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Herbs don't read books.

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It's the September blog party, and I'm not even late!

A year or five ago a lady had excessive menstrual bleeding. She came to see me one fine day in April, and I'd run all out of recent Capsella tincture. (That's shepherd's purse, in case you're wondering - very good for bleeding).

The problem is, according to all the books, Capsella isn't supposed to work after it's about a year or so old, in tincture. The herb itself is supposed to stay good for even less time: you're supposed to throw it out after about 6 months.

And Capsella is my best herb for bleeding. So I sent her off with some 4-year old tincture (can't get rid of tinctures without official sanction, and the official sanction folks hadn't called yet), telling her that, hey, it's April, I'll get fresh herb in a month, and you can have some of that if this doesn't work.

It's a good thing herbs don't read books, cos she was fine with the ages-old Capsella tincture.

Almost a decade ago a friend was in need of some herbal mental straighteners; he declined to go to doctors, insisting on something less invasive. I had dried St. John's wort (Hypericum), but that had been in its jar for about three years already.

Problem is, again, that (again, according to all the books) SJW isn't supposed to work when it's more than a year old, dried.

(And of course, these days I'd have told him to do megadoses of vitamin D plus megadoses of the B-vitamins, for his depression and similar mental kinks.)

Anyway, I gave him that dried herb, for tea, telling him that it might not work but hey, you can always give it a try, and if it doesn't work we'll try something else.

It worked, of course. Possibly because I had picked the herb ... dunno.

Similarly, I did a week of herbal lectures at one or the other school, and usually, when I do that, I percolate a tincture ... this particular one was of 3 year old dried SJW, cos I wanted to see how that would turn out. The dried herb still looked brilliant, although of course it shouldn't (according to the books). We had had two rainy summers, and this was from the very sunny year before that ... the tincture was far redder than anything I'd gotten off the rainy summer herbs.

Just goes to show - try things out, you might find that the books aren't always right.

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Along the same line, way back in 1995 a school was throwing out its old herbs. I got a pound of lactuca so old they forgot how old it was, but it was crumbly and brittle. It went in the bottom of a drawer. Then in 1999, I was quite sick with a severe chronic cough (after world travel, who knows what it was) that kept me awake at night coughing for 3 weeks. Nothing worked. So an old time naturopath suggested I smoke a few puffs of lactuca in a pipe. All I had was this stuff 7-10 years old. Two puffs worked better than 2 hydrocodone pills. The pills would only let me sleep for 2 hours, the vintage lactuca, 6 hours.


well I think it is always worth a try if you have gathered the herbs or know who has and how they were stored. On the other hand I think that what might not be explained well in books and the action of shepherd's purse has to do with it's use to control hemorrhage in the immediate post partum period. Post partum hemorrhage is different than other types of hemorrhage to control because the MAIN action you want is uterine contraction - this is the primary way the uterus slows bleeding- secondary is clotting- infact you don't want alot of clotting action and not a well contracted uterus as it makes for more bleeding not less. So from experience I believe that the clotting action of shepherds purse is active long after the uterine contractor stuff is gone. Over the years what other midwives have said to me is that they don't use shepherd's purse because it causes clots, but doesn't stop a postpartum hemorrhage- this is because they are using older tinctures or tea- and I have had direct response to the use of fresher tinctures it does work to control postpartum hemorrhage- so if you are providing a tincture for a midwife's use it should be with-in that 6 month age-- I have also seen those fresh made tinctures work for about 1-2 years but not always -it can be rather hit or miss- and postpartum is just not one of those hit or miss kind of times--- but as you can always save that tincture for other types of bleeding- and some urinary tract problems...

Fabulous elaboration, thanks, Sharon!

instead of throwing out the tincture, i re-up it with fresh herb each year. unfortunately with capsella, it is hard to tincture fresh every 6 months since it has such a short growing period around here.

a friend of mine is a midwife and she adds fresh herb to her tincture every year...she's never mentioned any problems with doing this...after reading sharon's explanation, i wonder if the re-tincturing would increase the strength of the clotting activities since that doesn't go away? it seems like it would, in addition to re-adding the uterine contracting activity. so, if that's true, it would probably be wise to start a fresh tincture each year.

I've double infused a capsella tincture, once. My oh my, the stink of old cabbage ...
... but also, you only get soluble constituents into your tincture. If that's saturated with other things (like the ones you got the last time you added things to the tincture) you won't get anything new.

Waste of good herb, is my take, on double tincturing capsella. I could be wrong, of course, although this isn't a book :-)

In general, I don't think re-upping a tincture each year is a good idea... not only is the tincture already partially "full" as Henriette said but totally lose quality control that way, and all consistency and ideas of what's causing what goes right out the window.

People/books always say to replace your Anemone and Skullcap tinctures every six months to a year as well, but I have tinctures of A. tuberosa that are more than four years old and still work perfectly, I have tinctures of our S. resinosa that are four years old and a tiny bit weaker but still very effective and dried plant of S. resinosa that's three years old and is still brilliant in color and quite adequate in power.

'course, lots of those books also talk about the incredible toxicity of fresh anemone and that only dried should ever be used medicinally, so no good listening to them in any kind of non-skeptical way.

Ah yes, the Brit tradition speaking :-)
... where they scratch their collective heads over the brouhaha over Anemone / Pulsatilla, cos they never manage to get any effect out of it. (Cos it only works fresh.)

Well, I guess the really big bad book statement of all time is the old "you can only take Echinacea for a week" tripe...when we all know that it works perfectly well, when indicated, to take it indefinitely. There, that's my post. :-)

(Maybe one of these days I'll get to blogging or something...)

-Florida Susan