OUTLINE OF PREPARATION METHODS
After pre-moistening a bit, wrap one part herb (dry weight) in
cloth and suspend it in 32 parts of water (by volume) at room temperature, overnight.
Squeeze out the herb into the tea in the morning, and add enough water to bring
it back to 32 parts.
Boil 32 parts of water, remove from heat, and steep one part (by weight) of
the herb in the water for 20-30 minutes. Strain, and pour sufficient water through
the herb in the strainer to return the volume of tea to 32 parts.
Combine 32 parts of water with one part of herb (by weight), bring slowly to
a boil, continue for ten minutes, cool until warm, and strain. Pour additional
water through the herb to return the volume to 32.
A WEAK DECOCTION
is the same, but using half as much herb in the same volume of water.
Except for the weak decoction, the above teas
end up with an ounce having the constituents of a gram of herb. If the dosage
recommends 4 ounces of Strong Decoction, and you only want a single batch, use
4 grams of herb, or divide an ounce of herb into eight equal parts and use one
part for the tea. (Yes, they aren't quite equal...4 grams and an eighth of an
ounce...but these are HERBS...lighten up already).
DO NOT MAKE MORE THAN A DAY'S WORTH OF TEA AT ONE TIME.
EYEWASH and DOUCHE
Make an isotonic water by adding a slightly rounded teaspoon of salt to a quart
of clean water (1/2 teaspoon per pint, 1/4 teaspoon per cup), and make the tea
with this solution as per the recommended strength. Make a fresh batch every
FRESH PLANT TINCTURE
One part by weight of the fresh, chopped herb is steeped for 7-10 days in two
parts by volume of grain alcohol (190 proof or 95% ethanol), and pressed or
squeezed out. There is no reason to blend or shake this maceration; the tincture
is formed passively as a result of dehydration. Ethanol draws out all plant
constituents that contain water, leaving only cellulose and dead tissue behind.
DRY PLANT TINCTURE
If the Materia Medica calls for a [1:5, 60% alcohol] tincture, it means this:
your solvent is 60% alcohol and 40% water (the water is presumed), and one part
of herb by weight has been invested in five parts of solvent by volume. Let
me run you through one. You have four ounces of dried Blue Cohosh roots, which
you then grind and sift down to a fairly consistent coarse powder. The four
ounces (1) must be mixed with 20 ounces of solvent (5). The solvent is 60% alcohol,
the rest water, so you mix 12 ounces of ethanol and 8 ounces of water to get
the final volume. Mix both together in a closed jar, and shake the mixture up
for a couple of minutes twice a day. After 10-14 days of this, let it set another
day, pour off the clear tincture from the top, and squeeze as much out of the
sediment as your press or wrists allow. The 20 ounces of solvent (called menstruum)
and 4 ounces of herb, may yield up 13-14 ounces of tincture (by wrist) and up
to 17 ounces (by press); the rest is immutably held in the sediment (calle marc).
This remnant moisture is full strength tincture, and eventually this knowledge
drives one out of four herbalists stark raving nuts. The resultant attempts
to constantly upgrade hydraulic presses rivals the feeding frenzy at computer
DRY PLANT TINCTURE
This is a method that needs physical demonstration and hands-on practice. That
being said, this is a brief run down of the process. The same Blue Cohosh has
been freshly ground as before. Pack it into a measuring cup to check its compressed
volume...probably about six ounces. The menstruum will need to be the 20 ounces
PLUS the 6 ounce volume the ground dry herb takes up. The proportion is the
same; 60% alcohol and 40% water. 60% of 26 ounces is 15.6 fluid ounces (the
alcohol), 40% is 10.4 (water). This gives you your 26 ounces of 60:40 menstruum.
Place the powdered herb in a little mixing bowl with a top, add about two-thirds
as much menstruum as the herb took up in volume. It took up six ounces in volume,
so add four ounces of menstruum to the herb, and mix it thoroughly, then cover
it. This may be confusing; the herb WEIGHS 4 ounces, but FILLS 6 ounces of volume.
The reason for checking its VOLUME will become apparent. Anyway, the menstruum-moistened
herb needs to stay covered and digesting for at least 12 preferably 24 hours.
Now you will need a percolating cone...didn't I mention that? Me and my students
find that a large Perrier bottle with its bottom removed sits upsidedown inside
a large-mouthed Mason jar very nicely, and the screw cap can be used to control
the rate of drip out of the bottom (former top). Anyway, you will need to place
some moistened herb inside a coffee filter cone, slide it into the neck of the
cone, and gradually add the moistened herb on top. It needs to be compressed
and compacted onto the first batch, until you have an evenly distributed column
of herb inside the cone. Place a filter on the level herbcolumn, and pour some
menstruum slowly on top. The menstruum should descent evenly down the herb column,and
drip from the bottom at about one drip per second. If it never drips out the
bottom, you packed too tight. If it drips too quickly (drools is a better word),
lift the cone out of the Mason jar, and screw the cap on until the drool becomes
a slow drip. Keep fresh menstruum covering the top of the herb until it all
drips through. This can take one or two hours (or more). When it has finished,
there will be 20 ounces of tincture in the Mason jar, and the last six ounces
of menstruum (virtually inert) will stay in the herb column, like a moist sponge.
Toss it. Now you see why you need to measure the dry herb volume; you make just
enough menstruum for that batch of tincture, and you won't have little jars
with left-over excess menstruums that are impossible to compute into another
batch with different proportions. Every Pharmacist has a copy of Remington's
Pharmaceutical Sciences, which describes the process in great detail, and explains
why you get better tinctures when percolating.
Briefly, take 8 ounces of Tabebuia (Pau D'Arco), grind it, make up an arbitrary
amount of menstruum (let's say four times as much, or 32 ounces). The tincture
lists a 50% strength; make your fluidextract menstruum 20% higher in alcohol
content (i.e. 70%). Mix 22.4 ounces of alcohol with 9.6 ounces of water to get
a quart of 70% alcohol menstruum. Take the Tabebuia, moisten it, digest it for
TWO days, pack a larger cone with it, and drip (very slowly) a first batch of
tincture that is only 75% of the volume as the original dry herb weighed. This
means after you have dripped 6 fluid ounces, take it away, and continue dripping
everything else into a second jar. As the rest of the menstruum finally starts
to sink below the top of the herb column, start adding water into the cone.
This second drip can be any amount you wish...a quart, two quarts, whatever.
You will need to evaporate it all in a double boiler until it is reduced to
25% in volume of the herb weight...2 ounces in this case. Add the vile remnant
of th second percolation to the 6 ounces from the first percolation, and you
now have 8 ounces of fluidextract, made from 8 ounces of Tabebuia Bark. A Fluidextract
is by definition 1:1 in strength.