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The Herbalist’s Toolkit

November 30, 2015

Recently I was asked which kind of herbal remedy I prefer: teas or tinctures. It’s a common topic of discussion among herbalists, and my answer is: it depends.

 

I’ve become a really big fan of Susun Weed style nourishing herbal infusions (1 ounce of dried herb into a quart sized mason jar, fill with boiling water, cover tightly and let steep overnight, strain and drink the whole thing the following day) for many of the nourishing tonic herbs I used to take by tincture. Nettles, oatstraw, lemon balm, linden, burdock root, comfrey leaf and a few others are really amazing herbs taken like this on a rotating regular basis, and have eliminated my need for a lot of more acute activating herbs.


For specific illnesses that need treatment with more activating herbs in an allopathic sense, I’m a fan of tinctures. They’re shelf stable for effectively forever, they’re administered in pretty small doses, and they’re pretty portable for people on the go. I make tinctures as simple – single herb extracts – and then blend the finished tinctures into dosing blends when they’re needed. This gives me a long lasting herbal pharmacy that I can use to build specific medicines when needed. Very convenient, very potent, and I don’t have to wait for something to tincture when I need it right now.

For a few blends – notably for stomach issues – I find teas to be the best. These are plants – like chamomile and mint and ginger and basil and fennel – where mostly what I want from them are their aromatics, their essential oils. Tinctures aren’t great at preserving those, and no one needs to drink a whole quart of chamomile infusion. So for that purpose, a tea is best, so teas still have a place in my medicine chest.

For children, I love syrups, which are water infusions or decoctions that are mixed with honey and/or sugar after they’re strained. They’re tasty and easier to get into kids than tinctures, but they store a pretty long time, too.
It is often said that a small child with a hammer will see every problem as a nail. As herbalists, we have a wide range of tools available to us. Sometimes one tool works better than another. So if you want to get the most out of your herbal toolkit, keep it an abundant and varied one, so that you can choose the best tool for the job.

What’s your favorite herbal tool? Tell us in the Comments below!

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