Friday, October 10, 2014

Should You Make Alcohol-Based Medicine? ~ Home Pharmacy Series

"Well, this story will be a nice handle for those folks who are so down on me for making currant wine, although I haven't made any for three years ever since I found out that the minister didn't approve. I just kept that bottle for sickness."
~ L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

{Note: Please don't be upset about this post. It is not meant to argue whether or not Jesus drank fermented wine and if it is acceptable for you to. This is meant to discuss the potential dangers of alcoholism and drunkedness, both of which the Almighty disapproves of. This article is also meant to share the pros and cons of alcohol-based medicine and to offer the concerned homemaker some solutions.}

Before we begin our Home Pharmacy Series, I have the need to discuss alcohol. It is often used in long-term preservation herbal recipes (such as the "tincture", "elixir" or "liniment"). And to be honest, I did not like the idea of using alcohol based medicine in our home. We are rather conservative when it comes to alcohol. We don't partake in any of it. The Scriptures share so many warnings against drunkedness (at least 5 verses in Proverbs) that it seemed best for our household to avoid it all together.

"Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging:
and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise."
~ Proverbs 20:1

However, the Bible does share a time when the use of alcohol may be appropriate and that is when it comes to illness. With this in mind, we decided that Paul's advice to the young Timothy did apply to our medicinal needs and thus was acceptable under those circumstances for our family as well (especially in light of the information I am about to share below).

"No longer drink only water,
but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments."
~ 1 Timothy 5:23 (ESV)

The reason that alcohol (namely 80-100 proof vodka, rum, gin or brandy) is often used for herbal remedies is because it is an excellent medium for extracting most of the beneficial properties from your herbs. Infusing the two together for a certain amount of time creates a highly concentrated extract and keeps it safe and sound in liquid form for many years. While a dried herb will lost strength anywhere from 6 months to 2 years (depending on the specific one), an alcohol based tincture made with an herb will last up to 5 - 6 years (if not more)! When you are spending money on some of your herbs (like myself), it does make cents sense! Also, when you are spending the time to make them, you want them to last and be readily available as soon as a need arises. Think of alcohol based tinctures as the most powerful, effective and long-lasting way to preserve your medicine for your pantry.


How to Make An Alcohol-Based Medicine "Safe": 

The good news is that if your herbal medicine is added to a hot tea or water, most of the alcohol will evaporate off which will leave you with a "safe" herbal remedy (Keep in mind also that these doses are very small such as a few teaspoons a day!). This has been confirmed by many herbalists and is the reason most of us feel comfortable using vanilla and lemon extract in baked goods (which is also alcohol based). 

"Adding a small amount of almost boiling water to the tincture dose in a cup and allowing it to cool effectively evaporates most of the alcohol, making it safe."
~ Excerpt from Home Herbal by Penelope Ody



Alternative Choices:

"Though the actual amount of alcohol you’ll consume when taking a tincture is quite small (approximately 1 to 2 teaspoons per day), some people prefer not to use alcohol, and use vegetable glycerin or apple cider vinegar instead."

However, if alcohol is a weakness to you or someone in your family and having it on-hand or nearby might jeopardize a sober soul, I would omit the use of it altogether. The alternative is to make your herbal medicines with either apple cider vinegar or food-grade glycerin. Though neither of these make as strong or long lasting as an extract, they do boast many other benefits (visit here for the tutorial).

  • The vinegar based tinctures will last up to one year in your pantry and raw apple cider vinegar has its own medicinal goodness. It is also easy to slip these healthy herbal vinegars into salad dressings and other areas of your food preparation.
  • The glycerin based tincture (also called a "glycerite" and not as strong as the vinegar based extracts) will last from 2 - 3 years in your pantry. It is a very sweet liquid making it a great choice of herbal medicine for children.

I just wanted to share these options and words with you all before we proceed. I don't take "talking" (or "typing" rather) about adding vodka into our recipes very lightly. I have loved one's who gave up family, friends and most importantly God due to drunkedness and addiction. I saw first-hand how it can wreck lives and hurt the hearts of those they once held dear.  In our household, it is a herbal preservation tool and perhaps it can (or can not) be in yours too. However, your soul is more important than any herbal medicine because unlike your physical health, your spiritual health, dear reader, is eternal!

"Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God."

28 comments:

  1. I just wanted to commend you on tackling a hard topic, and doing such a wonderful, loving job! Although we have not had issues with drunkardness, I do know of others who have had to deal with such an issue. Very well done!

    Blessings,
    Kerri

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    1. Thank you Kerri for taking the time to leave this encouragement! I have a hard time saying certain things to people I personally don't know and physically can't see. My hesitation is that they will read judgment instead of concern and care which is really the intent. Have a lovely week and again, thank you.

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  2. Thank you for this post. Since I am all too well acquainted with the havoc alcoholism can wreak in a person's life, I avoid all alcohol for myself, and I have always felt uncomfortable about making herbal tinctures, although I am interested in herbalism in general. One time, I made a lemon balm tincture but then I was afraid to use it in case it made me feel intoxicated. But I did not realize that it was possible to evaporate most of the alcohol. This is very good to know. Perhaps I will not have to stick to herbal teas after all. Also, I had never even heard of the glycerin-based extracts. Thanks again for some very helpful information. :)

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    1. I am glad this was informative Laura! I appreciate you taking the time to share!

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  3. Well done, JES. I, too, was hesitant to use alcohol as a preservative in my herbal preparations for all the same reasons you stated, but then I also realized it just makes good sense - again, for all the reasons you shared. My thoughts on the subject are very simple; There is a time and place for it as an excellent preservative. By the way, I have some habanero pepper extract that I made over 10 years ago that is still intact. I haven't used it in years, but I mention it as a case in point.
    Have a great weekend!

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    1. That is good to know! I am sure it never goes "bad" but probably may weaken in strength is all... Habanero pepper extract!!! Yikes, I am a sissy when it comes to hot!!! But I bet it packs a mean, punch! Thanks for sharing your point of view also Toni. I do appreciate it :)

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  4. There is a free book on Amazon today, Medicinal Plants! I'm not familiar with it, but free is worth checking it out. Link:
    http://www.amazon.com/Medicinal-Plants-Beginners-Learning-Benefits-ebook/dp/B00O7285NQ/ref=as_sl_pc_ss_til?tag=tnfarmgirl-20&linkCode=w01&linkId=A6Z7F6N2YW54I757&creativeASIN=B00O7285NQ

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    1. I like the word "free" :) Thanks for sharing!

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  5. Good Morning, JES! This is an excellent post, covering a touchy subject. I was not aware, until reading the Mountain Rose Herb catalog and website that the glycerin that they sell is made from soy. I don't know if every company selling glycerin has soy-origin glycerin, but it was enlightening to me to find out about MRH glycerin. Thank you for the information in this post. I am looking forward to the series. Have a lovely weekend and God bless.

    M.

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    1. Thanks M.! I did not know that. I checked the link I shared of glycerin and it stated "It is an all-natural product derived from Non-GMO palm oil or vegetable oil." This is good news and I appreciate the information you shared. One more label to watch out for!

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  6. You did a beautiful job with this topic. I grew up in a family (and Church) of Teetotalers - my Grandmothers were both members of the Women's Christian Temperance Union. But as an adult, I'm in a wine-with-dinner culture. And, at our Church, wine is used for Holy Communion. I can see & understand both sides of this issue and I love how you handled it.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your perspective in such a nice, gracious way! :) I appreciate you taking the time to comment, it means a lot to hear from the other side of the computer screen... Have a lovely week!

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  7. Just found your blog through Honeysuckle Hollow. So glad I stopped by. Look forward to getting to know you through blogland. LOL.

    My father-in-law always said that "vodka would cure anything". Whenever he had a cold coming on, he would take a tablespoon of vodka and his cold never amounted to anything. He lived to me 90. I'm not much of a drinker. We lived on a vineyard and made our own wine. Dh likes to have a glass once ever few months or so....but nothing too much of the "hard" stuff.

    Blessings,
    Connie

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    1. Thanks for sharing Connie! Well, based on his theory, I would have to say that vodka immersed in herbs would be doubly beneficial :) Glad to have you here!

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  8. Thanks for tackling this subject. I come from a family with alcoholics and struggled with the same subject. I have come to the same conclusion. My struggle is that I don't want to hurt my witness by buying vodka.
    Blessings, Leslie

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    1. YES, YES, YES!! That is a big struggle here too! And to explain to the cashier that it is for medicinal purposes doesn't get you very far in this day and age...

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  9. Thanks for your fair and balanced approach! I stopped in to by ice at a our local wine and spirits store and got razed (in a friendly way) by the folks at church. You just don't know whose watching. I've been wanting to make homemade vanilla extract (I didn't think of these lovely herbal applications) but have been second guessing it.

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    1. I agree Helene, the hardest part is buying it. I did tell members in our local community from church that I purchase the alcohol for making medicine so that they don't get the wrong idea if they were to see us from across the store. The funny part is that most of them had the same concerns because they wanted to make vanilla extract, etc., and didn't want us to find them buying it!! :)

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  10. I really appreciate your perspective.
    With my husband's condition, having alcohol in the house is just a very bad idea because of medication he takes and the nature of his illness.
    I never knew you could make tinctures and the like with apple cider vinegar. That's really cool!
    Suddenly those herbal remedies could be a possibility for me.

    Thanks for sharing!

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    1. That makes sense! Yes, raw apple cider vinegar is an excellent alternative because of the many benefits it offers our health as well. Glad this helped :)

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  11. I found you through the HomeAcre Hop. I think your article was very balanced. I wouldn't go near alcohol if was something I enjoyed drinking. The only alcohol I get is in tinctures because I have heard the alcohol based tinctures are a little more potent. I feel that your concern for those that would have a problem with alcohol showed through your article.

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    1. Thanks for sharing Kristie! Yes, the alcohol based tinctures are more potent and is the only way we use alcohol in our home as well. I appreciate your taking the time to comment!

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  12. This is a great article for me because it reinforces the fact that it's okay to use alcohol in this way. Thanks for the series. Your posts are always to informative!

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    1. I always appreciate your input Vickie, thank you for sharing! :)

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  13. Great post! I agree with you completely. Strong drink is forbidden in the Bible except for a dying person. "Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish... Prov. 31:6 In the old days before anesthesia alcohol was used to knock someone out before amputations, surgery, and such. I know I'd want to be "knocked out" if my leg had to be removed without anesthesia! Many people just see the word "wine" in the Bible and use it as a free ticket to drink and be merry. Obviously, they do not STUDY the scriptures. The term is simply translated as "wine" in several Bible verses, however it does not mean fermented or strong wine. Here are just a few terms used as "wine":
    Shekar (used in the Bible as "wine")- strong drink
    Tirosh (used in the Bible as "wine" or "new wine")-Freshly expressed grape-juice in its natural condition
    Chamar(used in the Bible as "wine")-literally means "foaming" and denotes fermented wine
    Enab - (used in the Bible as "wine")Ripe or round grape, or grape-cake.
    Oinos - Generic term for all kinds of wine EXCEPT (shekar-strong drink) Also occurs in N.T. (Greek) 32 times.
    I love your post and I would love to make some herbal remedies to have on hand. Although I strongly disagree with drinking for pleasure, I would use alcohol in remedies such as this for sickness. I agree about omitting it if someone has a problem with alcohol because the Bible tells us not to put a stumbling block before a brother or sister.
    Have a blessed day!

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    1. Thank you for sharing your insight Chris! This was very informative!!! And you have also a good point about the stumbling block. That was my concern which is why I wrote this post... I do hope you have a lovely weekend!

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  14. Congrats on being chosen as a featured post on this week’s Wildcrafting Wednesdays! I've always been taught that the amount of alcohol consumed when taking an alcohol based tincture is comparable to that in a ripe banana, a glass of juice or kombucha. I agree that glycerites and vinegars are the way to go for anyone who has a problem with alcohol, just note that they extract differently. I hope you'll join us again and share more of your awesome posts.
    http://www.herbanmomma.com

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    1. Thank you for the feature! Great information about the amount of alcohol comparison! And yes, they do extract differently but for some people that may still be a blessing though not as strong...I appreciate you taking the time to share your wisdom! :)

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