22 August 2010

The herbalist's apprentice makes a tincture

Since the early spring, I've been spending one day a week at a herb farm in the Ottawa Valley as a herbal apprentice. I've been getting hands-on with all kinds of plants, wild and cultivated, at the farm and experimenting at home.
Today, I decanted and filtered a tincture of St. John's Wort. There is lots of St. John's Wort growing on our property, the result of the generous application of horse manure by the previous owner. St. John's Wort is considered a noxious weed because it is harmful to some livestock.

A tincture is made by chopping up St. John's Wort flowers and leaves and stuffing them in a jar. The jar is filled with vodka and left to sit for six weeks. The active ingredients in the herb are soluble in alcohol. It looks pretty murky after spending most of the summer on the windowsill. St. John's Wort is typically harvested on St. John's Day (June 24), but it reblooms after being cut back so several harvests can be made from the same plant over the summer.

After six weeks, the tincture is filtered through a jelly bag and squeezed tightly to get every last drop. The tincture is still pretty cloudy at this point.

I used a coffee filter to clarify the tincture. You can see the lovely clear red colour.

The tincture can be taken, a few drops at a time, to help with stress, anxiety and the blues. This will be part of my winter survival kit for when clean living isn't quite enough .

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