Diversity builds resilience
I was introduced to making multiple-herb tinctures back in 2007/8 while spending time with one of my teachers, Annie MacIntyre during my medical herbalism training. She had these huge kilners jars with layers of different, multiple herbs macerating in alcohol. They varied through the year depending on what was available and what she had foraged. They were aesthetically gorgeous, and different. My training was such that you made one tincture at once, one plant at a time. Although Western Herbalists practice polypharmacy (mixing a variety of herbs together to have a complementary, synergistic effect), we only ever made single herb tinctures. In Traditional Chinese and Auyrvedic Medicine polypharmacy is also practiced, and they do make mixed tinctures.
Whilst out walking my dog one day along the River Kelvin Walkway I was contemplating Autumn. Looking around I saw the abundance of nature, specifically shouting about all the vitamin, nutrient rich berries she had on offer. I couldn’t help imagine the deliciousness of the berries all combined in a oner. Rich and deep, varied and diverse and remembering Annie’s tinctures from way back. Last year I read on Lucinda Warrener’s fantastic blog that she had made a medicinal tincture using Port and Brandy. The two ideas combined beautifully. I was dreaming the vitamin-rich multiple berry tincture whilst walking. Nature was talking to me. I listened.
Yesterday Imani and I (mostly me, whilst she bimbled along in her gorgeous distracted child way) took a good long (in time not distance) walk along the canal and onto the River Kelvin Walkway to collect all the berries I had been dreaming about. It’s brilliant to live in a city yet have so much access to green space, this is what Glasgow is like. We collected blackberries (Rubus spp.), hawthorn berries and leaves (Crataegus spp.), elderberries (Sambucus nigra) and rosehips (Rosa spp.). I will write individual pieces on each of these herbs, but each one contributes something towards the following:
- Vitamin C – immune boosting, anti-oxidant
- Anthocyanins (flavonoids) – red, blue and purple foods contain ellagic acid, anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, reduce the risk of cancer, improve vision, short-term memory, improve balance and coordination
- Protect the heart and cardiovascular system
- Iron and blood boosting properties
- Vitamin E
Macerating these medicinal plants in alcohol allows for the medicinal properties of each to be extracted into the liquid, leaving a health-boosting, delicious, small volume and easy-to-take liquid. Alcohol is also a preservative so it can be kept for many years (though I don’t imagine mine will last any longer than the winter!). Here’s how to make it:
Ingredients (for two 500ml kilner jars I harvested about 500g of elderberries, 500g blackberries, 200g hawthorn and 150g rosehips)
- Wild harvested (or cultivated in your garden, assuming it is chemical free from sprays and pollution) elder berries, hawthorn leaves and berries, rosehips and blackberries
- Bottle of Port
- Bottle of Brandy
- 2 *500ml kilner jars/jars with lids
- Elderberries – hold upsidedown in one hand, using a fork rake off the berries into a bowl, discarding the stems. Wash the berries. Discard green berries.
- Clean and wash blackberries
- Clean and remove any brown/discoloured leaves from hawthorn
- Wash and discard any damaged rosehips
- Sterilise the jars
- Divide and layer up each plant into the jars
- Pour brandy into one and port into the other, filling the jar with liquid to cover the plant matter
- Add a label – date it was made, who made it and what it contains
- Store in dark cupboard, shaking gently everyday for 2 weeks
- After 2 weeks of maceration, strain it through a muslin cloth, discarding the plant matter into compost
- Decant liquid into clean jars/bottles and re-label
For prophylaxis take 2.5-5ml daily, neat or diluted in water, sweeten to taste with honey and lemon
For a cold take double the dose (5-10ml daily) during the illness and for a few days after to help strengthen the immune system.
(child’s dose [5-15 years depending on size of child] is half that of an adults). This is not recommended for children under 3, seek the professional advice of a medical herbalist if you have any concerns/questions.