Many Hands Herbal Medicine Making

Another day in the life of an herbalist. Students/staff Gina S, Lilly D, and Chris S are joined by a couple of Gina’s family members at my house to garble and process a couple of root herbs that we had harvested from Clearpath Medicine Gardens last November. Taking advantage of extra people, we put Gina’ sister-in-law, Stasia, on photo detail. Lilly and Chris S chose to work on turning fully dried marshmallow root into a maceration mixture that will sit for six weeks and then be pressed into tincture. Blending herbs is a two-person operation, so that left Gina and me to cutting the astragalus roots into workable size pieces so that it can be processed more easily into a maceration in a few days. It will be Clearpath Herbals’ first astragalus tincture made from roots that started from seeds planted by us a few years ago. Seed to to root medicine!

chris, gina, and mark posing

Optimized-tangle of astragalus rootsbird's eye cutting astragalus 1

Gina’s brother, Mark, decided to join us, and I handed out garden pruning shears for the three of us and we went to work. The astragalus roots were not difficult to cut, and very little of it needed to be tossed out. Congratulations to the garden crew for tending astragalus plants that yielded such healthy, sweet four-year old roots! I also noticed that some of the thicker roots were still rubbery, which meant that they were still a little moist. I made a note to spread out the chopped roots onto a an elevated screen next to our wood stove to allow the roots to fully dry. I did the same thing with the marshmallow roots a few weeks earlier. When we were finished, the chopped astragalus root weighed about 1325 g (2.9 lbs).

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen on the marshmallow side of things, we all worked out the numbers on a calculator for amounts of organic cane alcohol and spring water needed to make a one-to-seven tincture maceration with fully dried marshmallow root. Lilly and Chris poured out the liquid portions and went to work, creating a goopy mess of a maceration that needed to  be doled out into two separate gallon jars. I recalled a (now, not then) fond memory of filling a jar too full to the top with a marshmallow maceration, and having the jar explode because of the pressure from expansion. So this time we left plenty of room for the maceration to grow. It takes more menstruum (liquid portion) to make marshmallow because the root is so hungry to absorb water. The alcohol is used to both preserve and to make the future tincture/extract a little thinner (less goopy) and easier to squeeze through medicine droppers.

Lilly and Chris S blending marhmallow


Many hands made light work, and we were finished in less than two hours, and that was with plenty of time to hang out and talk and clean up. And with photos to boot. Job well done! Thanks everyone who helped make it happen.

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