Medicinal Teas and Tinctures: A Passion for Potion-Making

We’re embarking on a new product line here at The Great Full Garden…and like most things I do, it comes with a story.

The only science project I ever put all my heart into was one I failed miserably at.

In 5th grade? Maybe 6th. For the science fair I went all out and tried to create my own perfume. It was different than what all my friends were doing. At that age I even had trouble identifying it as science and spent a lot of time justifying my experiment to teachers, who, looking back on it, were absolutely charmed and encouraging…

The thing is, in 5th grade, the internet was just beginning, and perfumery books on a 5th grade level were not plentiful in my tiny town…so I did the best I could, and experimented with boiling different flowers in water.

I came up with some interesting brown waters. None of them smelled like anything in particular and I felt like a failure. I don’t even remember what grade I got because the grade didn’t matter. I went into the project thinking I was gonna end up with THE great new fragrance and when that didn’t happen…my little 5th or 6th grade heart stopped.

I pushed that memory of failure deep down inside. The next year I did something on Solar Systems…it was good, got an A, I felt successful yadda-yadda-yadda…but the solar system project lacked passion. It lacked experimentation. I knew it did, but I just wanted to feel like I had done something WORTH doing.

As an adult I bring up that memory as I sit in my kitchen trying out different salve combinations. What feels too oily, what doesn’t last long? If I take this catnip tincture right before bed will my arthritis not bother me as much? What about the milk thistle.

And so that’s the point of this post tonight. I have reawakened my 5th grade soul. I’m dabbling and mixing. Smelling, pouring, shaking. I’m having a great time and there’s no real deadline. I’ve got the internet, more access to books, access to different ingredients, including alcohol, which is actually pretty important if you’re going to be extracting plant “stuff”–yes, that’s my scientific term.

The result of this new found love is that I’ve got some awesome salves, some tinctures and some tried and true medicinal teas for sale. The herbs are locally grown, the oils are organic, and I’m working on sourcing organic alcohol, in bulk, for a decent price…because right now the local liquor store just thinks Geoff (my husband) is REALLY into Everclear.

I’ll be getting a list together soon, and keep an eye out for the events page to keep track of where I’ll be throughout the month. These are way better than my 5th grade, limited ability, no-smell perfumes. I’ve got a powerful medicine tea which I turn to in case of exposure to sickness, or actual sickness. I’ve got catnip tincture, milk thistle tincture, feverfew tincture…I’ve got a calendula/chamomile/comfrey salve that’ll work equally well on dry hands as it will on chapped baby bottoms. I’ve got lip balm and I’m working on a tinted version. I feel like a mad scientist. Except it’s all about love. Crazy love scientist…that’s me.

early summer herbs
Just the beginning, I’ve got waaay more things brewing since this was taken.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Starting plants for Autumn…


It took me a few years to get a fall garden going. Every year I THOUGHT about it, but it just never happened. I might harvest a few loose beets, or keep my kales, collards and chard going until frost. But to replant peas? Replanting all the greens? Lettuces. Resowing some last minute sunflowers and marigolds? Never happened.

Part of it was that I was pretty intimidated by trying to start seeds in such hot weather. Would they burst forth from the partitioned potting soil but then wither and die in the heat? I hate seeing plants die. I hate it so much that I hand sow tiny seeds one at a time so that I don’t have to “thin” little seedlings. A neutral word that really describes plucking little living plantlets out of existence.  (Yes I realize how “out there” that sounds.)

So actually getting down to the nitty gritty of planting a fall garden was intimidating. But I knew if I ever wanted to taste brussells sprouts kissed by frost (cause that’s what they need to taste best) then I needed to buckle down and start some seeds…mid-august. When it’s hot. Like, really hot. All winter when starting plants I worry about how I’ll keep them warm enough to germinate. In the summer, it’s about not letting the heat bother those little plants so much that they become leggy. Which means shading them. Which also runs the risk of them becoming leggy.

At this point these little plants actually DO need more attention than my kids. (joke.)

So I ignored  my irrational fears of failure for the fall garden and I figured out that they are just as easy to start as a regular ol’ springtime garden. The key here is timing. Because even though it’s hot, with a little care you can avoid losing plants to the heat. What you can’t avoid (without a greenhouse or cold frame) is the KILLING FROST.  It’s as dangerous as it sounds. So being two weeks late on sowing seeds for fall harvest is just not acceptable. Good timing is your savior for the fall garden.

This year I’m sowing ton of greens, chicory for springtime flowering as well as marigolds and sunflowers that will hopefully give me some color all the way to Thanksgiving (a girl can dream, right?). Also, more calendula and chamomile for some medicinal tinctures and salves. (I’ll write more on that soon.)  Lastly a burst of annual herbs like fennel, basil, tulsi, dill, cilantro and more, to stock my kitchen before winter really sets in.

I’ll have plenty of extra starter plants for your fall garden too. It’s easy! And you won’t have the pressure of keeping tiny cold-loving seedlings alive in August. Which means more fun for you. 🙂

Happy planting!