Wednesday, October 1, 2014

HERBAL MEDICINE: TINCTURES

For a simple elderberry tincture recipe click HERE. Unfortunately here in Minnesota the elderberry season is over.  I was lucky to find a bush that hadn't been picked over by the birds but not lucky enough to have my tincture ready before my youngest caught a respiratory infection :( 

Elderberries, when taken orally,  are best for treating both influenza A and B.  A lot of "anti-natural" medicine people point to the lack of research when it comes to using herbs to treat certain ailments but elderberry has been well researched and its potency proven.  The research conducted by Israeli virologist Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu used elderberry syrup and results showed it cut the duration of the flu by half and invitro tests also showed it was 99% effective at fighting the Avian and H1N1 flu viruses. Our family uses elderberry tincture as a preventative.

If you want to make an elderberry tincture but can't find the berries you can always order them from HERE and HERE.

NOTE: for anyone questioning whether all elderberries are created equal. There is more than one variety of elderberry and the research that was done was on the Sambucus Nigra.  Back in 2009 I was told not to use anything but Sambucus Nigra in my tinctures when trying to prevent the flu but herbalist have now changed their opinion on that.  What I've been told by several herbalists in 2014 is that you can use the berries from any variety of elderberry for a tincture to prevent the flu. 

This is the elderberry we grabbed this year. Notice they are still a little light.

These are elderberries we've picked in the past, this is the color you really want your elderberries
to be when you pick them.

So for the simple details on tinctures let's start with the best book I have found on making herbal medicines.  The Herbal Medicine Maker's Handbook has all the little details someone interested in herbal healing likes.  In this book you get the who, what, and why of herbal medicine and not just a bunch of recipes.  Tinctures are not the only thing James Green covers in his book, he also covers lotions & creams, oil infusion, syrups, etc...



Don't know what a tincture is? A tincture is an herbal extract that is taken orally; under the tongue or swallowed (< children often do this instead of holding under the tongue). 

Why under the tongue? Because it is the fastest way into your bloodstream. 

Example for those that may not understand why we put tinctures under the tongue: my sister has a seizure disorder and anytime she has a seizure that lasts longer than a minute we can give her a drug called Ativan.  It is liquid form and the drops go under the tongue, Morphine is often given this way also and the reason is because it's fast acting, faster than if you swallowed it. Swallowing medication requires it go through the gut but a tincture immediately goes into the bloodstream.  The best explanation I could find to share with my blog readers (for when you have time to read) is HERE.  The gist of it is just this:
"When you swallow a pill, it must go through your entire gastrointestinal tract. This means the stomach (with acid and bile), the intestines (where most absorption takes place) and then off to the liver, for some more filtering. And THEN it's delivered to where it's needed. 
Truthfully, it's the long way, when you think about it. Going under the tongue bypasses this entire route, and delivers the medication right to the bloodstream. No waiting, no roadblocks -- just right into the blood and off to do its job."
So tinctures are drops you place under the tongue so their beneficial properties can be delivered into your bloodstream quickly to do their job.  You usually take a specified amount of a tincture (ex. 2-5 drops) and then hold it there for about 10-20 seconds.  There isn't usually any swallowing because the tincture will absorb quickly. 

How do you know how much to take?  Dosing of any med, whether natural or created in a lab, depends on several factors and those usually are your weight, age and ailment.  To better understand dosing and contraindications of herbal medicine I suggest this book HERE.  Herbalist Matthew Alfs explains proper dosing, what herbs conflict with others, when it is and isn't safe for someone to ingest a particular herb, etc... Since natural meds can be just as dangerous as some modern medications it is best to get a book like 300 Herbs to make sure you are being as safe as possible when ingesting herbs. (warning: don't follow info you find on the web, most of the sites online will tell you take 2-3 drops of pretty much any tincture and that isn't accurate information).  



If in doubt about the efficacy of herbal meds do a little research, what you'll learn is that most of the time when someone says they've tried an herbal remedy and it didn't work was because they just crushed up a bunch of leaves and made a tea or they grabbed something off the shelf at the local co-op without understanding the ingredients, how much to take and whether it was truly best for them.  Remember, once upon a time the use of herbal remedies was much more formal. 
way back when the eople paid a lot more attention to dosage and contraindications of plants until modern medicine took over, made everyone believe that plant medicine was quackery and now when people dabble in natural health modalities they do it without a lot of understanding of how it works and then they walk away with a negative opinion of it.  Herbs work, some are overhyped and some under appreciated but the more you learn about them the easier for you to pick and choose what is best for you.