Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SWEETENERS FOR HERBAL TEAS AND TINCTURES

The taste of herbal teas and tinctures can be important for their medicinal effects, particularly for bitter herbs that stimulate the gall bladder (chologogues) and liver (hepatics). Some people, however, find bitterness, sourness, saltiness, or pungency (spiciness) unpalatable, making it hard to take certain herbal preparations. Not to worry - we can call on the fifth taste, sweetness, to soften repulsion from strong tasting plant medicines.  

Sweet tasting herbs with general or complementary actions can be added to a bitter tea or tincture formula. Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) and licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) are adaptogens that can also bind together other herbs for palatability. Another option is an aromatic mint (spearmint, peppermint, lemon balm) to complement bitter herbs for stimulating the gut or calming the mind. And then there’s the quick and easy solution that every child of the 60s knows from Mary Poppins - a spoonful of sugar, or some other natural sweetener. My favorite is maple syrup which I’ll show you how to make at home. But since calories and nutrients are negligible most of the time for herbal sweeteners, it’s really a case of six of one, a half dozen of the other as long as you don't add quite that much to your tea or tincture.




SWEETENER

Calories
per tsp

Sweetness
to sugar


Nutrients


Agave nektar


20


1.5x


Fructose
Glucose


Cane sugar



16


-


Sucrose


Glycerine



27


.6x


Glycerol


Honey


22


1.4x


Fructose
Glucose
Antioxidants


Maple syrup


18


1x +/-


Sucrose
Calcium
Manganese
Zinc


Stevia


0


30x


Steviol






HERBALIST’S NOTE: Taste of herbal medicines can be used to stimulate organ function according to principles of Chinese medicine – sour for liver, bitter for heart, sweet for pancreas, pungent for lungs, and salty for kidneys.




MAPLE SYRUP MAKING



Allow tree to swell around tap
1. Obtain a maple tap with bucket hook from a hardware store;
2. When early to late winter days get above 40° for three or more days in a row drill a tap-sized hole into the thickest part of the healthiest trunk of your maple tree. For trees larger than arm length circumference, two or three taps may be inserted into separate trunks or opposing sides of the main trunk;
3. Insert a tap into the hole and allow the tree to swell around it for a couple hours before hanging a bucket from it;
4. When the bucket is full pour the maple water into a large pot and rehang the bucket from the tap in the tree;

A coffee filter removes debris

5. Bring the pot to a full boil and then reduce heat to maintain a rolling boil for 2-6 hours depending on the amount of maple water;
6. When the liquid starts to thicken and bubble size decreases, reduce the heat to low to avoid scorching the syrup;
7. When very little boiling remains, remove the pot from the heat and strain the syrup into a glass bottle with a lid;
8. Allow the syrup to cool before tightening the lid.






DOCTOR’S NOTE: Those with diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or hypoglycemia should avoid the simple sugars of most natural sweeteners but can use stevia to sweeten herbal medicines.


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