Double Extraction

A facebook post generated enough interest in the chaga double extraction I did recently that I decided to post about Double (or Dual) Extraction. This is a technique in working with herbs that I’ve picked up from a few herbalist friends.

When we extract herbal essences from herbs, sometimes making teas works better (if the compounds we want are water soluble), other times making tinctures is better (if the compounds we want are alcohol soluble).

But what if we want different compounds from a substance, some of which are water soluble and some of which are alcohol soluble? This is where dual extraction can be of value, since we use both water and alcohol. I have mostly used this technique with medicinal mushrooms, such as reishi and chaga.

Sorry for the lack of pictures; perhaps the next time I do this I’ll take pictures of the process to document it more fully. This technique takes some time, several weeks for the tincturing process and several days for the decocting process, but it’s not much work, it mostly involves letting the herbs sit in whichever medium they are being extracted in.

Step 1: tincture

  • I begin with a large mason jar with a lid. I fill the jar about halfway with the finely-chopped medicinal mushrooms of my choice. The finer the chopping, the more surface area we expose and the easier it will be to extract the alkaloids we are looking for.
  • Then, once the mushrooms or herbs are in the jar, I fill the jar completely with 80 (or more) proof alcohol. Vodka usually has the most neutral flavor but you can use whatever you wish.
  • Let the tincture sit for a period of time. Chaga can be ready within a week; on the other hand I’ve let Reishi go for more than a year. Harvest when you feel it is ready.
  • To harvest, pour the contents of the jar through a strainer, capturing the mark (chunks of mushrooms/herbs) and the menstruum (the now-colored alcohol containing the herbal essences just extracted). Cover the mentruum with a lid and set aside for several days while we further process the mark.

Step 2: decoction

  • Next, take the half-spent mark leftover from the tincturing process and put it into a large saucepan. Cover with a gallon of spring water and bring to a boil. I prefer using a crock pot for this step, put everything in, turn the pot onto high, and keep the lid cracked open so steam can escape.
  • Simmer and reduce the liquid to half or even one-quarter. Remove from heat, and let cool to blood temperature. Put into an appropriate container — mark and water (menstruum) together — and put the mixture into the freezer for 2-3 days, to allow it to fully freeze. The act of freezing the mark while in water can sometimes help break open the cell (or chitin) walls, allowing us to extract more nutrients.
  • Thaw the frozen mixture, and continue cooking down. Once completely thawed, add another gallon of water, return to simmer, and let it reduce to 1/2 quart (reduce by 8). Once reduced, where the liquid is quite dark and thick (chaga is GORGEOUS for instance), strain the mixture. Discard the mark, and keep the menstruum.

Step 3: dual extraction

  • Once the reduced tea has cooled to blood temperature, combine it with the tincture done in step 1. Shake/stir well to combine.
  • OPTIONAL: at this stage you can also add sweetener (no more than 1:1 honey) or additional flavorings (such as a vanilla bean).
  • Store in a bottle that offers some protection against UVs.
  • Your dual extraction will be potent! Experiment with just a few drops, or perhaps a dropperful or two.

To reiterate, I’ve had the most luck doing this with medicinal mushrooms, namely reishi and chaga. Have fun making your own medicines!

Yule Harvest, 2011

Quite a harvest after the bottling session today:

Bottled three batches today: Spruce Tip Mead, Raspberry Damiana Mead, and Cherry/Red Ginseng Mead. If I may say so, all three batches are excellent in their own right, and for very different reasons.

For the Spruce Tip Mead, this is not the first time I’ve made an evergreen brew. They do hold a special place in my heart; last year’s spruce mead was surprisingly one of the best ones I did all year. This years is no different, though the flavor is different from last years. It’s still very sweet, but it still tastes like Yule.

When talking about the Raspberry Damiana the first thing I should mention is its incredibly vibrant color. Deep red, one of the most gorgeous batches since the Wild Black Cherry and the Prickly Pear. To be honest, at first I was a bit disappointed with the flavor when I racked it; it had a bit of a “cough syrup” vibe to it with the herbal damiana and the sweet-fruity flavor mixed together. I’m happy to say that the cough-syrupiness has faded significantly since then, and it is delicious! Will be a favorite I think.

Finally, the Cherry Red Ginseng is surprising precisely for its lack of color. I did use fewer cherries than last year, and the cherries I did use were not as ripe — bright red rather than deep black. However the mead turned out… yellow. Go figure. That said, it is beautifully clear and might be the most delicious of these three batches.

I’m definitely grateful for a bountiful Yule harvest! Happiness is…. a full mead cabinet.

Herbal Asthma Strategies with Sean Donahue

We are very happy to bring you a brand new product: Herbal Asthma Strategies with Sean Donahue. After the success of the Lore And Craft of Mead book, we wanted to broaden our product range. While herbalism is one of the foundations of our meadmaking method, this new product is a foray into herbalism rather than fermentation.

Herbal Asthma Strategies with Sean Donahue consists of 7 audio lecture recordings in mp3 format (over 100 minutes of audio total), as well as a concise booklet that outline Sean’s approach to dealing with asthma. He developed these strategies with his own life experience. They were effective enough to have a profound effect on Sean’s life, leading him down the path of becoming an herbalist. He no longer considers asthma to be a part of how he defines himself, and has helped many other people with their asthma.

The program begins with teachings about what asthma is, in terms of why the body responds to certain stimuli with the tightness, wheezing, and difficulty breathing associated with asthma. So the first step is to learn which triggers to avoid, in order to prevent the body from responding with breathing trouble. One very important trigger point is diet, which is discussed in detail to help you determine which dietary choices will improve your quality of breath.

In addition, Sean discusses the critical — and often overlooked — emotional component of healing associated with those who no longer have asthma, which may explain why some people “grow out of” asthma and others do not.

Lastly, Sean gives a breakdown of 13 Herbs for Asthma, discussing the virtues of each plant along with where and when it is appropriate to employ each one as part of your asthma strategy.

We’ve made available a short interview with Sean where we discuss this program and his history with asthma, which you can listen to here:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

As you can hear, Sean’s teaching style is quite gentle, heart-based, and thorough.

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Sean Donahue is not a medical doctor, and none of the information contained in this booklet or the accompanying recordings is intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, or cure of any medical condition. The term asthma is used here in a general, colloquial sense, not as a term for a medical condition. Readers and listeners are advised to consult a health professional before beginning to use any herb.