This blog is dedicated to learning and sharing all about traditional living. Heidi believes that we have lost our way in these modern times, and this is her attempt to get back to nature, get back to traditional ways of cooking, treating ailments, and just overall natural living. She considers herself a modern day homesteader.
Oh, those fancy Latin binomial plant names….Do you really need them? After all, can’t I just talk about elderberry and everyone knows what I mean, don’t they? Before I really understood these scientific plant names, I thought they may be just a little….I don’t know….overdone? But then….I had a light bulb moment…and it all happened because of elderberry.
And yes. We DO absolutely need these Latin names for proper identification!
And…it is very helpful to know what they mean.
I was talking with a friend on the phone many, many years ago, and she was asking about red elderberry. Way back then, I just thought elderberry was simply elderberry.
My dad used to take us foraging in the mountains in Southern Nevada as a young child, and I grew up thinking that what I know now is Sambucus cerulea was the only elderberry there was. That was elderberry, right? Aren’t they all the same, after all?
Then I began studying botany and herbalism, and I realized….Oh. My. Gosh! These binomial names are REALLY important.
For example, the red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) is the most toxic species of elder to humans. It’s not an elderberry you want to be using, at least if you have other medicinal species of elder around. Also, not all species of elderberry have the same medicinal properties.
Knowing which species of elderberry a person is talking about is vital to making good choices, especially if you are foraging.
Now, I’m just using elderberry as an example. We could apply this to any single plant genus and species. Understanding the Latin names as well as proper foraging and identification techniques is vital to being a good herbalist….unless you simply want to purchase your herbs, and that’s fine too.
But even if you are purchasing herbs, you still should understand exactly what you’re buying.
Are those fancy Latin plant names really necessary? Find out all about what they are, what they mean, and how to use them correctly. Binomial classification has a place, and if you want to be an herbalist, you’ll need to understand these! #latin #latinnames #plantnames #whatare #doesitmean #healingharvesthomestead
Latin Plant Names Explained: What Do They Mean?
All living things are placed in related groups so scientists can commonly refer to them the same way no matter where in the world the living thing lives.
You see, using Latin binomials (genus & species) is common scientific language spoken all over the world, and there is no doubt about what plant is being referred to when you are using the scientific name.
Plant classifications and organization start out with class, then moves on to order, then to family, genus, and species.
When a scientist first discovers a new plant, that plant is given a special name in Latin, depending on what family it falls into, its genus, and then it's species is usually a descriptor of some kind to make it easy to differentiate between other plants in the genus.
Because the plant's special name consists of two words (genus & species), it is known as a "binomial." The first name is capitalized, and the species name is not. Both are italicized and are often found in parentheses after the common name.
For example, I could refer to the elderberry bush down the hill, but what does that really mean? Is it the more toxic red elderberry? Or is it the highly medicinal black elderberry? Is it the lower growing shrub? Is it a towering tree?
Well, if I know its Latin name is Sambucus cerulea, then I know now that it is the blue elderberry that is native to the western part of North America and has similar medicinal qualities as the popular Sambucus nigra.
You can see that the Latin binomial classification of plants saves us a lot of headaches in identification!
The blue water lily: Nymphaea ceruleae (blue water lily) has the same species name as Sambucus cerulea (blue elderberry), yet they are completely different plants altogether.
There's a little more to know about using Latin names:
The genus name CAN be referred to alone, and often is when we are talking about a group of plants. For example, I could say, Rosa spp. The Rosa tells us it is the Rose family, and the "spp" tells us there are multiple species.
The species name is NEVER referred to alone, because these are descriptors for a plant in a genera (plural for genus). There are all kinds of species descriptors. Let's talk about some of these common names for species.
So, Rosa canina is (I'm sure you guessed) a rose. It is actually a dog rose, hence the species name "canina," like canine. And Rosa rugosa is the name of another different species of rose. Rugosa means "wrinkled" or "rough."
It's kind of fun when you start understanding a little bit about Latin, which you will the longer you study your plants!
Let's talk about elderberry again. The genus for the elderberry plant is Sambucus.
Here are some different species of elderberry: Sambucus nigra, Sambucus cerulea, Sambucus racemosa and there are others.
Now let's look at what kind of plants these are in the same genus. Nigra means black, so Sambucus nigra is the black elderberry (really a very dark purple) we find naturally growing in the southeast United States and Europe.
Sambucus cerulea is the blue elderberry (which actually has a white yeast coating on the berries, making them look blue) and grows naturally in the mountain areas of the western part of North America. This plant has very similar medicinal properties as the black elderberry.
But now I want to talk about Sambucus racemosa. This is the red elderberry....and it is far more toxic to humans than other species of elder and really shouldn’t be used medicinally, in my opinion. Can you see how important the binomial system is when discussing plants?
Some herbalists are very persnickety about being sure to use the Latin name all the time. Others are more casual about it. Regardless, the Latin name system is very important and nails down the exact plant you wish to identify or discuss.
A Friendly, Simple Way to Understand Latin Plant NamesPlants are our friends, right?
Just think about learning the Latin names as though you are learning the name of a new friend. :-) Makes it more fun!
And there is one more thing I want to discuss, and this is the family name. The family name is a broader category under which the genus and species fall.
Let's talk about the beautiful rose again. The rose family is Rosaceae. This family is huge, and includes shrubs, trees, and everything in between.
So, Hawthorn, a wonderful tree with medicinal leaves and berries, has a genus name of Craetagus spp. But like the common rose, this tree is also in the rose family (Rosaceae). If we are talking about the common hawthorn, we would say: Craetagus monogyna; Rosaceae.
This shows us the genus, species, and also at the end, the family (you may also find it at the beginning of the name as well) . Some herbalists like to include the family name for further help in identification.
The Damask rose happens to be a hybrid. So you might see a little "x" in the name. This shows us it is a hybrid. It looks like this: Rosa x damascena; Rosaceae. So, now we know we are talking about the Damask Rose, in the Rose family, and that it is also a hybrid.
Pretty interesting, right?
Don't be worried about this, though. Those Latin names will start making more sense the more you get used to seeing them and perhaps even using them!
Here are Sambucus nigra, the black elderberry. A similar but still different plant than Sambucus cerulea, the blue elderberry.
Here are some Latin name meanings to help you understand and identify the species of the plants—
These specifically refer to the species names, which again, are not capitalized. And by the way, you would never refer to a plant by only the species name. This is because other genera may share the same species name as a descriptor.
An example of this might be the blue water lily (Nymphaea cerulea) and the blue elderberry (Sambucus cerulea). Both are blue, but they are completely different plants. Just by saying the name, cerulea, you still have no idea what plant you are referring to. All you know is that it is blue!
Species names are simply descriptors that help to identify which species is being referred to and are often adjectives. Here are some examples (there are many, many more):
acaulis = stemless
alba = white
angustifolia = narrow-leafed
arvense = from the field
azurea = blue
cerulea also equals blue
canadensis = from Canada
chinensis = from China
digitata = leaves like a hand, with 5 lobes
foetida = stinky
lappa = thorn
latifolia = wide leaves
longiflora = long flowers
longifolia = long leaves
maculata = spotted
millefolia = many thousands of leaves
officinalis = with medicinal or herbal uses
pinnata = with pinnate leaves
purpurea = deep pink
rosea = rose pink
rubra = red
sativa = cultivated
spicata = spiked
viridis = green
vulgaris = common
These, of course, are just a few of the Latin names used to describe the specific species in a particular genus of plants. There are many, many others. But it’s fun to get to know these names!
So, if I look at the above list, and I see that Mentha spicata is actually spearmint, doesn’t that make sense? It’s a mint with spear-shaped or spiked leaves! While its famous counterpart, Mentha piperita is actually peppermint! Two completely different mints called “Mentha,” but the species tells them apart.
I hope this little post cleared up this binomial topic a little bit for you. And if you are busy learning about herbs, I also hope you will spend a little time getting to know your new green besties whole names! :-)
And here is a close up of Sambucus cerulea, the blue elderberry. If I were to rub off the white yeast coating, you’d see a very purple berry. BUT, it is still a different species than S. nigra.
Final Thoughts on Latin Plant Names and Being All Scientific
Did I talk you into getting to know your plants a little better? I sure hope so. It’s really wonderful to be able to see a binomial plant name, now, and know that it refers to the genus and the species. And when you also start realizing more about the families these plants fall into, identification of plants becomes a whole new world!
I personally never thought I’d be excited about learning Latin….but now I am. And I’m also rather grateful for the five years I spent learning Spanish! The Latin romance language (Spanish, Italian and others) have many roots that are very similar to the Latin.
Go forth and study! :-) Or, at least know the genus and species (first and last names) of the plants you love to interact with!
Here are some other articles you may be interested in:
What do you think of Latin names? Did this article make it a little easier? I hope so! :-)
One last thing: Have you ever thought about going to herbalism school? Well, you can! The Herbal Academy of New England has online courses for all levels and herbal interests. I’ve taken a great deal of my own herbal coursework there, and I completely recommend it!
Hugs, Health, and Self-Reliance,
P.S. If you haven’t done so yet, I hope you will sign up for my weekly newsletter and never miss a thing! You’ll also get immediate access to the free Resource Library, where you’ll find tons of printables, like eBooks, guides, checklists, and more that you can print and use outside the blog. :-)
The question, “Which is the best way to make an herbal tincture? The folk method or the measurement (or standard) method?” has come up several times in my private Facebook group, Practical Herbs with Heidi, recently.
Also, I’ve come across quite a few herbalists who have taken adamant stands one way or the other. So, here’s some information about both methods, how to make a tincture using both the Measurement Method and the Folk Method, and my own personal opinion.
While writing my 12 part series on How to Start Using Herbs, this question came up in conversations and in questions for me. I thought I’d write about the pros and cons of both styles of making herbal tinctures so you can choose the best method for you!
NOTE: This is Part 11 in my 12 part series, How to Start Using Herbs for Your Health.
Which Method is the Best Way to Make an Herbal Tincture? The Folk Method or the Measurement Method?
To examine this issue, you really need to understand the thought process behind each method. Also, you need to apply some common sense to each method as well. Both have benefits and downsides, and when you know what these are, you can choose the best way for you to make your own tinctures.
I’ve been making tinctures for a very long time, now, and I have my own personal opinion about which I prefer and why. I’ll share this at the end of the article, but for now, here is an objective (or as objective as I can be) look at both tincturing methods.
The Measurement Method, Also Called the Standard Method: Benefits & Downsides
Some herbalists will tell you that this is the best way to make tinctures because it is “scientific.” Well, to an extent they are correct. Also, in terms of attempting to put out a product that yields the same effectiveness, the standard method is a good place to start.
You see, with this method, you are measuring your herb in weight, while measuring a ratio of liquid in volume. To do this, you would take, say, an ounce of dried herb, and combine it with 5 ounces of your menstruum, and there you go! You now have a standard ratio of herb to liquid, at 1:5.
Here are some general guidelines for this style of making a tincture:
For dried herbs: 1 ounce herb to 5 ounces (liquid volume) of menstruum.
For fresh herbs: 1 ounce herb to 2 ounces (liquid volume) of menstruum.
If you are using a graduated cylinder, which is a good idea for this method, then you’d be measuring in milliliters. Therefore:
For dried herbs: 10 grams herb to 50 mL menstruum.
For fresh herbs: 10 grams herb to 20 mL menstruum.
There’s a lot more math I could go into dealing with percentages of alcohol to water ratios, etc. But I think you get the gist, right?
FTC Disclosure: There are affiliate links scattered here and there in this article. If you click through and make any kind of purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
The Benefits of Using the Standard Method:
It is more scientific.
You can make reliable measurements using tools so your herbal products may more likely come out being similar in quality each time.
Using this method takes the guesswork out of your tincture making, and it also makes dosing easier. You simply use the same measurements every time for your tinctures.
It’s a great method to use if you are selling your herbal products, or if you are really worried about consistency, as many newer or non-intuitive herbalists can be. Or, perhaps you just want to be as close to a standard measure as possible. Or, an herbalist who sells products may prefer this method because their formulas are now “standardized” to an extent. This method gives them a hard and fast rule to follow.
The Downsides of Using the Standard Method:
Sometimes…..It just doesn’t work. I’ll explain this in a moment.
The alcohol content makes a big difference in your tincture. Therefore, you need to be sure you are using the same proof alcohol for the herbs you choose to make your extracts every time.
If you are going to standardize, you also should be willing to do the math to be sure your tincture has the correct ratio of alcohol for preservation purposes. There are factors (fresh vs. dried herb, the proof of the alcohol, etc.) that will affect this number. You can find out how to do this in the book, Making Plant Medicine.
It’s quite easy to make mistakes. For example, if you forget to measure your liquid by looking at the side of the graduated cylinder or measuring tool, you’ll not get quite the same amount as if you are looking down on the tool. This is because of the “meniscus” and is called an “error of parallax,” in scientific terms.
There are factors out of your control, such as the quality of the plant, the water content of the herb (if using fresh herbs), to name just two.
You may end up with too much head space in your jar. You do want a little head space, about an inch so the herbs can be agitated when shaking. However, you don’t want too much because evaporation happens, even in the best sealed jars. This can be easily remedied by choosing a different jar, though.
Now, I’ll explain what I mean by, “sometimes the Standard method doesn’t work.”
It’s all about the plant. Some plants are quite dense, like roots, seeds, berries, and even some flower blossoms. Other herbs are light, airy, and fluffy.
For example, if you measure out an ounce of lavender and place it in a jar, it may only take up about an inch of space. And if you measure out a lighter herb, such as raspberry leaf, that same ounce will completely fill the jar, plus some!
The next step is to measure out and add your five ounces of menstruum (liquid volume, remember). With the ounce of lavender blossoms, the five ounces of liquid covers the herb nicely, leaving some good head space and the ability to agitate by shaking the tincture.
However, that same five ounces of alcohol (by volume), when added to the raspberry leaf, barely wets it and definitely doesn’t cover it completely (which is a must if you are making a tincture).
You see, weight and volume are two different kinds of measurements. Although this method works with many plants, it simply does not with others. In the case of the raspberry leaf, you’ll need to increase the ratio of menstruum to plant matter to make a tincture work.
As Richo Cech states in his wonderful book, Making Plant Medicine (which I highly recommend), that “a dry, fluffy ground up herb like motherwort is barely wetted by the menstruum.” He goes on to caution, “do not be tempted to add more liquid, as this would result in a dilute tincture.”
I guess my question is, “What do you do with the amount of herb that isn’t exposed to the menstruum?” The more finely you grind the herb will help more of it be in contact with the liquid, but I’d be concerned there may still be herb not completely macerated at the end.
This is because agitation, which requires the plant matter to move around a bit in the menstruum, is important to the tincturing process.
**I want to quickly note that Richo Cech’s explanation of the standard method and how to figure out the ratios involved is exceptional. It’s the best explanation I’ve ever seen. If you are interested in this method, you really need his book, Making Plant Medicine. I refer to it all the time.
In addition, other factors can affect the actual quality of the herb you may choose to use. Where was the plant grown? How was it processed? Was it wildcrafted? If it was cultivated, is the soil exactly the same from year to year? Are you getting your herbs from the same exact source for every single batch of tincture? There are other factors as well.
Basic Directions for Making a Standardized Tincture:
1) Chop up your fresh herbs or grind up your dried herbs. Measure out the amount you’d like in grams or in ounces by weight.
2) Place your herb in the jar and label the jar with the date and name of the herb.
3) Measure out the correct ratio of liquid by volume in ounces or milliliters. Pour it over the herbs. Shake well.
4) Set it aside in a warm place and shake it daily for between three and six weeks.
5) Strain out your liquid. If any settling occurs, strain it with finer cheesecloth one more time.
6) Store in labeled amber glass jars, in a cool, dark place.
The Folk Method: Benefits & Downsides
The folk method is the way traditional herbalists have been creating tinctures for millennia. It’s a popular way to make a good tincture, and it was the way I was taught at my first herbal school (Rosemary Gladstar’s Science & Art of Herbalism).
Once you begin working with plants as medicine and have experienced a few tinctures using the same herb for yourself, you’ll develop an intuitive sense of the strength of the tincture. Trust this. The more you make and use your own plant medicines, the better able you will be to determine relative strength of the preparation.
The Benefits of the Folk Method of Tincture Making
It’s easy. Plain and simple, it’s as easy as pie. You simply eyeball the amount of herb, fill your jar with your menstruum, shake it daily, and let it macerate for four to six weeks. That’s it.
This method is accessible for everyone. Heavy math may scare some people away from making one of the most effective herbal preparations for quick use. Although the basic proportions I gave above aren’t “heavy math,” by any means, when you start getting into measuring alcohol to water ratios, the return of the tincture amount, etc., you’re doing a lot of math.
It is truly the traditional way of the old time herbalist. I’m not sure how beneficial this factor is ;-), but it’s important to some folks.
The Downsides of the Folk Method of Tincture Making
Your tinctures will be more variable than with the standardized method, which may affect dosing.
It’s possible to make a tincture too strong. This can be a big problem if you are using plants that have any kind of toxicity or drug interactions. Using benign herbs can solve this problem, so it’s something to consider.
On the one hand, when you consider that it’s much easier to make a mistake in tincture strength and dosing using the folk method, the standard method starts to look a bit more attractive.
However, if you’ve made tinctures using the folk method, you can’t argue that the majority of tinctures made using this method are completely legitimate and fabulous with some common sense and experience.
Basic Directions for Making a Tincture Using the Folk Method:
1) Chop up your fresh herbs or grind your dry herbs….or not. Generally, I just use the cut and sifted size and don’t worry about finely grinding my herbs.
2) Place the herb in a glass jar, around 1/3 to 1/2 full for dried; 3/4 of the way for fresh.
3) Add menstruum to within an inch of the top of the jar.
4) After three to six weeks, strain off the liquid.
5) Store in your amber glass bottles, as with the standard method. Be sure to label them!
Final Thoughts About Choosing the Tincturing Method That’s Right for You
There are good arguments on both sides of this issue. Here’s what I think:
Use the Folk Method if:
You feel comfortable with it
You like the thought of the historic value
You feel like you have an intuitive sense of the plants
You’re not afraid to make a tincture that is too weak or strong (this comes with experience, and the only way you’ll get this is by doing it)
You want to keep things simple and easy. There is something to be said for K.I.S.S (Keep it Simple Silly)
You’ve already got lots of experience using herbs and you know the folk method works.
Use the Standard Method if:
You feel at all uncomfortable with dosing a tincture
You are selling your products and need a system to ensure as little variation as possible in the tinctures from month to month and year to year
You love math
You are dealing with plants that have some level of toxicity
I learned to practice the Folk Method from my first herbal school. And I learned to practice the Standard Method from my second herbal school. And both schools gave legitimacy to both methods.
I guess because I learned the folk method initially, I’m just more comfortable with it and feel no reason to change what I’m doing. I’ve acted as a home and community herbalist for years now, and I feel completely satisfied with how my tinctures turn out using the folk method.
I’ve had mostly positive experiences, and with some adjustments, even dosing has never been an issue. I’ll add a caveat here, though: I start with smaller amounts and increase dosing as needed. Also, if I end up with a weaker tincture, I simply create a double infusion to strengthen it.
And, I don’t tend to mess with herbs that are unsafe. The herbs I choose for my friends, neighbors, and family are GRAS (generally regarded as safe) or have contraindications for a small portion of the population only.
With all that said, however, the Standard Method has a LOT of good points.
I don’t think you can ever truly “standardize” a plant, since they are individuals and so very different even among the same species. But if you are looking to create tinctures that are as close to one another as possible, this is definitely the way to go.
Which method appeals to you the most? Leave a comment in the comments section!
You might also be interested in my series, How to Start Using Herbs:
And there are SO many more over on the blog! Head on over and browse around!
And if you want to be part of a supportive, educational group for learning about herbs, I hope you’ll check out my private Facebook group, Practical Herbs with Heidi. It’s a fun and safe place to ask questions and get & share answers about foraging, wild harvesting, and working with herbs.
Finally, if you are interested in taking an online course to learn how to use herbs for your health, I recommend the Herbal Academy of New England. They have courses for all levels and interests!
Hugs, Health, and Self-Reliance,
P.S. I hope you’ll sign up for our newsletterand join our community! You’ll never miss a thing, and you’ll get immediate access to the free Resource Library! It contains a ton of free printables you can download and use to help you in your journey to self-reliance.
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Disclaimer: I am an herbalist, not a doctor. In no manner, stated or implied, is any content or wording of mine meant to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease. Please be sure to seek advice from a medical professional before using herbs or essential oils. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Also, please do your own research before using herbs for your health.
Ready to make your own plant medicine and home remedies using herbs? Find out which method is the best for making herbal tinctures or extracts? The traditional folk method or the more scientific standard method? You’ll find out the benefits and downsides of both styles, plus my opinion. #homeremedy #tincturemaking #herbal #herb #plantmedicine #naturalhealth #folk #traditional #method #tintures #howtomake
Last weekend, Mr. V. and I went over to our friends’ house for….get this! A sour dough bread making class taught personally by Pat, who has been experimenting with his bread making for quite some time now. We have been blessed to become friends with Pat & Jan.
I was SO excited! Not only did we get a good lesson on making our own homemade sour dough bread, but they were kind enough to gift us with enough starter to get us going on our own. I was THRILLED, ya’ll! And this starter, Jan revealed, is rumored to have come over with her family on the Mayflower!
Most of my previous efforts at making sour dough bread have been…..well, sub-par, to be honest. And with high hopes and some effort, I just know that I’ll get to baking the best sour dough bread ever.
But. Before I tackle full-on sour dough bread, with all its intricacies, I thought I’d start with an easier task….like these gourmet lard-free tortillas. I have now made them several times, using both olive oil and avocado oils to be sure they turn out well. And they’ve been perfect every single time.
Mr. V., whose Mexican granny was an expert tortilla maker (you know, perfectly round and perfectly delicious—the kind from the old country) even said these are the BEST tortillas he’s ever tasted. I attribute this to the addition of the healthy spices—-cooking with herbs is where the health and taste benefits are at, you know!
I beamed with pride, anyway. ;-) (I just love that man.)
When I posted pics on Facebook and Instagram, I got tons of requests for the recipe. So, here it is! I’m proud and happy to share this with you. I know you’ll love these tortillas!
FTC Disclosure: There are affiliate links scattered throughout this article. If you click through and make any kind of purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Mmmm…Delicious! These are the BEST tortillas I’ve ever had (my husband told me)! This handmade tortilla recipe is lard-free, healthy, easy, and SO delicious. It uses sour dough starter, so if you have some going on, you are going to make some incredibly tasty tortillas in no time at all. Quick. Easy. Fermented. Delicious. #tortillas #handmade #homemade #recipe #gourmet #lardfree #sourdough #healingharvesthomestead
Gourmet, Lard-Free, Sourdough Tortilla Recipe with Rosemary & Thyme
I’ve made these tortillas using this recipe several times now. I’ve tried using both olive oil and avocado oil to see how the different oils would react, and I’ve added different amounts of the spices. This recipe has been successful and easy every single time!
A note about the spices: Most traditional tortillas are just plain bread. I thought I’d give these something extra because I love rosemary and olive oil bread. The spices I added give these tortillas a special and extra delicious taste.
If you aren’t a fan of the spices, just leave them out! But I suggest playing around with your favorites in this recipe. You could try chipotle powder, other savory herbs, and special herbed finishing salts substituted for the regular salt. The sky is the limit!
Ingredients for Healthy Gourmet Sourdough Tortillas
3 cups flour (I used high quality baking flour, organic; but any should be just fine)
1 cup sourdough starter (I used the liquid starter I got from my friends, but I’ve made it easily in the past myself. You can also take a look at this link for a starter.)
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil or avocado oil (I’ve tried both, and both healthy oils work fabulously!)
NOTE: I grew, dried, and powdered or crushed both the spices here. If you need to purchase your spices, I recommend buying them in bulk from a good online store like Starwest Botanicals. The links above are to Amazon for other good brands I can recommend.
This is some healthy sour dough starter! It’s alive!
Mixing up the ingredients. As you can see, I don’t pay much attention to the dry/wet thing. I know I should, but… These have turned out every time regardless!
Directions for Making Lard-Free Sour Dough Tortillas
These tortillas are SO easy, and the resting time is extremely forgiving. If you have to let your dough go a litttle longer or even less long a period than recommended, these should still turn out fine. I’m saying this based on experiences with the recipe.
Step 1) Mix
Mix your dry ingredients well. Then add in your wet ingredients. Using a fork or spatula, fold the mixture together until you have a nice dough.
Step 2) Knead
Knead your dough—-I’d say three to five minutes should do it just fine. You want your dough completely mixed.
Here’s the dough getting ready to rest for the day.
Here’s the dough after resting for 24 hours. I’m always amazed at how healthy sour dough starter is often better than the dried yeast from the store! It’s better for you, too.
Step 3) Rest
Place your ball of dough into an oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel. Let your covered bowl sit in an out of the way place to rest and rise.
I’ve let it go as little as 8 hours and as many as 26. You’ll get a higher rise the longer the dough rests, but it doesn’t seem to affect the tortillas much.
Step 4) Knead and Split into Balls
Take your risen dough from the bowl, and give it a couple of kneads. Then split your dough into 12 sections and roll these into balls.
To get roughly the same size balls, I cut the dough in half, then I cut the halves into thirds. Then I cut these smaller thirds in half again to give me 12 balls.
Here they are, cooking. I’m terrible at getting that perfect circle. But the irregular shape is part of the homemade charm, right?
Step 5) Roll the Balls
Roll the little balls out into flat tortillas. If you leave them on the thick side, you’ll get something similar to naan bread, which my husband informs me is actually closer to the tortillas made in certain regions of Mexico. So play around with this. Try them thick, thin, and in between. You’ll get a feel for how you like them.
Step 6) Cook
Using a flat griddle or cast iron pans, lay your flattened tortillas onto the surface. I like the heat set at about medium for this. It takes about a minute or so on each side of the tortilla.
Mr. V. says these are the best tortillas he’s ever had! He may be saying this to make me feel good…but the indisputable fact remains: they’re delicious!
Elk Tacos——SO good.
Step 7) Enjoy!
I just love this part! You can freeze them if you have extra. They’ll last a couple of days just fine without refrigeration. Depending on how long you cook them for, they will stay pliable and yummy.
We like ours plain with butter, used as soft taco shells, or with an egg on top for breakfast!
Final Thoughts on Homemade Sourdough Tortillas
I’m so glad I thought to start out making these easy sourdough tortillas with the starter given to me by our friends at Crow Bench! Traditional cooking skills are wonderful to have and learn.
These lard-free tortillas are quickly becoming a staple in our home. Mr. V. even asks about them if we run out. (We actually ate the first batch all in one day.) I’m learning to keep these on a schedule now, so we always have them on hand!
Now, I’m on to making sourdough artisan (I hope) bread. ;-) Perhaps I’ll share how that goes!
Do you make sourdough breads? What do you think of sourdough tortillas? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment in the comments section!
You might also enjoy these related traditional bread recipes:
Also—-Want to look cute in the kitchen? Take a look at Flirty Aprons! They sell the sweetest aprons for all members of the family as well as kitchen supplies.
And if you love a beautiful kitchen, Magic Linens is an amazing company with some lovely accessories for yourself or to gift to a friend.
Hugs, Health, and Self-Reliance,
P.S. If you haven’t done so yet, sign up for our newsletter! You’ll never miss a thing, and you’ll also get access to the growing Resource Library! In the Resource Library you’ll find many free printable eBooks, guides, check lists, cheat sheets, and more for your personal use in your self-reliant journey!
And these tortillas are perfect in the morning with just butter or an egg on top!
Ever since I learned about all the wonders of Frankincense essential oil and started using it daily for my skin, I’ve been fascinated with this herb. Frankincense, one of the gifts of the Magi to the baby Jesus at his birth, has spiritual, physical, and mental benefits and uses. The essential oil is quite expensive for a quality therapeutic grade, but the tears? Not quite so much. And these are extremely useful in many ways, as well.
I’ve been experimenting with using frankincense tears in various ways, and I now have a good idea about how these precious little gems of hardened resin can be useful in your life. So if you’ve been wondering about using the tears in place of or in conjunction with the essential oil, I’ve got your back.
Here’s a rundown of some of the ways to use these little golden nuggets of pure goodness.
Have you ever wondered about how to use frankincense tears? Not the essential oil—the real tears, or resin, from the Boswellia tree. There are many ways to use these golden tears of resin for health and beauty, as well as for mental clarity. Click through to find out about these wonderful little gems and how you can use them in your home. #frankincense #tears #resin #howtouse #health #beauty #mentalclarity #healingharvesthomestead #homeremedy
FTC Disclosure: There are affiliate links scattered here and there throughout this article. If you click through and make any kind of purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
All About Frankincense Tears: Benefits & Uses; History & Science
Before we get into the many uses of frankincense tears, it’s always a good idea to learn about the plant itself. Where does frankincense come from? How are these hard, little tears made? Are there sustainability issues with the harvesting of frankincense? And what everyone wants to know: how can you use them in your home?
What Kind of Plant Does Frankincense Come From? Plus, a Brief History
Frankincense comes from species of the Boswellia tree in the Burseracaea family. There are over 30 different species, but only a few provide tears that are of good enough quality to be useful. These include Boswellia serrata, B. carteri, B. frereana, and B. sacra.
The B. serrata species is most commonly used in medicine and comes from trees growing in Pakistan, N. Africa, and India.
Trees growing in Oman in the Arabian peninsula (B. sacra) are said to provide the highest quality frankincense in the world. In fact, these trees are thought to be the most ancient source of frankincense and were traded for thousands of years by being shipped to other countries by water.
In the first century B.C. the Romans wanted to add frankincense to their trade commodities, and 10,000 troops were sent to conquer the area in Oman. However, they never made it due to the harsh desert conditions and the great distance.
From 1,000 B.C. to 400 A.D., frankincense production was the reason for the great wealth of Southern Arabia at that time. These days, of course, it’s oil production—-but isn’t it interesting that just a couple thousand years ago it was an herb?
The Boswellia tree is where frankincense comes from. There are different species as well as different grades of tears.
How are Frankincense Tears Harvested and Made? And About Sustainability…
Frankincense tears are a dried resin from the Boswellia tree. In order to get the resin, the tree must be wounded, or tapped, to produce the sap, which dries and hardens on the surface of the tree. From there, it is scraped off to be used.
Partially because of the heightened interest in frankincense in the past decade or so of the essential oil explosion, Boswellia trees are in serious decline. One of the reasons for this rapid decline is they are being overtapped, which will eventually kill the tree.
The trees can sustain a certain amount of tapping, but if too much sap is taken, the trees can’t remain healthy. Some researchers predict that there will be a 90% decline in the existence of the trees within the next 50 years!
There are other reasons for the decline of Boswellia trees besides over tapping. These include grazing in areas where the trees grow, adult trees that die are not being replaced at nearly a fast enough rate because so few saplings live to grow into a full tree, and attack by the longhorn beetle.
I’m now wondering if it is possible to cultivate a few Boswellia in a greenhouse in Idaho where I live? The climate and environment is obviously not conducive to natural growth, as these trees live in hot, semi-tropical areas….but it’s a thought and a wonder. And a great experiment if I can figure out how to get a little tree!
I’m not past trying to grow citrus here, so maybe a Boswellia would be a next step?
Frankincense was one of the gifts given to the Baby Jesus by the Wise Men. In those days, it was worth more than gold, it is said.
Actions and Chemical Make Up of Frankincense
The main constituents in frankincense are monoterpenes, triterpenes diterpenes, and triterpenic acids, Alpha-pinenes and Alpha-thujones.
Actions include anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, astringent, antiseptic, expectorant, carminative, anti-depressant, analgesic, emmenagogue. Frankincense is particularly useful for helping with joint inflammation, repair of the skin, and bronchial issues.
Its energetics include being bitter and pungent to taste and is a slightly warming herb.
Ways to Use Frankincense Tears
Frankincense has been used in a wide variety of ways over the centuries, depending on the region, culture, and needs of the people. Except for burning as incense, frankincense tears are best used in most applications in powdered form. The how to is below!
Here’s a quick bullet summary of some of the ways to use your tears:
Steam inhalation for bronchial issues
For meditation and prayer
To sooth painful joints
As a liniment for sore muscles and minor wounds
You might be wondering where you can purchase frankincense tears? I love to get mine at Starwest Botanicals, where I purchase most of my herbs I don’t grow or forage myself.
And if you are looking for the essential oil, I prefer Rocky Mountain Oils for their high quality. Starwest also carries essential oil, and it’s good as well. I’ll often use it in body care products.
Here are the hardened frankincense tears.
How to Make Frankincense Powder
To powder your tears, simply freeze them overnight or for a few hours. They will be much easier to grind with a mortar and pestle or a good spice grinder.
You can grind them course or fine, depending on what you are going to do with them.
Now here are more details on the ways to use frankincense tears:
To Make an Herbal Steam:
Frankincense can help open your bronchial passages and sinuses, allowing you to breathe easier!
Here’s how to create an herbal steam using frankincense tears:
1) Place 1 tsp in a pan of steaming water
2) Cover your head with a towel and breathe in the medicinal steam.
Caution: Be sure the water is not too hot, or you could actually burn your skin.
To Tincture for Use as a Liniment:
Powder your resin (tears) very finely for a faster tincture.
Fill a jar about 1/4 of the way with the frankincense powder. Now fill the jar with high proof alcohol. If you can find 90% alcohol (180 proof), that’s a great strength. If not, use what you have, but keep in mind the lower the ratio of alcohol (proof), the longer it will take for the tears to dissolve.
Place the jar in a spot where you can remember to shake it daily. When the powder is dissolved, it’s ready!
If you plan to use this tincture internally for any reason, be sure you are using food grade or organic tears.
You can find out more about making tinctures here and also in my series, How to Start Using Herbs.
NOTE: I have not personally made a frankincense tear tincture (yet). My tears are on order and I’ll be experimenting. Once I have created some projects, I’ll be updating this article! So stay tuned!
For Soothing Painful, Inflamed Joints:
If you be sure to purchase food grade frankincense tears, you can powder it and add to your water. However, this is probably not the best way to take frankincense internally, as it’s not standardized to be sure the correct amount of the Boswellic acid is available for you body. This is the constituent needed for soothing those painful joints.
Frankincense has some pretty special powers when it comes to healing and soothing skin issues, including mature skin and scarring. It’s pretty easy to add it to your homemade body care products too!
For Handmade Soap:
You’ll want to powder the frankincense tears as finely as possible. You can then add them to the oil mixture for either HP or CP soap, the lye solution, or even at the end of the cook time in the hot process soap making method.
Since frankincense is soluble in alcohol, simply create a tincture. Once the frankincense is completely dissolved, you can get the toner made.
Add 3 parts of distilled water to 1 part of the frankincense tincture. Use as a spray toner for your skin. Adjust the amount of the tincture you use based on your skin’s needs. Dry or mature skin will need less, while oily skin may be able to use more.
As a Bath Tea:
Want to add some frankincense to your bath? Take a 3x5 muslin bag with a draw string and add a teaspoon of frankincense crumbles or powder. You can add other skin-loving herbs such as rose petals, lavender buds, yarrow, or elder flowers if you like.
Hang the tea bag over the faucet and allow the water to filter through it as it fills. You can also tie it up tight and let it steep in the tub like you would a cup of tea!
Your Home Environment:
Adding frankincense tears or pieces of tears to natural, handmade potpourri is a nice way to enjoy the scent of frankincense and other essential oils.
I’ve also heard of the tears being pressed into the outside of candles.
You can burn the tears or the powder as incense to purify your home, create an atmosphere for meditation or prayer, and also to get rid of insects.
Final Thoughts on Working With Frankincense Tears
It’s pretty obvious that frankincense is a wonderful herb to use in your practice. And so is the essential oil, although I haven’t included the essential oil as a focus in this article. You can read more about ways to use the oil here.
I have to admit: I was all gung-ho on using my frankincense tears, and of course, since they are on their way, I still am.
However, the disturbing fact remains that the Boswellia trees are in such serious decline and really has me re-thinking whether or not I will continue to use either the essential oil or the tears themselves.
On the other hand, much of the decimation of the trees is out of the consumer’s hands, and is not even related to harvesting the tears. When you factor in the bark beetle, fires, grazing on the lands the trees grow on, and other political/social factors, product consumption is just part of the decline of the trees.
I’ll be doing more research on this in the upcoming days and weeks in order to better make a decision for my personal self.
Rosemary: You either love this herb or choose not to use it…but I don’t think anyone truly dislikes it. After all, there is so much to love! Rosemary is rich in folktales, culinary and medicinal uses, and even cleaning and skincare benefits! The pungent aroma wakes a person up, and refreshes a space. In fact, rosemary essential oil is one of the more popular for beginners! Let’s find out about rosemary and all the things (including a few recipes) you can do with her!
“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love and remember.” —W. Shakespeare
All About Rosemary: Benefits, Uses, A Few Recipes, Folktales, & How to GrowHow to Grow Rosemary
Rosemary is such a fun herb! She’s a perennial in southern gardens, and in fact, in southern Nevada, did quite well in the hard, rocky soil there. Here in N. Idaho, however, I have to grow rosemary as an annual or else in a pot I bring in during the cold winters.
Rosemary is drought tolerant, so if you’re in an area lacking in precipitation, that’s ok! Rosemary can do quite well with occasional deep watering, allowing the soil to dry in between.
She loves sunny locations and thrives in full sun, even in the hottest of places, like Las Vegas, NV. If you’re going to bring rosemary indoors for the winter, or try to grow it inside all year long, you’ll want the sunniest window possible.
Another plus is rosemary happens to be deer resistant. If you live in an area where deer are plentiful, like I do, one of the things best to do is find plants the deer don’t like. Rosemary is known for not being a deer treat favorite.
You can cut sprigs of rosemary and root them in water, however, buying a small, established plant is generally much easier to get going and keep alive. I’ve even purchased the herb plugs from the veggie section in the grocery store and started plants with those!
This is a FUN section about rosemary. This herb has been used for thousands of years in a variety of spiritual, medicinal, and decorative ways. Even the Greeks wore it around their necks or heads, both for the scent as well as it’s beautiful appearance.
Here are a few fun facts you’ll enjoy:
1) A Dominant Wife
It’s been said for the past few hundred years that if you have a large, healthy rosemary plant growing in your garden, then the wife is dominant in that household. :-) If the plant is straggly and not doing well, or very small, the husband is the dominant one.
Ladies, it’s time to get that rosemary growing! :-)
Rosemary is used in many cultures and some religions for protection and to get rid of negative energy. In olden times, women hung sprigs above the doorways to keep out bad spirits. They also grew it near a door for the same reason.
3) To Smoke Out the Devil
During medieval times, families would burn it in order to “smoke out the devil.” This was a manner of smudging and cleansing an area—-but with a more menacing reason.
4) For Luck
If you plant rosemary by your garden gate, you’ll receive good luck!
5) To Honor Christ
And I love this one: It’s said that a rosemary plant will never grow more than six feet tall in 33 years time so as not to overtake Jesus’ height.
6) A Lovely Name
The Latin name, Rosemarinus, means “dew of the sea.” Rosemary naturally grows near warm coastal areas, like the Mediterranean.
7) Why the Flowers are Blue
The “Mary” in Rosemary comes from Jesus’ mother, the Virgin Mary. It’s said the rosemary plant protected the family of the Virgin Mary. When she laid her cloak over the plant, the flowers turned from white to blue, becoming the “rose of Mary.”
Rosemary can be used to rid your house of negative energy and was often used in smudging! It’s said to have protective energies.
8) Legend of the Four Thieves:
During the Dark Ages, in the time of the great plague, people were dying left and right. In fact, some estimates concur that around 2/3 of the population of Europe expired during this period because the disease was so contagious and rampant.
Well, four thieves had gotten together and had been busy robbing dead bodies and grave sites. One of these thieves happened to be an alchemist, and he had made a special blend of five different aromatic oils for the thieves to spread on their clothes and bodies.
The thieves went about their thievery and never got sick! Not a one of them.
Finally, they were brought before the magistrate who promised them leniency if they would share their secret for not contracting the disease after coming in such close contact over and over again with the diseased and deceased.
It turns out, rosemary oil was one of the ingredients in this special blend! Other oils included clove, cinnamon, eucalyptus, and lemon.
This is now the blend I use when I make homemade antibacterial spray! :-)
Anyhow, it’s a pretty good story, whether or not it’s true!
Now on to more serious stuff about rosemary:
Find out all about rosemary: how to grow it; herbal actions; benefits; medicinal and cosmetic uses; cleaning; and of course, cooking with rosemary! Recipes included! If you’ve never used this herb, you need to start because it’s one of the most useful herbs on our earth. I’ve also included some fun folktales about rosemary as well—-and why you need it in your home for protection. #rosemary #uses #benefits #cookingwith #medicinal #health #brain #cleaners #diy #folktales #healingharvesthomestead
Main Chemicals, Actions, and Energetics:
Name: Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis)
Primary Chemical Constituents: Phenoloic diterpenes, tripertenes, flavonoids
Primary Actions: hepatoprotective, anti-microbial, diureic, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, carminative, and stimulating
Energetics: Warming, drying, stimulating, with a pungent and spicy taste. It’s very useful for cold, stagnant conditions.
Rosemary is a member of the mint family, having square stems and opposite leaves. The leaves are evergreen, and look much like pine needles, as they are about an inch long. The flowers are blue-ish purple, and the bees just love them!
Rosemary’s aromatic scent can actually bring health, concentration, and focus to your brain!
Uses and Benefits of Rosemary1) For Brain Power and Health
Rosemary is one of the best herbs for brain health, aiding focus, concentration, and memory. In fact, scientific research validates that smelling rosemary during academic activities like taking a test can help improve performance!
Also, because rosemary stimulates circulation in the body, this helps the brain get more blood flow.
Due to rosemary’s anti-oxidant capabilities, it helps protect the brain against free radicle damage. In fact, rosemary may protect the brain again stroke and damage from aging.
2) As a Stimulating Nervine
Rosemary can soothe your spirits, too. The effect is not necessarily calming like lavender is, but rosemary helps create a sense of alertness without the stress response.
3) For the Joints
Since rosemary helps increase circulation, using infused oil or essential oils added to a carrier oil will bring some relief for soothing sore joints. You can also add it to a pain relief salve meant for joints and muscles.
4) For Health of the Scalp and Hair
Rosemary is an herb long touted with being great at helping the hair follicles on your head. It stimulates them, cleans them out, and helps hair to grow. In fact, rosemary essential oil in a carrier oil has been compared to hair loss solutions such as minoxidil.
Mmmm…..Using rosemary in handmade soaps is just so good for the health of your skin. This cellulite scrubbing soap contains rosemary for circulation as well as coffee for the caffeine. It’s a wonderful skin-tightener!
5) For a Healthy Mouth:
Due to rosemary’s exceptional antioxidant and antiseptic actions, it’s a wonderful herb to use for the health of your mouth. Ellen at Confessions of an Overworked Mom has an excellent article about using rosemary infused coconut oil as part of your oral care regimen.
I’ve also used rosemary as an ingredient in my herbal mouthwash. This stuff works like a charm, and the health benefits go far beyond your teeth and mouth!
This herbal mouthwash containing rosemary is some powerful, healing stuff! Your mouth will love you!
6) As a Digestive Aid:
Since rosemary has carminative properties, it’s very useful for aiding sluggish digestion. In fact, one of the reasons you’ll find rosemary added to meat dishes is that it helps break down the proteins. You can drink a little rosemary tea before or after a meal to help your body digest meats fully.
7) For Fighting Colds & Flu
When used as a tea, rosemary may help you get over a cold or flu more quickly. Also, if you are in the early stages of a fever, feeling cold then hot and shivery, drinking rosemary tea may help stimulate warmth and have slight diaphoretic actions—-helping you sweat it out.
Rosemary is also wonderful for helping open the bronchial passages, and is one of the ingredients in my Vapor Rub Salve.
Juniper & Rosemary Mineral Salt Scrub——Smells divine!
9) For Cleaning:
It’s no surprise that rosemary is a terrific additive in cleaning solutions. Rosemary essential oil can help disinfect surfaces, and when used along with a bit of lemon essential oil or lemon juice can create quite the powerful cleaning team!
Here is a recipe for making your own cleaning spray:
1 cup water
1/2 cup white vinegar
Juice from 1/2 lemon and/or a few drops of lemon essential oil
25 drops rosemary essential oil
Shake well, and spray on surfaces. Wipe clean. NOTE: Do not use on wood.
Rosemary is an excellent herb to use in your general cooking! Especially for meats, research shows rosemary contains compounds that when marinated, helps get rid of carcinogenic toxins called HCA’s (heterocyclic amines) when cooked at high temperatures.
And guess what? It’s a wonderful preservative as well. During medieval times and before refrigeration, rosemary was rubbed into meat to help keep it fresh longer. I’m sure this has to do with it’s antimicrobial and anti-oxidant properties.
Did you know you can make rosemary pesto? What a delicious way to eat this healthy herb! This fun pesto is from my friend, Miss, over at Miss in the Kitchen. I’ll be giving this a try!
Personally, I love adding rosemary to sour dough bread. This recipe for Rosemary-Thyme Sour Dough Tortillas gives a gourmet touch to a favorite Latin bread.
You can also create a delicious rosemary infused olive oil for drizzling over foods or dipping bread. My friend, Caisie, at Building Our Story has a great tutorial for using fresh herbs in infused olive oil. Just a caution: fresh herbs will go bad, and the oil will need refrigeration. You can substitute dried herbs for a long lasting infused oil, but it won’t be as pretty as Caisie’s.
Photo courtesy of Gastronom. See link. Used with permission.
Safety Factors & Contraindications for Rosemary
Used in simple cooking, rosemary is quite safe. However, when used in therapeutic applications, such as teas, tinctures, and essential oils, care should be taken. Pregnant or nursing women should avoid large doses of rosemary or using the essential oil.
Also, I’ll just put my disclaimer right here: I am not a doctor. Any statement made here is for informational purposes only and not meant to treat, cure, diagnose, or prevent any disease. Before using any herb or essential oil, please be sure to seek advice from your medical professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
We ran out of the elderberry syrup I put up last Fall with elderberries I’d foraged in the wild. Between sharing with family and friends and Mr. V. and I taking our daily dose, the bounty ended. And guess what happened?
Three weeks later, Mr. V. was sick.
Yep. I tell you, that elderberry is just an absolute miracle. Its immune boosting powers are not a myth, I can tell you from many personal experiences.
Being the prepper that I am…I simply went to our freezer where I had several gallons of elderberries fresh from the bush late last summer! Actually, Sambucus cerulea (the blue elderberry native to the Western United States) is bountiful where we live, so I just couldn’t help pick extra.
I whipped up some elderberry syrup for Mr. V. and myself, and then decided I’d turn a couple quarts into a lovely elderberry cordial. A cordial has the addition of a strong spirit, which helps preserve the syrup, even outside the refrigerator.
Besides that, it is absolutely delicious and a fun way to get the health benefits of the elderberries!
Making an herb infused cordial is a simple and delightful thing. It’s basically an herb infused syrup with a toss of good spirit like brandy. Or whiskey. Or whatever your taste buds like best. It’s medicinal, you know!
There are actually many ways to make a good cordial, but since I wanted to have some syrup left aside, I decided to do it my way. As usual.
Here’s how you can make some delicious elderberry syrup and then create your excellent cordial for a healthful, foraged herbal drink to sip!
NOTE: I added some echinacea root to the decoction part of the process for some extra immune boosting health benefits. Feel free to leave this out if you like—-it will still be scrumptious either way.
Elderberry & Echinacea Syrup & Cordial: A Healing Tonic to Sip, Enjoy, & Relax With
I used frozen elderberries for this particular batch, which is exactly the same as using them fresh from the bush. If you don’t have frozen elderberries (or fresh), you can use dried elderberries just fine. Simply cut the amount you use in half.
Now, I generally don’t measure anything out for my herbal syrups, so I’m going to do my best to give you rough estimates of measures. But if you want to eyeball your ingredients like I do, it will turn out just fine. This syrup is very forgiving.
Here are my ingredients: Elderberries, ginger chips, cinnamon sticks, cardamom, and later I added a bit of echinacea.
Ingredients for Your Elderberry & Echinacea Syrup & Cordial
1) An approximate gallon of fresh or frozen elderberries by volume. If you don’t have this much, no worries. Just cut the ingredients down in proportion. Remember, if you use dried elderberries, use half the amount, as they will reconstitute in water.
2) Approximately 1/3 cup organic ginger chips. **These are NOT crystallized ginger, which is a sugared candy. These are dried little chunks of ginger root. I get mine at Starwest Botanicals. If you want to purchase from Amazon, you will most likely have to use powder, which is just fine.
6) Raw honey, maple syrup, or molasses—about one to two cups, depending on your taste buds
8) Brandy or other 80 proof (40% or higher) alcohol. I like brandy for cordials because it has a nice flavor that enhances the syrup perfectly. (Optional—-this ingredient is only if you are going to make your syrup into a cordial.)
Add the ingredients to the large pot.
Decoct the mixture for around 30 minutes, a little longer if you added too much water, like I did.
Directions for Making Your Elderberry & Echinacea Syrup & Cordial
Step 1) Add your ingredients (NOT the alcohol) to a large pot.
Step 2) Cover generously with water. I covered mine about an inch and a half to two inches. Much of the water will evaporate, and that’s just fine, but you want a nice liquid at the end. If you don’t add enough water at this point, no worries! You can add more at the end if you need to.
Step 3) Now bring the mixture to a rolling boil, then turn down to a simmer. Let the mixture simmer for around 30 minutes. If you let it go a little longer, that’s ok, but 30 minutes is long enough to break down the hard spices and the elderberries.
You’ll notice the blue elderberries (if you’re using s. cerulea) turn dark purple, then start popping. That’s just what you want to see. If you are using black elderberries (s. nigra), same thing, but they will likely already be dark purple. Either is just fine to use.
NOTE: Cooking the elderberries also ensures that you inactivate the cyano-compounds contained in any stems and the seeds of the berry.
Some people are worried about eating elderberries because of potential toxicity, but I’ve been eating them since I was a young kid with no issues. Cooking them takes away all the fears though.
Step 4) Once you have simmered long enough to have reduced the liquid a decent amount, leaving you with a lovely red juice, it’s time to strain off the herbs and spices.
Step 5) Now it’s time to add your sweetener. I know that some herbalists like to use equal amounts honey (or other sweetener) to liquid, but honestly, that’s just WAY too gooey sweet for me. I tend to use more in the neighborhood of 1/4 cup sweetener to 1 cup of the spiced juice.
Stir your sweetener in well, making sure it’s fully incorporated.
Your elderberry syrup is now done! Bottle it up in Mason jars or pretty bottles. Refrigerate. Herbal syrups will last quite a while in the refrigerator, and honestly, the more sweetener you added, the longer it will last. I’ve used mine up to three months with no issues. If it tastes “off,” or you’re questioning it, discard.
Coming up next: The elderberry cordial!
Want a complete Cold & Flu Care Guide? Find out how to naturally stay well, get rid of cold & flu FAST, deal with symptoms effectively and safely, and stay better so you don’t have that lingering cold.
Any time you simmer hard spices and herbs, you are making what is called a decoction. This is simply an infusion of herbs and water. Decocting these hard spices helps them break down, releasing their medicinal goodness!
Just look at that lovely red syrup! I tell you, elderberry syrup is one of the most lovely colors in the world!
How to Turn Your Elderberry Syrup into an Amazing Cordial
Cordials are alcoholic syrups. It’s as simple as that.
Why would you want to put alcohol into your lovely syrup, you wonder?
1) The alcohol will further preserve your syrup, allowing it to be kept unrefrigerated for up to a year, according to Dina Falconi, author of the beautiful book, Foraging and Feasting (my new favorite foraged food book).
2) It makes a delicious sipping tonic! You don’t really want to drink a ton of elderberry syrup either way, as a little daily amount goes a long way. Adding a bit of spirit to your syrup makes it a lovely after dinner drink or something to enjoy while you sit on the porch.
Are you wondering how much alcohol to add to the syrup? Here you go:
Dina Falconi, in Foraging and Feasting, recommends you add 1 part alcohol to 2 parts syrup. So, for every cup of syrup, add 1/2 cup of alcohol. This will sufficiently preserve the syrup for a long time. She states this proportion will create a cordial that’s approximately 13% alcohol, which is about the same as wine.
HOWEVER, I’m really not much of a hard liquor drinker. Like…ever. But the idea of a little 2 ounces or so of a tonic drink sounds ok. I couldn’t bring myself to add that much alcohol to our syrup, so I cut the proportion down by half again.
Essentially, my cordial is a 1/4 cup alcohol to 1 cup syrup, which is probably more like 6 to 7% alcohol (a strong beer). And I’m good with that, even knowing it may have a decreased shelf life. As an experiment, I’ve got one quart of cordial in the fridge and one quart out of the fridge, just to check shelf life.
I’ll let you know how it goes in a year or so! :-)
Elderberry cordial—-yes, I drink from Mason jars of all sizes as I lack proper drinking glasses. lol They work just as well!
Final Thoughts on Elderberry Syrup and Turning a Syrup into a Cordial
OK—-now Mr. V. and I are all set up with our elderberry syrup and tonic for another month or so, and that’s a bit of a relief. Staying well in the first place is the best way to deal with illness, right?
As far as which is best: syrup or cordial—that is entirely up to you. I love the fact that you can use elderberries (and other herbs) to make concoctions that will work for anyone, children and adults alike.
Let me know if you give this a try and how it goes for you? Do you use elderberry syrup like we do?
Also, if you have been thinking about becoming an herbalist, you should check out The Herbal Academy of New England! I’ve taken (and am taking) several courses from them, and I highly recommend their research and science based approach.
There’s lots more on the blog! Go on over and browse around!
Hugs, Health, and Self-Reliance,
P.S. Sign up for the newsletter! You’ll never miss a thing AND you’ll get immediate access to the growing Resource Library containing recipes, guides, cheat sheets, and short eBooks for all your self-sufficient homestead learning.
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Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, and this text is for informational purposes only. Please be sure to seek the advice of a medical professional before using any herbs or essential oils. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
I love elderberry cordial! I think you will too!
How to make elderberry syrup and turn it into a delicious sipping cordial for health and wellness. Elderberries have tremendous immune boosting powers, and now you can enjoy a little tonic toddy in the evening for your health! This home remedy is an easy and simple recipe that anyone can make for a healthy family. #elderberry #elderberrysyrup #cordial #herbal #homeremedy #recipe #healingharvesthomestead #getridof #cold #flu
Do you wish you could grow your own herbs all year long? Well, you can!
As a person who was once an urban homesteader living in a tiny home in the city, then in the suburbs in a very strict HOA, one of the things I learned how to do was grow herbs inside! Even as a beginning gardener, I wanted to take on the challenge of growing what I could indoors because it’s a great self-reliance skill to have!
Perhaps you live in an area with very cold winters, like I do now? Then learning to grow your herbs indoors is a necessity for at least a few months of the year.
I thought I’d go ahead and explain how you can grow herbs inside so you can partake of the medicinal and culinary benefits of the plants all the time! Having your herbs for cooking and/or medicine close at hand any time is the best feeling!
Besides having your herbs close by, there are other benefits of growing plants in your home. One important reason to have some plants in your house is that they help clean the air! Growing herbs in addition to your normal everyday houseplants, like pothos or sanseveria, is that they are so very functional.
Oh! If you’d like the Downloadable PDF Guide to Growing 8 Herbs Indoors, just fill out the form at the end of this article!
FTC Disclosure: There are affiliate links scattered throughout this article. If you click through and make any kind of purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Find out how you can grow herbs indoors all year long! Have you ever wanted to snip fresh herbs for your cooking in the middle of the winter? Here is a guide and tips for indoor herb gardening, along with the BEST 8 herbs to grow inside your home. #growherbs #howto #garden #indoors #tipsforgrowing #healingharvesthomestead #indoor #gardening
General Guidelines & Tips for Growing Herbs Indoors
Herbs do generally like to grow outdoors, but there are ways you can make their life inside your home workable for you and them. So here are some things to keep in mind:
Growing Tip 1)
Most herbs love sunshine, and unfortunately, most homes just don’t have a lot of it. Be sure to choose a sunny window or a window with diffused light if it’s a southern exposure in the summer time. (Windows can burn plants when the sun is directly shining through the glass.)
I have my plants lined up on sunny window sills and sitting on tables in front of the window. Even in my kitchen, where there is little light, my shade loving herbs like peppermint can do ok as long as they are in the window.
Growing Tip 2)
Choose the right size containers, and err on the side of too much space. Herbs generally enjoy well-drained soil, so make sure the soil holds a good amount of moisture while allowing drainage.
It’s ok to let your soil dry out completely before watering them again, especially rosemary. Under watering is actually better than overwatering.
Growing Tip 3)
Temperature: Plants inside do best when the temperature is kept at a fairly consistent level. Try not to vary the temperature in your home more than about 15 degrees, if possible. Herbs may become stressed with too much fluctuation in temperature, and this will decrease their immunity to pests—-which you don’t want to get started.
Growing Tip 4)
Keep the air from the air conditioner or heater off your indoor plants, especially herbs. Blasting them with heating or cooling air will dry them out and cause them to lose too much moisture through their leaves. It’s just hard on them. So, no drafts, please.
Growing Tip 5)
Fertilizer: Be sure to feed your herbs a good organic fertilizer as needed. The thing about indoor soil is there is no way for nature to replenish nutrients…so you have to be the one to take care of this!
Growing Tip 6)
If you can grow the plant easily from seed, such as basil, mint, oregano, thyme, etc., you might want to give this a try. The reason is that plants that are started inside from seed may just do better than plants you are bringing in from the outdoors.
Outdoor plants and cuttings have been acclimated to being outside and often have a hard time getting used to being indoors. With that said, you may have to bring some of your herbs in from outdoors anyway if you live in a cold area like I do.
Seeds do take longer to grow enough to be useful, but it might be well worth it for you!
I’m a big fan of the seeds from Seeds Now! They have a great variety to choose from. Another wonderful company is Baker’s Rare Seeds.
Growing Tip 7)
Use a mister to add a little extra humidity, especially if you are in a dry environment. The air indoors is generally a lot more dry than outdoors due to heating and cooling systems and controlled temperatures. Taking a little time to spritz your plants once or twice a day can go a long way to helping them be healthy.
Here are a few herbs to consider growing inside your home! I have several of these growing, and as long as I stay attentive to their needs (I do check them daily), they just do wonderfully!
I love using thyme in my cooking, and it’s an incredibly healing herb as well. It boosts the immune system, and it’s not too bad in your tea, either. I even have a friend who makes a Wellness Tea blend using thyme as the main ingredient. He drinks it every day and never gets sick!
Thyme loves sunshine, so be prepared to find a nice sunny spot. You want to keep the soil pretty evenly moist with thyme, but not soaking wet. Again, be sure you’ve got well-drained soil.
You know what a great benefit of growing thyme is? You will save a ton of money! Buying fresh thyme is pricey, and when you can just go cut it from your own plant….Score! A little thyme goes a long way, too, so this is a perfect herb to start with.
Basil is one of the easier herbs to grow indoors. In fact, it will readily propagate if you place the stems in water. I’ve even taken the plugs that are in the grocery stores and grown basil from those! You can also easily start basil from seed, as it does quite well and grows quickly.
My recommendation for lighting is strong but indirect sun. Basil likes sunshine, but I’ve found that if I put it near a sunny window (in summer especially) for too long, it will burn. On the other hand, if the light is too low, it will get leggy and not do well either. You’ll have to find that sweet spot!
Basil is another herb that has both culinary and medicinal uses! It’s great for focus and concentration and delicious in pesto. There are many varieties of basil, and if you decide to grow Holy Basil (tulsi), you’ll have a wonderful adaptogenic herb for your daily tea.
Mmmmm…..sweet peppermint & spearmint….two of my favorites. Mints grow very well from seed, and you can grow a lot of them pretty fast! In general, mints don’t mind a bit of shade, so if you place them near a sunny window but not directly in the sunshine, they should do just fine.
One thing you’ll have to watch out for with mints inside your home are white flies. For some reason, mints seem to be fairly easily infested if they get too stressed. So baby those mints, and you’ll not have a problem.
Mints are wonderful for cooking, soothing headache and tummy upsets, and adding to your teas for delicious flavor!
Oregano can thrive in just about any soil and even take a bit of abuse. This is an herb that many have problems getting rid of in their garden, as it just grows so fast!
Indoors, you’ll want to keep it in strong indirect light, much like basil. The direct light from a sunny south facing window may too much for it for long periods.
Oregano is another one of those double duty herbal powerhouses with its incredible healing powers and health benefits as well as its unique taste. We’re all familiar with oregano on pizza and Italian sauce, but it’s also simply delicious on your meats, vegetables, and salad dressings.
Chives can be grown indoors, but I have found them to be a little tricky. I just love them, though, so it’s worth the effort to help them along.
Chives have a pleasant onion flavor that’s on the mild side and are perfect with any vegetable, baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, and eggs. Sprinkling the little green bits on your food also adds to the presentation!
This fun culinary herb needs a lot of light—-six hours or more in a day, and they do not like to get dried out. The tender leaves will wilt quickly with dry soil, and they will benefit from a daily misting for humidity.
Oh, rosemary has to be one of my favorite herbs in the world. It’s said to symbolize friendship and remembrance, and has been used to protect homes from evil and negative energy.
This Mediterranean herb can grow quite large outdoors in the right conditions, and the culinary and medicinal variety (Rosemarinus officinalis) grows on upright stems with leaves about an inch long.
Rosemary helps stimulate the digestive juices and helps break down heavy proteins, and therefore is generally useful for cooking red meat. You’ll find it a common ingredient in red meat dishes of all kinds.
Growing rosemary inside is a little tricky because it just loves sunshine. In fact, indoors, I’d say put your rosemary in the sunniest window you can and try to give it around 7-9 hours of sun. I know this isn’t possible during the short winter days, so just do your best.
Rosemary outside can take soil that fluctuates from dry to wet, but indoor rosemary likes to be kept evenly moist in my experience. If I let it dry out too much, it will die fast. I’ve lost quite a few rosemary plants this way, but if you stay on top if it, you’ll have a great plant for healing and cooking indoors all year.
I’ve just started growing ginger inside, and I’m very excited about it! Since we live in such a cold area in winter, it will not grow here outdoors. So, I’m giving it a try inside. You take a healthy rhizome from the grocery store and simply plant it about an inch or two beneath the soil. Water well, and keep the soil evenly moist.
Eventually you will see green shoots come up. Here’s a good article with more details about how to grow ginger.
8) Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is a succulent with large and long fleshy leaves. It’s not really a culinary herb, having more medicinal and skin care benefits than anything; however, it’s a lovely indoor plant and an easy keeper. I thought I’d go ahead and add it to the list since I won’t have a home without it.
Final Thoughts on Growing Herbs Indoors All Year Long
Most homesteaders and folks into self-reliance do love to garden. But even if you are in an apartment or live in a place with a short growing season, you’re not limited to growing outdoors!
Bring those plants inside and challenge yourself to grow your herbs in the house! And you know what? If they don’t make it….it’s ok. I look upon everything I do as an experiment. You learn, adjust, and move on. So, don’t get discouraged if you have a few casualties.
It’s worth the effort to have fresh herbs all year, especially in the winter months. The cheerful green plants will add a sense of life and hygge to your home during the long winter months as well!
The herbs listed here have done quite well for me inside. I love being able to snip bits of fresh herbs off as I need them for recipes, garnishes, and teas. It’s a beautiful thing to have your favorite plants right there at your fingertips!
Do you grow plants inside? I’d love for you to share your experiences, so leave a comment in the comments section!
In a recent article, I wrote about 15 Catastrophic Events You Must Prepare For because the likelihood of one or more of them happening again is about 100%. One of my goals is to raise awareness of various disasters, human nature, and potential events in order to encourage and inspire people to take measures, even small ones, to be more prepared.
There’s a lot of psychology involved with surviving a disaster as well as the more obvious physical effects people will need to deal with. Strength of mind will be a necessity to survive, as will preparedness for general health. (Here’s a list of eight considerations every prepper should take into account.)
I’ve been reading prepper and survival books, both fiction and nonfiction, for nearly seven years now. One thing they all have in common (besides the practical advice) is what will happen with humans’ physical and mental stability and how people are likely to deteriorate.
If you are aware of these potentialities, you will be better able to prepare for a disaster.
Men tend to love these books more than most women (these are definitely not fun, easy chick-lit reads), but I admit: I am addicted. There’s just something primal about rooting for the human condition, right?
Others of the items either came from or match up with difficulties mentioned in the novels I’ve read, and come from the book, A Failure of Civility by Mike Garand and Jack Lawson. Unfortunately, it’s out of print now and is very expensive on Amazon, as there are limited used copies.
Here is a list of things you can expect to have to deal with in a long-term disaster situation so you can start thinking now about how to be prepared for them:1) Using a Bucket as a Toilet
Without electricity and running water, finding places for our bodily wastes will be a challenge. There are now actually seats you can buy to fit on a five gallon bucket, in case the sewage system fails. Other alternatives will be to dig latrines far away from sources of water.
Have you ever seen an outhouse? I think those might just be the new level of luxury in the event of a grid down situation.
2) Having No Toilet Paper
I know people laugh about “family cloths,” but really, you might want to consider alternatives to toilet paper. What will you use when the paper runs out? I know folks can get pretty creative, but you don’t want to be in a situation where all you have is your left hand. Just saying.
In the event of a disaster where there is no longer running water, you’ll need to find a way to deal with waste.
3) Sleep Deprivation
When the grid goes down, so does society. It’s just a fact of human nature: some of us aren’t nice people. Defense will need to become a “thing” if you are going to survive. This may entail some long nights or taking watch shifts if you are lucky enough to be in a good group working together.
Being deprived of sleep causes disorientation, lack of focus and concentration, and this causes poor judgment and decision making. Being in this state makes staying alive even more difficult.
4) Skin Boils
Skin boils are infections that usually start in an oil gland or hair follicle. They rapidly become large, white or green pus-filled sacs. These are common when there is a lack of hygiene, malnutrition, and stress. It’s very likely these will become commonplace in a long term disaster.
Skin infections are caused by a compromised immune system as well as bacteria and poor hygiene.
5) Excessive Stress from the “Flight or Fight” Response
When your body is constantly on the alert for threats, your flight or fight response is activated. Living in this state creates a situation where your immune system is affected, cortisol levels remain unnaturally high, and relaxation is impossible.
6) PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome)
PTSD causes abnormal thought patterns and varies in severity depending on the person, the traumatic event suffered, etc. But the bottom line is that it’s common for the mind to be completely altered by PTSD with depression being common.
7) Being Constantly & Severely Stinky
There was a time in the human existence when people dumped raw sewage in the streets and did not shower or bathe. Yep. Just a few hundred years ago during the Dark Ages, this was a common way to live.
Well, in a long term disaster, it’s likely you will have to deal with some level of stinkiness. This is why people (even men of nobility) carried around lavender sprigs during the 16th through 18th centuries.
Water may be so precious it will only be used for drinking. So…get used to stench.
8) Disintegrating Clothing
It may seem counterintuitive, but washing your clothes less often will actually lead them to break down faster, getting holes and becoming threadbare. This is because dirt embedded in the fibers have a sandpaper effect on the cloth.
Without ongoing birth control, the women who do survive will have a higher potential to become pregnant. Even older women, who are grandmothers, may experience this. Even if people choose to abstain from intercourse, pregnancies will be inevitable.
11) Cooking Outside Over Fire
Cooking over a fire is a great skill to learn. But you have to think about how long this will last? Your propane is likely to be gone in a couple of weeks with constant use, and you’ll have to turn to using firewood. This means burning your furniture in most cases.
Plastic will truly be a thing of the past because plastics will just not work with this style of cooking. If you have a set of cast iron cookware, treasure it!
12) We Will Become a Hairy Species
No more metro dudes. No more waxing or shaving for baby smooth areas on anyone. Women will quickly have as much or more hair than the men, and most men will have that full beard a few fashionistas these days aspire to.
There’s going to be a lot of hairiness in a long term disaster!
13) Minor Illnesses & Wounds Will Be Potentially Lethal
Because of lowered immune responses due to lack of clean water, enough food or sleep, and stress, what is now a minor wound could become a deathly infection. It’s a good idea to learn how to use medicinal herbs and plants in the environment to help fight infections and speed wound healing.
Once you start down the path of allopathic medications to deal with symptoms and illnesses instead of bringing your body back into a state of balance and health using lifestyle and natural methods, you may be one of the unfortunate ones who need those pills every single day.
In a disaster situation, these are not going to last long. It’s a sad fact that those who rely on pharmaceuticals or OTC medications to get by will likely pay the price in a long term disaster situation.
What can you do now to be prepared? You want to start giving this some consideration.
This is probably one of the few benefits of a disaster. If the grid goes down or the economy collapses and there is no gasoline, we will be walking wherever we want to go. Horses as transportation may help some folks, but most of us will be using our legs.
16) Little or No Trust
Many people, especially those living in urban and suburban areas, never see their neighbors. They drive directly into their garages, shut the door, and enter the house from the inside. Then they proceed to play video games…inside.
It’s a sad fact that people are not getting to know their neighbors like they did just a couple of decades ago. I’ve watched this deterioration of neighborhood camaraderie with my own eyes in neighborhoods in Las Vegas, Nevada, my home of 49 years.
In a disaster situation, it will become evident that some people are not helpful and will be, in fact, out for themselves. Trust among humans will rapidly break down within less than a week, I predict.
It’s a good idea to form loose groups of like minded people NOW and have a plan to deal together with a disaster. Together, a group may have a chance to survive to an extent. Isolated individuals will most likely die quickly.
17) You’ll Be Going Cold Turkey from Your Addictions of Choice
Addicted to that morning latte’? Need the sugar rush every afternoon? How about that Big Gulp you need to buy every day? Forget cigarettes, decent alcohol, or those pills you like to take to calm you down.
Until everyone’s body cleanses and detoxifies, going cold turkey from our bad habits is going to be a difficult thing to deal with.
People who are on drugs for certain mental health issues will likely not be able to get them in some of the disaster situations. Since the 1960’s, our mental health institutions have declined, and most of the people who need medications for very severe aggression and disorders take medications to help them cope.
In fact, “an estimated 1% of the population have severe psychiatric problems and will be amongst us without their drugs to curtail their disorders.” If you have 10,000 people in your town, you may experience around 100 people with varying degrees of lunacy appearing. (Garand & Lawson)
19) Increased Death Rate and Suicides
We are all soft these days. Even the toughest of us live far better than we will during a long term disaster. There are those who will simply give up on life. This subconscious giving up will cause an increased chance of death from minor infections.
Suicide rates will also increase as people realize their “new normal.”
20) Marijuana vs. Alcohol
A great majority of adults imbibe in alcohol, marijuana, or both these days. I predict that marijuana will become even more common than it is since it grows like a “weed.” Alcohol will still be around, but once it runs out it will require a skillful person to create it.
Many will feel the need to numb themselves against their experiences in a long term tragedy.
Have a plan for sourcing your water in case the water system no longer works. Even dirty water can be used if it is treated and filtered correctly.
21) Potential Cannibalism
When people are starving, it’s a fact that they may just turn to the recently dead as a food source. Hunger can drive even the most level-headed and compassionate people to do things they would never dream of doing in normal times.
We’ve all heard of the Donner Party, right? It’s not so far-fetched a scenario to think that my happen in the more tragic of circumstances.
22) People Will Turn to God
During good times, people as a general rule, tend to forget the higher power of God. Those who are not in the habit of daily prayer will pray again in response to the devastations of their life. It’s a good idea to turn to your higher power and build that solid relationship God wants you to have with Him now. Just a thought.
So What Can You Do Now?1) Find Like Minded People for Support
People who have a group for protection and working together for survival will do better than those who operate alone. It’s a good idea to find families who think similarly and who believe in sharing skills and resources to group together.
If you’re in a neighborhood, start talking with your neighbors. Get the conversations started. You will be able to tell who you may be able to trust.
In fact, when we lived off-grid in our little village before moving to Idaho, there was a wonderful group of neighbors who met occasionally to discuss things of this nature.
2) Have a Plan for Food & Water
Get your food and water storage plan together. Even if it’s just for a couple of weeks, it may buy you some time to get more prepared.
Disease caused by bacteria in water can kill more people than an army can unless it’s treated correctly. Learn to filter, boil, and treat your water with chlorine or purifying tablets. Have these items included in your store-room.
3) What is Your Plan for Your Waste?
Knowing how you will dispose properly of waste and having an action plan is vital. You do not want to dispose of waste close to living areas or water sources.
4) Protect Your Morale
Staying positive in this kind of situation will be difficult, but it’s necessary for survival. Plan on stocking up on some pleasure items like coffee so things can feel a little “normal.” Keep games, cards, and toys available for children and adults as well.
Morale and keeping spirits high will be of the utmost importance in any kind of disaster situation, short or long term.
5) Remember, You Have a Right to Defend
The negative media propaganda around gun rights has caused a strange hysteria around violence and guns in our country. I think people have a more dangerous mindset around their..
Maybe you are wondering right now about the difference between cold process and hot process soap? Well, there are some strong similarities, and some very marked differences too. This article is going to address tips specific to the hot process soap making method (except for #5 and #8—-these tips also apply to cold process soap).
8 Tips for Perfect Hot Process Soaps Every Time
I’ve had experience with all of these issues when making soap, and I’ll share those with you here. I’ve had soaps that did not turn out for a wide variety of reasons: too much plant matter, not blending a powder correctly, forgetting to add an oil…oh my gosh. I could go on!
And this is the life of any natural soap maker! You’re going to make some mistakes (learning opportunities) in your soap making journey, but it’s likely you won’t make them again! But I believe in learning from others’ experiences if you can, right?
I thought I’d go ahead and compile the best tips I can share with you about making your hot process soaps!
Soap Tip #1: Air Pockets in Hot Process Soap—How to Be Sure You Don’t Get Them
So, with hot process soap, you have to press the cooked soap mass into the soap mold HARD. In fact, I’ll often pick up the mold and let it drop onto the counter a few times besides pressing the soap into the corners really well.
If the soap cools around a tiny (or large) air bubble, you’re going to get a Swiss cheese hole. It’s no big deal as far as the usefulness of the soap, but it does mar the appearance a bit. So, press, and press, and PRESS until you’re sure the soap is mashed into the mold completely.
FTC Disclosure: There are affiliate links scattered throughout this article. If you click through and make any kind of purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
These are the BEST tips and tricks for making sure your handmade hot process soaps are perfect! Find out all the things to watch out for so you can make your own natural handmade soap using the hot process soap making method. #hotprocess #soap #making #natural #howtomake #healingharvesthomestead
Soap Tip #2: Does Hot Process Soap Need to be Cured?
This debate is just ridiculous, if you ask me. The fact of the matter is, hot process soap can be safely used the next day (I’ve even used mine the very same day) after it’s cooked and cooled completely. I don’t care if it’s a special soap like castile or bastille or any other kind of soap—-
Once the completely cooked soap is cooled and removed from the mold and is cuttable—-it is usable. This is because the lye is completely cooked out.
BAM. That’s it.
However! Some soap recipes can be rather soft for a few days after the cook time. Not all of them. But I have experienced some that are. With these, a “cure” time of a few days is nice as it allows the extra moisture to continue to evaporate from the soap.
I’m honestly not even sure that’s true “curing,” as all you are doing is giving the soap time to harden up a bit more so it doesn’t become a mushy mess when lathered in water.
I will say this, though: If you have a good hot process recipe, you will not have to worry much about it disintegrating or having too soft soap.
I’ve heard different soap makers say so many things about the cure time for hot process soap. My opinion is: if it’s soft, let it cure for a few extra days if you want to. If it’s hard—-go for it.
Either way, whether you give it a few days or not….the soap is just fine to use if you have made the soap correctly.
With that said, a harder bar of soap is more desirable. It doesn’t disintegrate in contact with the water as easily, and it feels great in your hands.
Hot process soap, by its very nature, has a rather “rustic” appearance. The top is often wrinkly and some would even say “strange” looking.
I’ll be honest. When I was selling my soaps, I just cut the wrinkly tops off, leaving a nice smooth bar. And that’s only because I was able to sell more of the bars that way. The rustic look doesn’t go with everyone, you know?
There are other ways to make your hot process soap a bit smoother on top besides cutting them off. Some soap makers will use a tablespoon of yogurt per pound of soap at the end of the cook time. This helps liquify the soap a bit for a smoother pour.
Adding the yogurt may also help you get those artsy designs and swirls that so many cold process soap makers adore.
I’ve also heard (but not tried) adding a bit of water at the end of the cook time too. Water needs to evaporate in the soap completely for a nice hard bar, and if you are adding extra water, this water must come out at some point or the soap will be “mushy.” Personally, I don’t recommend this method.
Anyhow, as you can see, you’ve got several options here for creating a nice smooth top on your hot process soap!
Soap Tip #4: Keep an Eye on Your Soap as It Cooks
Once you’ve made hot process soap a few times, you’ll be very familiar with the stages the soap goes through as it saponifies (turns into soap). You’ll be able to spot problems quickly if you learn to keep an eye out as it’s cooking.
Also, if you are using a new recipe, you don’t really know how it will act as it cooks. A soap that boils out of the crock pot is no fun. If you see it climbing the sides quickly, it’s time to stir it down FAST.
Soap Tip #5: No Batch of Soap is Ever Exactly the Same
And isn’t this the beauty of handmade goods?
All soap batches will be slightly different from each other, anyway, but if we start discussing various recipes, then it really becomes evident how wide a variety of hot process events there are.
Therefore, even though you may be very familiar with all the phases your hot process soap will go through, you’ll see lots of differences between recipes and also between batches of the same (or similar) recipes.
The fact is, soap recipes behave differently. When you’ve got different additives such as salts, clays, essential oils, fragrance oils, herbs, milks, and on and on in your batches, you can just know your soap will react, cook, and work differently.
And that’s the exciting thing about making your own handmade soap!
Even if you become obsessed with just one BEST recipe for a time (like I did there for awhile), you will learn the batches all have their own unique personality
Soap Tip #6: If the Soap Continues Cooking Longer than an Hour or So,….Something is (Probably) Not Right
In my experience making lots of different recipes, hot process soap usually takes between 20 minutes and an hour to completely cook and be ready for the mold.
In the one soap making event where I was still stirring and doing the zap test after an hour and a half…something was definitely wrong. If you make even one mistake with your ingredients, you could have a complete soap making fail. In my case, I had left out 12 ounces of oil!
When I mentally went back over my steps and made this realization, it was a real “DOH” moment. I’ve since got some measures in place, like my Hot Process Soap Making Checklist, which you can download for free at the end of this article if you like.
Soap Tip #7: You Can’t Always Convert a Cold Process Recipe to Hot Process As Is
OK. Now this is a tricky tip. USUALLY you can take a cold process soap recipe and just use the hot process method on it. Usually.
However, there are some recipes that call for certain ingredients (like milks) that will affect the outcome of the soap. You may need to add certain ingredients at different times or change their state of matter somewhat (freezing milk for example).
Also, some cold process soap makers will use something called a water discount to make a harder bar of soap and to help the soap remove from the mold easier.
That’s not such a good idea in hot process soap. Nor is it a good idea to add much more liquid to the HP soap because you’ll either have to cook it longer or it will need an actual cure time.
Any time I am going to use a cold process recipe for the hot process method, I run the oil ingredients through a good lye calculator to be sure I’ve got the correct lye and water measurements. And I don’t change things.
But that’s just me.
Perhaps others have other ideas, but that’s my opinion.
You will LOVE Jan Berry’s soap making eBook collection if you are new to making soap (or not). Her recipes are just gorgeous, and she is the person I learned to make soap from years ago!
Soap Tip #8: You’ll Become Addicted!
You know what?
I’ve had a lot of friends out there who’ve started out with cold process….and they become a convert to the hot process method of making soap after a time.
Well, you can find out more about hot process vs. cold process soap making here, but suffice to say, most people love having their soaps ready to use more quickly. And once you’ve learned a few tricks, you can make your hot process soap look almost as (or just as) amazing as cold process soaps.
Making handmade soap is a creative art and science that is simply addicting.
Final Thoughts on Tips for Making Perfect Hot Process Handmade Soap Every Time
I love making soaps. I wish I could make soap every single day! There have been times I’ve had so much soap made that if I didn’t give it away to friends and family, I’d have had enough for a good year!
Have you had this experience?
And if you are just starting out on your soap making journey, just expect that if you love it the first time, you will probably always love making your own handmade soap. If you follow these tips, you’ll have perfect bars each and every time you make a new recipe, too!
Alrighty then! I’m off to make some more hot process soap! I’ll share pics with you too!
And if you’d like a wonderful place to share your natural soap recipes, get tips & ideas, ask questions in a supportive learning environment I think you’ll enjoy my private Facebook group: Handmade & All Natural Body with Heidi. If you are trying to keep the toxic chemicals off your bod, it’s the place for you!
Leave a comment in the comments section! And don’t forget to check out the Facebook group for natural handmade products. :-)
Hugs, Health, and Self-Reliance,
P.S. Would you like theHot Process Soap Making Checklist? It’s a wonderful guide to keep you on track so you don’t make the mistakes I’ve made in the past. You can get it by completing the form below for my newsletter. You’ll get immediate access to the Resource Library, where the checklist is housed, along with lots of other downloadable goodies for you to use! :-)
Herbs have specific “actions” on our bodies, and when you get to know what these are, it becomes easier to decide which herbs to use and for what reason. One of the actions herbs can have is to be “alterative.”
Awhile back I wrote about adaptogenic herbs (and how to make brain candy), what they are, and why they are so very valuable. Well, I would say alterative herbs are as necessary for our health and balance as adaptogens in many cases.
If you remember, an adaptogen is an herb that helps the body adapt to stressors. An alterative is an herb that helps different systems in the body “alter” and provide balance and health. This is a simplistic definition, so let’s explore what an alterative is and how to use them a little further.
FTC Disclosure: There are affiliate links scattered throughout this article. If you click through and make any kind of purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Stinging Nettles have been used since ancient times as a health tonic as well as for medicinal use.
What is an Alterative Herb and How to Use Them
Often known as “blood purifiers” or “detoxifiers,” alteratives don’t really act directly on the blood to purify or detoxify it. Instead, an alterative works on the body system or the organ in question, and this in turn helps the body become more balanced, the blood freer of toxins, and the body organs simply work better by improving metabolic actions.
There are a variety of different definitions of what the herbal action “alterative” means from well-known herbalists. Let’s take a look at some of these, and find some commonalities:
Rosemary Gladstar, my first herbal teacher from the Science & Art of Herbology, has been teaching others about using herbs for health for over 40 years. She’s a star in the herbal world and the author of my favorite book to recommend for folks new to learning about herbs: Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide.
Here is what she has to say about alteratives:
“Commonly referred to as Blood Purifiers.” These are agents that gradually and favorably alter the condition of the blood. They aid the body in assimilating nutrients and eliminating metabolic waste products: Neutralizes acidic conditions in the body: Aids in protein assimilation. Generally extremely high in minerals and some vitamins.”
“Alteratives are herbs that will gradually restore the proper function of the body and increase health and vitality. They were at one time known as ‘blood cleansers.’ …Their mode of action on the body is not understood, but their value in holistic health care cannot be doubted. In broad terms they act to alter the body’s processes of metabolism so that tissues can best deal with the range of functions from nutrition to elimination.”
All of the following quotes are from an email written by Jim McDonald, a Michigan herbalist, about alteratives. He hosts the website, www.herbcraft.org, and is well-known in the herbal world. According to him, these famous herbalists state:
A term applied in naturopathic, Eclectic, and Thomsonian medicine to those plants or procedures that stimulate changes of a defensive or healing nature in metabolism or tissue function when there is chronic or acute diseases. The whole concept of alteratives is based on the premise that in a normally healthy person, disease symptoms are the external signs of activated internal defenses and, as such, should be stimulated and not suppressed…”
“These are agents that gradually and favorably alter the condition of the body. They are used for treating toxicity of the blood, infections, arthritis, & skin eruptions. Alteratives also help the body to assimilate nutrients and eliminate waste products of metabolism. The choice of alterative depends on matching the accompanying properties of the herb with the specific nature of the condition being treated.”
John William Fyfe, M.D.:
“Alteratives produce gradually such a change in the functions of organs as to permit a healthy action to take the place of disease.”
Jim McDonald (in the same email as the quotes above) states:
“I would describe alteratives as herbs that ‘feed and nourish the body to promote ~systemic harmony~ . What this means is that they get the individual organs and systems of the body working in tune with each other, which in turn improves the functioning of the whole. … Each individual alterative also has special affinities. If we learn about these herbs, we can discover what these are and use these specific indications to create blends to address individual circumstances. For example, nettles & oats nourish the adrenals, and can help to focus on that area if it is a significant factor in the imbalance…. Being a little more specific, though, I generally identify alteratives as herbs that strengthen health by nourishing the body and promoting both assimilation and detoxification by imrpoving metabolism. They can be, then, described as ‘metabolic tonics’.”
Essentially, alteratives somehow help our body systems work together for a healthier metabolism and will strengthen systems and organs. By acting on our bodies in this way, alteratives help us utilize the nutrients in our foods and help our organs remove the wastes that are byproducts of these natural processes.
“THIS is why using alteratives on a regular basis is better than ‘detoxing’ every few months.” (McDonald)
The bottom line on alteratives is that they should be made a regular part of our daily habits. Of course, we can choose alteratives that will specifically address a certain organ or system, but regular use will help keep us balanced.
Dandelion’s sunny face is not only cheerful, but this is an herb for your health!
A Short List of Common Alterative Herbs
There are many, many herbs that will have an alterative action on the body, so I’m going to keep this list to the main ones most of us are familiar with. If you know of one that should be added, please let me know in the comments section!
I’m including the herb as well as the part of the body the actions of the herb primarily act upon:
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense): General skin problems, including eczema
Calendula (Calendula officinalis): Overall nutritive and body support
Burdock (Arctium lappa): Skin issues, including eczema & psoriasis; kidney function
Cleavers (Galium aparine): Useful as a lymphatic tonic
Mullein (Verbascum sp.): One of my favorite herbs, and is useful for the respiratory system
Buchu (Agathosma betulina): Helpful for the urinary system.
Dandelion (Taraxacum oficinale): Another wonderful liver tonic herb.
Calendula is a favorite herb for so many uses, both external and internal.
Using Alterative Herbs
Since alteratives are primarily balancing herbs and high in nutritional value, they are generally safe to use regularly with a few exceptions. I always say: Do your research and be sure to find at least three reputable sources that back each other up, because there is a lot of “hooey” out there these days.
Most alteratives can be used in tea blends or tinctured in blends or singles. In fact, I love to add nettle leaves to my tea blends, just because they are such a nutritious and liver supporting herb. I also love to use many of these in my cooking, like my Nettle Powder.
Recipe for a Healthy & Nutritious Alterative Tea Blend for Balance:
Buying your herbs: The links above are to Amazon for your convenience, but I also love to buy my herbs from Starwest Botanicals.
Many common “weeds” like burdock actually have some powerful medicinal qualities!
Final Thoughts on Alterative Herbs…and the Balancing Tea Recipe
One thing is quite clear: Alterative herbs have a wide range of uses, and there are a LOT of them. Remember that herbs have more than one single action most of the time. Therefore an herb can be an alterative while also being a diuretic, for example.
This category of herbs is highly valued for general health and metabolism. Who wouldn’t want to add a few of these herbs to their daily diet, especially through a delicious tea?
You may also enjoy my series on How to Start Using Herbs:
And that’s all for alteratives for now. I hope you’ll consider adding them to your daily diet!
**If you’d love to learn about herbs from an incredible online herbal school (besides Rosemary’s above) is the Herbal Academy of New England. They have classes for all levels and interests.
Hugs, Health, and Self-Reliance,
P.S. If you haven’t done so yet, I hope you’ll sign up for the newsletter! You’ll never miss a thing, and you’ll get immediate access to the growing Resource Library. You might enjoy the cheat sheet for how to make a tincture, which you can find in there along with other goodies just for you!
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Find out what an alterative herb is, why you need to add these to your daily diet, plus an herbal tea recipe for balance, nutrition, and metabolic support. Be heatlhy, and use herbs! #herbaltea #useherbs #alterativeherbs #homeremedy #plantmedicine #howtomake #nutrition #tea #metabolism #health #healingharvesthomestead
Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor. Any and all statements I make in print or word are for informational purposes only and not meant to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease. Please be sure to seed advice from your medical professional before using herbs or essential oils. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.