herbal products from their alternative health-care providers or the health-food store. The irony of this is that what was once medicine for the people now costs about $10 an ounce. Considering that someone who takes their tinctures religiously might go through 8 ounces in a month, that’s a hefty tab to pay for something that can be harvested in one’s back yard.

Making your own tinctures is a cost-effective, creative and empowering way to take control of your health care. It is perfect for the gardener who wants to use what they grow for healing, the nature lover who yearns to identify and sustainably wildcraft indigenous herbs, the crafter with the desire to turn the dried herbs from the farmer’s market into medicine, or the chronically ill patient who needs a regular supply of remedies.

Richo Cech, owner of Horizon Herbs in Williams, Oregon, and author of Making Plant Medicine (Horizon Herbs, 2000), notes there’s an added healing benefit to self-made remedies. “If you make your own tincture, you have a better connection with the medicine because it’s from your own bioregion, similar to the benefits of using local honey,” Cech says. “And you know exactly what’s in the tincture, which leads to more trust, which leads to faith, which makes it more effective.”

Don’t Let Math Stop You

Often, people are intimidated by the mathematics involved in making herbal medicines, which include careful measuring of both the herb and the menstruum (or solvent) to make sure they are in the proper ratio. Bert Norgorden, founder of The Plant Works in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who has been making tinctures since 1988, says it’s best to make tinctures according to ratios and weight, but if math is the difference between someone making their own tincture and giving up, there is an easier way.

The majority of herbs have a solvency between 40 and 60 percent, Norgorden says. In other words, most of their medicinal constituents can be extracted using a solution with that percentage of alcohol. “You can go out and get some 80 proof vodka, then go get your herb, put it in a jar, pour enough alcohol in to cover it and you’ll have a serviceable macerate,” he adds. With anything less than 80 proof (or 40 percent alcohol), Norgorden explains, you run the risk that the tincture will not be adequately preserved.

jonh
7/29/2016 3:11:09 AM

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phatchow
1/24/2013 10:05:00 PM

Wonderful information, thanks for sharing!






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