What Are Herbal Tinctures?

Herbal tinctures are made by infusing plant parts in alcohol, such as vodka or brandy, to extract the medicinal properties of the herbs. Tinctures are generally much stronger than teas and are easy to take on the go.

They can be taken by adding a few milliliters to a bit of water. How much and how often will depend on the individual, the tincture, and what it is taken for. Here are a few examples:

  • Skullcap tincture is calming to the nervous system and can either be taken in small doses through the day to keep stress levels low or in a larger dose during a moment of high stress or anxiety;
  • Schisandra tincture is taken over the long term to increase energy levels and strengthen the nervous system, so the body can handle stress with more ease;
  • Yarrow tincture is taken for acute needs, to ease heavy menstruation or support the immune system through an infection, and is best had every few hours until it is no longer needed.

As you can see, there are many different ways to use herbal tinctures and they are great allies to help us deal with some of the most common ailments. If you are curious to try them out, use the search bar located in the menu on top and enter a keyword (e.g. if you are looking for something to help you sleep, enter “sleep”).

Rest in Darkness

Winter has settled in the Yukon. The days are short and snowy, and the nights are long and cold. The Wildwood greenhouse is empty and all the potions that captured the summer’s bounty are bottled up. The hustle and bustle of summer is over and there are no harvests left to process. So, what now? Why not do what Mother Nature does and rest, replenish our inner resources, and quietly wait for spring to return?

There is no better time to catch up on sleep than winter and there are plenty of herbs to help us disconnect from our busy modern lives to rest at night. These herbs, called nervines and/or sedatives, calm us down and promote deep sleep. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Skullcap is one of the most popular nervines in North America, and for good reason: skullcap is fabulous at calming the nervous system and helps ease stress, anxiety, anger, irritability (PMS anybody?), and sleeplessness without causing drowsiness. Skullcap is also very well tolerated by most people and can be taken long term. I like to have it as a glycerite at night, to enjoy its calming effects as a treat, or as tincture anytime of day, when my nervous system is overwhelmed.
  • Hops is a sedative that does a great job at promoting deep and restful sleep and is very well tolerated as well (it is also one of the main ingredients in beer…). Hops is so effective, it should only be taken when you are about to go to bed.
  • Valerian is a well known sleep aid and is commonly found in health food stores in one form or another. Valerian is also great at soothing the heart and calming stress. Just beware, that valerian can have the opposite effect and be stimulating for some people.
  • Lavender is another well known nervine and is often used as essential oil to help calm stress, and restlessness and bring on sleep. I was distilling lavender essential oil once and almost fell asleep standing on my feet from breathing it in! Of course, it also works as tea, especially if you take the time to breathe the tea’s aroma in.
  • Chamomile, who doesn’t know chamomile? Well, calming the nervous system is one of its many wonderful actions on the human body and it is well tolerated by most people, including children.
  • Adaptogens, such as tulsi, ashwagandha, and gotu kola, calm the nervous system without causing drowsiness and when used over the long term, they help our bodies deal with stress and enhance the quality of sleep and energy levels during the day. They are great for long term stress and anxiety!
  • Try out the Nocturne tincture to help you fall asleep and get a good night’s rest.

Everybody reacts differently to herbs, so it is best to try a few out to find what works best. Make sure you research them well before using them and consult a health care practitioner if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have allergies or any medical conditions.

Happy tea time and rest well!

Lamb’s Quarter – A Poster Child for Weeds

Weeds are, more often than not, considered noxious nuisances in the garden, and yet they have much to give. They grow in abundance, do not fear the harsh Yukon climate, and don’t need any fussing over to grow. Lamb’s quarter (Chenopodium album), also known as pig weed, is one such plant. It happily grows in every Yukon garden, self-seeds profusely, is among the first greens to appear, and I absolutely love seeing it in my garden!

Lamb’s quarter is in the same family as spinach, amaranth, and quinoa. It is packed with nutrients (proteins, vitamins A, B and C, essential fatty acids, iron, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium) and fiber, and has medicinal properties such as anti-parasitic and appetite improving qualities. Which of course is no surprise, considering how delicious it tastes, raw or cooked!

So why work so hard to get rid of this “weed”, when you can enjoy it as one of your most abundant garden greens, with no effort at all? If you have lamb’s quarter growing in your garden in the spring, simply clear it out of the area where you will seed or plant your veggies. While you wait on your salad greens to sprout and grow, you can harvest the young lamb’s quarter leaves and make salads with them. Start by harvesting the ones closest to where your other vegetables are growing and work your way out from there. And once the other salad greens are ready to be picked, the lamb’s quarter will be big enough to be harvested in bigger batches and cooked like spinach. Or blanch and freeze them for garden greens year-round. And the seeds can be saved and used in soups or baked goods for added protein.

Growing your own food in the Yukon is a lot of work, but if you keep an eye out for edible weeds, you may not have to work quite so hard. Other weeds to cherish are chickweed, strawberry blight, stinging nettle, clover, and plantain. They are just waiting for you to add them to your salad bowl!

Lamb's quarter
An abundance of lamb’s quarter

Sources:

Gray, Beverley – The Boreal Herbal. Aroma Borealis Press, 2011.

MacKinnon et al. – Edible & Medicinal Plants of Canada. Lone Pine Publishing, 2009.

Schofield, Janice J. – Alaska’s Wild Plants. West Margin Press, 2020.

New Beginnings

Crocus – The first flower of spring

At long last, spring has arrived in the Yukon. The snow is melting, the swans are flying north, and the humans are planting the first seeds for their vegetable gardens. It also is a time of new beginnings and so, this new venture called Wildwood Spirit begins.

My head is filled with ideas of herbal products and potions I’d like to create and share and as spring moves into summer, I will be able to harvest more local herbs too. You will see the products on this website evolve, some recipes will change, some will be replaced, some will remain, and some will come and go with the seasons. I hope you will enjoy these creations as much as I enjoy making them!