Today is “Bottling Day” for a few herbs I’ve had tincturing: Horsetail, Shepherd’s Purse, and Fennel.
First, a little background on the herbs themselves. I believe I already went into detail about Shepherd’s Purse in my previous post, “Review of the Three C’s.” But I’ll say it again: it is a WONDER herb. If you suffer from heavy periods, a small dose of this herb will change your life.
Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) is also a valuable herb. It is a strange-looking plant that I randomly came across while walking by the creek one day. It is quite easy to identify: it is bright green and shaped like a bottle brush with segments that much resemble bamboo. They look almost like tiny evergreen trees sprouting right out of the ground. Here is a picture I took as compared to a botanical:
The odd-looking stalks in the botanical drawing are what the plant looks like when it is producing spores. These were growing along the river, too. If you’re thinking right about now that this is one weird, prehistoric-looking plant, you would be right. Apparently, these things have been around since the Paleozoic Era (about 400 million years ago). They were considerably larger then. Now, as you can see by the picture, they are only a few inches high. So what is their use to us? Well, Equisetum arvense is one of natures greatest sources of silica. Silica is essential in maintaining healthy skin, nails, and hair. As a person with decidedly UNhealthy skin, nails, and hair, I am anxious to try this out.
The Naturopathic Herbalist recommends taking the tincture four times a day, 2-6 mL at a time. She also recommends doing four weeks on, one week off. That’s probably due to the diuretic effect. Horsetail increases urinary output, which can result in a loss of salts like Potassium. So taking a week off would allow you to replenish your electrolytes, I would imagine. I think I’ll start with the 2 mL, which is about two dropperfuls, four times per day. I’ll keep you posted as to the efficacy.
The elemental silica in horsetail is actually present in its acid form, called silicic acid. I think I’ll also make my Mama start a regimen for her bones. There is an early study (Spector et al, 2008) that suggests silicic acid enhances bone growth, along with a Calcium and Vitamin D3 regimen, in osteopenic females. How great is this stuff? You can actually rebuild your bones WHILE gaining shiny, beautiful hair and nails? I’m sold.
And lastly, the fennel. I think most people are familiar with this licorice-y herb. You can eat the plant as well, but it is the seeds of the plant which are used in herbal medicine. These are the very same seeds that you find tucked into a tasty Italian sausage. They are chock full of volatile oils. The term refers simply to any unstable (rapidly degrading/evaporating) oil derived from plants. Basically, anything that has a strong smell can be counted upon to contain volatile oil. Peppermint and ginger are some well-known examples.
In the case of fennel, its volatile oils have a relaxation effect on the smooth muscles of the intestines. It has been used for centuries as a remedy for flatulence (hee hee) and “griping.” Griping is an herbalist term for the uncomfortable cramping that often accompanies stomach upset. You know, that “gotta-go” feeling? If you find yourself in need of a laxative, for example, take it with fennel tincture. Just put two dropperfuls in with the water you are using to take the laxative. I have tried it before and it is fabulous. It’s nice to take a laxative and not feel like you’ve ingested poison two hours later. (There are herbal laxatives, by the way, but I have yet to try them. I’m sure I’ll make a post one of these days, since I seem to have a peculiar theme centering around bodily functions.)
Anyway, onto the bottling. I once again followed the tincture method given by Mountain Rose Herbs. If you are using dried herb, you fill a jar halfway with your herb and then fill it up to the top with 80 proof alcohol, usually vodka. If you are using fresh herb, fill the jar about 2/3 full. All of my tinctures brew for six weeks. Don’t forget to gently shake ’em at least a few times a week.
To bottle the tinctures, I like to strain each one into a Pyrex liquid measuring cup. Then you don’t need a funnel, since the measuring cup has a little spout that pours. You can use cheesecloth to strain the herbs, OR you can cut up a muslin blanket your baby never used (make sure it’s clean, of course). It is much cheaper than cheesecloth AND it doesn’t fall apart in the washer. Herbalism HACK!
The only fancy item you will need are your dropper bottles. I get them cheap on Amazon in a set of twelve. They come in brown or cobalt blue. I like the cobalt blue because “cobalt blue” sounds extra fancy. Lastly, you will want some adhesive labels to put on your bottles.
I ended up with five 2 oz bottles of Shepherd’s Purse tincture, five 2 oz bottles of Horsetail, and two 2 oz bottles of fennel (I used a smaller jar for the fennel). That’s TWELVE bottles of tincture. For the record, 2 oz bottles of tincture can cost around $20. Twelve bottles would cost you about $240. Just as a comparison (and to really gloat), here’s my bill:
Shepherd’s purse: free (I picked it)
Horsetail: free (I picked it)
Fennel: 99 cents from El Guapo Herbs
Apothecary bottles: $10.99
Vodka: $14.99 (and I still have half a bottle left)
That’s a savings of over $200.00. Even if I had needed to buy the herbs, they are so very inexpensive. You can get four ounces for a few bucks at Mountain Rose Herbs, which is MORE than enough for one jar of tincture.
More important than cost, though, is how much fun I have making these tinctures and my continued amazement at how truly effective they are. I seriously feel like Hermione in Potions class. So please, give it a try. Make tinctures. Use tinctures. They are safe*, they are cheap, and they work!
*Tinctures ARE safe for the majority of people. But for those with serious health conditions or anyone taking medications for chronic conditions like high blood pressure or cholesterol, it is always best to consult your doctor before starting an herbal regimen to avoid any interactions.