Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Making Astragalus Tincture

I used to raise medicinal and culinary herbs from my farm in Cedar County, sell them at the Iowa City Farmers Market, and give workshops about how to make them into medicines. Just recently a friend of Prairie Hill gave us a valuable gift: a bucket-full of astragalus roots. Astragalus is an important herb, and takes years to grow to harvest time. The most common form of medicine made from astragalus roots is a tincture. And so Jeanette, Val and I made a gallon of astragalus tincture one Sunday afternoon. This will be enough to keep everyone at Prairie Hill healthy for years to come!

First the roots were scrubbed clean, then dried enough so there was no surface water. Then we cut them into small pieces and/or peeled off the bark in strips, whatever we could do to expose the greatest amount of root to the other ingredient, 151 proof Everclear. This is the strongest, most potent alcohol sold here in Iowa City.

Once we cut up the roots, we filled a gallon glass jar to the top with the roots. The few that were left looked like they had some potential to start new plants, so I planted them in my front yard. The ones in the jar were then covered with the Everclear. The three large bottles of the alcohol were exactly enough to get to the top of the jar. That seemed a good sign somehow, and we smiled.


Now the tincture sits on a shelf in our common house pantry, waiting for at least three months for the medicinal part of the roots to leach into the Everclear. Sometime in the spring, we'll decant the tincture, and then anyone who wants some can have a little dropper-bottle of it to put in their medicine cabinet. Since you use only a few drops at a time, this huge quantity should last well into the 2020's.

Here are some of the benefits of astragalus:

  • Immune system booster
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Slows or prevents growth of tumors
  • Protects cardiovascular system
  • Relieves insulin resistance related to diabetes
  • Slows the progress of kidney disease.
As with most medicinal herbs, astragalus tends to nourish and support the body in a wider way than the targeted and dramatic action of drugs. So it's effects are gradual. And since you take only a few drops at a time, it is a safe addition to the preventive helpers we all call on.

Nan Fawcett


Surviving the Blizzard

Note: your blog host has gotten too busy this past month, and good posts like this one have been waiting to go up. This post was written by Val Bowman a week ago. But tonight it is snowing again!

Winter storm or 'near blizzard' conditions predicted for today. So far it's just rain. We took Kara to a Days Inn near the airport in Des Moines a day early for her flight home to California tonight. But when I look out my window, I see Jeanette walking Cooper and Sophie, the new tree in Donna's yard decorated with lights, a beacon in the early morning light, and the woods at the top of the hill that shelters any number of small animal friends. Later today I will walk a few steps to Nan's house for a massage and later we'll gather in the Common House kitchen to make a tincture of astragalus with her. And tonight we'll walk carefully up the hill (holding the railing) to Marcia's house to watch Strangers in Good Company.

As I was writing this, John called me to the window to see our Osprey hawk! Posing on Dick's truck and then flying to the top of our light pole which overlooks my bird feeder. No breakfast diners there, thank goodness. Life at Prairie Hill.

Blizzard Tips:

  • Stay indoors during the storm. Prolonged exposure to cold can cause hypothermia.
  • Walk and drive carefully on icy sidewalks and roads. Many injuries and accidents are caused by slippery conditions.
  • Before driving, let someone know your destination, route, and expected time of arrival. If your car gets stuck, it'll be easier to find you
  • If you lose feeling and color in your nose, ears, hands or feet, cover the exposed area, avoid rubbing your skin, and seek medical help immediately. You may have frostbite.
  • When shoveling snow, take breaks and lift lighter loads. Working too hard can lead to heart attacks.
  • Stay dry. Wet clothes make you lose body heat, increasing your risk of hypothermia.