Thursday, October 30, 2014

How to Make a Tincture {Plus Printable} ~ Home Pharmacy Series

{Before we get into the actual herbs in our Home Pharmacy Series, a simple tutorial on tinctures would be in order so that the "how-to-make a tincture" information doesn't need to be repeated each time we share about a specific herb.}

Think of tinctures as an excellent and easy method of preserving your herbs as medicine for your pantry. If you have an abundance of apricots, you make jam, if you have an abundance of herbs, you can make tinctures. While dried herbs lose their potency as they age (within two years, some as little at 6 months), you can maximize their shelf life by creating a tincture. These are concentrated herbal medicines that will make a fine addition to your home pharmacy!

Though there are many ways to make a tincture, we will be sharing the simple method (often referred to as the "folk method" or "traditional simpler's method").

Three Different Types of Tinctures

There are three different types of tinctures you can make; an alcohol-based tincture, a vinegar-based tincture and a glycerin-based tincture (also called a glycerite). Alcohol makes the strongest extract, vinegar the second strongest and finally, glycerin is the least potent (but it's beauty is in the fact that it is sweet tasting for children, is without alcohol and boasts a longer shelf life than the vinegar option). Visit this post for more information and if you are concerned about using alcohol based medicine.

How to Make an Alcohol Based Tincture

To make an alcohol based tincture (again, see this post if you are uncomfortable with using alcohol in your medicine making), follow these easy instructions:

1. Fill up any-sized, clean jar, 1/4 - 1/3 of the way up with dried herb (roots, fruits, stems, flowers, leaves and/or peels) or 1/2 - 2/3 of the way full if using fresh herb.

2. Fill up the remaining jar space (leaving 1 inch from the top), with either 80-100 proof vodka, gin, brandy or rum (we use vodka), making sure the contents are completely covered with the alcohol. Screw on your jar lid.  If using a metal lidded jar, cover jar with plastic prior to screwing on lid as you just don't want the metal to be in contact with the tincture to corrode it.

3. Label your jar with the name of herb, date and the medium used (i.e., alcohol in this case). Store in a cool, dark area like your pantry. Let the mixture sit for 4 - 6 weeks for a nice, strong blend. Shake every few days to infuse the herbs into the liquid. 

4. When the time is completed, place a fine strainer over a glass bowl. Line the strainer with a piece of clean lightweight cotton or thin cheesecloth. Pour the contents through and strain. Your tincture is ready to use!

Note: If you have a clean dropper bottle, then pour some of your tincture inside and add it into your medicine cabinet. The remaining jar of tincture can safely be stored in your pantry for up to 5 years (or longer) in a glass jar (I wouldn't say that an alcohol tincture would go "bad" but perhaps would just lose strength past 6 years).

Make sure to label your jar with the name, date made and medium used (such as vodka, vinegar or glycerin).

How to Make a Vinegar Based Tincture

1. Make as you would an alcohol based tincture except replace alcohol with apple cider vinegar (raw is best). If using dry herbs, especially harder ones like berries, you may want to warm the vinegar first before adding to your jar full of herbs to help to release the beneficial properties. This is what I do but some people add vinegar without heating it first. Use your own judgment on this.

Note: Vinegar based tinctures should last for 6-12 months in a cool, dark area (like your pantry). The bonus of a vinegar based tincture is that it can also be used in salad dressing blends and other culinary recipes.

How To Make a Glycerine Based Tincture (aka Glycerite)

Although tinctures made with food-grade glycerin don't have the same potency as a tincture made with alcohol or even apple cider vinegar, the sweetness of glycerin makes for a tasty medicine for children. 

1. Fill clean jar 1/4 of the way up with dried herb (1/2 way up if using fresh). 

2. Add boiling water 1/3 of the way up the jar.

3. Fill the remaining 2/3 of the jar with a food-grade glycerin (up to the top, leaving an inch headspace), screw lid on tightly and shake. Place in a warm, sunny spot for 4 - 6 weeks making sure to shake every few days to blend the medicine.

4. Once time has expired, strain your mixture through a fine cheesecloth or scrap of clean fabric. Store in a clean glass jar or bottle. Make sure to label with the date it was created as well as the herbal name and base (aka "elderberry tincture, glycerin based").

Note: This tincture should last for 2 - 3 years if properly stored in a cool, dark area (such as your pantry).

There is also a 3 day method for making a glycerite using the crock pot that you may like to look into. I personally like to rely on the least amount of electricity but sometimes time is an issue and this method may be helpful.

Note: If making a tincture with a thick, dried root or herb such as whole rose-hips (pictured above), I will let the tincture sit and soften the herb for a few days and then I would place it in the blender to break it down further (and then continue the aging process in the jar as described above). 

Determining Tincture Dosage

Typically, adult dosage would be approximately 30-60 drops (1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon), taken 3 times daily as symptoms persist, in a little water, tea or juice (always start with the lessor amount first and increase strength as needed).

For a helpful dosage guide on children, visit here.

For further information about tincture dosage, you can read the following: "Tinctures - What are They and How Do You Use Them" and "Determine Dosage".

Obviously, the type of tincture you take would depend upon the herbal properties of the particular plant that the tincture is made of and what your needs are.

**And remember, if using the alcohol-based tincture, place in a hot cup of tea first for a few minutes to allow most of the alcohol to evaporate off.

Printable Instructions and Labels

We are sharing some printable instructions below that you may want to include in your herbal. We are also including generic "tincture" labels. Some are circles and some rectangular depending on how you would like to store your tinctures (the truth is, I couldn't decide on what shape so here they both are). Simply visit HERE to download and print the PDF file for FREE. 

Have you ever made a tincture? How do you prepare yours?

The following posts have been shared thus far in our series:

Should You Use Alcohol-Based Medicine?

What are you working on in your home? I would love for you to share at our weekly link up!

Disclaimer: I am not a certified herbalist but a homemaker interested in the arts of natural healing. The information I have learned has been gleaned through study of some of the following favorite books; Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner's GuideGrow Your Own Drugs by James Wong, and The Complete Illustrated Book of Herbs by Reader's Digest and websites of herbalists (such as the Bulk Herb Store Blog).

I am not a doctor. While I do seek scientific confirmation of the safety and effectiveness of the herbs and remedies I use, remember that using remedies is a personal decision. Nothing I say on this blog is approved by the FDA or intended to diagnose, treat or prevent disease. All things on this blog are my opinion or the opinion of others. Also, if you have a medical condition, are taking pharmaceutical drugs, or are pregnant, please consult your physician prior to taking herbs.

All the fine print. This post may be shared with some or all of the following link-ups: The Art of Home-Making MondaysModest Mom Monday'sMonday's MusingsGood Morning Mondays,  The Scoop, Tuesdays with a TwistRaising HomemakersWise Woman Link UpHomestead Blog Hop Wow Us Wednesdays,  Coffee and ConversationHomemaking ThursdaysHome Sweet HomeOur Simple HomesteadAwesome Life Friday Link Up and Create, Bake, Grow & Gather. Thank you lovely ladies for hosting these. This post may contain affiliate links (which are merchant links that help to support this site at no additional cost to you if you purchase an item through them).

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Homemade Chili Cheese Fries {GF} ~ Frugal, Fun, "Fast" Food

We don't eat out. Ever. Though sometimes... a bit of fast-style food sounds sadly good! We picked up this easy recipe idea from my brother and sister-in-law and have been enjoying it ever since. And the best part is... another meal to make with budget friendly beans

To prepare, peel potatoes and cut them into wedges or french fry sizes. Toss with olive oil and sea salt. If you like a bit of spice, add in some cayenne pepper. Place single layer on greased baking sheet (if you line it first with parchment paper or foil, you will have an easy clean up) and roast until golden brown (about 400 degrees for 45 minutes or so, depending on how hot your oven runs). 

Place the roasted potato fries in each person's bowl. Top with hot beans (you can add some chili mix or other spices to the beans based on what your family likes). Finish with shredded cheese.

Homemaking Hints to Make this "Faster Food":

~ Beans are always on hand because we pressure can them in quarts with a few teaspoons of taco seasoning in each jar. You could also purchase high-quality canned beans for your pantry to have on hand or be frugal and make a large batch of pinto beans to place in your freezer in family friendly portions for easy meal preparations.

~ We buy our cheese in large blocks and shred most of it when we bring it home (reserving a small amount to use for slices in sandwiches). We place the cheese in family sized portions in the freezer so they are ready when we need them. To decrease expense, we always buy mozzarella in bulk since it can be used interchangeably in both Mexican and Italian dishes (i.e.: cheddar doesn't go well on pizza while mozzarella works fine in tacos, etc.).

~ We purchase potatoes in bulk so they are always on hand as they store well in the cooler months (keep them out of the light, in a cool, dark place).

Variations: If you are feeling decadent, you can add some ground meat to the beans or use your favorite chili recipe instead. 

You can serve this dish with a nice large, green salad, a creamy coleslaw or colorful cabbage salad. Preparing a large batch of any salad at the beginning of the week is a great way to reduce labor for the next few meals. 

My favorite side dish for chili cheese fries is our avocado salsa (which I like to scoop on top). Of course, your famous salsa recipe would work too!

We cook from scratch in our home but rely on simple meals to accomplish this. Though we don't eat fancy and gourmet, I like to think everything is unprocessed, fresh and tasty. This recipe is one way to keep things easy for meal time while being pleasing to the palette. 

{For more ideas on what to make with beans, visit here.}

"Do not bring disagreeable things to the table in your conversation any more than you would in your dishes." 
Sel., Excerpt from Science in the Kitchen, 1893

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Apothecary Herb Labels {Free Printable} ~ Home Pharmacy Series

"Always put labels on vials of medicine, and keep them out of the reach of children. Be careful to label all powders, and particularly all white powders, as many poisonous medicines in this form are easily mistaken for others which are harmless."
~ Beecher, Catharine & Harriet Beecher Stowe, American Woman's Home, 1869

As my desire is to make this Home Pharmacy Series fun, it means that labels are in order (and for me, to label is to love!)! Although they are pretty to use, they are also quite practical. We are sharing eight pages worth based on the most commonly used herbs. And don't be discouraged, I don't have even half of these herbs... yet! But they are included so that you can use them as your home apothecary grows. It is a very exciting time when I am able to cut out a new label to add to my collection (and especially if it is one I have found and harvested for free)!

{I almost hesitated to share them because they are not "perfect" (fonts are not all the exact size due to long names, etc.). However, for this busy homemaker, homeschooler and homesteader, they must will do. We will just consider them "rustic".}

Each label features the common herb name along with the latin name for a more "apothecary" feel. We also included some extra blank labels for your specific needs. You can cut and paste them to the front of your bottles and/or jars or you can affix them atop of your mason jar lids. You may even want to print them out on sticker paper for a stronger adhesive.

You will find the free download for these labels HERE.

This post is a part of our Home Apothecary Series.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Playtime without Toys and Electronics/Creating a Home Library

If someone was to ask which toy was a favorite in our home, I would be at a loss for words. Besides the basic basket of blocks, Lego's, plastic dishes and baby dolls, we had never purchased any "toys", nor do we own any forms of electronic entertainment (besides a DVD player for a weekend family movie).  The most interesting and best part is that boredom was and never is an issue.

The truth is, our "toys" were our books! Books were the cause and beginning of everything! They sent our child in search of hidden treasures in the back yard, foraging for medicinal herbs in the garden or engaged them in raising children of their own on the child sized rocker. Books fed the imagination and birthed all the playtime scenarios in our home.

"A fondness for reading, properly directed, must be an education in itself."
~ Jane Austen, Excerpt from Mansfield Park

This love of books starts in the lap of the reading parent. Besides the special time cuddling on the couch together, books are the tool for presenting the world to your little ones within the safe confines of your cozy home. Here is where they will learn that plants and animals were created by God (science), that certain parts of the world are covered with ice while other areas are full of sand (geography), that children of yesteryear spent most of their time in helping the family survive (history) and most importantly (if carefully chosen), books are also character building.

"A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting."
~ Henry David Thoreau

A home library can be created for pennies. Used books are often for sale at your local library, Goodwill, Salvation Army Stores and yard sales (starting as low as a quarter!). Our family would spend an hour every available Saturday loading up on these gems. Five dollars later we had a box of education and entertainment packed inside hardcover and paperback volumes. How quickly and inexpensively our home library grew!

If there are specific titles that you want to purchase, is a wonderful place to find discounted books. Amazon is also wonderful for instant gratification and the free shipping incentive is worthy of attention (here are some of our favorite picture books). The best part about the home library is that you have hand selected (and read) each title and know that everything it contains is safe for those little souls!

"Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all."
~ Henry David Thoreau

You will begin to notice a pattern when you see your child perusing the bookshelves. It all begins with the turning of the pages, a study of the illustrations and attention is paid to every detail they could muster up. Within the next few minutes, you will see they are dressed peculiarly, they are on a mission and about to forge their own trails. Today, they are Sacajawea, Daniel Boone or Paul Revere...

What will they be tomorrow?
What will they be in the future?
That all depends on what your home library encourages...

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
~ Theodore Roosevelt

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
~ Philipians 4:8

"If we encounter a man of rare intellect,
we should ask him what books he reads."
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

This post may be shared with some or all of the following link-ups: The Art of Home-Making MondaysModest Mom Monday'sMonday's MusingsMake Your Home Sing MondayGood Morning Mondays,  The ScoopTitus 2sdaysTitus 2 TuesdaysRoses of InspirationTuesdays with a TwistRaising HomemakersWise Woman Link UpHomestead Blog Hop Wow Us Wednesdays, Wildcrafting WednesdayCoffee and ConversationSo Much at HomeHomemaking ThursdaysHome Sweet HomeHearts for Home ThursdaysHome Acre HopGrowing in Grace ThursdaysFrom the Farm Blog HopFarmgirl FridayFront Porch Friday Blog HopAwesome Life Friday Link UpSimply Natural Saturdays and Clever Chicks Blog Hop. Thank you lovely ladies for hosting these.  The illustrations are all by the talented Ms. Jessie Wilcox Smith.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Medicine Making Supplies ~ Home Pharmacy Series

"a time to heal...
... and a time to build up..."
~Excerpts from Ecclesiastes 3:3

Are you ready to start making your own herbal medicine? Is that pioneering spirit in you prepared to stock up your pantry with natural remedies? It helps to have all your supplies in order so that you will actually make them. This is a "time to build up" your inventory! Below is a basic list to assure you can make all of the simple recipes we are sharing. Many items will be found in your kitchen but we will include them all just the same.

Basic Supply List:
  • 80-100 proof vodka (For tinctures, elixirs, liniments, etc., visit this post if you are concerned about using alcohol-based medicine and what the alternatives are.)
  • apple cider vinegar (For tincture making and/or oxymels, etc., raw is preferred.)
  • beeswax  (For medicinal salves and balms, pastilles are easier to measure out but you can also use shredded beeswax from a bar.)
  • cheese grater ~ (This will be necessary if you are going to shred your beeswax instead of buying the pastilles. I would recommend purchasing one at a second-hand store strictly for beeswax if you go that route because it doesn't come off the grater very well.)
  • cheesecloth, muslin and/or thin cotton fabric for straining herbs
  • essential oils ~ (Though I constantly use essential oils as medicine, this series is focusing more on the herbs themselves but some recipes may include an occasional oil which also may act as a preservative.)
  • food-grade glycerin (For tincture making, etc., sweet tasting for children though not as strong medicinally as the vodka or vinegar based medicines but still effective.)
  • glass spray bottles (Plastic leeches but can be used if necessary.)
  • herbs (shared below)
  • jars ~ 4 oz., pint jars, quart sized jars (variety of sizes for a variety of projects)
  • measuring cups
  • olive oil, almond oil, and/or coconut oil (or any other of your favorite body oils)
  • raw honey (local is best if you suffer from allergies)
  • stainless steel pots and pans (aluminum leeches, don't use)

Optional Supply List (Useful Though Not Absolutely Necessary)
  • chap-stick containers ~ (you may want an on-the-go balm or healing stick as they are convenient to carry)
  • corks (for storing syrups and such which can make most glass bottles into medicinal containers, more information below)
  • glass amber dropper bottles (For storing and administering tinctures, though dark bottles are preferred, you can use mason jars and simply keep products in a dark area such as your pantry.)

Bonus Tips and Thrifty Thinking
  • Save and recycle all your amber vitamin glass bottles, etc., for storing herbs (ask your family and friends to save them for you as well).
  • Save and recycle all your glass extract or cough medicine bottles (also ask your family to save them for you). The smaller extract bottles are nice to tuck into a get-well basket for someone who is under the weather and could use an herbal lift!
  • Save tiny glass condiment jars (such as pimento jars) and/or baby food jars (have friends save for you or just purchase some baby food on sale, the apricots are delicious and this is often cheaper than purchasing a salve or balm jar).
  • If you are going to make a medicinal oil, save your original bottle to store your infused oil back into. Do not wash it since the oil will be the same (and it is very challenging to wash out an oil-filled bottle anyways since oil and water doesn't mix!).
  • Once sanitized, many glass bottles (such as seltzer waters, taco sauce bottles, etc) can be re-used for storing syrups, tinctures, liniments and elixirs providing you have a cork to fit on top. I purchase the variety-sized pack of corks and am able to fit one onto all my collected bottles which also gives them an apothecary look. Corks are also good to use in case your product ferments. They will allow the air to escape so the bottle doesn't explode. Certain syrup recipes may require the use of a cork.
  • If deciding on which vegetable oils to use in our projects, keep in mind that olive oil and coconut oil have the best shelf life and are highly medicinal (though you may use other oils of your choice such as almond oil and jojoba oil, etc.).
  • I try and use quality essential oils in our medicine making. The easiest way to collect a good set at a "somewhat decent" price would be to purchase kits. I was able to stock an instant medicine cabinet filled with therapeutic grade oils, with an excellent variety through this type of promotion. We chose the doTERRA Family Physician Kit for our essential oil apothecary.

First 10 Herbs We Will Cover

Many of these may be found in your back yard (we only needed to purchase two).
With these simple supplies, you can create a home pharmacy in your pantry! You may also be interested in our *free* printable apothecary herb labels or How to Make a Tincture {Plus Printable Instructions and Labels}. I hope you enjoy this series and contribute your recipes, etc., to the single herb link-ups we will be hosting in the near future.

{Once again, please keep in mind that I am not an herbalist. My methods are simple ~ though learned from reputable books and herbalists ~ but you won't find any fancy scientific talk, just homemaking talk like sharing a recipe from my kitchen ~ perhaps in the same way grandmother would pass information down. This is also meant to be a fun and creative series for the keeper at home.}

This post may be shared with some or all of the following link-ups: The Art of Home-Making MondaysModest Mom Monday'sHomestead Barn HopAmaze Me MondayMonday's MusingsMarriage MondayTitus 2sdaysTitus 2 TuesdaysTuesdays with a TwistRaising HomemakersMake Bake CreateWise Woman Link UpWow Us Wednesdays, Wildcrafting WednesdayThe ScoopCoffee and ConversationSo Much at HomeHomemaking ThursdaysHome Sweet HomeHearts for Home ThursdaysGrowing in Grace ThursdaysHome Acre HopFrom the Farm Blog HopFarmgirl FridayFront Porch Friday Blog HopSimple Meals FridayFoodie FridaysCultivate NourishingSimply Natural Saturdays and Clever Chicks Blog Hop. Thank you lovely ladies for hosting these. 

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Foraging for Free Flowers "Planting Petals" ~ Free Printable

It may be hard to think about summer bouquets in the beginning of autumn. However, the frugal woman in you may enjoy foraging for a few free flowers to plant next spring… Perhaps this picture will be an inspiration?

Taking a brisk walk in the fresh fall air, we spotted a meadow of zinnias past their prime. The next day, baggie in tow, we cut the tops off all of the brown, dried, dead flowers. We placed them in a jar, covered it with a lid and set them in a dark corner of our laundry room (you may want to place contents in an envelope or paper bag prior to putting in your jar if you have humidity issues). We didn't bother separating the petals from the seeds.

And there they sat until the following spring...

Once the sun began to warm the earth, we sprinkled our "petals" inside our flower beds and showered them with water.

They began to grow… and a cutting garden was made without spending a dollar!

This will work with calendula, zinnias, marigolds, daisies and echinacea (to name a few)… Just collect all the dead flower tops as you see them in the next few months (no need to separate the seed from the other plant matter). There is life in them yet!

Our extra "planting petals" will be given in small seed packets as spring gifts. We will share our printable below in case you are interested in giving some away. The first page is left blank to fill in your flower name while the second one is labeled zinnias since that is what we had.

What thrifty ideas can you share for creating beautiful bouquets? What seeds are your favorite to collect? Little pug is quite interested!

"But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly;
and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully."
~ 2 Corinthians 9:6