Plants heal us and take care of us since our human history on this planet began, they are always at our service. When I pick one of them to make an infusion or tincture, I approach it carefully, with respect and familiarity. I ask permission and take a very small portion, making a clean and oblique cut with sharp and disinfected scissors, taking care of it, and this is also a priority.
By Horacio Mesón
When harvesting let’s keep in mind that the flowers are picked at the moment of greatest splendour. The leaves before flowering. Bark in autumn and roots after the life cycle of the plant. Never collect grasses found on roadsides as they absorb smog toxins, nor from fumigated or polluted places. Collect on a sunny day, making sure that the plants are free of dewdrops and avoiding hours of strong sunlight.
Flowers and leaves are not washed, only shaken to remove dust. Roots are washed only with water and a brush. The leaves and flowers are dried in the shade and in a ventilated place, the bark and roots in the sun. When dried, they are stored in a wooden paper bag with a name and date on it. The dried herbs last for about a year and weigh half as much as fresh herbs due to the evaporation of the water.
The best known ways of extracting their properties are:
Infusion, tisane or tea: it is made by pouring boiling water over leaves and flowers. It should be covered, left to steep for a few minutes and then strained.
Decoction: place roots, bark and/or hard stems in cold water. Put on the heat and boil for 3 to 5 minutes from the first boil, then cover and leave to stand for a few minutes before straining.
For both preparations the ratio is approximately one teaspoon of dry or twice as much fresh herb per cup of water. Containers that can be used are glass, or enameled, earthenware or stainless steel, but not aluminium because it is toxic. They can be sweetened with honey and the sweet herb Stevia can be recommended for diabetics.
Mother tincture: this is a hydro-alcoholic extract containing the active principles of the plant in high concentration.
It all starts with the selection of the herb to be prepared and ends in a few weeks with a careful straining. In between there are a series of steps and moments that should be linked by a careful procedure, in each of these steps the product can be enhanced or degraded. The procedure is as important as the elements, as is the health and quality of the plant, the cleanliness of the objects and the place, and the state of the operator.
We will need a sterilised (boiled) glass jar, those used for sweets and jams of about two hundred cubic centimetres or so. Also ethyl alcohol 96 degrees “tridistilled”, this is a medicinal alcohol just like the classic one. Only this particularity of having two more distillations than the other makes the flavour and aroma disappear, there is no invasive impact. It is used in perfumery, in gastronomy, in liquor and in phytotherapy as well; it can be found in pharmacies, chemists and markets.
We need to have at hand a liquid measuring jug, a disposable syringe without needle, some labels and a pen. As the tincture is a hydroalcoholic extract, we need water. The most convenient is bi-distilled water (not distilled), which is available in pharmacies or chemists. Boiled tap water can be used, but according to its alkaline value, if the pH is high when mixed with alcohol it changes the colouring of the whole fluid; it then becomes milky and loses its crystallinity, due to the minerals in its composition. The bi-distilled alcohol is of pharmacopoeia quality and, like the tridistilled alcohol, both are suitable for human consumption.
Twenty grams of cedron fill the bottle, in the case of oregano, because its leaf is smaller, more than twenty grams can fit. In the case of eucalyptus, it is the other way round, it has a more crystallised leaf, with less weight and more volume. But in all cases, we do not fill the container (jar), only three quarters of it (almost full). If the cedron leaves are large, I grind them with my fingers, with my own clean hands, look at their colour and shape, touch their texture, feel their temperature and smell their profundity.
The proportions between water and alcohol depend on the type of leaf or if it is a root. If it is a root, there is no water, it is 100% tridistilled alcohol. It all depends on the hardness, if it is a tender leaf such as cedron or oregano, the proportion is 70 % alcohol and 30 % water, and if the leaf is harder, the quantity of water decreases.
The material from which the active principles are to be extracted must be submerged in the solution and then passed through the solution for one to two fingers. A label with the name and date is placed on it, and I also indicate the day I consider it to be ready. It is at least two to three weeks, I prefer three and every day we need to move it a little. It is convenient to keep it in a place that does not have light and that is cool, it is not necessary to have a fridge, it can be in a cupboard or a sideboard.
When the expected moment arrives, with an unused paper filter, I strain it and transfer it to another container, which I also label with the title and date, always like this. With the syringe, we transfer it to a clean dropper that we label and this is the end of the procedure. The product is finished, all that remains is to start taking it.
Dosage: we need to make a calculation and for this we need to know what our weight is, let’s give an example. If you weigh sixty kilos, calculate one drop of mother tincture for each kilogram. This number (sixty) is divided by the number of doses taken during the day. If you take them in the morning before breakfast and in the evening before dinner, divide by two, giving thirty drops for each dose. If we add half a day, we divide by three, this gives twenty drops at a time.
The drops are placed in half a glass of water and drink it, if you want to remove the alcohol (this is the most advisable), it can be achieved with a very simple practice. In this case it is half a glass of hot water at about seventy or eighty degrees (before boiling), put the drops in it and in a few minutes after it has cooled down you can drink it. The alcohol has evaporated. Finally, if you only want to take it occasionally, thirty drops are fine.
We still need to go deeper into dosages, particularly micro doses. We need to talk about progress indicators, treatments and a central theme, which is lifestyle.
I will now take a break to take a tincture of lemon balm, which is already warm. I add a little rich and creamy honey which makes it gentler and healthier, generating a register of wellbeing that I want to share with you.
See you next time.
Bibliography consulted: “Plantas de la Patagonia para la Salud” by Dr. Sara Itkin, naturopathic doctor and phytotherapist. Editorial Caleuche San Carlos de Bariloche, Negro, Rep. Argentina. November 2004.