Tests and Tinctures

Let the exams begin!  We finished up this week with the first of the many exams, quizzes, midterms and lab practicals that 6th Trimester is known for providing (if that is the proper term). The first quiz was centered on the endocrine system, its involved structures and their interaction. What a doozy to kick off the trimester!

The classes aren't all work and no fun however! In our 'Special Topics in Botanical Medicine' class this week, we had the opportunity to make tinctures for the first time! A little about tinctures first. Tinctures can be made from the fresh or dried medicinal parts of plants. These parts could be the leaf, flower, stem or root of a plant, or all of the above, depending on the plant. Next, these medicinal parts are 'soaked' in a solution of alcohol, glycerine or vinegar, depending on the type of plant and the 'plant constituent' or chemical part of the plant that we want to use in the tincture.

The tinctures are made in ratios such as 1:2 or 1:4 or higher. The first number is the amount of plant material, typically in grams. The second number is the amount of 'vehicle' or alcohol, glycerine or vinegar in milliliters.  So, if you have 10 grams of plant material being soaked in 20 milliliters of alcohol, you would have a 1:2 ratio tincture! The units of measure don't really matter as long as you stay consistent with your ratios if you make a tincture and like the outcome. Simple really!

Some of the tinctures our class made this past week.

I made a Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia) tincture in a 1:18 ratio as a fragrance for a future cleaning solution. I also made a Bilberry Leaf (Vaccinium myrtillus) tincture in a 1:4 ratio as an experiment for future tinctures. Bilberry Leaf is reported to have anti-aging properties through improved circulation in the small blood vessels near the hands, feet and farthest reaches of the circulatory system from the heart. With an aging patient population, research continuing and the possibility of a potent herbal medication, Bilberry shows some promise!

Herbal medicine is just one of the strong tools at the naturopathic physician's disposal. The chemical constituents in many pharmaceutical medications are either the exact phytochemical or a derived component of many botanicals (or plant medicines). The great thing we are learning about the botanical medicines is that while the patient gets the benefit of the botanical medication (albeit at a much lower concentration than a corresponding pharmaceutical medication), the botanical medication typically has other components that reduce or eliminate any side effects of taking the botanical medication. While not true all the time, this is typically the case with botanical medications. As with any medication, any physician needs to take the precaution of understanding how the botanical medicine interacts with any other medications the patient may be taking, whether botanical or pharmaceutical.

This week, I am grateful for botanical medications that Nature has provided for us.  I personally have utilized a botanical remedy a number of times in various circumstances from a poultice for a pretty big scrape to helping ward off a nasty ear infection.  Thanks to those who have come before us and paved the way learning, gaining knowledge and sharing over countless generations for all that Nature provides for our health.