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!