Before we dive into the “how-to” portion of this month’s series on Creating a Kitchen Pharmacy let’s take a look at a few best practice guidelines that everyone should implement when preparing herbal remedies at home.
I first want to encourage you today by saying, if you’ve been cooking homemade meals for any length of time — years, months, or even days — you already possess the skills necessary for making herbal remedies. Anyone can do it! Yes, that means even you
And just as any good cook will tell you…there are always secrets to success.
So let’s discuss a few of those that I have learned along the way, and a few that I want to be a bit more intentional with:
1. Start an Herbal Journal. In days gone by, many families possessed herbal recipe journals. These journals doubled as homemaking survival guides during a time when homemakers knew how to depend on the natural world by finding medicine among the plants, roots, and trees. In general, they didn’t have the luxury of running to the local drug store for a tube of antibiotic ointment. Neither did they have access to modern day pharmaceuticals.
Their recipes, often hand-written, were naturally passed on from mother to daughter from generation to generation. Based upon basic plant-based materials and herbal wisdom, the household recipes of days-gone-by mostly relied on ingredients found in everyone’s kitchen pantry, field, or garden.
We are reviving this tradition and I am slowly creating and adding to an herbal recipe journal that I hope will one day be a blessing to my children and their children.
Our family herbal recipe journal is a way for me to keep myself organized. It’s not perfect — in fact there are several scribbles, additions, and lines drawn everywhere but it allows me to keep a record of the different ingredients used in all of my remedies, dates (i.e. length of tincture time, etc.), and modes of preparation.
Start your own family herbal journal today!
2. Label, label, label. Oh I am so bad about this! I am getting much better now, but still there are those times when I create what I think will be the cure for __________ and I think to myself “There’s no way I’ll ever forget what’s in here.” Well you’ve probably guessed it…I’d always forget and then I was forced to waste it.
Learn now to label all of your preparations by including:
- the name you have given the remedy
- the ingredients the remedy contains
- dosing or how to use instructions
- the date the remedy was prepared
You can either make your own labels with re-purposed paper, or you can purchase them here and print them off of your computer’s printer.
3. Go big or go home. That saying doesn’t really apply here and your experimental batches of this or that should be made only in small quantities. This practice alone works to dramatically reduce waste.
4. Use high-quality medicinal herbs. Ideally, growing your own is the only way in which to be certain of the quality an herb possesses. However, as we discussed yesterday, when purchasing medicinal herbs it is vital that you look for companies that have a reputation for honest, sustainable, and ethical practices. These companies should sell herbs that are organic and if they are wild-crafted, they should be harvested with respect for the environment.
Fresh is best, however properly dried herbs contain just as many medicinal properties. But how can you tell if the plant material you want to purchase is of good quality?
It should hold it’s color, smell, taste, and efficacy.
The color of dried herbs should be very similar to that of the fresh herb. Their smell should be strong, rich, and vibrant. They must taste potent and fresh. And the have to work!
5. Check with your health care practitioner before using an herbal preparation, especially if you’re taking a prescription drug. Tell your practitioner about all of the medications that you are taking – including nonprescription medications, herbal supplements, and vitamins. This is a good practice because many herbal remedies can interact with other drugs.
What’s on your list? Please share with us your tips, tricks, and best practices for making herbal remedies in your home!