Transcript: This transcript has been updated to reflect the current AP Stylebook guidelines.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: You’re listening to “KZUM News” on 89.3 KZUM Lincoln and KZUM HD.
[Fades in on the “KZUM News” program music, an original production of Jack Rodenburg. The music fades out.]
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Good afternoon and welcome to today’s edition of “KZUM News,” an hour dedicated to learning more about what is going on in Lincoln and the surrounding areas. I am the News Director, and your host, Amantha Dickman.
I want to start off our afternoon with a big thank you to everyone who donated during our fall fund drive. We appreciate every cent that was contributed over the last two weeks. And, now that we are at the end of our fiscal year, all those donations are going to help KZUM close in on raising the $300,000 we need to receive our Community Service Grant from CPB.
Now, before we get started on today’s episode, I want to talk about the lineup for the next two months.
As I’m sure you are aware, the general election is on November 8. In preparation, we are spending the rest of October focusing on election coverage. Each show will be dedicated to a different ballot subject, which will be announced the week beforehand.
Now, obviously, today isn’t election coverage. Sorry to disappoint you. But we WILL be hearing from our Nebraska state governor candidates next week. So don’t forget to tune in on October 8 to catch that. Or, you can catch the show in the archive, if you can’t join us that morning.
Once election coverage is wrapped up and our survey period is done, we’ll be getting ready to air our media literacy series. If you haven’t done so already, please head over to our website at kzum.org or our social media pages to find the survey link. You can share your burning questions about newsrooms, misinformation, and bias there and we will, in turn, ask those media professionals and educators to share their expertise. Like I mentioned, the link and the QR code are on both our social media pages and at kzum.org under the “KZUM News” archives.
With those reminders out of the way, it is time to put on your learning hats. Even though we are coming to the end of summer, our personal and city gardens will continue to thrive for a while longer. Now is the perfect time to enjoy them before winter moves in. That is why we are spending the hour learning about the Pioneers Park Nature Center’s Herbal Festival today.
This year’s Herbal Festival took place on August 13. The Pioneers Park Nature Center organized two classes for attendees to participate in. The morning session, hosted by Alex Svoboda of Arise Botanicals, focused on tincture-making. The afternoon session, with Eric Smith and Georgia Mac, taught attendees about herb drying and the various ways you can use those dried herb particles. We do have all three of them joining us today, to teach you as well. But, first, we have the Pioneers Park Nature Center’s coordinator, Andrea Faas, on the phone to tell us more about the event.
Welcome, Andrea. Why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself?
Andrea Faas, Pioneers Park Nature Center Coordinator: This is Andrea Faas.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And can you tell us a little bit about your position with the Pioneer’s Park Nature Center?
Andrea Faas, Pioneers Park Nature Center Coordinator: Sure.
I am the coordinator of the Pioneer’s Park Nature Center. And, so, I’m the onsite administrator for our location and I oversee hiring and a lot of events and opportunities for the Nature Center.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And a couple of weekends ago you hosted Herbal Festival. Is this the first year Herbal Festival has taken place or is it an ongoing event?
Andrea Faas, Pioneers Park Nature Center Coordinator: We usually have a festival about every three years. The past several years have been a little tricky. But, each year, we do at least a class to get people thinking about herbs and different resources and opportunities. And then every so often we try to have a festival with more workshops and just more activities to get more people involved.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: So, this certainly was not the first Herbal Festival.
Andrea Faas, Pioneers Park Nature Center Coordinator: No. And it was, you know, one of the smaller ones. Certainly, with Covid-19 still going on, we’ve been a little conservative with getting groups together. But we had some really wonderful presenters and the attendees really enjoyed the experience.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then you mentioned that you had some presenters. Can you tell us who your lineup was for Herbal Festival?
Andrea Faas, Pioneers Park Nature Center Coordinator: Sure. We had Alex Svoboda with Arise Botanicals and she was talking about making tinctures and so people got to do a make-and-take. And we also had Eric Smith with Herbs & More who talked about herb drying and for teas.
And then we had some refreshments that had been provided by Milkweed, by Maggie Pleskac. I hope I said her name right.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Yeah. And then you said that this happens every three years. So, the next one will be coming up in… Ooh, math hard. 2025.
Andrea Faas, Pioneers Park Nature Center Coordinator: Correct. That is the plan.
So sometimes we incorporate the herb of the year and, and base our theme around that. Or, you know, kind of what is the interest? Who are some good presenters we can pull from?
You know, we also do an herbal garden tour and we tend to do it late in the summer because that’s of course when the garden is looking its best and things are all in bloom and, and growing well. So that’s a fun time to show it off
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And, just to circle back around, you mentioned your gardens. Can you tell us a little bit about the gardens that you have on the grounds?
Andrea Faas, Pioneers Park Nature Center Coordinator: Sure. So, within the nature center, we mostly have just native plants.
But we do have a small arboretum area where we grow a lot of plants that are not necessarily native. And that’s where the Louise Evans Herb Garden is located. And it’s made up of, what was it, five or six raised beds. We have one that we call the lavender bed, though it’s kind of more of a lavender, salvia, and scented geraniums. Louise Evans Doole’s really, really enjoyed using scented geraniums. So we have quite a variety of those.
We have several culinary beds. We have a medicinal bed. We have kind of a useful bed that’s used for like plants that would be used for making dyes. And, so, there’s quite a variety of things and really an herb is anything useful. So it’s a pretty broad category.
But then we’ve also got like some hops growing on the edge. We have witch hazel shrub and hazelnut. So there’s quite a few plants in the area. So if you come to the Nature Center and park in the main parking lot and head south into the wooded area, it’s one of the first areas you find. There’s a little brick path. We’ve got a lovely new fountain that the Doole family helped pay for. And it’s just a beautiful place to sit and enjoy the herbs. Lots of birds and butterflies coming to the spot right now. Wonderful place to catch a hummingbird come by.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Well thank you, Andrea, for calling in to tell us more about this year’s Herbal Festival hosted by the Pioneers Park Nature Center. We’ll keep an eye out for the next Herbal Festival in 2025.
As Andrea mentioned, this year’s Herbal Festival features two different sessions that taught attendees more about herbal practices. Joining us now is Eric Smith and Georgia Mack of Herbs & More. They taught a session about herb drying and the way in which you can use those dried herb particles. And now they’ll be teaching us too.
Eric, Georgia… how about you introduce yourselves before we jump into the herb-drying process?
Eric Smith, Co-owner of Herbs & More: Well, I’m Eric Smith. I’m the co-owner of Herbs & More.
Georgia Mack, Co-owner of Herbs & More: I’m Georgia Mack and I’m the other owner of Herbs & More.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And to start us off, can you tell me a little bit about your business Herbs & More here? How long have you been here in Lincoln?
Eric Smith, Co-owner of Herbs & More: Well, yeah. Herbs and More has been a store in Lincoln since April 1996. The store was originally owned by a gentleman named Arnold Freeman and has changed hands twice since then. We have been the caretakers of the store for five years now and yeah, this is kinda what we do.
My wife, Georgia, is a massage therapist and she has the skills. You know, she’s been in the game for 15 years. She has an office in [the] back and takes clients regularly and yeah.
But our store sells things like loose herbs, essential oils. We try to sell natural-type toothpaste and creams and deodorants and things to make those items as well. We do sell a few herbal supplements and capsules and such. But we really are trying to focus on teaching people how to use teas and loose herbs.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then you were teaching a class for Herbal Festival. Can you tell us a little bit about that class?
Eric Smith, Co-owner of Herbs & More: Yeah. We taught a class at the Herbal Festival pertaining to harvesting and using local herbs and teas.
Specifically, the tea class that we had went over a couple of different herbs that you can find locally. One of them was an Elderflower, which is usually great to harvest around June. Then we have things like Sumac, which is great later in the fall, August/September time. The berries are referred to as a lemon bush and they’re very lemon in flavor. Great high in vitamin C content as well.
So, there’s lots of things that we talked to people about that day. Showed ’em a couple of different methods to use their teas and different ways to harvest their herbs as well and take care of the drying and preserving process.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Yeah. So when talking about that drying and preserving process, can you walk us through that and what that entails for individuals who are looking to dry their herbs at home?
Eric Smith, Co-owner of Herbs & More: Yeah. Well, I mean, the drying process can be done many ways. Some people choose to use a dehydrator and that’s probably the most idiot-proof way to do it. You know, set it and forget it. Usually want to use a low temp. I like to keep it around 80 to 90 degrees. Nothing too hot. I don’t want to damage the constituents of the plants when I’m drying them.
And the drying time is dependent upon the herb itself. Some things you only need at night or overnight. Some things might need 2, 3, 4 days before they’re completely dried to the point you want to then package them. And you can package them and vacuum seal [them], or you can package them in foil bags if you really plan on keeping them around for a long time. But if you plan on using ’em this year, you know, throwing ’em in a mason jar or something like that, or a zip lock once they’re dried out and tossing into the freezer would be just fine to keep your herbs well preserved for the year so you can use them in whatever recipes you’re using.
I guess a more traditional way of drying, some people would hang their herbs upside down. That hanging process, I always tell people if they’re gonna do that, to do it on the north side of a building, that way you’re not getting direct sunlight. Direct sunlight or UV light can degrade some of the parts of the herbs that we want to take advantage of, especially for using them for healing and not just flavor purposes. So drying it on the north side. And, you know, these hot days in the summer, you really want to check it twice a day because you can have a hot day and completely zap your plants and they’ll be nothing but mulch.
But yeah, that’s a couple of ways of drying and processing your herbs. Sure.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then depending on the plant, I’m guessing it’s very… is… sorry, the type of plant depends on what plant parts you are wanting to take and dry. Correct?
Eric Smith, Co-owner of Herbs & More: Oh, yeah, that as well.
Like if you’re drying a root, it’s going to take you a lot longer than if you’re just drying a leaf. And some leaves, you know, can take two or three days still because they’re more succulent and thicker in nature.
There’s seeds. Usually, seeds are something you can keep for many years and they do contain their healing benefits within. Most herbs have a general timeline of around a year before they start to really degrade in their healing potential. And, even at that point, I’ve always been told and said to others, if you have something and it’s not exactly what you want, use it anyways. It’s gonna do better than… You know, there’s many different plants for many different things. We usually focus on the healing aspect of it, but there are things that are just good for calming and relaxing too, you know, and hanging out and having a nice flavor with your friends. Most of the teas we carry are very flavorful; from bitter to sweet and everything in between. And you can find a lot of the things that we offer in nature around this too.
Georgia Mack, Co-owner of Herbs & More: And we have a lot of different roots and berries and leaves and flowers. So yeah, you’ll use a lot of different, depending upon the plant, a lot of different parts of the plants. So, yeah.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And you mentioned oven-drying, the dehydrator, or hanging to dry. Are those methods better depending on which part of the plant you are using?
For example, do you reach for oven-drying when doing roots?
Eric Smith, Co-owner of Herbs & More: I think that…
Georgia Mack, Co-owner of Herbs & More: The time will just vary. I feel like it…
Eric Smith, Co-owner of Herbs & More: Yeah. I think that the best method for anybody who wants a controlled environment is going to be getting a dehydrator.
With an oven, you run into the issue of you’re gonna be very quick to cook or to damage those products.
I mean, there are some plants that hitting 50 degrees centigrade – which isn’t very hot… I mean, it’s like 140 in your oven. Most ovens don’t even go that low. A lot of those things start to burn off around then. And if you get it up to around 200, 220 degrees, you’re really just cooking out a lot of those ingredients or constituents that we want to have in those plants.
So yeah, we try to keep the temperature as low as possible. And a long drying period is okay. But not so long that you’re going to grow mold.
Yeah. You know. So always make sure your things are spaced out. You don’t wanna chop down your whole yard of whatever herb you’re taking and put it into one bunch and try to dry it that way. You’ll get a nice drying on the outside but you’ll probably have mold in the center when you take it apart.
And, yeah. So you wanna stick to, you know… usually, when I make bunches, I make things about the size of my thumb where I grab it and I’ll wrap it up and I’ll hang that if I’m hanging.
If you’re doing a dehydrator, the best method, I think, for everybody [is to] just lay it out on your dehydrator trays evenly spaced so nothing’s piled on top of each other and it’ll dehydrate in a day or two. And, if you have the ability to control the temperature, I like to keep it under 90 degrees.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Now, obviously, mold is a very big concern. I’m guessing you don’t want to be getting these leaves wet before you start the dehydrating process.
Eric Smith, Co-owner of Herbs & More: I will actually wash some herbs. I mean if you’re finding your herbs in nature and it’s not your yard or somebody’s yard, you can’t guarantee what’s been there. I mean, because even dogs pee on things and you don’t want dog pee tea, so.
Georgia Mack, Co-owner of Herbs & More: That’s true.
Eric Smith, Co-owner of Herbs & More: So, rinsing your herbs is always a good practice before using. There are some things that are water soluble in herbs but a quick rinse isn’t going to remove all of those. You’re just washing away any bugs, any urine, or harmful pesticides or fertilizers that might be on those.
So that’s why a rinsing process is always good before you start the drying. And you can always lay out your plants to dry a little bit more before you wrap them and bundle them to hang them. Or, if you’re putting them in a dehydrator, you know, you can give them a good shake before you throw ’em in there. Dehydrators are pretty, pretty resilient. So.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then how do either or both of you identify what kind of leaves you want to use in the drying process? Do you have a particular method you use to identify traits that are more favorable?
Georgia Mack, Co-owner of Herbs & More: I suppose healthy?
Eric Smith, Co-owner of Herbs & More: Well, I mean, you’re always gonna look for a healthy plant and I always look, if I’m harvesting from the wild, for a place where the plants are abundant. You don’t wanna walk in the middle of the field, find one plant there and try to take that plant. And, also, if you’re not harvesting the roots, try to take part of the plant [and] let that plant go. [Be]cause if you’re not knowledgeable in those plants, a lot of those plants come back from roots every year. So, leaving part of it so it can come back and spread its seed and have more there next year and the year after is always a great practice.
The native practice was a practice of seventh. They would actually harvest one-seventh of an area every year, and they would actually go out in different directions from their camp to hunt and harvest. So one year they would head north. Then the next year they would head northwest and they’d make their way around until they were back to north seven years later. And by then the seven years would have replenished that area and they would never take more than a third of what they saw.
So, and making offerings like if you are harvesting plants for their leaves and stems, you know taking those berries at the top that you have no use for at this point, and putting those in a hole in the ground is a great way to ensure you’ll have those leaves and stems for years to come.
Georgia Mack, Co-owner of Herbs & More: And, as far as like picking what looks healthiest, I try not to pick a lot of dried, already dried-looking things.
Eric Smith, Co-owner of Herbs & More: If you have a dog and you’re going harvesting, a great way to tell if something has been urinated on or not is if your dog pays attention to it. If you’re harvesting a herb and you walk by it and your dog has to sniff it for more than a second or two, most likely something else has peed on that, and I will pass up an herb like that.
However, if my dog pays no attention to it and walks right by it, then I know that it’s most likely something that hasn’t been marked and is a benefit to me. That’s one thing that I pay attention to when I do harvest as well.
Also, I try not to harvest directly after a rain. I like to give it at least 48 hours before harvesting after a rain to let that plant soak up anything that it needs to, and use that energy to benefit my medicines better, instead of harvesting them right afterward when a plant is actually a little weaker [be]cause it’s using its energy to pull up that moisture. And that’s why we harvest at certain times.
With roots, usually you wanna harvest at the end of the season, in fall. It’s the best time. And with leafy greens and seeds, or leafy greens and stems, you want to harvest those before the plant’s flower. [Be]cause when they flower, they put most of their energy into making that seed, which is what the flowers is for.
And, of course, if you’re harvesting flowers, wait for the flowers. If you’re waiting for seeds, it’s gonna be the end of the season as well. Those are the best times to harvest things. So yeah. And everything is a little different. Some things want you to wait until after the first frost. Some things will let you harvest in late summer when it comes to roots and tubers.
But, you know, it’s always best to wait if you don’t know. Let it put its energy back into it before you take it back. And, obviously, each plant is different both in terms of dosage for its use and its medicinal properties.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: For individuals who want to learn more about that, how do you suggest they go about doing that?
Eric Smith, Co-owner of Herbs & More: I recommend… Well, you always have an option to come in and speak with me. I am an herbalist and I’m willing to speak with anybody about anything. I don’t charge for my time. Just come on down to the store and we can talk about it or you can give me a call and we can talk about it.
However, I believe that teas are the best way for anybody to find out if something is for them.
Tea is something that’s very low invasive. It’s, you know, you take a very small amount of it. You find out if it’s something that you can tolerate flavor-wise and if your body can tolerate it. [Be]cause some people, you know, when taking a tea like this, they might have a bowel movement that’s uncomfortable to them. Some of these herbs do cause water to move into the bowel. I mean, some herbs can cause allergic reactions with people. Everybody has different things that they’re allergic to. And there are tests that you can do to make sure you’re allergic before ingesting these plants. And we can walk anybody through those sorts of things.
But tea is definitely the least invasive way to get your herbs and try them out. You can take smaller doses, you can increase that dose drastically, or step it up slowly to where you want it. You can make a very strong cup of tea or a weak cup of tea that’s brewed two or three minutes. Or a strong cup of tea, you might wanna let it brew for 15 – 20 minutes or let it sit in there all day and get every last bit of goodness out of it.
But, you know, there’s something out there for everybody and I think tea is definitely a way to start.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then obviously tea is, is your preferred focus, but what other things can people do with these herbs that they’re drying?
Eric Smith, Co-owner of Herbs & More: Well, I mean, you can make all sorts of things with your tea or with your herbs.
You can turn them into salts and sugars. You can use them as herbs in your cooking. You can make different medicines from poultices to tinctures and even suppositories. There’s all sorts of herbs out there for all sorts of purposes. And that’s where our medicine originally came from anyways, is all of these plants and mushrooms around us. That’s what our ancestors used and what all of our medicines today originated from.
If anybody ever has any questions though, we are Herbs & More down here at Old Cheney Plaza. Stop on down and visit Eric if you want to speak about herbs, or Georgia if you have a couple of quick questions.
Georgia Mack, Co-owner of Herbs & More: I will also speak about herbs.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: That was Eric Smith and Georgia Mac of Herbs and More teaching us about identifying plants and drying them for use in herbal practices.
We have a short break planned out but we will be back with Alex Svoboda of Arise Botanical to learn about tincture-making. We’ll reconvene in just a moment.
[“KZUM News” transition music, an original piece composed by Jack Rodenburg, fades in and then out. KZUM Radio’s usual underwriting and public services announcements air at scheduled times throughout the hour.]
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Welcome back to today’s episode of “KZUM News,” where we are learning more about the Pioneers Park Nature Center’s Herbal Festival. In the first part of today’s show, we learned about identifying plants and drying them for use in herbal practices from Eric Smith and Georgia Mack of Herbs & More. And, now, we are going to learn about tincture-making from Alex Svoboda of Arise Botanicals.
Let’s turn it over to the pro.
Alex Svoboda, Owner of Arise Botanicals: My name is Alex Svoboda.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Why don’t we start out talking about your history with herbal making and Arise Botanicals, and how that led you to teaching your class on tincture making at Herbal Festival?
Alex Svoboda, Owner of Arise Botanicals: Oh my goodness. Okay, So Arise Botanicals is the business container for what I would call my life practice. I am an herbalist. I’ve spent years practicing and training since 2007 was when I got my start. And that’s looked like an apprenticeship, employment, schooling in a clinical program in Colorado, which was wonderful. I mean, like, how beautiful to go just geek out with people that love plants every day. It was such a joy and where that’s brought me is to today.
I grew up in Lincoln, spent several years, got my start as an herbalist in Rhode Island, where I found myself in 2007 in an intense need to heal on both a physical, emotional, spiritual level. And that’s often what brings people into different realms of healing work.
And, so, I had a beautiful community around me. People known and unknown at the time that offered various resources. And connecting with plants, growing plants, plant medicine was something that was hugely impactful. And I’ve just stayed with it and honestly stayed quite positively obsessed in a way where the classes that I did teach are one of my favorite ways to engage in work as an herbalist in education. And some feedback that I often get is the, like… the enthusiasm. People get pretty jazzed right along with me about say Passionflower.
So that is the teaching component and is one part of what I do. I see clients, although right now that’s been scaled back, And I’m not taking new clients because, through the last few years, like every small business out there, I’ve done a lot of pandemic shifting and have brought my focus to more growing of herbs, but making medicinal remedies that I have at farmer’s markets and pop up events and places like that.
My life work is like herbalism, but it’s connecting people with plants in a deep relational sense. So what that looks like is, as I mentioned, products, client works, and classes.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And we are learning more about these lost art life skills, as I like to say. So can we go ahead and jump in and learn more about the process of tincture-making.
Alex Svoboda, Owner of Arise Botanicals: Yes, absolutely.
So the process of tincture making is one where I’ll start with a definition of that word ‘tincture.’ And that is an extract. So concentrated extract, often of fresh plants and often into alcohol.
The final project of what folks left with was a small jar that had chopped-up plants, and Passionflower leaves, covered with a mix of alcohol and water.
And it’s a kitchen remedy. It’s something that could be made with the tools in a kitchen. It could be something that could be made in a garden with a cutting board and a knife. And, so, the beauty of tinctures is that it’s very accessible but also something that can be approached with the depth of bringing in specifics of plant chemistry, biochemistry, and also mathematics and wanting to get the best ratios to get a high-quality extract.
And that’s all where the years of geekery and study come in. And also just like an intense relationship with plants and having generations of elder teachers who share this knowledge can come into play. But what is most important is someone feeling confident, knowing what they’re making, why they’re making it, and why they wanna take it.
And, so, in our class at Pioneers Park Nature Center, we had this very exciting and overflowing bushel of vines that had just been harvested from the garden. And the process was weighing out a certain amount on the vine and going through what is called ‘garbling.’
Herbal words are like really fun, I have to say. So, I’ll share a little bit of terminology as we go.
But ‘garbling’ is the process of removing plants from the stem, getting the specific part of the plant that you want, and, in this case, Passionflower leaves. And Passionflower is a climbing vine and it makes these adorable curly cues that reach and grab. It’s like a little ringlet that just grabs onto stem fences as it climbs itself up so it can have a really good photosynthesis spot to flower.
And I had folks cut off a little bit of the curly cue because, as I shared, whimsy and that like cuteness, the beauty of the curly cue is also wonderful medicine. The leaves are where the phytonutrients are concentrated that we want for the extract for the tincture. But the little bit of the curly queue in there and then the flowers aren’t as abundant as a leaf. So everyone got one flower to include in the tincture as well. And so those were the components that were passed out.
People were ‘garbling’ or separating the leaves from the stem. And then the process was a fine chop to create a larger surface area that would then be mixed in. The finely chopped leaves were put in a jar. And then I had a mix of alcohol and water that was in a ratio of 50% grain alcohol from a local distiller, and then 50% filtered water.
Now if this was something that people were wanting to approach at home, the ratio of 50% alcohol is a pretty common one. I hesitate because there’s so much variance in the type of plant and the strength of alcohol used. But, that being said, a rule of thumb and what makes it more accessible is being able to go and get preferably vodka because it’s not mixed with sugar or additives that would color or bind up the alcohol itself. We just want ethanol that’s gonna be binding with plant chemicals to extract it.
So decent quality vodka poured over fresh plant in a jar that’s fine chopped and capped. And then that is going to… and what we have is the alcohol or the liquid portion is called a menstruum. Spelled with two u’s, like in vacuum, which I think is cool. And then the plant matter itself is referred to as the marc.
So, you’re pouring the menstruum over the marc, alcohol over plants. You cap it and you let that sit and macerate for about a month. A lunar cycle, four weeks. That’s a good amount of time in which the plant is slowly extracting into the alcohol. You’re ideally giving it a shake every day to help it mix.
And then something that was demonstrated in the class was different ways to press using kitchen tools. It could be cheesecloth and a strainer. Things that are commonly found at yard sales, estate sales, thrift stores are potato ricers. You might even have one in the back of your kitchen drawer, who knows? But that’s something that gives leverage to be able to push down with force to extract all the liquid, or the menstruum, from the plant material after it’s been sitting for a month.
So that’s a little bit of a rundown of the step-by-step process. Covering fine chopped plants, cover them in alcohol with a jar, let it sit for a month, and then you remove the liquid from the plant matter.
And that remaining liquid, or menstruum, is your tincture after it’s pressed. And tinctures can keep for up to 10 years, ideally away from sun and temperature extremes. But if you’d like, I can speak some to why tinctures are a form of plant medicine that people gravitate towards and when they can be used.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Absolutely. And then after that, I do have some questions prepared for those different steps. But why don’t we go ahead and cover that first and we can save those questions for afterward?
Alex Svoboda, Owner of Arise Botanicals: Okay. So, tinctures being made from fresh plants allow the living properties of fresh plants to be carried in extract year-round.
Plants can change the quality and their medicinal potency when they dry. Not all of them. But a lot. Most of the tinctures that I make for and carry with Arise Botanicals are made from fresh plants. So being able to have something that is fresh plant, year-round in a tincture. Also, then it’s portable, it’s available to take with you as needed. It’s great for travel and first aid.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: But I’m assuming that the parts of the plant that you use change depending on, say the toxicity of the plant or the edible portions of the plant, for lack of better terms, correct?
Alex Svoboda, Owner of Arise Botanicals: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great question because for every plant is a little different.
And so… Passion flower, the whole plant can be used. But if we’re talking about, say like… Elderberries are a plant that’s in season right now. It’s the berries and the flowers only. That would be used where the leaves, the stem, the root of the Elderberry plant contain a higher concentration of plant chemicals that can be really irritating to the gut or even considered toxic in really large doses.
But, generally, plants give you lots of warning signs before it’s like a level of poisoning or toxicity that would require like… emergency intervention. And, to be honest, I’m a pretty boring herbalist and especially when I’m teaching folks. I like to focus on plants that are both really gentle remedies and also ones that are pretty commonly and abundantly available.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And so then you mentioned that after you’re stripping those plants, you’re taking them, you’re chopping them up. Is there a certain amount of fineness that people should be chopping to achieve the best potency, or does that not really matter?
Alex Svoboda, Owner of Arise Botanicals: I would say it… so we are making about four ounces of tincture and you could probably chop to the pace of one track off Beyonce’s new album and that would be sufficient at like a few minutes, you know.
But really what we’re looking at is surface area. And it depends on the amount that the tools that you have. But I will, in a more like daily work or professional sense, I use a blender or a way to mix the alcohol, the menstruum with the plant, and then combine it together with a blender so it’s all [a] fine chop and blended together before it sits. And the more surface area that you have, the more rapidly it extracts and generally the more potent you have for your final product.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Now you’ve mentioned that a tincture is a mixture with alcohol. But for individuals who either cannot consume alcohol or have hesitancy in doing so, is there an alternative option that they could use in place?
Alex Svoboda, Owner of Arise Botanicals: Absolutely. Yeah. Really glad that you asked this too. Because most commonly when we’re looking at alcohol-free tinctures, it’s using vegetable glycerin which is a more… it’s a very sweet and viscous menstruum and that can be poured over plants. It’s often mixed with about 25% water.
Vegetable glycerin is commonly found and used in the cosmetic industry. So, when someone is searching and purchasing this material I do know that there’s local places around town that stock it on their shelves. Like anywhere that would have a wellness aisle you can go search around there. But, in searching for vegetable glycerin, you wanna make sure that it’s for internal use. And I generally always use organic vegetable glycerin. But that’s what I would encourage people to find. And then you can mix it with about 25% water. And then that would be the same process of fine chopping and pouring the vegetable glycerin over. And there is a measured amount in ratio that can be considered, but, really, you’re wanting to have plants that are kind of tamped down and then covered with your menstruum, be it vegetable glycerin for alcohol-free or the alcohol-water mix and have it just covered the plant material.
And that will lead to a higher ratio of plants to menstruum, a higher potency in the end. And the mathematics and the measuring of it is something that I only emphasize in terms of being able to have consistency. But, most importantly, I emphasize someone feeling confident in wanting to undertake this process.
And if the math feels overwhelming, then please don’t be concerned about it. Being confident about the plant itself and the sourcing of it is a really important piece.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then I, I’m thinking of this after the fact, of course, but fresh herbs are going to be more effective than dry plants or herbs, correct.
Alex Svoboda, Owner of Arise Botanicals: Oh, in some cases. It’s so hard for me to give absolutes, but generally, yes.
Really exciting herbal conversations that I have with my colleagues are about like aromatic mint family plants, say like lemon balm or peppermint. When those are extracted into tincture, be it well, and this… I digress. I’ll pause on that.
But, generally, what I’m doing now is using freshly dried plants from anything that’s highly aromatic in the mint family, because I found that to be a better extract that brings out more of the smell, the aromatics, the oils which lead to a better extract of those plants.
But we can say generally, rule of thumb, fresh plants make great tinctures.
I am so here for like education and conversations around plants and if anyone listening is head scratching and is like what are all these variables? I’m, you know, available for a conversation on that [be]cause if that is something that like keeps you up at night, curious like we should probably talk about it [be]cause that’s what I’m curious about.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Absolutely. And one of the things that we do for our show is we do try to provide a transcript for those individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. That way we can also link to the content. We can of course go ahead and insert your email or your phone number for Arise Botanical so that they can contact you through those methods.
Alex Svoboda, Owner of Arise Botanicals: Great. Do you want me to say that now or do you wanna just add that in later?
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Oh, I can just add that in later.
Alex Svoboda, Owner of Arise Botanicals: Okay.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: You don’t have to worry about it. I’ll make it easy on you.
Alex Svoboda, Owner of Arise Botanicals: Okay, cool.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then… so we just talked about fresh herbs versus dry herbs. And then you also mentioned that you get your plants into your container, you cover it with your choice of either alcohol or the vegetable glycerin and you wanna keep it in the dark and shake it once a month.
Alex Svoboda, Owner of Arise Botanicals: Once a day.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Or once a day. Sorry, you’re correct. Once a day.
Does type of glass impact the way that these tinctures develop over time. For example, does dark glass, green glass work more effectively than say clear glass?
Alex Svoboda, Owner of Arise Botanicals: Okay. Loving your questions.
So what I commonly use are clear glass canning jars. And this can also be, say like, a jelly jar or some food jar that you have that is cleaned out really well. You don’t want any lingering, obvious food particles, but you don’t wanna get like a pickle jar that still smells like pickles. You want it to be clean and not have a scent to it.
And then, in the process of the tincture itself, while it’s sitting in there and macerating for about a month, clear glass is totally fine. It’s kept away in a cupboard or up on a shelf where it’s not getting light exposure. Some people even have a special shelf in like a basement or you can just get creative.
But, after it’s pressed, that’s when it’s ideal to have it stored for what will be the long-term life of it. We’re hoping up to like 10 years and then keeping it in like a brown glass or green glass bottle, something that blocks more of the UV light would be important. And that increases the shelf life of it.
In the process of it sitting on a shelf while it’s macerating for a month, something to consider would be the lid that’s used because old jars or like a jelly jar, canning jar. If you’re reusing the lid, which I often do. I sterilize and reuse lids all the time. But you just wanna make sure that it doesn’t have any rust started on it because, especially if you’re using alcohol, it can start to corrode a bit over the course of the few weeks that it’s sitting. And then vegetable glycerin is really viscous and it can have a way of like leaking, dripping, just a little bit, even from a tight-fitting lid. So that’s part of the like kind of checking in on every day and giving it a shake.
You want a secure lid but that’s also a way to look at it and make sure that your container itself is holding its integrity.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Absolutely. And then you mentioned that after the pressing is done, you’re rebottling this in a different glass jar, preferably for long-term shelf life. You mentioned 10 years is about the expected shelf life. Is there a range or is it just solidly 10 years?
Alex Svoboda, Owner of Arise Botanicals: It’s definitely… there’s a range and it’s less for vegetable glycerin and extracts. So, I’ve heard anywhere from one year to four, sometimes five years that herbalists have kept vegetable glycerin extracts. The 10-year mark, and with a tincture would be looking for the conditions that it’s stored in, but also it can start to what’s called precipitate, where you can see it separate in little solids and it might be separated and sit at the bottom and then in the top of your jar or bottle is other liquid.
And that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s gone bad. Because what we’re doing is preserving in things that don’t allow for rancidity. There’s not like a food poisoning concern. It’s rather that it loses its potency. And, so, what I’ll see with older tinctures, in particular, is that the plant materials that were extracted into the matrix of the menstruum – what I’m doing with my hands now I just, I feel like a raver.
So that will, over time, fall out of what is the alcohol holding the plant material. Falling down to the bottom. And then it could be shaken up and preserved, and you can try it. But this is just the testing and the intuitive part of it. You know? You’re tasting it over the years and as it starts to change, whether in how it feels in your body or how it tastes, how it smells, those are all really good indicators to pay attention to.
But yeah. I’ve seen 10-year-old tinctures. I’ve seen tinctures that age better than some dogs that I know.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then, of course, on your handy dandy handout from the class, you have a list of books and online resources. Obviously, there are local classes, probably online classes for those who have hesitancy venturing out into the very covid-y outside right now, But yeah. I don’t actually have any other questions, but is there anything that you feel like I didn’t cover or that you would like to comment on for the tincture-making process?
Alex Svoboda, Owner of Arise Botanicals: I… Well, to answer your question, there’s definitely online classes for medicine making and that’s the availability of those has proliferated during the Covid-19 era, ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. And, so, there’s definitely great options for that.
There’s a number of herbal options. I’m in Lincoln, but also in Omaha. There’s a number of herbalists that practice and offer in-person classes as well.
And then, I think, in terms of other pieces to add… I can speak a little bit to the medicinal applications and qualities of Passionflower if you want. Because that was what was focused on in the class. I did mention that it’s helpful for like insomnia and sleep. But that was one component that we touched on in the class that I’d be happy to share a bit about here too if you’d like.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Yeah. Since the class included passion fruit, why don’t we discuss those medicinal properties you were mentioning?
Alex Svoboda, Owner of Arise Botanicals: So Passionflower is also known as may pop.
It’s the fruit of this vine forms a little, let’s see, larger than an egg fruit. And it’s more commonly found in the southeastern US where it’s very prolific. In our area, it can grow as a perennial. But in this plant family the genus of passiflora, like 98% of these plants are tropical.
And the flower itself is both visually stunning and has a very tropical look to it, very like intricates. Not like a lot of the aster plants that we see around here. So it’s a beautiful plant in short, but in terms of its medicinal qualities and it being one that could be cultivated here, I do wanna emphasize that a lot of the Passionflower plants and that are in nurseries are potted, or ones that are intended to be annual plants. And passiflora incarnata is the species that I use in herbalism practice because there’s other Passionflower species that I would not recommend for internal use.
But it’s a sedative. Helpful for sleep. It’s a nervous system remedy, in large part is how I often work with it. And that can also look like an aid to anxiety and nervous tension in the body. Restless agitation and exhaustion. That can be with or without the presence of muscular twitching and spasms.
Cause it is also slightly anodyne, which means pain relieving. So it can help with, especially if part of someone’s experience of sleeplessness is having muscular tension or pain, Passionflower is a great one to help relax and release the muscular tension while calming the nervous system and helping for better sleep.
I would add just a couple of other things that energetically, meaning like the personality of Passionflower or how it can connect with the emotional experience in our tender human bodies, is that for those who need to have their hearts calmed and grounded so they could be connected to others, especially if someone experiences in a state of overwhelm that withdraw feeling, Passion flower’s a really great one [be]cause like, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with withdrawing and holding boundaries when we’re overwhelmed. I honor that. But finding a balance and helping someone feel like they’re in a state of being able to connect with people when needed and when desired. Passionflower can help to aid that piece of relational connection or like social easing, social anxiety. And I think, I mean there’s, there’s a lot of other applications of passion flour through, through the ages.
But I think that’s a really good place to start and just kind of get curious about Passionflowers or remedies to relax nervous tension in the body.
Oh, the last thing I wanted to say is that Passion flowers is considered extremely safe and gentle. And so it’s one that if someone was like curious about working with a new plant, but was wondering, is it okay for me as a general rule? I say if someone is currently pregnant, it’s not one that I would recommend. But, in general, with children and elders or anyone in between, working with small amounts of a new herb and seeing how it feels and then working in a more regular way and a consistent way to kind of gauge how does this plant feel in my body is one way to get to know like you know, a new bestie Passionflower.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Perfect. And then did you have any other comments or, or anything else about the tincture-making process that you’re thinking of that listeners might need to potentially know before they get started?
Alex Svoboda, Owner of Arise Botanicals: I would say, first of all, this idea of folks listening, getting excited, and then trying tincture-making in their home is awesome. And I, this is the first time that I’ve explained a step-by-step process in a purely verbal format. So, I guess what I would offer is in making the space… because this is, this is kitchen medicine. Some people call it kitchen witchery. This is very easy to do with a cutting board and a knife. I would just suggest that you clear a space, both having clean tools of course, but also clear a space where you just have a little peace like you’re making medicine. You’re making something that you are gonna be carrying for years. And, so, in the process of making it, have it be something where you have on music that you love or you do whatever you need to do to feel settled in your space.
And I firmly believe that that also carries into the remedy that one is making with these tinctures to just be able to have that joy of making it, that settled space carry into the tincture itself.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then one last thing from my end, just to make sure. Listeners should always double-check the safety of the plants that they are preparing to use.
Alex Svoboda, Owner of Arise Botanicals: Correct. We need to make sure that they’re not going to accidentally poison themselves or that they’re using plant parts that are maybe going to be toxic to them or even their pets potentially.
110% I would say this is your reminder to both check in with anyone who may be your prescribing physician if you’re on medications or your local herbalist or plant-knowledgeable person. And, also, to reference and double check, especially if it’s fresh plants that you’re harvesting. Double, triple-check.
And, ideally, you’re out here using a botanical key to go through and identify with certainty any plants that you’re harvesting to make into medicine. That also extends to not only a certainty with knowledge of the plant and is it one that you can be used confidently with safety, but also the area that it’s being harvested from.
Is it being harvested from somewhere that is in the ecosystem? Is the soil that it’s coming from is in good health? And to add like reverence and respect into that too, in the process of harvest, even if it’s dandelion, lowly dandelion, we’re saying thank you in that process of gathering from the earth to then be able to turn that into something to share with yourself and others.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Well, thank you. This has been great.
Alex Svoboda, Owner of Arise Botanicals: Thank you so much Amantha.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Have a good afternoon Alex.
Alex Svoboda, Owner of Arise Botanicals: You too. Bye bye.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: We are fast approaching the end of the hour, so here are your reminders for today:
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