Category Archives: Writing

How To Make an Herbal Tincture

© Joyce Amsden 2013 – Boneset perfect for harvesting for use in an herbal tincture for colds, flu, sinus infections

You will need:

  • a jar with a tight fitting lid (pint or quart)
  • good quality alcohol such as vodka – at least 60 proof (30% alcohol)
  • a jar of herbs
  • a fine wire mesh sieve (of the type often used to strain loose tea) or a cotton cloth suspended over a bowl
  • one or more dark colored glass bottles with eyedropper
  • labels or masking tape

Step 1:   Research the herb you want to use
There is no substitute for a good herbal – a book that describes the uses of herbal medicines.

Step 2: Obtain the herbs
Harvesting your own is really the best, but you must make sure that you identify it correctly and know which plant parts to use.  Harvest respectfully taking no more than you need and no more than 30% of what you find so there is plenty for other creatures and plenty to go to seed.

If you are not able to harvest your own herbs, order them from an herbal store with a good reputation for quality.

Step 3:  Carefully wash, rinse and dry your jar.

Boneset Tincture
© Joyce Amsden – Boneset buds ready for addition of alcohol

Step 4: Place the herbs in the jar.   Leave 3 inches of space in the jar if you are using fresh herbs.  Fill the jar about half full if your herbs are dry.

Step 5:  Fill the jar with vodka, covering the herbs completely and more – several inches beyond the top of the herbs.  The herbs may float to the top.  This is okay.

Step 6:  Cover the jar with a tight fitting lid. Set it in a place you will remember to shake it a couple of times every day for 4 to 6 weeks while the alcohol is extracting the medicine from the plant material. I put mine by the kitchen sink.  Don’t forget the magic, the mojo.  Talk to your tincture.  Sing it a song.  Express your gratitude.  It will do you both good.

Do not be concerned if your tincture takes on a brownish color.  This is to be expected.

Step 7:  When 6 – 8 weeks have passed, strain the tincture. Use a fine sieve, wire mesh strainer or a clean cotton cloth laid in a colander. I like to strain my tinctures over a large measuring cup with a pouring spout.  Press any residual liquid out of the herbs with a spoon or gather up and squeeze the cloth with clean hands,

Step 8:  Store your tincture in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid  in a cool, dark cupboard or bottled up in 2 or 4 ounce dark glass bottles with eyedroppers.

Step 9:  Label your tincture as to contents and date.

Step 10:  Put your tincture to use!   Refer to dosage instructions in your herbal. Alcohol Infusions are quite strong and so dosages are small, usually between 5 drops and several droppersful.  They can be added to a little juice or water to make them more palatable.

The boneset tincture dosage is 3 droppersful / 3X daily for several days.


A Bird in the Hand


© Joyce Amsden 2014


After work today, I decided to work in my garden. Stopping by my car to fetch my water bottle, I noticed a little olive green sparrow-sized bird sitting on the ground just a foot or so from the passenger door. Because it did not fly away as I approached, I assumed it to be injured. I slowly set my phone, glasses, garden bag down in the grass and knelt in front of the little fellow. He didn’t move. As he raised his head and looked at me, I noticed a small spot of blood on his throat and his blood stained beak.

I asked, “Can I help you?”

Even at the sound of my voice, he made no attempt to move. I took off my black sweatshirt, covered my hand with it and slowly reached around behind him and picked him up. He made four rapid little chirps in protest and then fell quiet. He did not struggle as I fussed about preparing a place for him.

I got out the small cage that I keep around for this very purpose, a little dish of water, a chopstick and my Peterson field guide.

Red Eyed Vireo
© Joyce Amsden 2014

Having set up my bird hospital on the porch, I lowered him onto the bottom of the cage on a bit of newspaper as his feet seemed too weak to hold onto the wire bottom of the cage. His little claws were so fine, they caught in the fabric of my sweatshirt.
He settled on his belly and stayed very still. With the chopstick, I put a drop of water on his beak and the blood began to clear away. As I looked him over and considered his plight, I began to surmise the little guy had most likely been engaged in chasing some other bird from his nest.

I set the top of the cage over him and began to search for his likeness in my Peterson Field Guide. Soon enough I found him – a Red Eyed Vireo. He winters in the tropics and has a song rather like a robin’s “pretty bird” call, only blurred. As I read, I glanced at him. He closed his eyes for a couple minutes at a time and sat very still.

Red Eyed Vireo 5
© Joyce Amsden 2014

After about 10 minutes, I began to be aware of the birds singing around me. He seemed to become aware of them also and began to look more lively, looking around with interest for the first time. Then, as if shaking himself from his stupor, he fluttered to the top of the cage and clung there upside down and let out a chirp.

I have seen this happen before. Sometimes an injured bird just needs a few moments out of harms way to recover.   I took the top of the cage off and slowly tipped it and the vireo sideways. He looked around some more, crawled along the cage bars toward the opening. He paused a moment and left a big, uhm, “blessing” on my Peterson Field Guide and flew out of the cage and into the oak tree nearby.

I smiled as he disappeared into the soft spring green cover of oak leaves in the nearby tree and retrieved my collection of things from the grass. As I walked along the path to the garden, I saw the vireo fly into the pear tree ahead of me where he sat looking at me. I am sure it was him, for I could still see the red spot of blood on his throat. He just sat there for a moment considering me and I him. Ah, the story he will have to tell at the nest tonight. Me too.

This adorable little red eyed vireo is known as a fierce defender of his nest driving away even the pileated woodpecker who is about 5 times his size! This explains the blood on his beak!

For more about the red eyed vireo: