31 March 2015

"There was never a genius without a tincture of madness" - Aristotle

A tincture is a concentrated herbal extract using alcohol as the solvent.  It is also a common, and reliable, way to preserve herbs and their medicinal properties.  They can be taken straight (using a sprayer, a teaspoonful, or a dropper), or diluted into a tea.  They can be made from fresh or dried herbs, though drying the herbs first concentrates the oils, as I understand it.  

I've recently made up a couple of tinctures for use through the winter - one chamomile (using german chamomile, not roman, as apparently it's the german with the medicinal goodness) and one mixed herbs.  I used vodka as my alcohol, though you can also use rum, or even ethanol, though that seemed a little hardcore for me.  It's mixed equally with boiling water, so by the time it reaches your, or your child's, mouth it's pretty diluted and you really needn't worry about the alcohol level of what you're giving them.  Numerous cough mixtures we buy at the chemist are alcohol-based anyway, as are a lot of commercially-produced (and hideously expensive) elixirs and tinctures.  

The chamomile is for soothing and relaxing throat muscles, to stymie persistent coughs (you know when you start coughing and then it becomes almost impossible to stop?!).  According to Katie, from the Wellness Mama blog, it's also great for babies with sore teeth and/or tummies (rub some onto their gums, or onto their stomachs), children and adults with sore ears or trouble sleeping, and even a spoonful to bring a hyped toddler out of the rafters and back to earth - useful when it's getting close to bedtime!  

The mixed herb tincture (I harvested and dried mint, sage and thyme from our vege garden) is to make a throat spray.  Basically i'll mix in some honey (raw honey, if you can get it) once I've strained the herbs out, and pour it into a bottle with a spray top.  Sore throat?  Spritz!  I hate having a sore throat, so am looking forward to seeing how effective it will be.  My stepson tends to get a few sore throats through winter too, which makes it harder to get to sleep, so will be good to have on hand.  

  1. So, get your dried herbs (I dried mine outside for about a week, hanging upside-down, then put them in our hot-water cupboard for a couple of days, so they were really dry and brittle) and crumble them into a large jar (mason jar, preserving jar, I used an empty gherkin jar...).  
  2. Pour boiling water over to cover, then a fraction more.  Pour in same amount of alcohol.  Make sure the alcohol is full-strength, so it preserves the herbs.  
  3. Store in cool, dark place for 4-6 weeks (you can use earlier, but it won't be as potent).  
  4. Strain through muslin/cheesecloth and decant into bottles for use.  
NB: I bought my chamomile from Go Native NZ.  

when I wake up in the morning at a quarter to 6, I brush my teeth, ch ch ch ch ch ch ch ch ch

Our 2-yr old isn't overly keen on our toothpaste.  Understandable, 'cause it's pretty strong and minty.  So we decided to give making our own toothpaste a go.  KB's brother and partner make their own and have been very happy with it.  All we needed was coconut oil and baking soda, with a couple of other optional ingredients, if we so chose.  KB and I tested it last night and, while the tea-tree taste was a trifle strong, it was palatable and seemed to do a good job.  Even more to the point - Finn used it this morning and quite happily brushed his teeth.  So, it's not in a convenient tube and the consistency will alter with the temperature (the oil will liquify if too hot and conversely harden when cold), but it's cheap, chemical-free and can be made easily in small batches (important given it's kept in wee pots, so to avoid potential for bacteria growth, especially if multiple family members are using the same pot - we've got bits of popsicle sticks to get out a bit each time, then throw those away.  

2 tbsp coconut oil (softened, but not liquid)
2 tbsp baking soda 
2 tbsp bentonite clay, powdered (to remineralise teeth, but also made paste a bit thicker)
2-3 drops essential oil - tea tree for anti-bacterial properties, peppermint or rosemary for freshness 
  1. Mix together and scrape into pottles.  Ba-bam, you're done.