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How to make an oil extract of Frankincense and other oleoresins

Frankincense oleo-resin extracted from Boswellia Neglecta.

  How to extract the healing properties of Frankincense and other oleo-resins

There is increasing information online about the healing properties of the different types of Frankincense. Notably, the Boswellic acid family including AKBA which make up a large proportion of the resin in these oleo-gum-resins. In general, they all share anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties which make them ideal for many external and internal applications. Phytochemicals in Frankincense have been proven useful for arthritis,  rheumatism, cancer, ulcers, colitis, brain injuries, depression, and much more. They are especially useful in cremes, oils and salves to help rejuvenate the skin, increase elasticity, reduce wrinkles and signs of aging. Many of these healing compounds can be absorbed through the skin and are able to cross the blood-brain barrier.

Oleo-resins are composed of volatile oils, or essential oils, and resins which are not volatile and cannot be separated via water or steam distillation. Though we rely heavily on essential oils to deliver the therapeutic properties of  plants in our medicine and cosmetics,  many of  Frankincense’s therapeutic properties reside in its resin portion. Boswellic acid, lately researched and promoted heavily for its anti-cancer properties is one of many heavier therapeutic compounds that are not naturally present in the distilled essential oils

Frankincense Sacra/Carterii and Frankincense Papyrifera
Frankincense Sacra/Carterii, top, and Frankincense Papyrifera

The whole oleo-resin provides a broader spectrum of phytochemicals, and from a holistic and synergistic point of view more effective than the isolated essential oils.

There is not much information on processing oleo-resins online, nor is there an abundance of research available on the many types of Frankincense compared to other medicinal Herbs.  This is slowly changing as the interest in therapeutic properties of oleo-resins increases.

A great number of the tree oleo-resins in our little garden world hold therapeutic properties that we have used for thousands of years, long before distilled essential oils were commonly available. Mastic, Spruce, Pine, Fir, Opoponax, Myrrh, Frankincense and many others have been highly valued for their healing properties. We are only beginning to appreciate the degree of their healing potential.

Extracting Oleo-resins

Finely ground Frankincense oleoresins for extractions
Finely ground Frankincense oleo-resins for extraction. From left-Boswellia Papyrifera, Boswellia Neglecta, Boswellia Rivae.

Oleo-resins are usually extracted via volatile solvents.  The most common are ethanol and petroleum distillates. Once the oleo-resin is separated from any water-soluble gum and foreign material, the solvent is evaporated and the remaining sticky mass utilized.

Another approach is to use non-volatile solvents such as vegetable oils and animal fats to extract the therapeutic compounds from oleoresins. They are much gentler than many volatile solvents, do not harm the environment in their production, use and disposal and pose no threat to our health in topical or internal applications. They are easy to make, purchase and use, they break down and decompose without adding toxins to the environment, and are safe and easy enough to use in any kitchen and home. Using non-volatile solvents creates new opportunities for self care and making our own medicine.

Non-volatile solvents for Frankincense oleo-resins

 Frankincense oleo-resin extracted from Boswellia Neglecta.
Frankincense oleo-resin extracted from Boswellia Neglecta with Olive oil.  Originally made as a chest rub for respitory releif. After using it for a year and collecting feedback from other users, I am forced to change its description and application. Rubbed on the chest, it is a surprisingly effective treatment for anxiety, panic attacks and tightness of the chest. It quickly removes the sharp physical pangs of anxiety, lifts and lightens the chest, eases and deepens breathing even during an Asthma attack and brings about a deep feeling of calm. I keep wondering if I am projecting here, but reports from others who use it confirm my description. Pretty amazing. Pine, Spruce and Fir saps still have the lead for coughs, colds and releif of respiratory congestion.

The use of vegetable oils as solvents and carriers for oleo-resins makes these products eminently suitable for external use as oils, liniments, cremes and salves. It can also provide an option for a more readily digestible and easily assimilated product for internal use.

This type of extraction requires no special laboratory chemicals or equipment, and can be performed in any kitchen or field with a simple water bath, mortar and pestle or electric coffee grinder. Oh, and a pillow case..

Solvent/carrier oils for whole oleo-resins

I have found 2 vegetable oils work particularly well with most oleo-resins. They are Jojoba oil and Olive oil. I stick to cold pressed extra virgin Olive oil even though it often has a more bitter flavour and scent.

Jojoba works well if the finished product is for external application only. Jojoba is really a wax and not a true oil. It keeps extremely  well on its own, though if making an emulsion type crème, a broad spectrum preservative is needed due to the presence of water.

Oleoresins are natural preservatives. Hence their extensive use historically for embalming and preserving corpses…. However, I can find no studies that show exactly what percent of oleoresins will preserve vegetable oils or aqueous solutions, and for how long. So for the time being some type of preservative is called for.

Olive oil is an ideal carrier and solvent. It has been used for centuries for its therapeutic effects on skin, hair and  GI tract. If you plan to keep any vegetable oil or animal fat product longer than 6 months unrefrigerated, Vitamin E will greatly delay rancidity and extend its shelf life.

Any vegetable type oil, (not mineral-based), or animal fat such as tallow or lard will work as a solvent for most oleoresins.This includes Coconut oil, nut oils such as Almond, Hazelnut and Macadamia and any of the exotics such as Argan oil, Baobab oil etc. Choose an oil based on your needs and preferences. Some oils keep longer than others though Vitamin E will extend the life of most oils.

 Instructions for making an oleo-resin extract

  • If you are using any type of Frankincense, Mastic, Myrrh, Elemi or other hard brittle oleo-resins, grind them to a fine powder first. (See the post on how to grind Frankincense & Myrrh. ). The finer you grind them, the more readily  and quickly they will dissolve in the oil.
  • If using fresh pliable oleo-resins such as Spruce, Pine or Fir, the soft saps can be used as they are.
  • In a water bath heat up 1 part oleo-resins by weight to 2-3 parts oil in a glass or mason jar. (See  A Solid moustache wax recipe) for complete directions on making and using a water bath at home.
  • When the bath reaches temperature and starts boiling, stir to break up any lumps and let sit in a simmering bath with occasional stirring for up to 3 hours.
  • Remove from the bath and filter when no more oleo-resin can be dissolved.
Water bath with multiple vessels and ingredients warming to the same temperature.
Water bath with multiple vessels and ingredients warming to the same temperature.
Frankincense Papyrifera ground in a steel mortar in preparation for extraction.
Frankincense Papyrifera ground in a steel mortar in preparation for extraction.

In the case of Boswellia Frereana, Maydi),  the oleoresin dissolves into the oils within minutes of the bath reaching the boiling point. (It has little to no water-soluble gum). As soon as you have a hot homogenous liquid you can proceed directly to filtering.

Filtering the oleo-resin extract

  • Filter the hot liquid carefully through a fine metal mesh coffee filter, the corner of a well washed and thoroughly rinsed and dried pillowcase, or through a good piece of cotton cloth similar in weave to a bed sheet.
  • Place your filtering material in a funnel over a clear glass vessel or jar. (so later you can gauge when most of the sediment has fallen).
  • Add the hot liquid extract.
  • If using a cloth filter, twist the excess cloth on top to form a sachet, and press out the liquid from this bag with the back of a spoon.
  • If using a metal mesh filter, running the back or side of the spoon against the mesh will keep the liquid flowing and the mesh open.
  • Working with the extraction while it is still hot keeps it mobile, liquid and more easily filtered. It will thicken a bit when cool.
  • Cover and set aside.
  • Compost the residue or return it to the earth.
  • Wait till all sediment falls to the bottom of the vessel. This could take a day or so.
  • Pour or siphon off the clear liquid, leaving the sediment. You can return this or use it for external applications.
  • If you plan to keep your extract around for a while, add 400 IU of Vitamin E to each 250 ml. or cup of extract. And it is ready to use.

For internal use I suggest starting with 1/2 teaspoon of extract with food. See how your body feels about it. This is uncharted territory and you are ultimately in charge of your own health. We don’t know how much  is too much. However compared to ingesting pure essential oils as some do, this method is relatively easy on the body and I believe likely more effective.
For external use, apply to face, joints etc as often as desired. Again, listen to your body….

To make a Frankincense or oleoresin cosmetic crème

I am not an expert in cosmetics formulation. There is an abundance of great recipes online written by people with much greater knowledge of this art than I. I suggest you find one with detailed instructions for making an oil/water creme that appeals to you, and replace the oil portion in any of these recipes with your oleoresin extract to make a healing creme. The guidelines below are simply that, loose guidelines based around a recipe that works for me at the moment.

  • Set up a fresh water bath with one jar for oil and a large jar for distilled water.
  • Put the filtered and sedimented extract back in a jar in the water bath.
  • Add distilled water in the second jar in a quantity that makes up 75% to 80% of the total weight of your finished creme. More water means a slightly thinner lotion or creme.
  •  If you are not using delicate oils, heat the water bath till boiling till both jars and the bath have reached the same temperature-If you are using oils that won’t tolerate high temperature then follow the instructions that come with the oil and bring both vessels in the water bath to the appropriate and same temperature.
  • Calculate the total of all the oil soluble components you will have in your product, carrier oil, essential oils, waxes and oil based preservative if you are going to use one.
  •  Add 25% of the weight of the oil based portion  of your product in emulsifying wax.
  • Blend the wax in the oil completely.
  • Remove from the bath and add the water slowly to your oil/wax mixture in a large enough bowl or jar to hold both materials comfortably.
  •  Stir or blend the oil-wax mixture for a couple of minutes and let sit. Every 15 minutes or so, repeat the blending till the mixture is room temperature and has started to thicken.
  •  This cooldown period is the time to add your essential oils and any other products that are heat sensitive. the weight of essential oils is added to the overall weight of the oil when you calculate how much wax to add.
  • When room temperature and of the right consistency pour into clean, sterile containers. If you have not added a preservative then keep refrigerated.
  • For long-term unrefrigerated use, a preservative is a must since you have added water to the formula. Bacteria and moulds are “suitcase in hand”,  just waiting to move in. Liquid Germal Plus works well as a broad spectrum preservative and seems relatively benign.
  • Add during the “Cooldown” stage and follow the directions that come with the product. It is considered one of your oil soluble ingredients and should be added to your calculation of how much wax needs to be added to your formula.
  • Of course you can improvise with the formula to your heart’s desire. Depending on the purpose of your creme and your personal preferences, there are many waxes, oils, colourants and essential oils you can fine tune your product with. These are just the basics. I expect you to explore, be creative and have fun with it.
  • For an excellent an excellent website dedicated to all facets of lotion and creme making, recipes, instructions, and tutorials, please visit Makingskincare.com.

I am told regularly by concerned friends that I should not share secrets, methods and successful recipes online. I disagree. I believe we are at a stage in our evolution as a global society that all information needs to be shared freely and openly. The internet is our collective brain and even our collective consciousness. We all draw from it, and contribute to it one way or another. The time for hiding things, for secrets and shadows in the world is past. We need to share whatever we have. If we all shared freely and none of us hoarded any resources, there would be more than enough of everything to go around. There would be no lack in the world, no poverty, and likely no war. If we all actively sought opportunities to share, the transformation would be immediate.  I also believe whatever we put out there always comes back to us in whatever form we need.

So. Have fun, be responsible for your health and wellbeing, and share what you have.

And always, always keep clear notes!

Your future self will thank you.

Dan

Muscle & joint rub from a whole extract of Spruce and Pine oleo-resins
Muscle & joint rub from a whole extract of Spruce and Pine oleo-resins
 Therapeutic Chest Rub from whole Spruce and Pine extract
Therapeutic Chest Rub from whole Spruce and Pine extract
 A wonderful rejuvenative skin creme Simply Frankincense with no added fragrances or extra ingredients.e made from the whole oleo-resin of Maydi-Frankincense Frereana.
A wonderful rejuvenative skin creme Simply made from the whole oleo-resin of Maydi-Frankincense Frereana extracted with Jojoba oil. No added ingredients or  essential oils.
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Pucker up and cool down with Witch Hazel oil

Witch Hazel Hamilton 2013
Witch Hazel Oil-2014
Witch Hazel Oil-Oleum Hamamelis 2014

 Witch Hazel oil-Oleum Hamamelis

  The summer’s harvest yielded a fantastic Witch Hazel oil. This is a fragrant, cooling and astringent healing oil made from fresh Hamamelis Virginiana leaves, Violet absolute and Vitamin E.. I am very, very pleased with the results. There is an easy harmony and synergy between these two shade loving medicinals. Besides the obvious similarities in colour, fragrance and “temperature” they share a strong astrological affinity.

I feel a bit like an old-time snake oil salesman, ha ha. Combine that with an impaling act and I have my very own travelling sideshow!   Though this oil is not a panacea or cure-all by any stretch, it will most definitely cool and soothe any hot, bothered or irritated external part of your body, while tightening and puckering up the area.

   Though  Oleum Hamamelis, or Witch Hazel oil is  more emollient and soothing than the better know Witch Hazel Extract and distillate, there are few plants that have such a cooling effect, as Witch Hazel, (Violet is #2). Razor burns, hot irritated skin, boils, hemorrhoids and piles, sunburn, chafing, minor burns and achy varicose veins. Witch Hazel oil reduces pain and irritation, cools and relieves excessive heat, and does so quickly. Witch Hazel is also also used traditionally to reduce the swelling  and pain of varicose veins.

Witch Hazel , Ontario, 2013
Witch Hazel , Ontario, 2013

Sometimes a single  2″ diameter trunk/stalk will grow to over 15 feet, reaching from the ground, up and out, gracefully arching and positioning itself strategically to catch stray beams of sunshine that slip by the taller trees. Low enough to jockey for second-hand light, but just high enough the deer can’t gobble up its leaves.  Tough, resilient and enduring, this lovely lady of the dark woods will contort in zigs and zags at every leaf juncture to grab a missed beam of sunlight.

There is something stoic and enduring about Witch Hazel. Her wood is tough and stringy, almost impossible to break, dead or alive. Very difficult to propagate from cuttings or from seed, she spits her  projectile seeds up to 30 feet away, and though germination rate is very low, she is so tenacious and hardy that when her seedlings do sprout, they somehow manage to survive the harsh life of the forest floor till they are tall enough to avoid being eaten.

   If, as I have said in the past,  Myrrh represents  the flavor of bitter, then Witch Hazel is the paragon of astringent in the vegetable kingdom. She is a gum-sucking puckerer, as if drawing the molecules of moisture from the tissues of your mouth.

Witch Hazel Branch
Witch Hazel Branch (Photo credit: Michael Hodge)

From the bark of her elegantly arching branches, through the green of her crisp, paper-thin leaves, to the scrawny straggly yellow petals of her fall and  winter blooming  flowers, Witch Hazel has a distinct, lovely, and almost astringent fragrance. A perfume that endures through gentle distillations and  light handed percolations in oil.  Not only is she beautiful to behold, and a medicinal wonder, but she smells lovely too. What more could one ask from a  woodland lady?

With her cold astringent nature, it is obvious why Witch Hazel is under the planetary rulership of Saturn. Though in my opinion, beautiful, earthy Taurus is her ruling sign, and is just as important an influence on her personality, and medicinal applications. This dovetails perfectly with the lovely Violet, who is born under Venus.

  This oil of Hamamelis is beautifully complemented by Violet absolute, (A Co2 extraction of the fragrance and healing properties of the Violet leaf ),  and Vitamin E. The mutual support of these two herbs is obvious in their easy union with each other in fragrance, colour, rulerships, temperature and medicinal effects.  Witch Hazel oil is a simplebut powerful healer for those tender, painful hotspots, inflammations and flareups when they happen.

Witch Hazel Oil-2014
Witch Hazel Violet Oil-2014

This oil is now posted and available in my Etsy store, and in Humblepie, for those living in Hamilton. If you have difficulty finding it, or have any questions about it, please drop me a line by phone, email or leave me a comment. I would love to hear from you.

Dan

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Hello again & Back to the basics

Though I hope it’s not obvious, this blog is now back with WordPress.com after almost a year of working and learning the ins and outs of self hosting a website, FTP, SQL, DNS, CSS, SEO, CMS’s, frameworks,  caches, plugins, and so much more with WordPress.org.  It was a journey of steep learning curves, with a horizon that kept receding further into the distance.  It was an exiting, but consuming, creative adventure. I will no doubt continue creating websites in the cloud, in the future, but for now, this blog will stay in the safe, predictable and fully  managed  embrace of mama WP.com.

Image representing WordPress.com as depicted i...
WordPress.com

The thing I missed the most about WordPress.com, where millions of us took our first steps as bloggers, was the community integrally woven in to it. I have developed a deeper appreciation for the interconnectedness of us all, here in the free and fully hosted blogosphere, and after losing touch with it for a year, I am happy to be back in the community again.  Happy to call it my community.

My Etsy Shop
My Etsy Shop

WordPress.com does an amazing  job taking care of millions of free websites/blogs, with no great thought or investment needed from us.  I came to WordPress.com with a vision of a different approach to commerce, community and creativity. A different model. I needed a place to share my creativity and the physical products that I felt called to create. There was no telling where I would be drawn  as I followed the path that spoke to me, but, I had no doubt, the individuals who needed my work would be out there, waiting, looking and asking for exactly the things I was creating. I believe there is a law of nature that commands this kind of balance and counterbalance from our choices.

*****

 I needed to reach a community of like minded spirits, wherever they might be, who needed the specific products that were exclusively a result of my path, my creativity and experiences. I needed a place I could not only connect with them, but easily exchange the products of my life, with the products of their lives, so we could help fulfil each others needs. This could mean a simple exchange of money, or an exchange of other physical or intangible products as needed. It was a different paradigm of commerce and community. WordPress.com made it difficult to do this type of exchange at the time. So I left and sought alternatives that would suit me better.

*****

   Now, after much exploration and experimentation, I find WP.com will dovetail perfectly with an online Etsy store, using links in the navigation menus, photos and posts.  Whether these configurations were as easily created a year and a half ago with earlier versions of WP.com, or whether I needed to leave and gain my”Internet legs”, return with new eyes and skills, I can’t say. But, here I am, again, and I have found what I need from an online presence at this time. So I am going to let WordPress.com, do what she does so well. Connect people, and take care of business.

*****

A new beginning is at hand, the past is rich with art, fine craft,  and design with natures materials, plant alchemy, medicine and magic. All unfolding to a hidden rhythm. Even I do not know what this new year will bring. There are many new recipes, Astrodynamic products, and gifts from Nature waiting to be shared here for healers, perfumers, moustache groomers, wildcrafters, parents, gardeners, homesteaders and everyone in between. You are invited to share in my journey, here as before, and enjoy the labours of love I create along the way. The Apothecary Shop is a beginning, but growing and evolving quickly.  You never know, perhaps it holds exactly what you need and the reason you are reading these words.

Peace

Dan

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An easy 2 part Mustache Wax Recipe

An Easy, Natural 2 part Mustache Wax Recipe

(With instructions for creating a personal fragrance)

This is the ” Mustache Wax Recipe”  from the post “A Mustachio Twirl to save the world”.
The post, in essence, gives some history about Vaseline and our destructive relationship with petroleum products. It presents Lanolin, a natural oil drawn from sheep’s wool, as a “Green”, sustainable and renewable resource that is remarkably similar to our own natural skin oils. Vaseline is not the best product for our bodies, in many cases it is simply bad for us. It is a petroleum product, and as such, its production, use and disposal are not good things for the planet. Lanolin is by far a much healthier alternative for our skin, hair and the planet. We have a choice, and in 99% of instances in our everyday lives, we do not need to use Vaseline instead of Lanolin. A little choice, but who knows how much of a difference we could all make if we ceased to use petroleum products wherever we could.
This variation of a Mustache wax recipe, is based on an “Antique” recipe from the late 1800’s that uses Vaseline and Beeswax. It is reproduced abundantly online, and no one has bothered to change it or offer a healthier alternative till now. I have replaced the Vaseline with Lanolin. The results are wonderful, in its colour, texture and fragrance, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Lanolin predated Vaseline in an earlier , or original incarnation of the recipe. I believe if we all make small choices to use renewable resources instead of petroleum products, we can have a positive impact on the world. Seriously, I am pretty sure things are not going to improve on their own.

For more information on the subject, feel free to read the posts, “A mustachio twirl to save the world“, and “Upcycling an Antique grooming wax .”

Beeswax Lanolin Moustache Wax Recipe, cast in ice-cube trays
Beeswax Lanolin Moustache Wax Recipe, cast in ice cube trays

  Here is one small contribution.

A  simple, natural and easy, 2 part  Mustache Wax Recipe

  • 100 grams Beeswax
  • 100 grams Lanolin
  • Pot for double boiler
  • 2 Mason jars, 250 ml to 500 ml. capacity
  • Stir sticks, wooden or other type of spoon
  • Containers or moulds for mustache Wax

– Optional; Essential oils for fragrance, 2% of the volume of the finished product, maximum. (This means a total of 6 ml. For 300 ml mustache wax or 4 ml. essential oils For 200 ml mustache wax).

Shave or break Beeswax into a glass jar

  • Scoop Lanolin into a separate jar
  • Put both jars into a cold water bath or double boiler ( See Solid Mustache Wax Recipe). for instructions.
  • Bring water bath to a boil.
  • When both materials have  turned liquid and reached the same temperature, add 1/2 of the Lanolin to the Beeswax.
  • Stir well and do a cold plate test. ( Put a drop of hot wax on a plate, let it cool to room temperature. Test consistency. If it is too hard, add more Lanolin to the mustache wax till it reaches the pliability you desire.)  Repeat this test till you have exactly the consistency you need. Since everyone’s facial hair is different, you will have to adjust it to your own needs.
  • I have found that a ratio of 4 parts Beeswax to 3 parts Lanolin, works well for my mustache.
  •  DO NOT melt both materials in the same container! They will not combine properly.
  •  DO NOT use a Microwave for heating your materials! Items such as Beeswax will combust without warning or smoking if overheated. A microwave gives little control over the process and will not contribute to a high quality product.
DO NOT heat all Mustache wax recipe  ingredients in one vessel
DO NOT heat all Mustache wax recipe ingredients in one vessel 
Mustache wax recipe in double boiler.
Carnauba Mustache wax recipe in double boiler.

At this point, when you are happy with the consistency, you can either pour your hot, liquid mustache wax into jars, containers or moulds, (carefully), and clean up while your creation cools. Or, you can take your Mustache Wax a step further and create a personal fragrance, a scent that represents you,  pleases you, or one based on the therapeutic value of essential oils, and takes advantage of their position under your nose where you will be inhaling them. This can be as simple as adding one essential oil to your wax during the cool down period, ( Up to 2 %), or creating a more complex signature scent.

As I suggest in a  “Solid Mustache Wax Recipe”, this is a wonderful opportunity to explore our creativity and the fragrant gifts of nature. There are many essential oils that will work well with the scents of beeswax and Lanolin. It is a rich rewarding area of self-expression and creativity to explore.

How to create your own signature fragrance in a homemade Grooming Wax

(These instructions apply to most homemade male grooming products for beards and mustaches. Though they were written as part of “An easy 2 part Mustache Wax Recipe”, and are phrased thus, they are pretty much universal. It is safe to say, most of the basic ingredients in beard and mustache grooming recipes, are considered base to middle notes from a perfume perspective. Beeswax, Lanolin, Shea Butter, Cocoa Butter, Kokum Butter, most of the fragrant  tree oleoresins we use, such as Myrrh, Frankincense etc., all share this common trait. This means one can use the instructions below, and the standard perfume “convention” of building a fragrance from a base accord or note, through to  a middle and top note, for most male grooming product recipes. So whether your recipe incorporates Lanolin or Cocoa Butter,  Frankincense resin, or a combination of them all, the following guidlines will work  just as well.)

When you have removed your mustache wax from the water bath, while it is hot and in its jar, is the perfect time to add essential oils that will compliment the scents of the Beeswax and Lanolin.  If you have a little experience, or an idea of how you want your product to smell, you can premix essential oils before you set up the water bath, set them aside, and add them during the cool down phase. You can do any tweaking and adjusting of the scent before it cools and thickens.
Otherwise, add your choice of essential oils one at a time while it is cooling down. If it gets too thick before you have finished adding essential oils, put it back in the water bath till it is liquid again, then pull it out and continue creating the scent you desire.

Keep in mind that the hot wax will accelerate the evaporation of volatile  oils, and your mustache wax will smell substantially stronger while it is hot, than when it is cool and solid. Adjust the strength of the fragrance accordingly.

I always make sure to write down the names of the essential oils I intend to use, while leaving a corresponding blank space for the quantity. Immediately after dispensing each essential oil, I mark down the quantity I added, leaving enough room to accommodate further tweaking and adjusting.  This way I can keep accurate track of the formula and reproduce it in the future. Remember that you can always re-melt your mustache wax at a later date and continue your work on the consistency or fragrance of your grooming wax.

    There is a convention in perfume making, that one should start with the “Lower”, base notes first, and work ones way up to the more fleeting delicate notes when constructing a fragrance. This works well for us in this case because the Lanolin and the Beeswax are both base to middle notes, and provide a great foundation to build your scent on.

Natural perfumes maturing, 2011
Natural perfumes maturing, 2011

If you would like to flesh out your base “accord” a little more, a drop of Clove or some Labdanum will work well with the Lanolin and Beeswax.  If you are lucky enough to have some Oud essential oil, that rare, exotic oil, distilled from a fungus that transforms dying wood, I have a feeling it could work very well with the beeswax Lanolin mix.  Just an educated guess. Beware of its strength though! Use only a minute amount so it doesn’t overpower the rest of the scents. The same can be said of the Clove essential oil. It too is very powerful, start with only a drop. Test and see if it really needs more. You can always add a drop at the end if you think it does. Some  other Base notes you could use are-Vanilla,  all the Cedars, Myrrh, any type of Frankincense, Sandalwood, Patchouli, Vetiver (light hand with both!),  Benzoin, Balsam Tolu,  Balsam Peru, etc..

(Note, you could add only one essential oil to your mustache wax, and that could be sufficient to create a unique and well-balanced personal fragrance! This need not be a complex endeavour. It can be the beginning of an exploration of fragrance, and getting to know one essential oil in depth, is a wonderful way to start!)

Middle notes would be next. Some common middle note essential oils are Black Pepper, Cardamom, Cypress, Nutmeg, Pine and  the Spruces, Neroli, Bay etc.
Some “Top” notes that might work well, are; Pettigrain, lemon, tangerine, Lime, hyssop, Cinnamon etc.
There is extensive information online, if you seek a more comprehensive list of essential oils, where to find them and how to use them to create fragrances. Using these oils, you can create your own signature fragrance. Just remember, to Always record every drop of essential oil you add. Keep clear notes.
At this point I would like to point out the obvious, that scent is a very powerful sense. Scent is deeply connected with our emotions and memories. People will remember you by your scent and associate you with a particular scent. The therapeutic effects of aromatherapy are well researched. We are affected physically, emotionally and mentally by fragrances and essential oils. Another reason to use only natural oils and not chemical aromas.
Scent is powerful and can be used intentionally.  Scent can move us, and move others. At the very least we should wear scents that we like, or scents that make us feel good. Essential oils can also be chosen for their therapeutic value as well as their esthetic impact on our senses.  Even a mustache wax could be intentionally crafted for its therapeutic properties, its physical, emotional and mental effect on us. There is much to learn and explore!

In the last batch of Lanolin/Beeswax mustache wax I made, I added Frankincense Rivae essential oil, and found it worked extremely well. A few drops of Pettigrain and Neroli lifted it, and gave it a “sparkle”, while a dash of Labdanum, Benzoin and Clove lent it a creamy smooth ,warm masculine base.

Explore, experiment, and most of all enjoy the process. Being a man is a special gift. Women have their natural gifts, and we have ours.  Celebrate the gender you were given this time around.

And remember, always take notes.
Your future self will thank you.

Dan

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Mustache Wax Recipe, Twist and Twirl

Natural Mustache wax Recipe, Twist and Twirl. Part 2 of “A solid Mustache Wax recipe.

There has been a tremendous amount of interest in the “Solid Mustache Wax Recipe”. Which makes me very happy. so many people are trying it out and making their own personalized versions of a grooming wax, not only for themselves, but for the men in their lives. Men and women are trying out the recipe! How cool is that!

As mentioned, the recipe I posted in December is a medium weight mustache wax for medium weight mustaches. Considering the variety of mustache types is as diverse as the millions of men who have mustaches, it was created to be a middle of the road recipe, accessible and suited to the greatest number of mustache types. My intention with the Solid Mustache Wax Recipe was to keep it as simple as I could, so anyone could successfully combine the ingredients and have the satisfaction of a useable product. However , since the response to the recipe has been so good, I would like to add a little more versatility to the original recipe. Take it up a notch so it might offer even more usefulness to the greater mustachioed population. Something for those who would like to do more with a Mustache wax. Here is a twist to the recipe, one I find extremely useful and effective while being relatively easy to incorporate into the original recipe. Take it for a spin, or a twirl and I hope you all take a shine to it. Our secret new ingredient is,

CARNAUBA WAX

Mustache wax recipe with natural Carnauba palm wax.

Many of us are familiar with the name as an ingredient in high sheen, protective and durable car waxes. Yes, it is a great material for adding a shine or polish, or to protect surfaces, (Furniture too). Carnauba wax is a natural vegetable sourced wax that is collected from the leaves of the Carnauba Palm. It comes in light flakes that melt at a slightly higher temperature than beeswax. When melted and cooled, Carnauba wax is brittle and hard, almost like a hard plastic.

Mustache wax recipe. Paper thin Carnauba wax after melting, brittle as glass
Paper thin Carnauba wax after melting, brittle as glass

A thin sheet of it will “tinkle” when tapped. before it shatters. That being said, Carnauba wax blended in small amounts to our “Solid Mustache Recipe”, will enhance its ability to create and hold a very tight and well defined twirl. Or a straight horizontal twist, or really, any other mustachrobatics that you can think of! I took some shots of the tight tame twirls it gave my mustache, but the closeups made me feel a little too self conscious! You will have to try it for yourselves. I need a good facial before I can be persuaded to do a close-up photo-op.

 Mustache wax recipe. Carnauba wax raw flakes Put some dash in your stache
Carnauba wax raw flakes. Put some dash in your “Stache”

I don’t know how other men feel about twirls in a mustache, They can be rather sinister, marks of the evil genius, world dominator, local petty dictator. Of artistic eccentricity, maniacal egocentricity, and other dastardly depictions, that us men can be slotted into. However, a tight twirl can also be very distinguished. It can be the perfect innuendo to an untamed bush, lend subtle curves and nuances to an otherwise solid chunk of facial hair. It can create precise definition, a sense of control, direction, and flair that trimming or softer waxes can’t quite pull off. You could pull the length of your whiskers straight out, wrap them behind your ears, or create a decreasing spiral to use up the length you would rather not trim. You could give a 90 degree upward turn with corners as sharp as Stilton cheese, or do some fancy braiding in your beard. (especially if you have some Labdanum!?). If one does not have a lot of upper lip real estate, or the natural materials for a powerful handlebar, the subtle control of a well placed twist or twirl, can make a striking statement without a lot of effort. A case where less can be as powerful as more. That being said, the ability to get and hold a good angle in a handlebar mustache only increases the effect of a heavier mustache, lending more possibilities to explore and more room for play and variety.

If religious restrictions do not allow you to shave or cut your facial hair, this is an excellent opportunity for self-expression and creating a little masculine mojo for yourself. Carnauba wax works very well for these uses and due to its higher melting point, keeps its hold for a good length of time. However, there are two things to remember when incorporating Carnauba wax in your Solid Mustache Wax Recipe.

  1. Make sure all your materials, especially your Carnauba wax are the same temperature before mixing. If it means waiting an extra 10-15 minutes to be sure the different volumes of materials in your water bath are heated to the same temperature, then wait.
  2. The second thing to keep in mind when using Carnauba wax in this recipe is, use a light hand!! You have to create a balance in your mustache wax, where your wax is pliable enough to apply to your mustache, and stiff enough to hold a sharp twirl for the day. Too much will give you a rock hard product more suited to polishing your car. So use the “cold drop” method often, as you slowly add, and thoroughly mix , small increments of melted Carnauba wax to your recipe. Wait for it to properly cool before you test it. Yes, you can always correct it if you overdo the Carnauba, but it is easier to do it right the first time and efficient to keep precise notes the first time through, so you can duplicate your amazing mustache wax when you need to make more or make some for a friend.

    Mustache Wax cast in silicone ice cube tray
    Mustache Wax cast in silicone ice cube tray

The proportion I used to give the ideal twirly hold in my experimental batch was approximately 5% Carnauba to the volume,or weight, of the finished product. This means if you are ending up with 500 Mililiters or grams of finished mustache wax, you want to use approximately 25 mililiters or 25 grams of Carnauba wax. As always this is not an exact science, if you have more Shea or Cocoa Butters, more saps or oils, tougher facial hair, you will have to make some adjustments and use a little more. So add your melted Carnauba wax at the end, to a product that works well already, a product you already like. I suggest you melt twice the amount that is called for. I always like to be prepared. Add it slowly, as described above. It is always best to have some left over than not quite enough. In the original recipe 500 grams of beeswax is called for. The ratio of Carnauba wax I would add to the double boiler is 50 grams.

This can be done in 2 stages if you like. Create a wax you love using the original Solid Mustache Recipe, then when you have it exactly as you like it, take half of it back to the water bath, set it, and a container with the Carnauba wax up, and create your supercharged edition. If you love it just as much as you hoped, then you can always process the rest of your original batch into the “Super twirl” version”. And if something goes wrong, (Which does on occasion happen in life), you are covered, and still have the satisfaction of having a great original and useable batch of solid mustache wax. Using this method, you will only have 2 containers to deal with in the water bath which will be easier to work with. When both containers are at the same temperature start mixing in the Carnauba wax and testing it till you have the consistency you desire. Using half your finished product, is, in my opinion, the wiser choice, in case something goes wrong and you are not happy with your extra twirly compound. If you have a little experience with these processes, and are comfortable with a water-bath full of containers and ingredients, by all means, feel free to create the product in one shot.

One further thought on keeping it simple is, you could try to do it all in one go, with all the original “Solid Mustache Wax” ingredients in your water bath, and simply switch out your tree saps for Carnauba wax. I HAVE NOT tried this! Personally I am very attached to using saps in my Mustache wax. But since nothing is written in stone, you could try using Carnauba instead of pine or Spruce sap. If anyone does try this, I would be very interested to hear how it turned out for them.

That’s it folks! If you want to have a great mustache wax, and take it up a notch. Use Carnauba wax in your formula. The Carnauba has little to no fragrance, So when you get your mustache wax smelling exactly the way you want it, the Carnauba will add its magic in the texture, hold and endurance department.

And remember to always, always take notes! Your future self will thank you.

Stainless Steel tins for Mustache Wax-1oz. & 2 oz. $2.00 each
Stainless Steel tins for Mustache Wax-1oz. & 2 oz.

Dan

Tins for Mustache Wax 2&4 Oz.
Tins for Mustache Wax 2&4 Oz.

 

 

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Witch Hazel, Healer in the deep dark woods.

Witch Hazel-Hamamelis Virginiana, Hamilton Ontario May 2013
Witch Hazel-Hamamelis Virginiana, Hamilton Ontario May 2013

Being Saturday’s Child and ruled by Saturn, this last full moon was perfect for harvesting Witch Hazel leaves and twigs at their fullness, before they succumb to bugs and the wear and tear of the year. I feel a sense of delight each time I point out Witch Hazel trees, and the thrill of exposing a friend playing hide and seek. At the same time, I am always honoured such a world famous individual should thrive in my own back yard. Witch Hazel is used by millions around the world for its powerful and reliable healing properties.

There is an eerie image associated with Witch Hazel, one that obviously starts with its name. Witch Hazel is an understory tree, this means it is content to live in the shade of other more statuesque and well known sun loving trees. In this darker understory forest world, Witch Hazel strategically places leaves on each zig, and each zag of its crooked forked branches to catch as many beams of sunlight from the high forest canopy as it can. This unique crookedness adds to the feeling of eeriness that shrouds it. Reaching out like bony hands, a name that conjures images of wart nosed, child eating crones, Hazel even flowers around Halloween time when most of the trees are bare and the forest is populated by skeletons. The bravest of us might feel a twinge of panic as we are grabbed by those crooked gnarled finger branches in the dark forest dusk. Spooky. Lucky for us there is much more to this tree than its name and its appearance.

Witch Hazel Scavenging Sunlight 2013
Dweller in the understory of the forest Witch Hazel can look a little spooky in the dark, especially flowering at Halloween.

The early North American settlers were so impressed by the many medicinal uses local native tribes found for this modest shrub, they not only incorporated it in their own healing systems, but they developed new products with it, built factories to process it, and popularized its use all over Europe where it is still used by millions of people every year for a broad range of healing applications. Witch Hazel is one of the best yet gentlest astringents available. Externally and internally it tightens, tones, cools and heals. The extract and the distillate of Witch Hazel leaves, twigs and bark are used to stop bleeding, cool and reduce inflammations and swelling. A tea or decoction was used by native tribes to treat diarrhea, dysentery, amenorrhea, and as a gargle for sore throat, sore or inflamed gums or loose teeth. Witch hazel is a key ingredient in many over the counter products for hemorrhoids, piles and varicose veins. It is recommended for postpartum bleeding and soreness, diaper rash, insect bites, poison ivy, chicken pox symptoms, tired eyes, swollen eyes and bags under the eyes. It is used effectively to treat itches and rashes, cuts and scrapes, it reduces bruising and swelling from blows. It is an excellent treatment for minor burns, scalds, sunburn, windburn, chafing and chapping. Witch Hazel is one of the few natural products that can help with the pain and discomfort of varicose veins, reducing pressure and inflammation, strengthening and toning vein walls and is one of the most recommended natural remedies for easing and treating hemorrhoids, piles and the trials of childbirth. You can find Witch Hazel in anti-aging products, wrinkle cremes and acne medication, The distillate is a reliable and effective skin toner and cleanser and can be dabbed on pimples to reduce inflammation. It makes an excellent aftershave lotion, acts as a styptic to stop bleeding and heal razor cuts, and regular use may improve facial skin and reduce the likelihood of it.  I have come across it as a treatment or remedy for psoriasis and eczema. Quite a list of uses for such a modest looking shrub hiding in the shade of bigger trees in the forest!

English: A symbol of a tree (modified lead/Sat...
English: A symbol of a tree (modified lead/Saturn symbol) used in herbaries, pharmacopoeias etc. Polski: Symbol drzewa (zmodyfikowany symbol ołowiu/Saturna) stosowany w zielnikach, farmakopeach itp. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From an Astrodynamic perspective, Witch Hazel is ruled by Saturn. Saturn is the great teacher, limiter, restrictor and constrictor, setter of boundaries, rules, laws and consequences. Saturn’s energy is considered cold & dry, astringent and bitter, inward drawing, limiting and defining. It governs the slow and steady, order and form, structure and crystallization. It is obvious when looking at the qualities of Witch Hazel that there are a great many benefits and medicinal applications to all these cold, contracting, restricting and limiting energies. Even though Saturn is considered an “unlucky” planet from some astrological perspectives, It provides the perfect counterpoint when things are hot and bothered, loose or swollen, flowing, uncontrolled, itchy, scratchy and painful.

Witch Hazel, Hamamelis Virginiana- Fresh harvested Leaf & Twig-Green Medicine
Witch Hazel, Hamamelis Virginiana- Fresh harvested Leaf & Twig – Green Medicine

Hamamelis Virginiana, Winterbloom, Snap Hazel There is mostly consensus as to how Witch Hazel got its names. Though it does not belong to the Hazel tree family, there is a great similarity of its leaves and seed pods/ovums to the Hazel or Hazel nut tree. That is the straightforward part. Its first name, “Witch” is thought to come from old Saxon and middle English word-Wicce, or “Wyche”, which means “bends” or bending, flexible or “Lively” according to some sources, referring to either the suppleness and flexibility of its branches, or the gnarled, zig-zag bend to its branches at each leaf node and its raggedy zigzag flower petals. This is believed to also be the root of our word “wicker” as in basket weaving, where thin pliable strips of bark or wood are soaked in water and woven together to create baskets, tools and furniture. The word “Wicca” and the word “witch” are also thought to be derivatives of this word. That covers the English name of our tree of the day, The Latin name has its own roots and meanings. “Hamamelis Virginiana”. The Virginiana part refers to the area it grows in, eastern united states from Florida up to Ontario and I believe into Quebec and Nova Scotia. The first part of its name, “Hamamelis” is theorized to come from 2 Latin words, Hama, “at the same time”, or “together with”, and Mela meaning “Fruit”, referring to another of the Witch Hazels unique qualities, that it flowers, (Fragrant!), in the fall/winter, while releasing its “fruit” of the last season.. Flower and Fruit  at the same time, Hama-Melis.

Witch hazel in the snow

This fall/ winter flowering has also given rise to another name for Witch Hazel which is “Winterbloom”. Witch Hazel has another very unique attribute portrayed by another of its names, “Snapping Hazel” When the seed pods mature they release the seeds with a loud popping or snapping sound and shoot them a great distance, from 10 to 20 feet away from the tree.This is indeed a very unusual looking and behaving tree. However we are not done extolling the virtues and the idiosyncrasies of this modest shrub. Another of the unique qualities attributed to Witch Hazel is its usefulness for dowsing. This method of looking for water hidden underground has also been called “Water Witching“. and Witch Hazel has either gained her name, or lent her name to this activity from being so well suited and so often used when “witching for water”. Which Witch is which, and which came first, we will never know.

Witch Hazel leaves, similar in shape and size to Hazel tree leaves 2013- Ontario
Witch Hazel leaves, similar in shape and size to Hazel tree leaves . It is thought that traditional dowsing found its birth in 14th century Germany and has flourished,(controversially), since. Different materials have been used over time for dowsing and the art of dowsing has not been limited to the discovery of subterranean water. Dowsing has been applied to the search for precious ores and minerals, Petroleum oil, lost objects, treasure and really anything else that one might need to find. For the purpose of dowsing for water, Witch Hazel, willow, apple and peach tree branches were/are among the most popular.

According to historical records, it seems that our current methods of water dowsing, (Wyching or witching), were developed in the mid 1400’s. Dowsing gained enough of a popular following that it was banned by the Church in Germany. At the time, forked branches from trees such as ash, elm, Hazel and willow were used to divine the whereabouts of underground water sources, mineral ores and treasure. Since then, there has been much research done on the accuracy of dowsing, to determine whether it is a science, art or hoax. I think there are still ongoing studies and experiments and there may always be.

Modern day Dowsing rods.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Traditional dowsing or divining rods are made by taking a fork in the branch so one has a Y shape. The two arms of the Y are each held in a hand with thumbs pointing outward and the main, connecting axis upright. When one comes in proximity to that which one is seeking, the main the rod bends or bobs downward towards the item that one is dowsing for. Variations abound on the shape and material of dowsing rods. One of the simplest and most popular designs now days is the use of two pieces of wire, or coat hangers, each bent in an L shape,each with a long and a short side, with the short side held loosely in ones fist while the long ( receptive ) gently rests on the side of ones forefinger. A pivot point is found which balances both rods parallel to each other and creates a delicate status quo where they can swing dramatically towards or away from each other at the slightest disturbance. Whether these disturbances are caused by external energetic influences, or internal impulses that direct the rods is an ongoing debate. Similar in some ways to divining with a pendulum, any one can try dowsing, and divining with a pendulum and decide the validity of these methods for themselves.

Witch Hazel-Hamamelis Virginiana, Hamilton Ontario May 2013
Witch Hazel-Hamamelis Virginiana, Hamilton Ontario May 2013
Getting back to the healing properties of the Witch Hazel tree, we are very lucky to have such a versatile healing resource in our back yard. Every year or two, I harvest a modest amount of twig and leaf and prepare some medicine. This year it is a batch of Witch Hazel oil for cremes and salves, a water based extract that has all the tannins, bitter principals, flavonoids and anti-oxidants in it, and a distilled aqueous extract preserved with the alcohol from the infusion, which brings with it the essential oils and any other volatile components. The tannins and flavonoids are left behind in the maceration to be separated and used in a creme and liniment. Another unusual fact about Witch Hazel is that the distilled product one purchases at the store does not contain any tannins, which are considered the main astringent compounds in the leaf and twigs, yet the distillate of Witch Hazel does a great job of being a powerful and gentle astringent without them! It reminds me a bit of the “Magic” of Homeopathy. Why? How? It just does.

Fine cut Witch Hazel Leaves before addition of alcohol/water,maceration prior to distillation.
Fine cut Witch Hazel Leaves before addition of alcohol/water for maceration prior to distillation.
Witch Hazel, Olive oil maceration or infusion. a base for for cremes and salves.
Witch Hazel, Olive oil maceration or infusion. a base for for cremes and salves.

p So… Here,(on the left), is the maceration in preparation for distillation of Witch Hazel. After collecting the distillate and adjusting it to 14% alcohol, the remaining aqueous solution will be pressed out of the maceration and used in cremes and liniments for Acne, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, etc..This solution is full of all the obviously astringent, antioxidant and healing compounds found in the leaf and twigs of the tree. Besides tannins, bioflavonoids resins and essential oils, Witch Hazel leaf, twigs and bark contain many other important phytochemicals. Here is a link to further information on its chemical constituents. The photo on the right is of the oleous extract macerating. It too will be used for external applications similar to and sometimes combined with the aqueous solution in light water oil emulsion cremes. A tea & a tincture are available for internal use when recommended by a healthcare professional.

When this years Witch Hazel products are ready and on the shop shelves I will post links to them here if anyone would like to purchase and try them.

Witch Hazel Maceration in alcohol/distilled water. After distilling off the alcohol, essential oils and some of the water, we will have a medicinal liquid full of flavinoids, tanins,anti-oxidents.
Witch Hazel Maceration in alcohol/distilled water. After distilling off the alcohol, essential oils and some of the water, we will have a rich healing solution full of flavonoids, tannins, anti-oxidents and more. A wonderful base for a variety of healing cremes, salves and liniments all available in the Shop.

Dan

Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/commercial-preparations-of-sandalwood-oil#ixzz2UWDe1eos

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An update on Candied Wild Ginger

After writing the post on Candied Wild Ginger, I couldn’t help but make some for myself. Partly because I am a perfectionist, and had to make sure the recipe worked properly, but also because the thought of making another mouth-watering batch was too hard to resist.

50 Grams of Wild Ginger Whole pieces.
50 Grams of Wild Ginger Whole pieces.

I also wanted to see exactly how much I would end up with if I used a 50 gram package like  the standard size I sell in my shop. It wouldn’t hurt sales to show folks the result. What these dry but fragrant sticks can transform into with a bit of kitchen Alchemy. It does yield more than one would assume.

Basically 50 grams dried Wild Ginger gave me 250 grams  of reconstituted material, and once candied, the quantity increased further.      I also made a batch from 100 grams dried Wild ginger. Unfortunately I didn’t hide it well enough, it slowly diminished, a bit, daily, almost hourly, so I couldn’t get an accurate photo of how much Candied Wild Ginger 100 grams  gave me.

Wild Ginger sitting and becoming one with its sugar.
Wild Ginger sitting and becoming one with its sugar. not being well hidden, it shrank in quantity daily.

I don’t begrudge anyone in the house,(Currently 5 roommates), it really is a challenge to walk by and not take just one little piece that no one will notice.

Candied Wild Ginger draining after boiling in sugar syrup
Candied Wild Ginger after boiling in sugar syrup, draining well before covering in sugar

If you figure everyone does it a couple of times a day,,, well you can guess the result. I am happy it is such a success  and that I at least got an exact photo record of how much one gets from 50 grams. Needless to say the recipes were perfect. It takes about one full cup of white sugar to coat each 50 grams, and after packing all the Candied Wild Ginger in a nice jar, you add the leftover sugar to your syrup and give it a 10 minute boil before bottling it up. There is an elegance there that appeals to me.

Candied Wild Ginger and Pancake Syrup from 50 grams dried Wild Ginger
Candied Wild Ginger and Pancake Syrup from 50 grams dried Wild Ginger. Yumm.

P.S. For all of you in the physical ,(Hamilton Ontario Canada) neighborhood, tomorrow (Saturday), morning from 9:00 AM till Noon I will be at the Apothecary’s Garden at the Teaching Gardens in Churchill Park, along with anyone who can make it for our first Saturday Workparty of the season. We will be opening the gardens for the season, preparing for the plant giveaway, and making plans for how to best take care of the “Plant Lovers Garden” till we can organize an official renovation with the city. Hope to see you all there.

Dan

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9 Tips- for making a Kick Ass Wildflower Wine

Now is the season, the possibilities of this years bounty are starting to bubble up in our minds. Wild wines, Jams, Jellies, confections and preserves, fritters and frittatas. Wild Mushrooms and May-apples. SPRING is here! Symbol of potential and new beginnings, new endeavors. so let’s get started.

Experience has shown me a good recipe is only part of the work, and often not as important to the result as HOW we go about making our wildcrafted delicacies. Since Dandelion Wine is one of the first Wild wines we can make, and in many North American areas, there is still time to make it, I will use Dandelion Wine as our example. These TIPS can be applied to all your planned productions from Mother Natures Bounty each season and year.

Dandelion Wine is a Spring tradition internationally. More than just a beverage. It can capture the essence of the season, and since it should sit for a few months to mature, you shouldn’t really drink it till Winter. Yule or Christmas or Chanukah time, capturing a taste and memory of springs light and warmth to savour during the dreary cold dark and dead of winter.

A pest and a blessing. Love them or hate them, either way we simply have to live with them. As persistent and adaptable as the proverbial cockroach, they are going nowhere, and we will never be rid of them, so might as well embrace them in all their bitter, medicinal, sweet and sunny glory.

dandelion
dandelion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are hundreds of recipes for Home made Dandelion Wine. I can’t tell you which is the best. I am sure every year there are more being developed as more people explore making it, and with the speed and proficiency of internet communication there are probably more wonderful recipes being posted as I write this. Whatever recipe you use, these tips are guaranteed to take it to a whole new level!!

– Not all Dandelions are equal .When it comes to making Dandelion Wine. You can’t just chop down any Dandelion flower at any time of the year in any place willy nilly so to speak and expect to make a superb wine. One dandelion is not the same as all other dandelions! First of all, if we are going to use them for our dandelion wine, we need to wait for them. That’s right.

–If you want Wild Mushrooms, you hunt them.

–If you want Dandelions for wine, you wait for them. Seriously.

1- Wait patiently , keep your eye open for where and when they will rise, you know where they will appear. Because you have noticed them,(consciously or not), year after year while your subconscious toyed with the idea of making something with that abundance that seems to be wasted. You are a creative spirit. Have all your tools, materials and vessels ready and sterilized, and a place ,(kitchen?), to do your magic planned. Be prepared!

2 – What is it that you are waiting for? You are waiting for that first county-wide Yellow Shout of Spring Joy from the earth, and that big outward push of those Dandy Lions from the sweet loins of mother nature en mass. That is the sweet spot!. There is usually only one per year. And it is worth waiting for! It could last two weeks, or it could only last a few days before a run of cold cloudy rainy weather puts a damper on it. There will be no more of a glorious or perfect a time to harvest Dandelion flowers for wine than this. Period. Sure, there will be more Dandelion flowers all summer long, and yes you could make dandelion wine at some later point in the season. But y’know what? It simply won’t be the same, and you will never know it unless you try this out.

English: Dead Football Ground with Dandelions,...
English: Dead Football Ground with Dandelions, Barnsley, Shropshire The building is the former changing rooms (home team this end, please!). A set of goal posts still leans against one wall. Dandelion wine makers, please take note. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So,,.Do enjoy Spring, relax and breath it in, take a few days to let that warm spring glow take the winter chill out of your bones, but DON’T miss that first yellow window! Seriously, when I do miss that first virgin big yellow swath of dandelioness everywhere, I will most often just wait till the next spring and say, “oh well, it wasn’t meant to be”. That’s how important it is. Having a good recipe is only one part of making the best Dandelion wine.

English: Dandelion clocks near Long Itchington...
TOO LATE!!!
English: Dandelion clocks near Long . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3 – If you can, try to harvest on a SUNDAY. Start as close after dawn as you can. Astrologically this is the day of the Sun and The hour of the Sun. (about an hour and a half to two and a half depending on which system you use for division of Planetary hours), and you only really have to initiate the harvest then, you don’t have to complete your harvest within this time frame. Astrologically, Dandelions are ruled by the Sun. (As are Calendula, and St. John’s Wort). So from an Astrodynamic perspective they are energetically at their peak and prime, resonating and ripe, in happy harmony ,( vigorous and vibrant) at this time. Timing is everything. You can tell, if you look for it. There is an extra vibrancy and glow to them. It is not random, and it’s not your imagination.

astrological glyphs, planetary rulerships.
Astrological Glyphs- Planets and Asteroids -Chaldean. Planets and their dynamics with each other and our world are one element at the core of Astrodynamics and Plant Alchemy.,(ignore the Asteroids for now). Each Plant is associated with an astrological sign, planet or both. As is each day, Monday-the Moon, Tuesday-Mars etc., and each “Station” of the Moon as she goes through a Lunar cycle is ruled by a different sign of the Zodiac..

There are other Astrological conditions that you could take into account, but if you are not familiar with the energetic connection between plants and planets, Astrological rulerships, Planetary hours and the basics of Plant Alchemy, this is a great place to start. Especially since you may not have a wide window of time to work with. Does working with plants according to their astrological rulerships make a noticeable difference in quality? I believe so. But,, you will have to try it and find out for yourself.It’s just one of those things. Esoteric, because you have to experience it from the inside to know it. Experience it first hand, first person. It is not exoteric knowledge, learned from the outside as most knowledge is transmitted to us.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday would be second best choices, ruled by Mercury, Jupiter and Venus in that order. Here is a link to a great site that is a primer for Astrodynamics, Planetary Rulerships, and Plant Alchemy, check it out ,http://humanityhealing.net/2012/08/astrology-and-the-use-of-herbs/

4 – Morning Dew Often, when harvesting herbs for drying, it is important to pick when the dew is dried from them, to avoid encouraging mold and other organisms while they are drying.. When harvesting flowers for wine, you do not have to wait till all the dew has dried off, morning dew is a unique ingredient. So don’t shake it off. If you have it, keep it..

5 – Find a spot where where there is an obvious abundance of Dandelions, an area rich in whatever it is that Dandelions thrive on. Physically and energetically. Don’t get too close to busy roadways where pollution from exhausts might have seeped into the ground, or anywhere there might be a chance herbicides or pesticides may have been used, and stay away from areas that may have been home to, or down hill from old industrial buildings or old land fill sites. Stay away from areas sparsely populated by Dandelion, go for the gusto! There is a reason they grow so thickly in some areas.

6 – Harvest them by hand.. not with scissors or knives. Also, If you have helpers, get someone to do the picking, and someone to nip off all the stubs of stems and anything green that is still attached. (Kids are great at this).The green parts are not needed or desired for wine and will only reduce the colour and add their own flavour. We only want the flavour of the flower. Thumbnails work perfectly for harvesting most flowers.

7 – Since you are taking something, always give something back. Whether something physical that is of benefit to the land or plant, a gesture, or something symbolic. Give and receive. Balance. Nature is big on balance. It is a law you can count on. Like Karma.

8 – Make sure all your bottles, spoons, funnels etc. are clean and sterile, if you can’t boil them then use sodium metabisulfite, a standard preservative and sterilizing chemical available in all wine and beer making supply stores. Follow the instructions for using it. It is very, very important to keep everything clean and not introduce any organisms other than the yeast we are intentionally adding.

9 –. USE WILD GINGER I always add Wild Ginger to every wine I make! I am constantly impressed with the magic it performs and the flavours it adds without being obvious or obtrusive in any way. And I am not just trying to perk up sales of Wild Ginger from my shop either. Wild Ginger lends rich character and depth to a wine. It is absolutely transformative. To any wine. Perhaps due to the complexity of its oils and resins. I have heard historically in old Europe, Clary Sage was used for a similar purpose to create “Muscatel” Wine. Clary Sage is also an herb endowed with essential oils ,(in flower), and resins, (on the stem). About a teaspoon to a teaspoon and a half of ground dried Wild Ginger to each gallon,(4 liters) of liquid. I have found this especially benefits floral wines that need body to compliment their lighter and more ethereal spirit.

A treat for the senses, Wild Ginger, Asarum Canadenses offers infinite delights in the kitchen and Perfume studio.
A treat for the senses, Wild Ginger, Asarum Canadenses offers infinite delights in the kitchen and Perfume studio.

So those are the basics of How to make a kick ass Dandelion Wine, You can use these tips with every wild wine you make, and adapt them to all your foraging forays and wildcrafting projects. Here is a simple recipe. One I hope will suit first timers as well as the practiced maker of wild wines. it can be doubled, tripled or halved. It includes a secondary fermentation which many of the old recipes do not include, but I have I found it refines your end product considerably. making it dryer, crisper, clearer and higher in alcohol content. If you find it too complex as a beginner, you will find many simpler and good recipes online. Take what you can from these tips and incorporate them in your project. Start small.

Remember to Always take notes!!! I can’t stress this enough!! Quantities, ingredients, variations from a recipe, observations, times, dates, and keep them somewhere safe for next year. This is really important and if you do keep diligent notes, I guarantee your future self will thank you! If you already have your favourite recipe, try out the tips and let me know how this seasons wines turned out for you.

MY BEST DANDELION WINE RECIPE

(Makes about 12 liters of Dandelion Wine)

  • 3 Kilograms of cleaned Dandelion flowers.
  • 12 Liters, (quarts) of water.
  • 4 Kilograms sugar, brown or white.
  • 2 cups white seedless Raisins chopped fine, (or an extra cup of sugar).
  • 2 whole large washed Oranges, seeded and either put through the blender or chopped fine.
  • 1 whole, washed Lemon,same as above.
  • 6 whole clove pieces
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons dried and powdered Wild Ginger or 60 grams,(2 oz.) fresh & chopped.
  • 1 packet wine making yeast, or 1 tablespoon regular bread making yeast.
  • 1 cup lukewarm water.
  • 1 food grade white plastic bucket 15 liters capacity,(standard restaurant size used for liquids and muffin mixes, grape juice for wine etc.
  • Large pot that will boil 15 liters.
  • Old and clean Pillowcase.
  • Clear plastic hose for “racking”,(transferring the wine out of containers without the must).
  • Large funnel, and or colander that will sit firmly on top of your bucket.
  • one medium wine making carboy 12-15 liters.
  • or -3 to 4-1 gallon narrow mouthed glass jugs. The kind hot sauce and vinegar come to restaurants. Easy to find on recycling day.
  • Beer or wine bottles with corks or caps.
  • Sodium Metabisulfite for sterilizing. Available at most brew your own shops and anywhere that wine making supplies are sold. Follow directions!
  • All vessels and tools must be sterile.
  • Collect and prepare your Dandelion flowers as directed above.
  • Bring water to a boil,
  • Add flowers, water, sugar, oranges, lemon, cloves, wild ginger, raisins
  • Bring back to a boil for 1/2 hour, simmering on low and covered.
  • Let it sit covered to cool, until it is just cool enough to handle.
  • Pour and strain into plastic bucket through a clean washed pillowcase, or through a colander lined with doubled cheese cloth, nothing beats a pillowcase especially for wringing out the liquid and keeping larger particles from passing into your wine. the colander is just a precaution, and to support the weight, ( ideally find one that your bucket supports, or put the colander in a funnel that sits firmly on the rim of your bucket, or just use a large funnel and sit your pillowcase in it.)
  • Press whatever liquid you can through the pillowcase or cheese cloth. (Make sure your hands are washed and clean first).
  • When liquid is room temperature or a little warmer. Take one cup of liquid, (using a clean or sterile utensil), add it your cup of lukewarm water and stir in the yeast. Let sit for 5-10 minutes or until yeast starts “working”, (it will start creating fizzing or frothing).
  • Add yeast mixture to liquid in plastic bucket, cover with a clean cloth or a clean towel, (tie or use rubber band around the rim so it does not sag and come into contact with the liquid), and let sit for 1 or 2 weeks at room temperature undisturbed or until you can hear no more fizzing.
  • Note, if you do not hear fizzing within 24 hours of adding yeast. Put your liquid back in the pot, boil for 10 minutes, cover, wait for it to cool enough to just above body temperature and go through the process of adding your yeast again.
  • After a week or two, when your wine has stopped “working” or fizzing, “rack” it to a sterile carboy or to your sterile one gallon glass jugs if you don’t have a large narrow necked glass carboy. Racking in wine lingo means siphoning off your clear wine from the must that has settled on the bottom. Pouring it out would just mix in the must and carry its taste over.
  • Keeping a minimum of space between the top of your liquid and the top of the bottle is helpful. If needed add room temperature boiled water to bring liquid level up to 3 to 4 inches from the lip in a gallon jug and 6 to 7 inches in a large carboy.
  • Add CO2 locks, From a wine supply store, about $1.00 each. Or a piece of balloon rubber pulled tightly over the opening and tied, with a couple of pin holes in it for gas to escape and keep organisms out. Let sit, undisturbed in a cool dark place for secondary fermentation. Cool basements are ideal for this.
  • Wait 4-6 weeks, then siphon the wine off the must again, but this time into your sterile bottles.( Note; For those more experienced with wine making, you can do whatever you like at this point. You can put it back in a sterile carboy and continue your secondary fermentation, rack it as often as you like, pump it through a filter, play with the sugar/alcohol content, flavouring etc.)
  • Cork, cap and set aside till December at the earliest.

In December, open, decant, and have a taste of Spring in the middle of Winter.

Remember to keep CLEAR notes. Your future self will thank you.

Dan

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  • Country wine basket
    Country wine basket (Photo credit: wchuang
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Frankincense & Myrrh, a Theory on Holistic Tinctures

A Thought on the holistic tincturing of oleo-resins.

Each type of Oleo-Gum-Resin such as Myrrh, Opoponax, Mastic, the many types of Frankincense etc., contain different proportions of water-soluble gum and alcohol soluble oleo-resins, (resins and volatile oils).

I propose that when one of these Oleo-gum-resins is tinctured to extract its medicinal constituents and properties, that the 2 solvents used for tincturing, be in the same ratio to each other, as the ratio of gum to oleo-resins in the material being tinctured.

Frankincense, Boswellia Papyrifera 60 grams. An oleo-gum-resin
Frankincense, Boswellia Papyrifera 60 grams. An oleo-gum-resin. Has a different percentage of gum to resin than Boswellia Rivae.

In a traditional medicinal, water/alcohol tincture, the gums are dissolved by the water, the oleo resins by the ethanol,(alcohol). What is left over after this extraction is mainly bark and other insoluble extraneous organic material. (Spagyric tinctures often put this to good use). The point of tincturing is to extract as much of the soluble active medicinal components as possible. Ideally exhausting the material by transferring all its chemical constituents to the medicine, while preserving any preexisting synergistic effects between them.

Considering that all parts of these natural Oleo-Gum-Resin exudates, (saps), contain valuable chemical constituents and compounds, and if there is no reason to isolate or change the natural composition of the material, it would  be a more efficacious  medicine if preserved as close to its natural state as possible

Myrrh tree, Myrrh Oleo-Resin, Ogaden region of Ethiopia. Photo courtesy of Ermias Dagne
Myrrh tree, Myrrh Oleo-Resin, Ogaden region of Ethiopia. Photo courtesy of Ermias Dagne

I propose that the best way to create a water/alcohol tincture that is true to its source material, is by using the same ratio of water to ethanol as the plant material exhibits in its ratio of gum to oleo-resin. That this is the only way to accurately migrate  the whole material authentically, with its inherent medicinal potency, and any “synergy” that is naturally present in the original material.

Boswellia, Frankincense Papyrifera. Gum, Resin and volatile oils.
“Solve'” applied to Boswellia Papyrifera. The triad is separated into its 3 components. Gum(on right), Resin, (on left), in solution, and essential oil. (Not in  their naturally occurring proportions ).

Thus, if a sample of Myrrh oleo-gum-resin contains 60% gum and 40% oleo-resins, and a Tincture was made using 100% ethanol, it would only extract the resins and volatile oils. It would have a negligible amount of water-soluble gum. Certainly nothing close to the gum to oleo-resin proportions found in the original material. One would assume this extraction would not offer the same medicinal effects as the whole oleo-gum-resin. 1- Because the water-soluble gum contains   chemical constituents that have medicinal value on their own. And 2- because whatever effects the synergy of the whole material had in its natural form, would be lost.

Myrrh is a common resin in the Horn of Africa.
Myrrh is a common resin in the Horn of Africa. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to this method, a solvent mix composed of 20% alcohol and 80% water would not extract a tincture that was representative of the original material either. Rather it would contain more gum than oleo-resins than the original Myrrh. The same could be said of any other combination of these two solvents other than a combination of water to alcohol that reflected as closely as possible the actual proportions of gum to oleo-resin found in the material tinctured.

Some types of Frankincense contain very little gum, such as Boswellia Frereana.  As low as 0. 5%-0.1%, see AritiHerbal table of Extractability of Boswellia Resin. Other types of Frankincense have greater proportions of gum to oleo-resin. According to this theory of holistic tincturing,  the unique qualities inherent in each oleo-gum-resin, can only be  reproduced in a tincture if the natural ratio of gum to oleo resin in the source material is reflected accurately in the ratio of water to alcohol in the tincturing solvent. One could assume it would keep the same natural synergy in the original material intact by keeping all the chemical constituents in the same relative proportion to each other in the finished product or tincture.

Boswellia, Frankincense Frereana. Called Yeminite chewing gum.
Containing almost no water-soluble gum, Frankincense Frereana does not dissolve when masticated, for this reason it is used as a chewing gum and can be purchased under the name “Yemenite chewing gum”. It is composed mainly of resin and essential oils.

I am not a trained scientist, nor do I have access to the instruments that would put this theory of holistic tincturing to the test.  I don’t know if this makes sense to anyone besides myself, or if there is any corroborating research out there to support this theory, but I would Love to hear any opinions, conflicting or supporting.

Dan

As an addendum ,( written a month or two after this post), I need to add that after thought, contemplation, examination and the occasional dream, I realize there may be one other way to extract all of the essential oils, resin and gum from these oleo-gum resins. The one way they could be extracted in their entirety and with their naturally occurring proportions intact, without a knowledge of their inherent gum-resin-oil ratios is, If  a “disproportionately large” amount of alcohol/water is used for the extraction. So instead of making a 1:5 or 1:6 tincture with 1 being the oleo-gum-resin, something like a 1:10 tincture could be prepared. using much more water than the quantity of gum required, and much more alcohol than the oleo-resin required. In this way all the components could be extracted. However…the obvious drawback, is that there would be a much higher quantity of liquid and a lower proportion of oleo-gum-resin. So it can be done, but with a price. In a way, cheating a bit. This 1:10 ratio tincture, though containing all the soluble and desired parts of the material, would be very weak, which is not ideal and I see no finesse, or advantage to it. It would be very very difficult, if even possible, to remove the excess solvents without losing some of the volatile oils.

Since I am on the topic I will take this opportunity to raise a point that I will address in greater detail  in a future post. Lately there has been a lot of talk about the healing properties of Boswellic acid found in Boswellia Sacra. Though much important research has been done on the different types of Frankincense, and Boswellic acid does show great promise as an anti-inflammatory and antitumor, among other important applications,  it is not a volatile  or essential oil . Which means little, if any Boswellic acid is found in the essential oil of Boswellia Sacra/Carterii.  Whatever Boswellic acid is present in the oleo-gum-resins of some of the members of the Boswellia family, resides  in the resin part, not in the “Oil”, and is not normally extracted with the essential oils. If a  company claims that its essential oil of Frankincense Sacra has a “high percentage  of Boswellic acid, then one should ask, how did it get there??

Food for thought.

Dan