Recently I talked about gathering Jewelweed….hopefully some of you were able to find this wonderful plant. Now…what do we do with it? Come with me as I work up the Jewelweed that we gathered! In this post I will cover making a tincture and soon we will talk about oils and salves.
I make all of my Jewelweed soap, salve and tinctures for this young man – who is now 22 and still has poison ivy 360 days out of the year!
The first thing I do is to spread the Jewelweed out as thinly as possible. Elijah and I gathered this in about 10 minutes down by the creek at the base of our mountain this evening. It filled this 6 ft. table in my soap/herb kitchen. I will use half to make a tincture and half to make soap and/or salve.
Because I am using half of the Jewelweed to make an oil, my goal is to let that portion wilt a little so that we don’t have excess moisture in our plant material when we work with it. Jewelweed wilts very quickly so this won’t take long. This is imperative if you are going to be making an oil or salve with the plant. Excess moisture in your plant material can cause mold to occur in your oil or salve. I will let it sit a day or two and then will do a post on making an oil/salve.
Let’s go over how to make a tincture. You can do this immediately after harvesting most plants (there are a few exceptions). You will need Jewelweed, glass jars, lids and 100 proof vodka. As you go through what you gathered you may find little vines wrapped around your Jewelweed – pull them off and discard. They usually come off quite easily. Also discard any brown or discolored leaves.
I usually try to tincture several gallons each summer. I do this so that I am able to give some of this away…invariably I will be at church or a meeting and there will be someone suffering terribly with poison ivy. I pour out a small bottle for them and send them on their way – they are always amazed at how quickly this works!
Next step is to chop the plant material and put it into the canning jars. I use 1/2 gallon jars. Most people will not need that much but then you don’t have to deal with my son who gets poison ivy every time he goes outside….all year long! Sometimes I just tear it up with my hands as I’ve done in this picture. It should resemble the pile to the left of the canning jar.
You want to fill your jars almost to the top but don’t pack the plant material down…just fill them loosely. I add Jewelweed until the plant material is just below the neck of the jar. Notice that there are leaves, stems and flowers…this is important. You want to take the top 15 inches of the plant (often called the aerial parts).
The next step is to cover the herbs with the vodka. I fill them until the vodka is just a hair below the rim of the jar. Then cap them with a lid and ring…you want an air tight top! I buy a very inexpensive vodka – you won’t be drinking it – just applying it topically!
As you can see – the jar is loosely filled with Jewelweed and covered with vodka.
Now…MAKE A LABEL!! Do not stop…do not pass go….do not sneeze….stop and make a label RIGHT NOW!!! If you don’t you will not know what you have….make a label! The label should contain the following information….name of herb, date, where gathered and your medium (100 proof vodka) and in the case of Jewelweed please remember to add that this is for external use only! Jewelweed contains harmful compounds if it isn’t cooked. So my label will read:
“Jewelweed, 100 proof vodka, 8/17/20, Gap Creek, DO NOT TAKE INTERNALLY!! TOPICAL USE ONLY!!
The date is also vitally important because you don’t want to use this for 30 days. The liquid in this tincture is going to turn a lovely dark red after 30 days….I have taken a picture of a finished tincture to show you.
Isn’t it beautiful?
Put your tincture away in a dark cupboard or pantry for 30 days. If you are in the pantry for something else, give the jar a good shake. I tip mine over and back up a couple of times. If you forget to do this the world will not end…I promise!
You can begin using this in 30 days. I usually wait until I need it….then I pour out enough to fill a small amber glass spray bottle, which I also keep in my pantry. Label the small bottle just as you labeled the large jar! I’ve still got to get the labels on my jars. Once you have poured off enough from the large jar that it leaves part of the plant material showing, it is time to strain the entire bottle. You don’t want it to mold on you and ruin your product. The Amber bottles below have completed tincture in them. The two jars on the left are the ones I made tonight.
Take a stainless steel or ceramic strainer (no aluminum or plastic please!), line it with sterilized cheesecloth and place it in a stainless steel or ceramic bowl. Pour the entire contents into the strainer. Let the liquid flow through until all that is left in the cheesecloth is the plant material. Now, gather up that cloth and squeeze every drop of liquid you can from the plant…I often have one of my older boys come do this after I have had a go at it. Their hands are much larger and stronger than mine and I am amazed at how much more liquid they can squeeze out of something that I thought was dry!
Then you will place this wonderful liquid into a dark brown bottle to store the remainder. If you are making huge amounts, keep the extra liquid in large canning jars and place them where they aren’t exposed to light. However, you should still have a brown (or blue) bottle in which to keep the portion of tincture that you are currently using. REMEMBER TO LABEL ALL THE BOTTLES!!!
Congratulations…you just made a “simpler’s” tincture! Now…you may be asking…how do I use this? Remember….we do NOT ingest this tincture….we wash with it. If you have been out and even think you might have had contact with poison ivy….come home and wash all exposed skin with this….it helps break the bond of the urushiol oil from your skin. Use a cotton cloth – old sheet material is best – something that does not absorb a lot of liquid – no need to waste this precious stuff.
If you break out with poison ivy, spray this on the breakout several times during the day. For really stubborn patches, or large patches, I have soaked a cotton cloth with this and then placed it on Elijah’s arm and bandaged it into place. When it dries out I re-apply as necessary.
It has greatly shortened the length of an outbreak and the severity. What used to take weeks to resolve…now takes a week or less…sometimes just a few days.
Let me know if you make this tincture!