Traditionally, herbal medicine was a woman’s world. It stands to reason, then, that there is a long list of herbs dedicated to the ease of aches and pains associated with being female-namely, child birth and menstruation.
As I am currently starting my period (TUH-RIFFIC), I aim to test some of these herbs this cycle. You will see in the above picture I have, in my natural medicine cabinet, a finished tincture of Crampbark (left), a jar of dried Chamomile (center), and a still-brewing tincture of Shepherd’s Purse (right, labeled with its scientific name, Capsella bursa-pastoris). Get it? “Three C’s?” Crampbark, Chamomile, and Capsella.
Let’s start with the Crampbark. It is for…cramps.Shocked? The aptly-named tincture was prescribed to me by my hippy midwife for some premature contractions I was experiencing while pregnant.This one was not made by her, though. It was made by another woman at a store that was in the same building as the midwife’s office, called “Apothecary Tinctura.” Unfortunately, I think they have since gone out of business. Too bad. It was like being in Diagon Alley.
Anyway, I never tried the tincture then. To be honest, I plum forgot I had it. But I will happily try it now, what with the extraordinarily uncomfortable cramps I am having today. The instructions recommend 15-30 drops in a little water a few times daily. I’m gonna take 30, which is about one dropperful. Okay, here goes:
The color is dark brown. It smells very earthy and alcoholic. Taking a swig: bleck. Not terrible, but certainly bitter and a tiny bit moldy-tasting. Let’s hope it works.
I’m gonna skip over to the Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella) since I’m taking this one in water, too. This one is a tincture I’m brewing myself. I’m quite proud of it. Shepherd’s Purse is a valuable herb, known for helping with heavy menstruation and other forms of hemorrhage. It grows here in Colorado, and it’s a good herb to collect as a novice because it is easy to identify by its little heart-shaped leaves (they contain the seeds, like a purse. Hence the name). Plus, there are no poisonous plants for which it can be mistaken. Also a plus for a beginner. Here is what it looks like in nature (left), compared with a scientific botanical rendering (right):
I’m using Mountain Rose’s suggested method of tincture-making, which uses 80 proof vodka and 1:2 proportions. You basically take a jar, fill it halfway with your dried herb, and then cover it to the top with vodka. Shake it once a day for six weeks. Then you strain it and bottle it, and voila, you’ve got tinctures that last for years.
BUT, mine is not due to be bottled yet. It has another week to go, but it should be potent enough to see some results. So I’m going to extract the portion I need using a children’s Tylenol syringe. Pretty clever, no? Richard Whelan is a New Zealand-based herbalist whose website I have found extremely helpful. He suggests starting slow with the Purse, due to the fact that it is SO effective! He recommends 1 mL to start, repeating the dose as-needed until bleeding has slowed. So that is what I will do. Using my Tylenol syringe, I am extracting 1 mL of my brewing tincture and putting it in a little water. Here goes:
This is a much pleasanter color and taste than the Crampbark. Honestly, it tastes like iced tea. And it is a light green color. Not bad at all.
Last but not least, onto what is probably the most familiar herb of the three C’s: chamomile. Chamomile is supposed to help with bloating. I’m going to take it as a tea, just plain. I’m boiling 8 ounces of water and pouring it over a big old tablespoon of my chamomile flowers. Incidentally, I got the dried chamomile from El Guapo Herbs. I think it’s an offshoot of McCormick’s, but I’m not sure. Anyway, it comes in a little cellophane wrap rather than a bottle, which makes it CHEAP (99 cents for an ounce of chamomile). They are sold on little rotating stands in our grocery stores. Very good selection and cost-effective, especially if you are just getting to know your herbs.
Well now, I shall relax with this cup of chamomile tea. I’m impressed, by the way, with El Guapo’s chamomile. It is incredibly fragrant and sweet.
Wish me luck, and stay-tuned for my review of the Three C’s!