Apothecary Concerns – How to stock the Herb Bus

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mortar pestleToday’s American herbalist, tends to have an arsenal of alcohol-based medicines a.k.a. tinctures in their apothecary. While there are many reasons to use tinctures (convenience, preservation, solvency, etc…) when working with a homeless population, alcohol is best avoided. Why? Here are two good reasons:

1. Alcohol is energetically hot and tends to deplete vital energy. Many homeless suffer from malnourishment and deficiency is a concern. We do not want to further deplete.

2. Alcohol sensitivites. Many in our community struggle with alcohol addiction.

So once I decided the use of alcoholic tinctures was to be limited, I begin to suss out my remaining herbal options:

1. Glycerine Based Tinctures – Decent extraction (about 1/2 the extraction power of alcohol). Tasty. Can be easily utilized in place of traditional alcohol based tincture (similar formulation techniques and method of dispensing.) Diabetic friendly.

2. Vinegar Based Tinctures – Great for extracting minerals and alkaloids. Can be easily utilized in place of traditional alcohol based tincture (similar formulation techniques and method of dispensing.) Diabetic friendly.

3. Syrups – Tasty. Nourishing. A way to preserve tea-based medicine. If prepared with honey or sugar, not diabetic friendly. Honey based syrups often still need refrigeration.

4. Teas – Great medicine that has been the bedrock of herbalism for thousands of years. Nourishing. Can be difficult to prepare if no access to a kitchen. Prebagged in iron-shut baggies is the most likely to be utilized.

5. Powders – Convenient (just stir portion into water or mix with honey or nut butter). Can grind and sift herbal formulas on the spot from dried herbs. Lightweight.

6. Pills / Capsules – Convenient. Western (allopathic) medicine relies heavily on pills. Increased familiarity means increased compliancy . If digestion is impaired, herbs in capsule form are not as readily available. Use glycerin to make pills (avoid honey for diabetic concerns).

7. Tea Concentrate Granules – Convenient (just stir portion into water). Predigested (previously decocted). Concentrated (cuts down on size and weight).

As I think of more options, I’ll add them. But for the moment, my focus is going to be on the preparation and utilization of tea concentrate granules. I like that they are a a water based medicine (very nourishing and soothing), lightweight, and conveniently administered. However, while this is the norm in chinese medicine, it has not caught on among western herbalists in the same way. There is going to be a bit of a learning curve, so here we go! As I practice, I’ll post my errors and successes – all great learning moments.

-Lorna

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