26 Jul Herbal Oils, Salves, and Tinctures with Margi Flint
We spent a beautiful morning at the farm last Sunday, learning to prepare fresh medicinal herbs in the cool of the barn. The smells of calendula, beeswax, and fresh hay were not a bad way to start the day! Margi, of Earthsong Herbals in Marblehead, walked a group of residents from Boxford to Manchester By The Sea to harvest herbs in the garden and preserve them. She combined a day of wandering the garden, learning new plants, with time monitoring the gentle alchemy of turning herbs into infused oils, salves, and tinctures.
Methods of Preserving Herbs
Infused oils, salves, and tinctures are three of the main ways of preserving herbs in mediums that can be used by the human body. We are hosting a workshop on the fourth method, drying herbs for tea, next week. Infused oils are made with many different oils, including olive and almond. The plant medicine is infused by heating the oil, like heating
water for tea. To make a salve, you add beeswax into the oil to give a thicker consistency. Last, tinctures are alcohol extracts, made by adding plant material to strong alcohol (80 proof or more!) for a period of two to four weeks. Tinctures are very concentrated and are taken internally in small amounts.
Making Calendula-Plantain Salve and Yarrow Tincture
Margi walked us through making two products, a Calendula flower (Calendula officinalis) and Plantain leaf (Plantago major) salve as well as a Yarrow flower (Achillea millefolium) tincture. She began the day by setting shredded Calendula flowers and Plantain leaves into a double boiler with olive oil.
The oil was gently heated until the end of the workshop, when the Calendula scent became stronger and the oil took on a reddish-gold color. We had to be careful to keep the temperature below boiling to protect the delicate plant medicines. Once infused, the plant material was strained and beeswax added, at a ratio of roughly 1 cup oil to ¼ cup beeswax. By cooling small amounts on our fingernails, we were able to find a consistency that was thick, smooth, and unctuous. This salve is an aid to bruising, aches, and soreness.
The Yarrow flowers were set in a blender full of 80 proof vodka, without explicit measurement. Margi simply blended several cups of yarrow flowers, more being merrier. Each participant took home a mason jar with their tincture to sit, yarrow and vodka working together, for at least two weeks. The vodka and water slowly extract Yarrow’s medicine, especially when helped by vigorous shaking each day. When strained, this tincture is taken in small amounts as an aid to the circulatory system.
Overall the workshop was an excellent primer to medicinal herbs and many ways of preparing them. We hope Margi will return (keep an eye out next year) and you can join us! She does an excellent job distilling forty years of experience into accessible bites. Her approach to herbalism is straightforward and great for empowering the participants to use their new knowledge for healing!
For more on Margi’s previous workshop in early summer, click here.