Tinkering around with Tinctures

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In an (every evolving) effort toward achieve optimal health through sustainable, holistic and cost-effective ways,   I’ve added making tinctures to my toolkit.  Tinctures are a medicinal preparation of  herbs. Alcohol, glycerin, and apple cider vinegar are agents used to extract the healing properties from the plant.  Alcohol is considered the most effective, however, because it is such a potent solvent. Alcohol tinctures  also have a virtually unlimited shelf life.

In the past I have purchased them from the health food store; milk thistle tincture is a staple in my ‘medicine’ cabinet. A known detoxifier,  it gives my liver (which has a tendency to get sluggish due to my sticky blood) a bit of a boost.  It wasn’t until a Ladies Homesteading Gathering  meeting this summer that I realized how easy it is to make them!

Here are the steps to making a tincture as outlined on wikiHow. This is essentially how I prepared mine. I’ve italicized my notes.

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Purchase quality alcohol. The preferred type of alcohol for producing a tincture is vodka. This is owing to its being colorless, odorless, and fairly flavorless. If you cannot obtain vodka, brandy, rum, or whiskey can be substituted. Whatever alcohol is chosen, it must be 80 proof (namely, 40% alcohol) to prevent mildewing of the plant material in the bottle.  I used vodka but I think I will use tequila moving forward. I have found that my body reacts to it best. 

Use a suitable container. The container for the tincture should be glass or ceramic. Avoid using metallic or plastic containers because these can react with the tincture or leach dangerous chemicals over time. Items such as a Mason jar, a glass bottle with an attached stopper, etc., are ideal for steeping a tincture. In addition, you will need to get some small dark glass tincture bottles for storing the tincture in once it has been made; these bottles should have a tight screw-on or tight clip-on lid to prevent air intrusion during storage but to allow for ease of use. Ensure that all containers are both washed clean and sterilized prior to use. I used mason jars to make the tinctures and ordered my tincture bottles from Amazon (less expensive than other options I found). I was able to find four ounces containers…but I had to dig for them. 
Prepare the tincture. You can prepare a tincture by measurement or by sight; it really depends on your level of comfort with simply adding herbs  and judging by eye, or whether you feel more comfortable adding them by measured weight. Also, you should know whether you want to add fresh, powdered, or dried herbs to the tincture. Some suggestions for adding the herbs in the order of fresh, powdered, or dried are as follows:

  • Add enough fresh chopped herbs to fill the glass container. Cover with alcohol. 
  • Add 4 ounces (113g) of powdered herb with 1 pint (473ml) of alcohol (or vinegar/glycerin).
  • Add 7 ounces (198g) of dried herb material to 35 fluid ounces (1 liter) of alcohol (or vinegar/glycerin).

I used a variety of fresh herbs shared with me by the other ladies at the group. I grow a few herbs at home that I purchased from Cedar Seeder (I trust them completely).  I do plan to order dried herbs for future tinctures  from Mountain Rose Herbs. It is very important that you use quality herbs for your tinctures. Remember that you are extracting that which the herb contains. If it has been grown with pesticides, that will also be a part of your medicine.  Totally defeats the purpose.

Seal the container. Place it into a cool, dark area; a cupboard shelf works best. The container should be stored there for 8 days to a month.

  • Shake the container regularly. Twice a day for 14 days is typically recommended.
  • Be sure to label the steeping tincture so that you know what it is and the date on which it was made. Keep it out of the reach of children and pets.

One of the leaders  of our group strongly urged us to label… I am so glad she did. I am very well-known for giving my memory more credit than it deserves. I would have been in trouble otherwise!  11-8blogpic1

Strain the tincture. Once the steeping time is finished (either the tincture instructions you’re following will inform you of this or you’ll know already from experience but if not, about two weeks is a good steeping time), strain the tincture as follows:

  • Place a muslin cloth across a sieve. Place a large bowl underneath to catch the strained liquid.
  • Gently pour the steeped liquid through the muslin-lined sieve. The muslin will capture the plant material and the liquid will pass through into the bowl underneath.
  • Press the herb material with a wooden or bamboo spoon to squeeze out some more liquid, and lastly, twist the muslin to extract any leftover liquid from the herbs.

There is no fast way to do this. Trust me. Take your time. This gets messy and can be frustrating so don’t do this on a stressful day.  SN: I believe that we can pass our energy on into the things we prepare. It is important to be of sound mind when you make your medicine.

Decant the liquid into a prepared tincture bottle. Use a small funnel for this step if you don’t have a steady hand. Tighten the lid and date and label the tincture.

You will need a very small funnel. My daughter and I made funnels out of paper plates.. many of them because they didn’t last. lol. I wasn’t prepared. 

Store and use. A tincture can have a shelf life of up to 5 years owing to the fact that alcohol is a preservative. However, know the properties of the particular herbs you’ve used, and follow the guidance of the recipe from which you’re making the tincture in terms of how long to keep the tincture for.

  • Follow the instructions relevant to your tincture for usage; consult a qualified, reputable herbalist or a health professional if you need more information and bear in mind that herbal treatments can be dangerous if you don’t know the properties of the herb and its consequences.

This is perhaps the most important part of the making tinctures. You MUST remember that this is medicine. Do your research and speak to your health care advisor before taking.   Some herbs have drug interactions with pharmaceuticals.  It is also hard to gauge the actual dosage of a tincture. General rule of thumb is 2 dropperfulls, 2-3 times a day.  Some tinctures are to be taken as needed (peppermint, ginger, fennel for belly issues) and others can be taken on a rotation. I take my milk thistle on a 2 week rotation. 

Working with herbs and alcohol got me to thinking….1800-Tequini-224x300

What about taking this idea and running with it on a larger scale?

Y’all know me, go big or go home. Hee hee!

My friends, I present to you my herb infused tequila. 🙂

 

  • 750ml bottle of premium blanco tequila
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass
  • 1 large piece of fresh ginger
  • infusion jar with tight sealing lid

Follow the same steps as making a tincture but this time no dropper is needed. 🙂

For the cocktail, I mix 2 ounces of the infused tequila, the juice of one lime,  6 ounces of Perrier, and simple syrup I make with local raw honey (equal parts honey and boiling water …1 1/2 tablespoons is perfect to me).

While this is a pretty big leap away from tinctures,  I like to think that my cocktail provides a solid alternative for the healthy-minded.

Questions about tinctures? Have your own personal experience you’d like to share?  Leave a comment and let’s discuss.

Cheers!

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Challenge Accepted

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The Detox Challenge is well underway.  While I am happy to report that these ladies are doing amazing… the start was a little bumpy.

It wasn’t my intention but I could sense the “This is NOT what I signed up for!” tension in the air. Ruh Roh.  I should have seen that coming. Although I told them this would be a detox experience unlike any other, I didn’t explain what that meant. I mean, I was confident in my approach but if I had actually told them : My goals are to change the way to you look at food,   Make you eat foods you swear you wouldn’t and Have you in the kitchen getting excited about produce. Yeah I don’t think there would have a whole lot of excitement surrounding that!

For most, detox diets are based on miserably committing to eat something or abstain from something for a set period of time.  We are all familiar with the Lemonade Diet :three- ten days of lemon juice, grade B maple syrup and cayenne pepper. Or the Liver flush complete with drinking things like olive oil, garlic and epsom salt. Bleh… who thinks of these things? And why on Earth do we do this to our body? While I’m no Beyonce, I’ve done it all too. My 20’s and early 30’s were riddled with ‘get cleaned out quick’ schemes. I’d be really irritable and cranky for a few days but I would emerge feeling lighter and leaner…until I started eating crap again.

One of the current crazes is to use supplements and drinks to Detox. While I think supplements have their place, It is not necessary to use them to give the body a break from the way we currently eat which is SAD (standard american diet). Nor is it necessary to starve yourself while you work to restore the gut.

What it takes is food.

Well thought out, planned foods that are known to pack a powerful macronutrient balance and supply high does antioxidants and probiotics. And fiber. Fiber is real important. 🙂

So that’s what I set out to do. Organize a detox unlike any other I’ve experienced. One full of food; vibrant, beautiful food and plenty of it.

We started out detaching ourselves from well established and harmful eating habits. They handled that plenty well.

Then came the food they could eat. This where things got a little… testy.  I assure you it was detailed and varied; I worked very hard to create a comprehensive list of great food. The problem is, much of it they had never handled no less eaten.  “You are expecting me to eat just this?” Yes I was. And they would come to thank me for it.

What I knew that they didn’t is that I absolutely love food. I love to cook and I love to eat. The way to my heart is definitely begins in my belly.  As a result. I refuse to eat food that does not taste good. Period. I gave them tons of recipe options designed to heal the gut while tasting yummy. They couldn’t see at first but once they started tasting they were hooked ;).

God has provided us with so many delicious options… naturally.  Vegetables and fruit actually taste good. Really really good. The problem is that we are disconnected from what REAL food taste like.  Think about it: How much of what most folks eat is fresh? Frozen, boxed, canned… all ways of life in our culture.  As a result things are overly salted, drenched in sugar and loaded with bad fat. All in an effort to mask the fact that we are eating food ‘products’ not food. The result: we think we do not like REAL food.

Through this Challenge I’ve set out to change that those entrusted to me with this go ’round. We’ve examined real food and why your body needs it. We discussed our bad habits and how good it feels to let them go… even if for only 21 days.  And we’ve whined and complained and lamented like school girls. It’s been loads of fun.

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for the love of veggies

I’ve seen major breakthroughs.

Here are some outtakes from our group:

“I do like Green Tea and Kale. I do, I do….thank you Sag-I-Am”

“I’ve already lost 4.8 lbs since I’ve started on Saturday”

“Food I once “hated”, I am loving. I am still not a fan of beets, but I do LOVE onions and peppers now (well sweet peppers).” 

“I love this style of eating. I will be looking for a vegetarian cookbook soon. I may add turkey and grilled chicken but not like before.”

 “They say it takes 21 days to break a habit. I am trying to replace those bad habits with good ones. I don’t want to use the word deprived….cause we r not. But I don’t want bad food choices to be the bad boyfriend that I kept around when he should have been kicked to the curb a long time ago”

“I am ONLY buying ORGANIC. Organic is pricey, but then life is priceless, this is my new motto.”

“I find my appetite has decreased.”

“Ran a 10k and had energy throughout the race”

“I don’t know if I lost weight but I feel like a million bucks. I don’t feel bloated and I can work out hard without having eaten meat. I’ve learned a lot so far but what I’ve learned most is that the commercial teaching in health and wellness is wrong..way wrong. Everything is time-weight based, “lose 10 lbs in 5 sec”…”get bikini ready in 8 weeks…flatten your tummy in 3 days with these easy tricks… It’s a bit fat juicy lie. I went to Publix to get my husband some Cheetos. Yup he sent me to get Cheetos – but I looked at the store differently. All these beautiful brightly colored packages full of non food. Now friends I’m not saying I’ll never eat a chip again..maybe a tortilla chip but I am saying this entire experience is of the mind which results in change of the body.”

Love. It. All.

April has done an amazing job of helping these ladies tap into the mental/emotional/spiritual side of things.  Those of us who do this work know that it is largely mental. Her prescribed  yoga moves and guided meditation round out the experience.  Her inspiration and loving support provides balance to my ‘dictatorship’ (yeah I was referred to as such early on- told you it got ugly lol) Another pleasant surprise gone terribly right. 🙂

I am so impressed with these ladies. Most have stayed the course. They took the early licks like champs and offer encouragement and enthusiasm to each other every day. I always say I learn just as much (if not more) from my clients as they do from me. This group is no exception. A real class act.

In personal news:

I am cleansing right alongside these ladies and I feel amazing. Although I don’t regret the pound cake, I am happy to be back on track with an eating style that works best for my body. CrossFit is on hold and I have taken up Reformer Pilates. I chose pilates for a number of reasons but three come to mind immediately: 1) my concern about disease progression in my joints/muscoskeletal system 2) who doesn’t want to look like a dancer? and 3) The instructor has a sign in her studio that says “All the hotties take Pilates”. A direct quote from her husband. Sold. 🙂

As always Jan is up for a challenge so we are taking classes together. She’s been doing mat pilates for years. I’ve dabbled here and there but the contraptions (reformer, cadillac, etc…) is new to us both. We love it. Check out our moves:

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Well… one move but isn’t it a beaut!

Eat Your Damn Veggies (Why I don’t peddle supplements)

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I find  that people often use supplements for the wrong reasons. And I am not just talking about adrenaline pumped muscle heads. I’m talking about the ‘normal’ people I work with. Seeking supplements can be an act of desperation. When “dieting” has failed (let’s face it: it typically does) or when new symptoms surface as we age.  While there is no shortage of magic beans promising vitality, there is just no for substitute for quality nutrition and exercise. You can’t eat crap, pop a pill, (so-called ‘natural’ or otherwise) and expect a miracle. Which leads me to my soapbox: It all starts with food. In my opinion, there is no need to supplement if you are eating a variety of high quality vegetables and fruit unless you have an identified nutritional deficit. Now some would argue that our diet and lifestyle creates nutritional deficits for all of us in some regard. I don’t disagree. However, I still think it is important to consider WHY you feel you need supplements before taking them.  In addition, how you supplement can make all the difference. Not all supplements are created equal. The quality of the original food source, manufacturing/processing practices, and shelf stability can all have an impact on efficacy. All of this should be discussed with your trusted health care professional.

Okay, so now that is out the way let me tell you what I really think. 😉

Not a big fan of multivitamins.

There, I said it.

First of all stop whining and eat your damn veggies. If you do have an issue consider first what is missing NUTRITIONALLY and identify what is needed to address that issue. Trying to cram your diverse needs into one pill doesn’t make sense to me. Shortcuts don’t work long term. Also,  choose the source of your supplements very carefully. The way I see it, most supplement companies are right behind Big Pharma when it comes to preying on sick folk. I give anyone the side-eye that suggest I take something without discussing diet and activity.  I also am not really crazy about the person who makes a recommendation to me making a profit on said recommendation. Muddies the waters a bit.  This is also another reason why I don’t sell supplements. Now before you get all defensive of your Vitamin E, let me clearly state that I take supplements every single day. I have a chronic illness and I feel that they help me tremendously.

Food sources for vitamins we often find laking in our diet

Food sources for vitamins we often find laking in our diet

and I feel that they help me tremendously. BUT a lot of thought goes into what I take. Personal example of why/how I supplement: I have an identified problem with inflammation so I have increased my intake of oily fish, coconut and olive oil, nuts, beets, ginger and turmeric. I periodically take supplements because my health is compromised and it is widely believed that we are all lacking the oils needed in our diet. However, I do a great deal of research before I take anything. Did you know that not all Omega 3 Fatty acids are created equal? Tips on choosing a quality Omega 3 supplement: 1) Know the Source of your Omega 3. If you are vegan or vegetarian, you are going to want to avoid fish sources by looking for ELA (sourced from nuts, seeds, legumes and vegetable oils, etc..). Fish eaters should look for quality EPA (anti-inflammatory) or DHA (improves cognitive function) . Vegans/vegetarians can also source these supplements from algae. 2)Check the amount of the actual oils in the supplement. Many supplements have fillers that should not be considered when determining dosage. I take my oils straight. No chaser. 🙂 3)Check for purity. Companies who have high purity standards want you to know it and it you won’t have a hard time finding them on their label. Also check out consumerlab.com. For a small investment, you will have access to independent testing done on many supplement brands. They let you know if the product contains what it says it does. I really believe in shopping around. Getting your produce from the market, meat from the butcher, and bread from a bakery might be very inconvenient but it makes sense right? Same with supplements. I don’t recommend particular supplements because every body is different. My needs/lifestyle may call for a regiment that wouldn’t work for someone else. It is important for each person to get to learn their body and listen to its cues. A few other rules of thumb for me: I rotate my supplements.  I take as many as 9 supplements but never on the same day. There are one or two that I take daily (namely my oils), The others I rotate. I think it is less disruptive to my gut this way.  I also take most of my supplements at night. If I do burp salmon, I don’t notice and my husband hasn’t complained. Again, don’t implement anything on  MY plan until discussing it with your healthcare professional.   One more thing: EAT YOUR DAMN VEGGIES.