gather and grow

Homegrown, hand-spun living in the city

As I mentioned in a post this summer, learning about, crafting, and using herbal medicine is something I am slowly incorporating into the way we do things as a family. The more I learn about the amazing properties of the plants around us, the more it seems like a waste NOT to make use of them — not only in food and dyeing, but also in alleviating various ailments. As a child of two doctors, I am no stranger to conventional medicine and, in fact, for a long time harbored a bit of a suspicion towards natural treatments. But I’ve come to think that both approaches have their place. And something that herbal medicine has going for it that is quite a plus, especially in this country, is that it can be if not completely free, extremely low-cost.

This summer, I moved from salves and syrups to poultices and tinctures. Tinctures! I have to ask myself sometimes if I make them just for the health benefits, or perhaps because they are so easy to make… apothecary2

… or because of the jewel tones of the little jars as the tinctures are being steeped on a sunny windowsill…apothecary3

… or because all those little glass bottles are so darn cute all lined up together?


Introducing our home apothecary! My old little writing desk has occupied a corner of our dining room, somewhat forgotten and purposeless, ever since I got myself a bigger work desk. But now it has found its new purpose. I keep my salves, syrups, tinctures, essential oils and dried herbs for tea in the top compartment of the desk for easy access. The drawers below contain supplies for future medicine-making, such as beeswax, glycerin, aloe, oils, cheesecloth, and more of said darn cute bottles.

Basic instructions for making tinctures:

Chop the herbs fine and put them in a clean glass jar. Pour in either 80 to 100 proof alcohol, vinegar, or vegetable glycerin (which is what I used), enough to cover the herbs by a couple of inches. Put the jar in a sunny spot and let soak for 4-6 weeks, shaking daily. Strain and store in a clean bottle or jar. Take as directed either by the dropperful or diluted in tea or water. A tincture will keep for 1 year if you used vinegar, 2-3 years in case of glycerin, and several years with alcohol.

Good beginner’s herbs to make tinctures with: echinacea, cinnamon, tulsi, yarrrow, St. John’s wort, dandelion, burdock, valerian.

Needless to say, consult a reliable resource before either making or taking herbal medicine. My go-to sources are Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs, Herbal Healing for Women (also by Rosemary Gladstar) and Richo Cech’s Making Plant Medicine.

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