The methods to my madness

Part 1: Tinctures

Did I say “madness”? Ok, so maybe it’s just my unique slant on the world. Maybe it’s eccentricity. Or maybe I’m just a silly old woman who believes in spirituality and natural  remedies. It’s probably that I’m just goofy. Either way, I knew eventually I’d have to get down to some recipes. Well, they aren’t exactly recipes. They are a guide to making things that help. You should be able to follow it and get stuff made. I’m not trying to stonewall you by keeping my recipes to myself (My mother did that. I have 40 cousins all asking why their food doesn’t taste like my mother’s did even though they use her recipes. I guess she had the last laugh!)

So, where was I? Oh yes, methods! There are several different ways to get herbs into creams, lotions and foods. The first I’ll discuss is a tincture.

There are lots of things you can make a tincture with. First you need to choose the herb you plan to use. Sometimes the herb dictates the carrier (oil, alcohol or water) but most work well in any of them.  I think we’ll start with horehound.

Horehound is an herb that’s been used for ages as a cough, sore throat and cold remedy. Perhaps you remember horehound cough drops from your childhood. They may have been called “Old Fashioned Cough Drops”. They had a strong, minty flavor that nipped at the inside of your mouth and made it feel cold when you breathed in. 

You can buy horehound on Amazon, or you can grow it yourself! The particular plant/herb is White Horehound. It can be used fresh or dried. I’ve used it both ways and haven’t noticed much of a difference.

Since you’re going to be ingesting these we’ll use either water or good old booze to make our tincture. I’m going to be cooking these into a hard candy, so instead of using booze (probably high proof vodka or everclear) I’ll use water. I use mason jars for my tinctures. They have nice tight tops and can be heated or chilled. 

I use soft stems, leaves and flowers of horehound in my tincture. And we’re going to infuse it in water. There are two ways to do this. Either way you fill the jar with the horehound. Next you decide whether you’re going to make this today or later this week.

Today? Pour boiling water over the herbs and let it sit for a couple of hours to really steep. Yup, you’ve got it. We’ve made a tea! Teas are fast and easy tinctures and can be drank as is or used in recipes. 

If you’re making this later you can just pour cold water over it, cover it tight and place it in the refrigerator. It can sit there for up to two weeks, but is ready to use after 4 days. 

When making horehound cough drops you need to decide what level of medicinal you’d like. The cough drops work pretty well on their own, but a bit of cannabis helps without causing a big high.

Cannabis tinctures are a bit more involved. First you need to decarboxylate your herbs. Decarboxylation (and I know it’s probably spelled wrong, but spell check hates this word!) is easy, but it will make your entire house smell like a Cheech & Chong movie.

Set your oven on 200 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Break up your herbs and separate them so they’re pretty spread out. Clumps won’t decarboxylate as well. (I should tell you that I don’t use buds for this. Trimmings are a lot easier to use and really work rather well.) I sometimes use a coffee grinder to cut up the herbs, but I’ve found that it makes it very difficult to strain when using glycerin as my carrier. So I suggest you just let it be as it is, but break it into smaller pieces. OK, now place it into the oven for 40 minutes. Yep, that’s it! See, decarboxylation might sound difficult, but it’s really pretty easy!

Next put your herb into a mason jar (See, they keep coming up, and that will continue.) Pour vegetable glycerin over the herb until it’s just covered. You do not want this to come to the top of the jar! If it does, use a bigger jar!

The next step is the most tedious, waiting! Place the jar into a crock pot. Place the cover on and turn it to low. Now leave it alone for at least 6 hours. Overnight is good too. It won’t burn in the crock pot (unless the thermostat in the pot is broken) and it shouldn’t boil over. 

When you take it out pour it into a strainer that’s been lined with cheese cloth. Let it sit for several hours to strain through. You can gently squeeze the cheese cloth  at the end of the time, but don’t force the herb through the cloth. You want that dark green to remain liquid.

And if you’re planning to use some of that herb for yourself, the left over cannabis is sweet and can be used to make or added to and steeped as tea. It’s usually pretty potent still, though you need to use about a tablespoon or two for each cup. 

The next tincture we won’t be using at all after this because there’s just no use for it in the horehound cough drops. It’s an alcohol tincture. 

Prepare your herb by chopping  and or decarboxylating it. Use your own judgement on that. Next stuff it into a mason jar just like you did the other herbs. Next pour high proof vodka or Everclear over the herbs to cover them. Cover the jar and place in a cool, dark place for at least 4 weeks. This tincture can be strained and placed in a bottle with a dropper for dosing. (Remember, if you’re using cannabis it takes up to two hours for it to “kick in”. Always start with a small dose and wait for at least two hours before taking more. There’s nothing worse than a bad high!)

The last tincture is made with an oil carrier. This can be made exactly like the glycerin OR the alcohol tincture. Please note: if you aren’t using an edible oil please don’t use this in your food! Tinctures made in olive oil can be used for cooking. I often use a basil infused oil in my sauces and my husband loves to dip bread in rosemary and garlic infused oil. Herbs infused in sweet almond oil can be used in creams, salves, lotions and soaps. Actually, anything infused in olive or other vegetable oils can also be used in creams, salves, lotions and soaps. If it’s fat or oil you can make it into a topical.

OK folks, that’s it for today. In the next few days I’ll give you some instructions on how to make those cough drops. Hmm, now that I think about it, I’m out of them. Might be time to make more!

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