Home   |   About Us   |   GROW: The Book   |   Blog   |   Join Us   |   Shop   |   Forum Rules

Top Three to Five Medicines for a Newbie to Start Making — The Grow Network Community
a free community call lead by Marjory Wildcraft this Sunday, January 24 at 2pm CST

register here➥ howtopreparefor2021.com

Top Three to Five Medicines for a Newbie to Start Making

naomi.kohlmeiernaomi.kohlmeier Posts: 244 ✭✭✭
edited October 2020 in Herbal Medicine-Making

My apologies if this question has been asked recently.

Never having made a tincture, salve or anything else medicine related, what would you recommend for a beginner to make and where does one find the ingredients?


  • Hi @naomi.kohlmeier , have you looked at the herbal classes in the Academy on this site? They are great for beginners! I highly recommend the Making Herbal Medicine Class, and the home medicine 101. https://academy.thegrownetwork.com/

    Once you've made one tincture or salve, it's easy and you will want to experiment.

    I started with herbal teas, and had some great in-person instruction at first, but it's really lots easier than it first seems.

    Much depends upon what your particular needs are. One great thread in the discussions here has been about different bitters recipes. Bitters are a great way to get into herbs, and are super useful for digestion and for general health.

    If you are lucky enough to have a local herb shop, that's a good place to get your herbs. Ordering online is also possible. I like Mountain Rose Herbs, but there are other good suppliers.

    I encourage you to jump in and try one thing - it's not nearly as scary as it first seems.

  • toreytorey Posts: 2,349 admin

    @naomi.kohlmeier You should start with medicines that you and your family will personally need and use. Does anyone have skin issues that might be resolved with the right salve? Do you have anyone in your house who is accident prone and gets a lot of bruises? Do you need something for digestion? Maybe a tea blend for sleep issues? No point in making medicines that will just sit on your shelf.

    @greyfurball has made some great suggestions, especially for the courses. You might find some preparations in the TGN courses that would be suitable for your needs.

    If you are looking for herbs, try TGN's store. The selection isn't huge but you many find what you are looking for and they are quality herbs. There is an elderberry syrup kit that you might find helpful and there are some very good suggestions for things to add to your syrup in a couple of discussions here on the forum. Type Elderberry Syrup into the search box and you should be able to access the other threads. Mountain Rose Herbs is a very good resource with an excellent selection. I'm in Canada so I'm not familiar with other herb companies in the States that might be just as good or close to you. Your local health food store probably has some dried herbs but make sure they are busy enough that the herbs haven't been sitting on a shelf for a long time.

    Teas (infusions and decoctions) are a great way to experiment with individual herbs or blends. Getting to know taste is an important part of herbalism.

    I'm in agreement with bitters being a good place to start. There are a couple of discussions on the forum regarding bitters with some great recipes ideas. Most people could use a bit of help with their digestion so this is a herbal preparation that will get used every day. Type bitters into the search box. Bitters will introduce you to a wide variety of herbs.

    There are other syrups that you can make besides elderberry. They are covered in Module 7. Syrups, Honeys and Herb Jell-o. Herb Jelly is pretty easy and an excellent way to get herbs into children. Honeys are also very simple; herbs infused in honey. If you type garlic honey in the search box you will get some recipe suggestions there, along with other honeys like onion or spruce tip.

    Salves are easiest to make if you start with dried herb. Less chance of spoilage from moisture in the fresh plants. Calendula is a very useful salve for a variety of skin issues. I suggest making salves with just one ingredient to start. Then as you gain experience with which herbs go best together you can start blending for your particular needs.

    Tinctures become a bit more complicated as there are different strength alcohols used for different herbs, but there is good info on that in Module 4 of the Making Herbal Medicines course. Liniments are similar to tinctures but generally use isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) instead of regular alcohol. So they are cheaper to make. That is in Module 5. I am making a very effective one using equal parts of wormwood and cottonwood bud. Smells a bit like Absorbine.

    Hope that helps. But jump right in. I'm sure you will really enjoy making medicines. Will give you a great sense of satisfaction.

  • jodienancarrowjodienancarrow Mid North Coast AustraliaPosts: 708 admin

    @naomi.kohlmeier lots of great advice in this discussion. This time last year, I was where you are now. I did the Making Home medicines course here at TGN with Doc Jones and that got me started. And as @torey says, no point making stuff if its going to sit on the shelf. I started blending teas for myself due to menopause and not sleeping well. Then I made an ointment/lotion for scratches, wounds, bug bites, lip balm, infused oils, fire cidef and tinctures etc. I found a great supplier of dried herbs and now started growing my own. Getting the right information it critical, so surroud yourself with great refererences. Kami McBride, Rosalee De La Floret, John Gallagher and TGN's very own Torey is an absolute legend, when it comes to herbs and herbal medicine. Just remember it's not rocket science but knowing what to put with what and how much is key. Have fun, enjoy the ride.

  • WendyWendy Posts: 106 ✭✭✭

    My favorite herbal remedies are teas. I mix up plantain, dandelion, raspberry leaves, mullein, and mint to make a calcium rich tea. Most of my ingredients are homegrown or wild foraged in my daughters field.

    I suggest you think about what would work for you (I do suggest tea as medicine since its so simple). If you cannot grow or forage for the herbs you need, you can buy them in small amounts and try them out.

  • frogvalleyfrogvalley Posts: 390 ✭✭✭✭

    @naomi.kohlmeier My first foray into making natural products for our use was echinacea tincture. It was quick, easy and lasted for years. There is a place in our town that makes organic grain alcohol, so that's my preferred method.

    @torey 's advice to make product that your family will use is very wise. My youthful enthusiasm led to me collect/purchase more herbs than we used which was wasteful. Being oh so older, I have learned from my mistakes.

  • Megan VenturellaMegan Venturella Posts: 315 ✭✭✭

    There's another thread on goldenrod. That might be a fun one to start with if it grows near you. I really like getting to know just one plant at a time. People make wonderful blends, but sometimes simple is best. Look up an herb you know- it could be just mint or lavender, and then start researching it's uses, taste it, try it, etc. Eat it. Make a tea. It's fun. :)

  • naomi.kohlmeiernaomi.kohlmeier Posts: 244 ✭✭✭

    Thank you @ Megan Venturella! I like that idea!

  • naomi.kohlmeiernaomi.kohlmeier Posts: 244 ✭✭✭

    @frogvalley what part of echinacea do you use?

  • frogvalleyfrogvalley Posts: 390 ✭✭✭✭

    @naomi.kohlmeier I use the fall roots to tincture for use during the winter as I use the live aerial parts during that part of the year when available. The first echinacea tincture I made was angustifolia and it only took one teaspoon to knock out anything that started. Others on this site might disagree, but if you grow your own, it's well worth it. The other species I find a little less dramatic in their efficaciousness. They still work, just a little less quickly - which comes in handy when one is using it prophylactically. The quality of the tincture can be found in the signature numbing sensation one gets when it's dropped on the tongue (or other body part). You may want to start by purchasing a few different brands of echinacea tinctures and taking note as to the presence or lack thereof to guide you as to your own product. I don't use glycerin. I also have/had autoimmune diseases, but it never had a negative effect. There are warnings on the internet about using echinacea if you have autoimmune issues, however many sources are backing away from that position, plus there are warnings about using raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy, too. One has to look beyond the scare tactics, do the research to determine if a pharmaceutical company is trying to scare us into using their drug, or if this truly is something you should not be using. I consider herbs no different than produce in a grocery store - consume what I'm not allergic too, don't eat too much if it has an undesirable effect, don't buy more than I will consume or put by for the future, use what is in season, recycle leftover bits and be thankful for it.

  • JennyTJennyT Posts: 248 ✭✭✭

    @naomi.kohlmeier I'm so glad you asked this. I too am knew to trying make anything. All I've had the chance/courage to make was fire cider and that's because I took a local class and we all made it together so it was easy to recreate at home. I really want to try a salve or something else but don't even know where to start. I've been collecting herbs from my garden over the season and drying them but now what do I do? And where do I begin?

  • toreytorey Posts: 2,349 admin

    @Jenny Talbott

    Have you checked out the Making Herbal Medicine class in the Academy? You might get some ideas there. Herb Jello is pretty easy and fun to make with your kids. Great way to get medicines into kids.

    One of the latest TGN blog articles is how to make elderberry syrup. That is very easy. There is a kit available through TGN's store to make things even easier, complete with a recipe card and a link to video instructions. There are other discussions about elderberry syrup and other herbs people like to add to their syrup. Just type elderberry into the search box and it will give you some choices.

    Something I like to make for fall & winter is onion honey. Very easy. Just place sliced onions in a jar and cover with honey. You can add other things, like garlic, ginger, cayenne peppers, black peppercorns. thyme, sage, etc. but it is very effective on its own. And is ready to use within 12 hours. No extended infusing. Although it is better after a few days. There are lots of suggestions for honeys in the forum. Try typing garlic honey into your search box.

    Just jump right in. And if you have any difficulties or questions, this is the place to get your answers. We all started at the beginning at some point, so don't feel nervous about asking. We are a pretty friendly bunch here and everyone is very willing to help. The more people who become knowledgeable about herbal medicines and being self sufficient, the better off we all are.

  • brownjoellebrownjoelle Posts: 23 ✭✭✭

    The answer is different for everybody. They say the first ones to make should be for issues you need to address regularly. You want what you need on hand before you need it, but if you don't need something, it can sit for too long before you use it and lose its effectiveness. Is your new herbal medicine cabinet for yourself, or your entire family? Are there lifestyle changes that need to be addressed? Do you have a garden (even small is a good start to save $$) to use for this purpose, or will you have to purchase ingredients? Is including foods as medicine (ex sauerkraut and other fermented foods for gut health) an option you're willing to consider? Do you want to make things to boost your immune system, like preventing colds and flus? Ask yourself what your needs are and start from there. I heard there's a class here. You could try it. I'm sure it provides you with the knowledge to organize your own system. An organized system will help you be prepared before you need it. Some preparations take a while to make.

    I'm on the same path as you and while I'm growing my garden with ingredients I need, I also stopped some bad habits and am replacing them with healthy choices. I took a class myself on herbal medicines and on making herbal teas. I am still learning, but have made progress already. Good luck to you!

  • toreytorey Posts: 2,349 admin
    edited September 2020

    Everyone should check out TGN's courses. I am a fairly experienced herbalist but I still found benefit from each one that I have taken.

    They are free for Street Team Members.

  • DesireeDesiree Posts: 206 ✭✭✭

    My first "medicine" was fire cider. I have been making it for several years now and have a steady group of family and friends who constantly want more.

    From there I started several of the TGN medicine making courses and others that I found like Doc Jones Home Grown Herbalist School. I just started looking around and becoming aware of the OTC medications and wanted to get rid of them by using natural and healthy alternatives.

    The main medicine I use now is eating healthy foods to start with. We are what we eat (many herbs and weeds are food) for the most part and herbal medicine addresses the issues of our environment that are out of our control.

  • karenjanickikarenjanicki Posts: 454 ✭✭✭

    Hi! I think that's a really good question actually! Personally I would start with the honest basics. Herbal medicine has so many wonderful and exciting facets that sometimes it's easy to get completely lost in the information overload. I would recommend starting out with the most basic aspects and then begin building from there. A great few things to start with in my opinion would be 1.) Infusions and decoctions. These are incredibly simple to make and yet can be profoundly healing. Learn a few basic, commonly avaliable herbs and what they are good for. Dandelion is an excellent diuretic. Mint is good for headaches. Chamomile can soothe an upset stomach. Note a few common household complaints and work from there. Make a nice herbal infusion of Chamomile or mint the next time you have a stomach ache. Start simple. Infusions are good for aerial plant parts such as flowers, leaves and sometimes stems. Decoctions are better if you are working with roots, seeds or bark. I make a decoction from burdock root. Once it has finished I add chickweed to infuse. It's great for the lymphatic system. Start out with one herb at a time and as your knowledge on the subject grows you can craft your own herbal tea blends. 2.) Tinctures. They are also very simple, easy to use, portable and shelf stable. The most common medium is alcohol usually vodka or grain based but you can experiment with brandy, vinegar or even glycerine. It's best to make a tincture of one herb then you can combine the finished product later on. You can make a simple folkloric tincture which is basically filling a jar 1/2 to 2/3 full of herb and covering it with your chosen alcohol or medium and allowing it to infuse in a cool, dark place for a minimum of 6 weeks. If you are using alcohol they should keep indefinitely. I read of an experiment that was done on a tincture found in an abandoned log cabin in the mountains. It was over 100 years old yet had retained it's potency. 3.) Poultices. They are very simple to make and easy to use but excellent at drawing things out of the body. You can use them on cuts, punctures, abrasions, burns etc. Plantain makes an excellent poultice, as does Echinacea, Kaolin clay, Aloe, Tobacco, and prickly pear. I don't recommend on large gaping wounds personally although in dire situations it may be warranted. 4.) Infused herbal oils are another great choice. They are made in a similar manor to a tincture, simply replaced the alcohol with a good oil of choice such as olive, coconut or jojoba. Many oils can be used as they are once they are finished or you can use them as a base for a salve, cream or lotion. 5.) Infused honey or vinegars. Made similarly to the tinctures or infused oils you can add an herbal goodness boost to vinegars and create your own salad dressings or shrubs and infuse honey for an extra punch to your herbal teas. Just start simple. Get comfortable with using common and familiar ways in your day to day life and then see where it takes you! Hope this helps. It's a lot of fun and has been a real blessing to my life. I hope it is to yours as well :).

  • naomi.kohlmeiernaomi.kohlmeier Posts: 244 ✭✭✭

    Thank you @frogvalley I appreciate the advice. @torey good advice!

  • JennyTJennyT Posts: 248 ✭✭✭

    @torey Thank you. I need to look a little more closely at the classes. I've only had just a chance o briefly see what was offered. I love the suggestions you had for me to do things with my kids. We're on a fall break this week, we may need to give something a try.😊

  • CharlieCharlie Posts: 18 ✭✭✭

    @naomi.kohlmeier So much great advice here as well as looking at the classes offered.

    I take a pretty simple approach to tinctures. I buy a local organic vodka, just use enough to cover the herbs/berries/roots, etc... within a glass jar. I then make sure to put a date on the lid and what's inside :) (been there done that on forgetting! :) ) Make sure to wait at least 3 weeks depending on what your tincturing. I think a good rule of thumb(and I know there are exceptions), is longer for the harder substances(roots, harder mushrooms, etc...) and shorter for the lighter(flowers, leaves, etc...).

    For example, right now I'm excited about a berry tincture I'm doing as I've done a variation in the past. I took a cup of each dried berry- Shizandra berry, Goji berry and Macqui berry and covered them with vodka, dated the lid and told myself what was in it :) It's been about 2 months now and I just sample it as I go. I've harvested from it a few times and it's absolutely delicious! My favorite way to use it is to put a couple of squirts of it in kombucha to give it a beautiful color and flavor and a huge medicinal boost! Enjoy!

  • toreytorey Posts: 2,349 admin

    Welcome to TGN's forum @Charlie Wilkins. What are Macqui berries?

  • annbeck62annbeck62 Posts: 271 ✭✭✭

    Lots of great advice already. If you have specific conditions that's a good place to start. Otherwise good basics are fire cider, a salve for cut, scrapes, bites and rashes, I also make a "vick's vapor rub" type of salve. Once you start, your creativity will soar.

  • CharlieCharlie Posts: 18 ✭✭✭

    Thank you @torey, glad to be here! Macqui berries are native to Chile. Beautiful, purple-black berry that pack a medicinal punch!

    Here is a short explanation and brief history from the awesome company - Mountain Rose Herbs, where I purchase them.

    Aristotelia chilensis is a small, evergreen tree native to the southwest coast of South America. Maqui, or Chilean wineberry, produces edible, purple-black berries which have a taste comparable to blackberries. Maqui berries are picked seasonally by the Mapuche people who often enjoy them in various traditional beverages and culinary recipes. Maqui berry gives a unique and delicious tonic boost to smoothies, granolas, health drinks, and herbal teas.

    An evergreen shrub or small tree belonging to the Elaeaocarpaceae family and native to the temperate rainforests of Chile and Argentina, the Maqui has smooth bark, reaches about 3-4 meters in height, and bears small star-shaped yellowish-green flowers that produce edible purple-black berries much favored by birds. Chilean Wineberry has been cultivated in England since the 1700s and was cultivated sparingly in the United States by the early 1900s. In 1844 the French botanist Claude Grey documented that Maqui berries were widely consumed by the Mapuche natives as a tonic to improve stamina and strength, and also to prepare chicha, a low-alcohol fermented drink.

    The berries, which taste like tart huckleberries, can also be used to make jam or eaten raw. Dried at low temperatures. Maqui berries are relatively new to the American herbal market and are primarily being sold as one of the latest "superfoods." Maqui berries have reportedly been used by the Mapuche natives of Chile and Argentina for centuries.

  • CharlieCharlie Posts: 18 ✭✭✭

    @torey Just realized I misspelled the berry in my original post. It's Maqui not Macqui. Ooopsies.

  • toreytorey Posts: 2,349 admin

    @Charlie Wilkins

    Thanks for the info. Never heard of this berry before or the plant family it is from.

    I looked up medicinal properties and it seems to hold promise for quite a few conditions. But it has the highest known antioxidant values of any fruit. Grows to zone 7 so way out of my range.

  • naomi.kohlmeiernaomi.kohlmeier Posts: 244 ✭✭✭

    Wow! I love the variety of suggestions so far. Thanks all!

  • DurwardPlessDurwardPless Posts: 118 ✭✭✭

    I am so glad you ask. I am new and have never tried to make any kind of remedy. All the suggestion are a little confusing, but it seems you should start with something that you need and will use. I believe I will start with some of the teas. Thank you all for your help.


  • Merin PorterMerin Porter Editorial Director Southwest Colorado (Zone 6a)Posts: 724 admin

    This really is a great question. I hear you on getting overwhelmed by all the possibilities. There are a ton of articles on medicine-making on the TGN site, but here are a few that might give you a good jumping-off point. (I'd start with "The 7 Stages of Home Medicine Makers" first -- and the article on electuaries is a great one to read if you've got kids!)

  • JennyTJennyT Posts: 248 ✭✭✭
  • Merin PorterMerin Porter Editorial Director Southwest Colorado (Zone 6a)Posts: 724 admin
  • naomi.kohlmeiernaomi.kohlmeier Posts: 244 ✭✭✭

    Thank you so much @Merin Porter ! I'm looking forward to reading through all of those sites.

  • water2worldwater2world Sherry Jochen Sevierville, TNPosts: 182 ✭✭✭

    @naomi.kohlmeier Thank you for asking your question.

    I was going to pop in with my suggestion, but I started reading all of the responses and found way more than I had thought of! A lot of excellent ideas and suggests---some of which I will try!!

Sign In or Register to comment.