Winter calls us to the roots: making root tinctures, and moving inward
Last weekend, I gathered the last of the lemon balm and peppermint to brew teas, knowing the rest of the herbs would be taken by the wintery weather that blew in this week.
Now, after the first two nights of hard frost, I'll turn my attention to harvesting medicinal roots–which reach peak potency as they send their energy below the ground in the cold season.
For many years, I had an arrangement with several nearby organic farmers that after the frosts I would dig out their yellow dock, dandelion and burdock roots–all deep immune herbs, supporting the liver and kidneys. They were always glad to see the weeds go, roots and all!
10 step recipe to make your own herbal tincture from medicinal roots
- Harvest the roots by digging a ring or trench around the root, scooping out the soil a little bit at a time until you can gently ease the root out.
- Look through the roots and discard damaged parts.
- Wash the roots to remove all dirt (note: only wash roots when creating a tincture)
- Chop the roots with a knife or put in a blender with the alcohol.
- Fill a jar to the top with the plant material, packed tight.
- Fill the jar to the top again, with 100-proof vodka, and cap.
- Label the jar—eg, Dandelion root, 100 pf vodka, 12/3/2020.
- Top off the liquid level the next day
- Leave your tincture brewing on your counter for six weeks.
- Strain out the plant material
Now you have your own homemade herbal medicine tincture!~ Store the tincture in a cabinet out of direct sunlight (or an amber bottle); potency will be retained for at least 3-5 years.
The call to go inward
The plants aren't the only ones called back to the roots at this time of year. As wild as I am about the lush herbal growth in spring and summer, my favorite time of the year is this season, between Halloween and winter solstice.
As the Earth's cycles naturally move away from creating and producing, we feel a tug toward a place of reflection, restoration, and self care—to rest and replenish our energetic reserves as the plants do, in their roots under the ground.
The long nights and colder weather beckon us to go inward too. That inward pull runs contrary to the hustle and bustle of the holidays when there is so much pressure to be outward and focused on others.
This year the pace already feels slower, with fewer gatherings. With all the difficulty, loss, sadness, missing, and uncertainty that may go along with that.
How might we respond to the call inward? I like to take a few moments alone in the early morning or at the end of the day to center and let my mind rest. Some days I take a walk out in nature to hear what the plants are saying–I find movement always brings calm in troubled times.
In the evenings I dim the lights and put on music that quiets my insides as I wrap up my day. Making sleep a priority is my #1 strategy for self care–my family often hears me say that sleep is my source of happiness!
What are the ways you “get away”? What brings you back to calm? What helps to rejuvenate you when you are feeling depleted and empty? What small steps can you take to add a bit more rest into your days and nights?
Corinna Wood, teacher of the Wise Woman Tradition for 30 years–from herbs to self love
"I became an herbalist in the Wise Woman Tradition at the tender age of 22, initiated by Susun Weed and a beloved patch of nettles. Today, I support women with earth-based, woman-centered tools to ground you in your own innate wisdom, needs and desires. My teachings draw on earth wisdom of our foremothers–the shoulders on which we stand–to navigate the challenges we face as women in the world today."