Shi Hu, Dendrobium Nobile- “Immortality Herb”

This last May I was fortunate to travel to China with my school, East West School for Planetary Herbology, to do clinical training in a Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital.  On one of our field excursions, we toured a demonstration garden for the school.  In one greenhouse there were rows and rows of a low growing plant called Shi Hu. I found a piece of the plant on the ground put it into my pocket, hoping to root it when I got home.  At this point, I have a very small plant that made the long plane trip and is starting to put on growth.

Shi hu is an orchid plant that often grows adjacent to trees such as pear or peach.  The plant consists of a long, thin stem, which is golden yellow in color, with a flower at the end. Dendrobium Nobile, also known as the Noble Dendrobium or Shi Hu in Pinyin, has been used for the medicinal purpose for at least 2,000 years. Different varieties of dendrobium have different colors, but the most common colors are yellow and pink. The plant has a long thin stem that is used for various herbal and medicinal treatments. Shi Hu grows wild and is harvested from November to February although at this point, wild Shi Hu is overharvested and it is now being cultivated in greenhouses like the one we saw.  True Shi Hu refers to dendrobium orchid, but much of what is available on the market is a substitute rather than true dendrobium.  It is common to see products that are sold as “wild” Shi Hu, but this is a case where much of it is cultivated and not wild. Most frequently Shi Hu is available in bulk or granules. According to Eric Brand of Blue Poppy, the best way to test the quality of Shi Hu is to chew it. The more fibrous the less quality, the more sticky it is the better quality it is.

Shi Hu has been used for more than 2,000 years in traditional Chinese medicine.  In the Taoist Canon, a collection of Taoist literature from the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), it refers to Shi Hu as the first of nine “celestial herbs” with great health benefits.  In the Compendium of Materia Medica, written during the Ming Dynasty, Shi hu is described as affecting three channels of energy – the stomach, the lungs, and the kidneys.  The Chinese believe that the Dendrobium plant is ‘yin’ in nature and can be used to replenish fluids. It is commonly used as an Yin tonic to moisten the stomach, lungs and to replace kidney yin jing. It is very effective for treating conditions such as dry mouth, stomach pain, mouth sores, sunstroke, and other conditions caused by dry weather, pollution or smoke.

Let’s face it as we age we tend towards dryness and ingesting herbs that help to replenish fluids can be helpful.  Another reason that I love Shi Hu is that I often incorporate herbs into my soups and broths.  Shi hu has been used this way in Chinese cooking along with ginseng and chicken, duck, or lamb, for general health. Shi hu is now being adapted to new and creative uses including being made into juices and even dishes available at health spas. In a news article, I recently read, the flower of Shi Hu is made into a tea drink and even brewed into a clear liquor with 38 percent alcohol.

Among its many uses, the Chinese use dendrobium as a tonic for longevity. It is believed that when mixed with licorice roots and made into a tea it transmits healing energy to all parts of the body. There is a whole host of uses that are promoted in the commercial literature including the following:

  • Dendrobium helps moisten and nourish the skin and prevents dryness and flaky skin.
  • When air pollution and smoke dry out the lungs and air passages and increase thirst, dendrobium can be consumed for quick relief and to moisten the passageways.
  • Dendrobium is used as an effective tonic for the treatment of tuberculosis, flatulence, night sweats, anorexia, fever, and dyspepsia.
  • Dendrobium tonic improves the functioning of the lungs, kidneys, and stomach. It can reduce stomach pain and cramping and reduce vomiting.
  • It is believed that regular consumption of dendrobium can also treat sexual impotency.
  • Pain in the feet and hands, lumbago, and arthralgia can be treated with dendrobium extract.
  • Dendrobium can boost the immune system and help the body fight infections.
  • Dendrobium has long since been used to replenish lost fluids from the body and reduce severe thirst.
  • Natives of the Eastern Himalayas use dendrobium to heal problems with the eyes.
  • Dendrobium blossoms and stems are edible. Countries like Thailand and Singapore, deep fry these delicacies and eat them as snacks.
  • In Europe, dendrobium blossoms are used as edible cake decorations and as garnishes.
  • The Aborigines consider dendrobiums as emergency bush food.
  • Pickle is made from dendrobium flowers in Nepal.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine:

Energy: sweet, slightly cold

Actions: Generates body fluids for the stomach; nourishes stomach Yin, mildly nourishes kidney Yin; clears heat; brightens the vision; strengthens the lower back.

Uses:

Nourishes Yin, clears Heat and generates fluids Parched mouth, severe thirst or intractable fever associated with Yin Deficiency, most commonly when the Fluids are injured during a warm pathogen disease
Enriches Kidney Yin and reduces Heat from Deficiency Yin Deficiency Heat and depleted Fluids with a recalcitrant low-grade fever, dry and painful throat and a red tongue with no coat
Tonifies the Kidneys, augments Jing, brightens the eyes, strengthens the tendons and bones and strengthens the low back Dull vision, dizziness and low back weakness and pain associated with Kidney and Liver Deficiency
Nourishes Stomach and Lung Yin Stomach and Lung Yin Deficiency with Empty Fire Rising

http://www.americandragon.com/Individualherbsupdate/ShiHu.html

Additional Note:  According to Eric Brand it can trap an EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency) in the body and prolong the sickness. If there is a chance of EPI, Mai men dong or Yu zhu is a better choice.

  • Bensky D, Gamble A. Chinese Herbal Medicine. Seattle: Eastland Press, 1986.
  • Flaws B (translator). The Book of Jook. Chinese Medical Porridges: A Healthy Alternative to the Typical Western Breakfast. Boulder, CO: Blue Poppy Press, 1995.

Comfrey, Maggot Therapy and Cell Regeneration

I recently when down the research rabbit hole the other day when looking for comfreyinformation on comfrey (Symphytum officinale) finding an article about allantoin in the Society of Cosmetic Chemist, vol. 9, no 1, in 1958. The article was a survey of literature dealing with the therapeutic and cell proliferate action of allantoin, which of course, we know is an active chemical constituent in comfrey. What I did not know, was that maggots specifically Licilia sericata (sheep blowfly), were used during and immediately after World War I in the treatment of hard to heal wound infections.

Allantoin was first isolated and synthesized from uric acid in 1800. Naturally, it is found in comfrey, in small amounts in the urine of most mammals (with the exception of humans) and in greater amount in the urine of pregnant women.index It is a normal by-product of the oxidation process of uric acid by purine catabolism. Allantoin, in both maggot therapy and comfrey, works by increasing the water content of the extracellular matrix and enhancing the skin peeling or desquamation of upper layers of dead skin cells, increasing the smoothness of the skin, promoting cell proliferation and wound healing. Allantoin’s synthesized version is purported to be chemically equivalent to natural allantoin. It is deemed safe, non-toxic and is used in cosmetics, with over 10,00 patents. It is used extensively in the cosmetics industry primarily in moisturizers, toothpaste and in topical drugs to remove warts.

Maggot therapy or the use of maggots in healing have historical roots in use by aboriginal tribes, as did physicians during the Renaissance, and American Civil maggotsWar. Secretions from maggots have been found to have broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity including allantoin, urea, phenylacetic acid, and proteolytic enzymes. The resurgent interest in maggot therapy is currently underway with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granting permission to produce and market maggots for use in humans and animals in 2004. In fact, a company in Wales is now marketing teabags filled with maggots for wound healing.tea-bags-maggots

This brings us back to comfrey. In 50 AD, Dioscorides’ Materia Medica prescribed comfrey to heal wounds and broken bones. Comfrey, has long been viewed as a herb for treating broken bones, bronchial and respiratory issues, sprains, arthritis, healing wounds, and tissues. The plant contains allantoin, along with mucilage, saponins, tannins and pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA’s). Unlike maggot therapy, the presence of pyrrolizidine alkaloids prevents comfrey’s use the treatment of open wounds, where it is thought that it is absorbed. In fact, there is some speculation that the PA’s in comfrey are also absorbed through the skin, so harmful amounts may build up in the body. Comfrey is no longer sold in the U.S., except in creams or ointments. The United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Germany also have banned the sale of oral products containing comfrey. It is advised to not use comfrey on open woods or broken skin, consume internally if you have liver disease, a history of alcoholism or cancer. Furthermore, it is contraindicated for the elderly, children, pregnant or breastfeeding women. Leslie Tierra in an article “Comfrey Comfort” states, in an article “it is important to realize that a constituent with a negative effect may be neutralized, or greatly diminished when combined with other herbs in formulas”. This is true for many plants and might be considered in this instance. In both maggot therapy and comfrey, there are indications that both contain other substances that aid in the healing process.

Medicine making: Allantoin is slightly soluble in hydroethanolic solutions, but can be made to dissolve in an oily solvent with the use of an emulsifier, which comfrey naturally contains. It also is very soluble in alkaline or hot water. It can be decomposed by acids should be kept at a slightly acid Ph value. The roots contain higher amounts of PA’s than the leaves and flowers.

Resources:

Allantoin-Its properties and uses. A. M. Posner. http://journal.scconline.org/pdf/cc1958/cc009n01/p00058-p00061.pdf

Comparative Study of the Biological Activity of Allantoin and Aqueous Extract of the Comfrey Root

Savić VLj1, Nikolić VD2, Arsić IA1, Stanojević LP2, Najman SJ3, Stojanović S3, Mladenović-Ranisavljević II2.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25880800https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25880800

Controversial Comfrey: Super Healer or Lethal Poison. https://simpleunhookedliving.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/controversial-comfrey-super-healer-or-lethal-poison-3/

East West School of Planetary Herbology, Leslie Tierra “Comfrey Comfort”.

https://www.planetherbs.com/lesley-tierras-blogs/comfrey-comfort.html

 

Tinnitus-Ringing in the Ear, Treatment Options From Many Traditions

The Western allopathic approach to tinnitus is dramatically different from either Western Herbalism or Traditional Chinese Medicine in addressing this condition.

Western Allopathic Medicine: Tinnitus is the perception of sound when no actualindex3 external noise is present. Tinnitus is a non-auditory, internal sound that can be intermittent or continuous, in one or both ears, and either a low or high-pitch sound. The sounds of tinnitus have been described as whistling, chirping, clicking, screeching, hissing, static, roaring, buzzing, pulsing, whooshing, or musical. The volume of the sound can fluctuate and is often most noticeable at night or during periods of quiet. Tinnitus is often accompanied by a certain degree of hearing loss.

Tinnitus can be either an acute or temporary condition, or a chronic health malady. Millions of Americans experience tinnitus, often to a debilitating degree, making it one of the most common health conditions in the country. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that nearly 15% of the general public, over 50 million Americans, experience some form of tinnitus. Roughly 20 million people struggle with burdensome chronic tinnitus, while 2 million have extreme and debilitating cases.

In general, there are two types of tinnitus:

  • Subjective Tinnitus: Head or ear noises that are perceivable only to the specific patient. Subjective tinnitus is usually traceable to auditory and neurological reactions to hearing loss, but can also be caused by an array of other catalysts. More than 99% of all tinnitus reported tinnitus cases are of the subjective variety.
  • Objective Tinnitus: Head or ear noises that are audible to other people, as well as the patient. These sounds are usually produced by internal functions in the flow of blood or muscular-skeletal systems. It is often more like the sound of a heartbeat or pulsating. This type of tinnitus is very rare, representing less than 1% of total tinnitus cases.

index2Some medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, certain antibiotics, and diuretics can be “ototoxic” or cause damage to the inner ear, resulting in tinnitus.

Other possible causes of tinnitus are:

  • Head and neck injuries
  • Loud noises,
  • Ear infections
  • A foreign object, or earwax touching the eardrum
  • Eustachian tube (middle ear) problems
  • TMJ disorders
  • Stiffening of the middle ear bones
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Traumatic brain injury

There are also potential risk factors including the following:

  • Noise exposure from work, headphones, concerts, explosives
  • Smoking
  • Gender – men are affected more than women
  • Hearing loss
  • Age – older individuals have a higher likelihood of developing tinnitus

There is currently no scientifically valid cure for most types of tinnitus. There is, however, remedies that focus on diverting attention, addressing the emotional impact, and or cognitive therapy.

Western Herbalism: Tinnitus can serve as an important marker pointing to other potential health issues, since it a symptom and not a disease. Whatever the cause it tends to worsen in times of tension, stress and or muscle spasms. Stimulates like caffeine or nicotine, which increases vasoconstriction, can exasperate it. Furthermore, it can be caused by damaged fine hair cells of the inner ear. Although this cannot be reversed there might we some reduction felt in using some of the suggestions below. Stress reduction can often be helpful. Some herbs have been used to address tinnitus including black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) and more recently ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba).

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM): In TCM we know that the images6kidney qi communicates with the ears and that as we age or because of various states of health this can affect our qi, therefore the kidneys are often identified as root causes of tinnitus.

In approaching treatment of tinnitus, it is important to distinguish between an acute or sudden occurrence or a long-term tinnitus that gets worse over time or comes and goes. Furthermore, it is important to determine whether it is an excess-type or a deficiency-type of tinnitus. A key to this determination is that an excess type of tinnitus is often experienced in only one ear, while a deficiency based tinnitus tends to develop in both ears. The deficiency type usually gets better during the day and gets worse at night. A combination of deficiency and excess syndromes is possible, especially in persons with other illnesses or with tinnitus that has persisted for several years.

The following is a description of excess and deficiency patterns that might be able to better pinpoint treatment principles to be used.

Excess type #1, Hyperactive liver and gallbladder fire:

  • Sudden onset
  • Continual sound
  • Excess symptoms (a headache, flushed face, irritability)
  • Excessive anger, fright
  • Excessive use of alcohol

TCM formula: Long dan Xie Gan Tang (Gentiana Comb) with the addition of moutan, ligustrum, for persistent liver fire weakening the Kidney water.

Excess type #2, Phlegm Fire Syndrome

  • Intermittent ringing in the ears
  • Feeling of blocked ears
  • Chest stuffiness
  • Excess phlegm
  • Dizziness
  • Blockage manifesting as difficult urination or constipation

TCM formula: Wen Dan Tang (Bamboo and Hoelen Comb)

  • with the addition of pear, haliotis, uncaria (liver)
  • with lapis, scute, rhubarb and aquilaria (blockage of chest, constipation)
  • with dampness (Ban Zia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang)

Diet: avoid fat or spicy food

Deficiency type #1, Deficient Kidney Jing

  • Gradual worsening ringing
  • Dizziness
  • Backache
  • Deficient heat symptoms

TCM formula: Liu Wei Di Huang Wan (Rehmannia Six Formula) and schizandra.

TCM formula Er Long Zuo Ci Wan (Tinnitus Left Supporting Pills)

Deficiency type #2, Sinking Spleen Qi (yang def.)

  • Intermittently occurring tinnitus that is relieved through rest and reduced stress
  • Low energy
  • Poor appetite
  • Loose stools

TCM formula: Yi Qi Chong Ming Tang (Ginseng, Astragalus and Pueraria Comb.)

Lifestyle: stress reduction, adequate kidney and spleen building dietimages5

Ear Massage: There are several sites that have detailed directions for addressing tinnitus through massage:

The bottom line is that the early intervention is necessary for long-term success. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms outlined in any of the treatment options, seek the advice of a Physician or Clinical Herbalist (http://www.americanherbalistsguild.com/herbalists-and-chapters-near-you)

Sources:

Davis, Kathleen FNP. 2016. Tinnitus: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment. The University of Illinois-Chicago, School of Medicine. Available from

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/156286.php

Flaws, B Sionneau P. 2001. The Treatment of Modern Western Medical Disease with Chinese Medicine. Blue Poppy Press. p. 55-56.

Hoffmann, D. 2003. Medical Herbalism. Healing Arts Press. P372-373.

Dharmananda, S. Ph. D. 1998. Treatment of Tinnitus, Vertigo, and Meniere’s disease with Chinese herbs. Institute for Traditional Medicine. Available from http://www.itmonline.org/arts/tinmen.htm

 

 

Crack Leather: Fermented Fruit and Herb Leather

img_1635What do you get when you mix together a sprouted cracker recipe with a fruit leather recipe.  You get crack leather. Recently I was playing around with making fruit leather, based on another blog which I had written a while back, https://herbalgoddessmedicinals.wordpress.com/2015/04/18/making-medicinal-herbal-fruit-leather/.

I teach a class on cooking with medicinal herbs and am always trying to push the envelope with different creations.  In the class, we explore how one can incorporate medicinal herbs into cooking.  The use of tonic herbs (gentle food like herbs) into everyday cooking is prevalent in food from China and India.  One of the easiest techniques  is to combine astragalus in cooking broths and soups.

Now to get back to crack leather. For this experiment, I decided to incorporate sprouted seeds and nuts into the fruit leather along with some powdered medicinal herbs.  Sprouting of seeds and nuts replicates germination, which activates and multiplies nutrients (particularly Vitamins A, B, and C), neutralizes enzyme inhibitor’s, and promotes the growth of vital digestive enzymes. Taking it a step further,  I also opted to ferment the leather before I dried it.  After checking in my with local fermentation expert, Kristy Shapla the author of the Brew Your Medicine, on whether fermentation would destroy the healthy probiotic fermentation, she assured me that if I kept the temps below 110 degrees it would be fine.  I am a firm believer that the fermentation of herbs assists with the bioavailability of their chemical constituents, not to mention the added benefit of incorporating fermented food into your daily diet. The fermenting of herbs is increasingly finding its way into supplements and has been shown to increase the herbs bioavailability,

I am a firm believer that the fermentation of herbs assists with the bioavailability of their chemical constituents, not to mention the importance of incorporating fermented food into your daily diet. The fermenting of herbs is increasingly finding its way into supplements and has been shown to increase the herbs bioavailability, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ptr.2758/abstract

The results were delicious.  This recipe is fairly loose and is open to lots of substitutes including the addition of other herbal powders, nuts, and dried fruits.  The secret is to make sure the mixture is not too liquid or too thick, rather the consistency of thick pancake batter.

Equipment:

  • Food dehydrator or lowest temperature in the oven
  • Fruit leather latex sheets or cookie sheet
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Wooden spoon

Ingredients:

  • 2 cup flax seeds
  • 1/3 cup tbsp chia seeds, sprouted
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cup herbal tea (I used nettle, ginger and rose hips)
  • 1 Tablespoon maca and Shatavari (you can use any combination of herbal powders)
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds, sprouted
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds, sprouted
  • 1 1/2 cup of chunky applesauce
  • 1/4 cup of yogurt
  • 1½ tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 3 tbsp za’ atar

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients together in large bowl, adding more herbal tea or water to the mixture so it is the consistency of pancake batter.  Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let sit in dark warm place for 24-48 hours. When ready heap a couple of large spoonfuls of mixture onto food dryer sheets or  cookie sheet.  Spread evenly to about 1/4 of an inch thick. The secret of spreading the thick mixture is to use a wooden spatula that you keep dipping in water.  Dry thoroughly, 110 degrees or less, to preserve the lactobacillus. When done it will still be flexible, so it is easy to bend and break into crackers.  Enjoy.

 

 

Herbal Tinctures: Getting or Giving the Right Dose

tincturesHerbal tinctures are the backbone of Western herbalism.  Generally, herbal tinctures are made from herbs extracted with a combination of alcohol and water, although glycerine and vinegar can also be used.  They are widely available, economical to produce and use, compact enough to stock in considerable variety and have a good shelf life. They can be combined and are convenient to take.   Dried herbs start to loose their potency after 6 months yet tinctures can last up to 10 years or more.  As a primarily Traditional Chinese Medicine herbalist, I mostly rely on concentrated decoctions, but in some cases when I am working with aerial parts of  plants, or herbs that could benefit from the effects of alcohol, increasing circulation, tinctures are more appropriate.

This posting is based on tinctures made using the weight to volume method.

Understanding dosage rates are important in achieving therapeutic outcomes.  I find that if someone isn’t responding to an herbal formula then analyzing their dosages can be helpful.

As a starting point most commercially available herbal tinctures indicate the weight to volume ratio.  For example, if the label states that it is a 1:5 extraction, this indicates that 1 gram (weight) of herb is equivalent to 5 milliliters (volume) of liquid.

A tincture formula will state the herb and the ratio of herb (by weight) to solvent (by volume), and the % alcohol (ethanol) in water.

Having this information is crucial in understanding the amount of herb that you are recommending or taking per dose.  Furthermore, this information is required by law to appear on the label. along with the serving size suggestion, which we will discuss further on.

In trying to communicate dosage equivalencies I have developed the following chart based on weight to volume ratios.  The side column indicates the common ratios and the top row indicates the volume of tincture consumed (in milliliters).  For example, if you took 1 milliliter of liquid made at a ratio of 1:2 then you would be ingesting a half of a gram of herb.

Tincture Dosage Equivalencydosage ratioSuggested Use:  Different companies have different suggested dosage rates.   Some companies suggest taking a dropper full and others recommended taking a range of drops as a serving size, for example, 20-60 drops.  When a dropper full is suggested the amount consumed depends on the size of the bottle and dropper.  When the suggested dosage on the bottle indicates a number of drops per dose, the amount consumed depends on the viscosity of the liquid.  Since this can change from one company to the next the best we can do is to have an understanding of some equivalents  recognizing that this is an approximation:

  • 20 drops = 1 ml
  • Dropperful from a one-ounce bottle—30 drops
  • Dropperful from a two-ounce bottle—40 drops
  • 5 ml = 1 teaspoon
  • A one-ounce bottle holds approximately 30 ml, 6 teaspoons, 30 dropper full, and 1,000–1,200 drops.

For example if using the suggested serving of 40 drops, and 20 drops = 1 milliliter, then you are taking approximately 2 milliliters of a 1:5 tincture and getting approximately .4 grams of herb per dose.  Most commonly it is recommended to take the tincture two to three times a day, so using this same example you  would be consuming between .8 and 1.2 grams of herb per day. Knowing the actual amount of herb that is recommended on a daily basis will help with putting the this into context.  Below is a partial list of recommended daily dosage of some common herbs.

Examples of dosages of some common herbs*:

Herb Daily Dosage
Angelica archangelica 3-9 grams
Ashwagandha 3-12 grams
Astragalus 6-15 grams
Black Cohosh 3-9 grams
Burdock 3-10 grams
Codonopsis 9-30 grams
Dandelion 9-30 grams
Dang Gui 3-15 grams
Echinacea 3-9 grams
Grindelia 3-6 grams
Hawthorn Berry 6-12 grams
Lemon Balm ½-6 grams
Motherwort 10-30 grams
Oregon Grape Root 3-9 grams
Passion flower 3-9 grams
Skullcap 3-9 grams
St. Johns Wort 3-9 grams
Uva Ursi 3-6 grams
Valerian 3-6 grams

* Planetary Herbology, Michael Tierra

In some circles there has been a discussion that the use of alcohol potentizes the action of the herbs, therefore less herb is needed.  Furthermore, the synergistic action of herbal combinations or formulas also increases effectiveness requring less herb.  These are great discussions but I work with aspiring herbalists who are often confused as to how to determine or convert tinctures to actual grams of herbs.  I hope that this helps and would encourage you to take a moment to actually consider that you might not be taking enough herbs to be effective.

Related blog post:  https://herbalgoddessmedicinals.wordpress.com/category/herbal-preparations/

Up coming blog:  How to make tinctures using the weight to volume method.

 

 

Holiday Herbal Gifts: Liquors, Infusions and Bitters

IMG_2058One of my favorite activities is researching, experimenting and making alcohol infused liqueurs.  Alcohol has historically been used as medicine throughout the world.  The Romans infused herbs in wine as a regular medicinal therapy due to alcohol’s ability to extract the active compounds of any number of herbs.  The ‘Water of Life’ as alcohol came to be known was refined all over Europe (known as such due to it being safer to drink than disease-ridden water).  Alcohol was used as a way to preserve, extract and even direct the action of the herb in the body.  Alcohol is stimulating and warming, as such it increases blood circulation throughout the body.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine moderate alcohol consumption is said to calm the mind, is relaxing, dispels worry, invigorates blood, eliminates obstructions from the channels, harmonizes and warms the Stomach, and expels cold.  Alcohol infusions, or liqueurs are typically infused with fruit, herbs, spices, flowers and nuts. Liqueurs are usually not aged for long after the ingredients are mixed, but may have resting periods during their production to allow flavors to mix together. Although liqueurs are made with distilled spirits, I also use wine, vermouth, sake or sherry as my base.  One of my favorite infusions was with sherry, the result was rich, complex and warming.

Many of my recipes call for the use of a sweetener.  I tend to use honey, although depending on the type of images1honey it can add an additional flavor to your liqueurs so a simple syrup make with organic sugar can be substituted.  When using honey, I make it into a simple syrup following the recipe below. I tend to make my alcohol infusions slightly sweet to preserve the medicinal aspects of the infusion. When sweetening the herbal infusion it is better to start with less than wait a day or two, taste again and adjust.  If not you can easily end up adding too much sweetener, which of course you can’t undue.  Sugar based simple syrup:  In a saucepan combine 1 cup of sugar or honey with 1 cup water. Heat the mixture and stir until dissolved. Allow to cool.

I have been working with herbs for so long I have a fairly good idea of the flavors that they impart.  If you do not have this experience, I would start by following a recipe until you feel more comfortable experimenting.  Here is a partial list of the herbs that I use:

  • Allspice berries (Pimenta Dioica Merr.)
  • Angelica root and seeds (Angelica Archangelica L.)
  • Anise seeds (Pimpinela Anisum L.)
  • Burdock (arctium lappa)
  • Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
  • Cardamon seeds (Elettaria Cardamomum Maton)
  • Cinnamon bark (Cinnamomum Cassia)
  • Cloves flower buds (Eugenia Carophylata Thunb.)images4
  • Codonopsis (Codonopsis pilosula, Dang Shen)
  • Coriander seeds (Coriandrum Sativum L.)
  • Damiana (Turnera diffusa)
  • Dang Gui (angelica sinensis)
  • Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)
  • Fennel seeds and tops (Foeniculum Vulgare Mill.)
  • Gentian root (Gentiana Lutea L.)
  • Goji Berries (Lycium barbarum)
  • Hawthorn berries ((Crataegus oxyacantha)
  • He Shu Wu (Polygonum multiflorum)
  • Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)
  • Hyssop leaves (Hyssopus Officinalis L.)
  • Juniper berries (Juniperus Communis L.)
  • Lemon Balm leaves (Melissa Officinalis L.)
  • Logan Berries (Euphoria longan)
  • Peppermint leaves (MenthaxPiperata L.)
  • Rose petals
  • Schinsandra (Schisandra chinensis)
  • Star anise seeds (Illicium Verum Hook)
  • Tumeric root (Curcuma Longa L.)
  • Vanilla seeds (Vanilla Planifolia Andr.)

I often use whiskey or brandy as my base distilled spirit in that they tend to impart a warming energy and have a great base flavor.  If the herbs that I am using have a strong flavor, for example infusions with angelica, I would use vodka or grappa as my base.

Angelica Liqueur-Angelica has a long history of use in colds, lung congestion and digestion.

Step #1-2 Tbsp. fresh or dried angelica root (Angelica archangelica)
2 fl oz vodka

In a small glass jar combine the angelica root with 2 fl oz vodka. After two weeks filter through a coffee filter.

Step #2-

1 tsp. dried marjoram
2 green cardamoms
1/16 tsp. ground allspice
1/16 tsp. ground star anise
1/16 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/16 tsp. ground coriander
2 fl oz vodka
In a grinder combine the cardamom seeds, allspice, star anise, cinnamon stick and coriander seeds. Grind just until the herbs are reduced in size, but not a powder. Place in a glass jar or bottle and add 2 fl oz vodka. After one week filter through a coffee filter.

Step #3-

1/2 cup simple syrup
1 cup vodka
Combine with sugar syrup (adjusting to your sweetness level) and 1 cup vodka.

Step #4-Add small portions of the angelica root extract to the liqueur until you get a suitable flavor. Check the flavor after 2 months. If necessary add some more sugar syrup, vodka, or angelica extract.

Longevity Elixir

This infusion is based on tradition Chinese herbs that are taken for strengthening our immunity and overall health.

1 oz, He Shou Wu, (fo ti) dried

1 oz, Eleuthro

1 oz, Hawthorn Berries

1 oz, dried Reshi mushrooms, broken up

1 oz, Goji berries, chopped

1 cinnamon stick, broken

1/2 oz, Angelica Sinensis,(Dang Gui), chopped

5 red dates, pitted and chopped

1/2 of peel of tangerine, chopped

Simple syrup to taste

Combine all ingredients together with 1 liter of brandy.  Let sit for 1 month, strain add simple syrup if needed. Take a swig a day.

Beet, Hawthorn Berry and Rose Petal Liqueur

Rose petals have high tannin content so the infusion needs to sit for a while before it is palatable.

½ cup of rose water

1 ½ cups of filtered water
4 cups of rose petals from a highly scented rose  or 1 cup of dried rose petals

¼ cup of grated beets

¼ cup of hawthorn berries, slightly ground
1 liter of grappa or vodka
Simple syrup to taste
Place the rose petals, grated beets and hawthorn berries in a clean jar, add alcohol, close and keep in a cool dark place for at least 2 weeks. Strain and then add simple syrup to taste, you can always add more later, so less is probably better. Keep it for least 3-6 months before using.

Anise, Lemon Verbena and Rosemary  Liqueur

2 and 1/4 cups dry anise liqueur (raki, ouzo)

2 and 1/4 cups sweet anise liqueur (anisette, sambuca white)

3 sprigs thyme

3 sprigs rosemary

1 Tablespoon dried lemon verbena

6 sage leaves

6 mint leaves

1/4 of peel orange

Combine herbs, orange peel along with dry and sweet liqueurs together and age for 2 months. Strain and bottle.

Sage, Basil and Bay Liqueur

4 cups of grappa or vodka

6 bay leaves, crumbled

1 sprig of rosemary

10 mint leaves, chopped

1 Tablespoon chamomile flowers

10 basil leaves, chopped

15 fresh sage leaves, chopped or 1 Tablespoon dried

3 cloves

3 saffron filaments

Simple syrup to taste

Combine herbs and alcohol for 20 days. Strain, add sugar syrup to taste. Age for 4 weeks before consuming.

Highland Heather Bitters
“In Scotland bitters were traditionally drunk before meals, especially breakfast, ‘for the purpose of strengthening the stomach, and by that means invigorating the general health’.

1/2 oz gentian root chopped

2 Tablespoon heather flowers

1/2 oz coriander seed, crushed

¼ peel of tangerine

1 Tablespoon chamomile flowers

4 cloves (whole)

1/2 of cinnamon stick

1 Tablespoon glycerin

1 bottle whiskey

Combine all ingredients with whiskey, leave for ten days, then strain and bottle. In this case you do not want to add simple syrup because the bitter taste is what activates your digestive system to work efficiently.

Black Sambucus (Elderberry)

1-liter alcohol, your choice, I prefer brandy for this

4 cups of ripe elderberries or 2 cups of dried berries

2 tsp anise seed

1 tsp licorice root

1 strip of lemon peel

1 tsp glycerin (for smoothness)

Simple syrup to taste

Put the elderberries and alcohol in blender and blend until elderberries are chopped, add anise, licorice and lemon peel. Transfer to Mason jar and then sit for 30 days. Stain and add simple syrup and glycerin.

Damiana Liquor

Damiana leaves have been used as an aphrodisiac and to boost sexual potency by the native peoples of Mexico, including the Mayan Indians and is used for both male and female sexual stimulation, increased energy, asthma, depression, impotence and menstrual problems.

1 oz Damiana leaves

2 Tbsp Saw Palmetto berries

2 Tbsp Angelica Root

1/2 Tbsp Vanilla pods

3/4-1 cup Honey

1 liter Whiskey

Soak all ingredients for one week, and then strain through coffee filter and save. Re-soak herbs in 1 cup distilled water for another week, then strain. Heat water mixture too slightly warm and then add honey to the hot liquid. After honey until dissolved, take off heat and let cool. Now add this to the first whiskey liquid. Age the final liquid for at least a month

Read more: http://www.ancient-origins.net/human-origins-science/alcohol-me

l

Making Holiday Herbal Goodies: Soaks, Sprays, Scrubs and Masks

It is that time of year again when I teach a series of herbal gift-making workshops.  Since many of you following this blog are not local I thought I would share some of my favorite recipes, along with, some ideas for packaging. Feel free to experiment with any of these recipes, if you don’t have the exact ingredients or can think of something else that would enhance the action of the formulas.

cello bagSoaks:  The first set of recipes are for a variety of herbal soaks.  For packaging,  the ingredients in these recipes can be divided into large press n’ brew tea bags or  jars with an attached cotton muslin tea bag, which can then can be reused.  Mountain Rose Herbs has several of types of bags available.  I prefer the press n’ brew bags.  I divide the recipe into 4 bags, iron them shut and then combine these bags into transparent cello bags tied with ribbon and labeled with kraft paper tags.

Bright Eyes Herbal Tea Soakseye bags

4 Tablespoons Chamomile flowers

3 Tablespoons Chrysanthemum flowers

2 Tablespoons Peppermint Leaf

3 Tablespoons Sage Leaf

4 drops lavender oil

Measure everything into glass jar, shake and divide between three large press n’ tea bags.

Instructions:  Cover tea bags with boiling water, let cool until slightly warm then apply.

foot soaksDetoxing and Warming Foot Soak

1/4 cup dead sea salts

1/4 cup Epsom salts

2 Tablespoons dry mustard

2 Tablespoons dried ginger root

2 Tablespoon cinnamon stick, broken up

2 T. of Dong Quai root (angelica sinensis)

1/4 cup of Mugwort leaf

1 Teaspoon Cayenne power

4 Tablespoons of dried Dandelion Root

Put herbs into mason jar, cap and shake.  Package in jar with muslin bag or divide into 5 press n’ brew bags.

Instructions: Put herbs in large pot with 2 quarts of water. Bring to boil, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add to foot basin with enough cold water to allow feet to soak. Soak until cool.

Skin Soothing Milk Bath Soaks

¼ cup of goat milk powder

1 cup of powdered dry milk

½ cup of non-GMO corn starch

1 cup of oatmeal ground finelybath bags

¼ cup of dead sea salt

2 Tablespoons of rose petals

2 Tablespoons of lavender flowers

10 drops of rosemary essential oil

10 drops of carrot seed essential oil

10 drops of neroli essential oil

20 drops of rose hips extract

Combine oatmeal in blender and grind until powder, then combine the ingredients in blender and blend until essential oils are incorporated. Package in jar with muslin bag or divide into 8 press n’ brew bags.

Instructions: Put bag into bath and then fill with hot bath water, let cool until comfortable temp to enter bath.

bottleSprays:  The next set of recipes are facial and aftershave sprays.  I use bottles with spay atomizers from Specialty Bottle.  Their two ounce bottles are ideal for this use.  I also use kraft paper tags for labeling these as well.

Healing Facial Toner

1 Tablespoon comfrey leaf

1 Tablespoon chamomile flowers

1 Tablespoon Calendula petals

1 Tablespoon Rose petals

2 oz of witch hazelfacial spray

2 oz of vodka in jar

10 drops of carrot seed essential oil

5 drops of lavender essential oil

5 drops clary sage essential oil

5 drops of cedarwood essential oil

Combine herbs with witch hazel and vodka in jar, shake well and let sit in warm space for 1 week. Strain herbs and combine remaining essential oils, shake well and bottle.

Anti-aging Facial Spray

2 Tablespoon of aloe gel

1 Tablespoon of witch hazel

3 oz of cucumber hydrosol

6 drops of carrot essential oil

4 drops of clary sage essential oil

2 drops of geranium essential oil

3 drops of frankincense essential oil

Combine all ingredients together in jar, shake and then fill bottles.

imagesBay West Indies Aftershave Splash

This essential oil is distilled from the Bay Rum Tree (Pimenta racemosa). It is a common scent in men’s aftershave products.

1 cups of witch hazel extract

1 ounce of rum

zest from half organic orange

1/2 cinnamon stick

6 peppercorns

1 sprig of rosemary

1 tsp of corianderafter_shave

1 bay leaf

3-cloves

3-whole allspice

1 tsp teaspoon aloe vera gel

1 tsp of glycerin

15-25 drops of Bay West Indies Essential Oil, depending on preference

Combine all ingredients in 1 quart mason jar, cover and shake well.  Let sit for 2 weeks, shaking daily.  Strain and fill bottles.

jarsScrubs:  The internet is filled with recipes for scrubs but I wanted to offer up a few of my favorites.  In terms of packaging I use a 4 ounce jar with swing-top lid, which is convenient when using in a shower.  There are many places to download printable labels, but this is one site I often use http://putitinajar.com/crafts/printables/  I use full sheet shipping labels and then print out my labels.  There are numerous examples of labels available at craft supply stores for this purpose if you don’t want to trouble yourself with downloading and printing.

Seaweed Detox Salt Scrub

2 tablespoons comfrey root

2 tablespoons Calendula flower

1 ½ cup of sesame oil

scrubs¼ cup of bladderwack seaweed powder

½ cup of kelp powder

2 cups of dead sea salt

½ cup of Rhassoul clay

¼ cup of castor oil

10 drops of rosemary essential oil

10 drops of lavender essential oil

Combine the comfrey and calendula herbs with the sesame oil, heat on low for 20 minutes.  Remove from heat, let cool and strain out herbs.  Combine remaining ingredients, mixing well.  Add more clay if necessary to make it the consistency of peanut butter.

Chocolicious Body Scrub

1/4 cup of Epsom salt

1/4 cup of Dead Sea Salt

2 Tablespoons of cocoa powder

½ tsp of cinnamon

1 Teaspoon of vanilla

3 Tablespoon of melted coconut oil

Combine all ingredients together mixing well, then fill jars.

facial masksMocha Facial Scrub

1 cup sugar

2 Tablespoon of cocoa powder

2 Tablespoon of finely ground coffee

1/3 cup of oatmeal powder*

5-7 Tablespoons of sesame oil

2 Tablespoon of Aloe Vera Gel

1 teaspoon of Vit. E oil

Combine all ingredients together mixing well, then fill jars.  * put oatmeal in blend and grind finely

blue jarMasks:  Ever since I was a young girl I loved using facial masks.  Over the years I have enjoyed exploring the full range of masks from fresh fruits to honey to clay.  Here are two of my favorites. For packaging I use hexagon shaped jars, along with kraft paper tags.

Goat Milk and Clay Pore Refining Masque

1/2 cup of French Clay

4 Tablespoon of slippery elm powder

4 Tablespoon of dried goat’s milk powder

2 Tablespoon of comfrey root powder

2 Tablespoon of rose powder

1 Tablespoon of sandalwood powder

20 drops of carrot seed essential oil

10 drops of clary sage essential oil

10 drops of lavender essential oil

5 drops of cedarwood essential oil

Combine all in blender and blend until well mixed.  Fill jars

Instructions: Moisten 1 Tablespoon of the masque with milk, yogurt or water. Apply to face and leave on until dry, rinse and pat dry.

Rose, Frankincense and Sandalwood Facial Mask

2 Tablespoons Rose powder

2 Teaspoons Sandalwood powder

2 Tablespoons Frankincense powder

1/2 cup of sugarfacial mask

3 Tablespoons cosmetic white clay

½ cup of sesame seed oil

5 drops of black pepper essential oil

6 drops of coriander essential oil

2 Teaspoons of Vit E.

Mix all ingredients together in bowl and mix well.  Mixture should be thick adding more clay if necessary. Fill jars.

Happy Holidays

Resources for herbs and Tea Bags:

https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/

http://www.oregonswildharvest.com/owh/browse/bulk_herbs,_teas_and_spices

For bottles:

http://www.specialtybottle.com/

For cello bags and other packaging:

http://www.papermart.com/HOME

Happy Holidays to you and yours

 

 

 

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