Archive for tag: tinctures

Intern Skills - Botanical Medicine

Hi, everyone!

The autumn finally settled in here in Illinois this past week with crisp mornings and warm days. The trees have shifted in color just a bit on their topmost branches and I expect that we will see the full blossoming of autumn in the next two or three weeks.

This week I'll talk a bit about botanical medicine and our skillset that is developed both in our botanical medicine courses as well as in clinical practice. Botanicals are powerful tools in the naturopathic doctor's toolbox; proper instruction, use and avoidance are necessary to effectively help others with this form of our eclectic approach to medicine.

LaKisha Brandon (9th Tri), Darius Lembert (10th Tri), and Joclyn Davis (9th Tri)
formulating and dispensing a custom tincture from our clinic dispensary.

My definition of botanical medicine is using plants and their constituent chemicals to help others heal. To that end we have a series of four botanical medicine courses before and during our clinical rotations here at NUHS to prepare us as new practitioners out in practice.

  • Botanical Medicine I
  • Botanical Medicine II
  • Botanical Medicine III - Advanced Botanical Prescribing
  • Botanical Medicine IV - Advanced Materia Medica

Dr. Lorinda Sorensen and Dr. Fraser Smith (Dean of Naturopathic Medicine) guide our ND students skillfully through this course sequence in a way that prepares our future docs with a wealth of information. We study the habitat, harvesting methods, parts of the plants that are used, and proper preparation from harvest to medicine. We are taught interactions (both beneficial and dangerous) with pharmaceutical drugs. Finally, we learn the proper times to use and avoid any botanical medicine, as well as the proper dosage method, amount and timing.

When in clinic, we custom prepare our own tinctures based upon the needs of the patient. We utilize the variety of professionally prepared, medicinal grade botanical preparations at our disposal in the clinic dispensary. We combine our botanical medicines with other therapies that can help our patients on the path to a return to their basis of health. This could be a quick turnaround or could take some time depending upon the pathology and methodologies utilized in the treatment plan. Through learning botanical medicine at NUHS, I feel that we are well prepared to enter our practices with a solid botanical skillset.

Storm Recycling

Hi again, everyone! 

Well, this past week was another test, quiz and case-filled seven days! After finishing up some last minute study before Friday afternoon's classes were over, I was catching up with some friends in the library. All of a sudden, the skies opened up with wind, rain and a massive thunderstorm! Now, you might think that I have run out of things to talk about so I'm just babbling on about the weather. Au contraire, mon frère (ou sœur)! This short little storm that lasted maybe 10 minutes, managed to break branches on just about every tree on campus (and the surrounding community), including our two huge willow trees adjacent to Lake Janse.

While saddened to see branches blown from our campus willow trees, the broken branches and twigs provided the raw materials for a couple of projects for the Naturopathic Student Gathering this coming November. These wreaths are the prototypes (and framework) for a few ideas the NUHS Gathering Team is considering for the opening and closing ceremonies for the weekend in November. Needless to say, our group is charged up and excited!

Willow wreaths

The Naturopathic Gathering is an annual conference hosted by one of the seven North American naturopathic medical schools. National University has the honor of hosting the Gathering in 2012. Students from all schools will be visiting our campus this November to hear some of our leading naturopathic doctors speak of their clinical experience in the context of the philosophy of naturopathic medicine.

Botanical Project

Do you remember the Botanicals class I mentioned a few weeks ago where we made tinctures? Well, each student in the class has the option to make a useful botanical product from the methods we have studied along with the curative properties of various botanicals (or plants). Having been an avid beer home brewer for a number of years, I tried to think of something that could incorporate an infusion of herbs along with a healthful, tasty drink! After some deliberation, I decided to make Ginger Beer (or Ginger Ale) using only the botanical ingredients.


Having made that decision, I trekked to Larabee Herb Store in Elmwood Park, just outside Chicago. I was able to purchase all supplies that I needed for my Ginger Beer recipe with the exception of my fresh Key Limes and Lemons. I won't reveal all the ingredients in my recipe this week.  I will be sure to share my recipe, brewing experience, my opinion of the Ginger Beer along with some notes from my classmates.  I will also give a bit of information on Ginger Beer's medicinal uses historically.

This week I am appreciative that, even in her fury, Nature shared the materials we needed for some of the Gathering projects. My thanks go to Jack and the entire landscaping team at NUHS for allowing me to "scavenge" willow branches. I'm also happy that we have such an energetic team working on the Gathering!

Until next week when the Ginger Beer (non-alcoholic) will be flowing and finals will be creeping ever closer….

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.