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Today begins the big experiment with making tea concentrate granules. First, I’d like to thank Christopher Hobbs for planting this seed in my brain. I attended a plant walk with him at the 2012 American Herbalists Guild Symposium and he just happened to mention this process. It was the missing link for the Herb Bus– a way to deliver effective herbal medicine without utilizing the traditional (American) alcohol based tincture.
For starters — WHAT ARE TEA CONCENTRATE GRANULES?
They are concentrated extracts made by dehydrating an herbal tea or decoction till you are left with a concentrated powder. It seems there are two distinctive ways to make the granules, either with or without added starch or an herbal powder.
Due to the high humidity of Atlanta, I have decided to create my granules utilizing starch powder. This will prevent the granules from sticking together and creating a tea concentrate rock.
Here are links to a couple resources I found helpful as I tried to learn more:
While the process is pretty straightforward in the descriptions, the information I have not been able to locate is how much potato starch to add per ounce of the greatly-reduced-decoction-of-herbal-glop. Based on my gleanings from other kitchen preparations which utilize a starch of some type (jello, jelly, etc) I am beginning with 1 tsp per 2 oz of reduction.
Ginger Concentrate Granules – The Maiden Voyage
I began by putting 2 ounces of dried ginger root (powdered fresh) in a stainless steel pot and covering it with 16 oz of cold, distilled water (1:8). I then simmered it covered for 20 minutes to get out the goods. Then I let it simmer on the lowest heat possible for another 20 minutes uncovered to begin reducing it down. After a slight cooling period I strained the glop through a muslin press cloth to separate out the solids. After an exciting explosion of gingery shrapnel as the cloth gave way to my relentless pressing, I was left with about 4 oz of reduction. So based on the ratio of 1 tsp potato starch per 2 oz reduction, I mixed in 2 tsp of potato starch.
Next I poured the lovely, ginger goo onto a tray meant for making fruit leather in the lovely dehydrator donated to the cause by Kyla Zaro-Moore. I’ve set the thermostat to 95 degrees (the lowest setting) and now I just have to wait and see…
My VW bus is small, so the clinic itself will happen mostly outside of the vehicle, with the interior serving as the apothecary/dispensary/kitchen. Lucky for me, the world of VW buses is a bit… shall we say, cultish, and all manner of accessories have been created with the mind of making life on the road in the VW more convenient and enjoyable.
After weeding through the many options, I decided on the E-Z Awning, an affordable, easy to erect 8×8 canopy that will be mounted to the side of the bus when we are stationed. Now we can sit out of the rain/sun/etc while we work! It has been ordered and due for delivery on Monday!
Update: The awning has arrived!
Today’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.
Welcome to the Herb Bus Chronicles. Deciding to facilitate a mobile, herbal clinic for underserved populations comes with a large set of hurdles. By keeping track of the problems encountered and solutions found, hopefully the Herb Bus can serve as a prototype for sister clinics.