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I’m so glad we live in Kentucky — it’s a whole lot colder in other places.
I can’t even imagine 42 degrees below zero, like it was in Minnesota. On the bright side, kids up there have a great time throwing water up into the air and watching it freeze and come down like little diamonds. Give me my wood stove, hot chocolate and a book and I can get along just fine, all day, inside.
All that cold we had last week did kill off a lot of bad bugs that won’t be harming our crops this summer. It also helped to kill off some germs that might have made us sick. Some germs is not all germs. There still may be a few of you out there that caught a case of the sniffles.
My friend Carolyn came into the library the other day and asked that I write about tinctures and the like, sometime. This is a perfect time.
There are lots of alternatives when it comes to dealing with colds and fevers. Read up. The dosages here are found in The Green Pharmacy and The Complete Book of Herbs.
Tinctures, infusions and poultices are all methods used for centuries to heal the body. They each have several recipes because different plants are used for different ailments. A tincture is just a plant fermented in alcohol or vinegar. An infusion is boiling water poured over a plant. A poultice is a moist mixture applied to the skin.
Let’s start with the tinctures. They use alcohol or vinegar to release the plant’s healing chemicals without heat. Tinctures are then added to hot or cold water to make a tea or to make compresses for external problems. They have a long shelf life. Those of you not wanting to use alcohol can find glycerin in health food stores to use instead.
Making a tincture takes several hours. Cheap vodka is the most common alcohol used to make these. It’s just got to be at least 40 proof, which means it’s about 20 percent alcohol. Get a quart jar with a lid.
Pour one pint of the vodka and add two ounces of the dried plant or a loose handful into the jar. Let it sit on the counter for at least 19 hours. You can let it sit for up to a week. An occasional shake does it good. Store it in the pantry. The dosages are measured in drops.
Making an infusion is quicker, but you can’t store it long. Mostly, it’s just a tea. It just has to steep for at least 10 minutes. Start with boiling water, then add the plant. If the plant called for is a root or twig, it’s better to make a decoction which just means to let it steep for 20 minutes. Both methods use heat to release the chemicals from the plant. Use about two tablespoons of leaf or flower material for every pint of water. Use about 2 inches of root or twig. Dosage varies from one to four cups daily.
A poultice is a moist wad of plant material pressed directly onto the skin, usually to treat an infection or speed healing. Steaming the leaves or flowers works best to soften and moisten them. Use the size of wad appropriate to the wound. It doesn’t need to be any thicker than a pickle chip. Leave it on for an hour or more. Make it fresh each time. You can cover it with a clean cloth and tape, to hold it in place.
Picking the right plant material for the right ailment is the tricky part. I simply cannot do them justice here, but you can find them online and in books. My standard cure-all for a cold is ginger root, grated and steeped for an infusion. I drink at least three cups in a day. Echinacea root makes a tincture to help boost your immune system and get well. Use 1/4 teaspoon per cup of juice or tea. Take it several times a day for three days.
Those of you who don’t feel like cooking and concocting can just cut up a raw onion into slices and steep it in honey overnight. Then, store it in a bottle and take several tablespoons throughout the day, for a day or two.
Now, bundle up. Get out there and look for that elusive snow. It concerns me that the snowfalls have been missing us, just like the rains did this summer. Hey! What a good time to look for new watering ideas. Ones that are freeze proof. Then, come inside and look at all those catalogues for irrigation hardware. Add a cup of hot chocolate and a comforter to beat the brrr. Happy Growing!
E-mail Cheryl Steenerson at Cheryl@theandersonnews.com.