Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Simple Medicines in the Making

I've been busy gathering wild plants and making simple (but effective) medicines for my family's use. These extracts, infused oils and wines are easy to make, really no trouble at all. All you need is the plant: flower, seed, leaf, twig, root, bark; clean jars; alcohol; extra virgin olive oil and/or lard; and water, sugar, maybe a few other ingredients.

For the extracts, or tinctures, all I do is wash and chop up the plant, put it into a clean and sterilized jar, cover it with alcohol (usually vodka or rum or brandy), label it and put it aside for six weeks. After the six weeks, I strain out the herb (which goes into the compost), rebottle the extract, and label it again with contents and date. Then I store it until I need it.

For salves, I was and lightly dry the plant material. Then it too is chopped and put into a clean jar and covered with olive oil. This waits its month or six weeks, then it is strained. The oil is then warmed slightly in a double boiler on the stove, beeswax is added and when it is all melted, it is poured into little (clean, sterilized) jars. It will cool and become solid, voila, a medicinal salve.

Wine is a little trickier, but not much. The plant material is put in a big pot, so much water added, and boiled for a short time, depending on the recipe. Then sugar is added, and the mix is cooler to room temperature. Yeast is then added, along with yeast nutrient (if called for in the recipe). For me, for these simple wines, I have used baker's yeast and a small piece of toast for the nutrient. I am planning on getting the real wine-making stuff, but that's waiting on a trip to town.

Here's what's in the works:

Nettle--for its vitamin/minerals and general nutritional properties
Horsetail--for the silica, for bones, skin, nails, hair and maybe calcium (see earlier post)
Roots--a combo of dandelion roots, burdock root and yellow dock root--all excellent for the liver
Red Clover Blossom--blood cleansing, nutritional
Catnip/Skullcap/Chamomile--my sleepytime nervine, for tense times
Jewelweed--for poison ivy (use the extract with clay to dry the rash, draw out the poison)

Infused Oils
Jewelweed--for poison ivy (for a salve)

2 gallons of dandelion wine
1.5 gallon of nettle wine
2 gallon of sassafrass wine

OK, so the wines aren't strictly medicinal. :) The recipes I used, all of them from Jack Keller's fabulous wine making page at www.winemaking.jackkeller.net. I'm an absolute beginner at this, and I don't know if the wines will be palatable or not. Last year's dandelion wine was very tasty so we'll see. I'm betting they'll be drinkable. If they're good or even really good, that'll be a plus! And like I said, making these products doesn't require much time, money, special ingredients, or even effort. Take a baby step and try a few things.

I've been foraging and gathering so many things that I see I've neglected to write about some of them, nettles for one. So stay tuned, I'll get to it.


sunni said...

Good to see you back at the blog from time to time!

Speaking of salves, do you have any recommendations for making a drawing salve? I have vague memories of an ancient jar of the stuff in my parents' medicine cabinet; it worked well but was no longer made, so it was hoarded. Wish I'd kept the jar when it was finally gone ...

Anonymous said...

Sunni ---

I just purchased some Black Tar Salve that works GREAT from www.grannywarriors.com

You can also buy Petrosalve from Watkins, but I think that the Black Tar Salve actually works better!

Hope this helps!

Patricia said...

Hey Sunni, I second Anon.'s recommendation on this. My Amish friend use Black Tar Salve and say it is great stuff. I haven't had any experience with it myself (I use clay for drawing out stingers etc.), but the Amish know their stuff on this.

sunni said...

Thanks very much for your recommendations, Anon & HM. I will give the Black Tar Salve a try.