Medicine Workshop | SustenanceNW
Supplies Plan Liniments Infused Oil Balm Tinctures Toothpaste Cold/flu syrup Tea Alcohol Honey Paste Kombucha

Personal supplies list

  • Lunch / snacks.
  • Weather-appropriate clothing.
  • Half a dozen or so bottles and jars.
  • Apron, or clothes you can get oily/waxy.
  • Mug for drinking decoctions & teas. Yum!
  • Any of the A WAY HOME medicines you’ve harvested and want to contribute.

Group supplies list

Things to bring if convenient, best case we have too many, worst case we make do with what we have! :)

  • Wire mesh colanders
  • Ladle, stirring spoons
  • Pots (1 gallon pots are awesome, so are multiple gallon stock pots)
  • Camp stove that can hold a heavy pot
  • Heavy duty blender (willing to use on sticks)
  • Immersion blender
  • Spice grinder
  • Folding tables
  • Hand clippers
  • Veggie peelers


  • Set up our workspace
  • Do some autonomous medicine (breathing, movement)
  • Go over the medicine list - demonstrate some basic techniques, and answer questions.
  • Combine the medicine we’ve harvested, and then split into bags for the various recipes.
  • Split into groups to work on specific medicines, and begin!
  • (At some point, rinse bottles and droppers in hot soapy water)
  • At some point gather as a whole group and work on making smoke bundles.
  • Distribute medicines, clean up and go home!



Video: Yarrow Liniment

A liniment is an alcohol extraction intended for topical use. For our liniments we will be using isopropyl alcohol. It is a rubefacient, meaning it promotes blood flow near the surface which helps bring medicines into the body. It is also a very powerful solvent, able to dissolve large quantities of aromatics and resinous constituents that are not highly water soluble.

Process: place plant materials in a blender, and cover with isopropyl alcohol. Blend well. To speed the extraction, place in a jar or other double boiler in hot water.

Bruise liniment

Willow bark/twigs, grandMother cedar leaf, Elderberry bark

Handguard liniment

Cottonwood buds, grandMother cedar leaf

Infused Oil

We can use infused oils directly on our skin, or in the nose as a nasya oil, or in the mouth for oil pulling. If plant material is dry enough, it can be infused in oil by letting it infuse for a month or two. We can also use a hot infusion to speed the process up, by using a double boiler of some kind to use hot water to heat the oil and prevent burning.

Process: we may have some oils that have already been infused, and will also make some heat infused oil.

All-purpose infused oil

Willow bark/twig, Cottonwood bud, Alder bark/twig, grandMother cedar leaf


We make balm by adding something waxy or resinous to an oil, or by heat infusing a grease that already has a suitable texture for balm. Balms are generally more convenient for skin than just oils, and can offer an extra layer of protection - the tradeoff is that once we have converted an oil into a balm, we can no longer use it as a nasya oil or for oil pulling.

Process: Warm the oil with a double boiler (or CAREFULLY directly over heat), and add beeswax. Stir well to combine. Test the texture by dipping a utensil in the balm and letting a drop or two cool. Add more wax to thicken it, or more oil to make it thin.

All-purpose balm

Willow bark/twig, Cottonwood bud, Alder bark/twig, grandMother cedar leaf


Video: Cold Oregon Grape Tincture

Video: Alder Hot Tincture

Tinctures (with alcohol or glycerin) let us make very concentrated, shelf stable medicines. These are very convenient to have on hand! A dose will often be a teaspoon or less, and they can keep good quality for years, and they are ready the instant we need them.

Folk tincture process: place plant material in a jar, filling ¾ full. Cover completely with glycerin, or high proof alcohol, and let sit for a couple months. Extraction will go faster if you shake it daily.

Quick-Cold tincture process: blend plant material thoroughly in high proof alcohol or water, and let steep for 20-60 minutes. Strain, then ideally perform a wash or percolation with high proof alcohol. If you used water in the first step, in this second step use at least as much volume of alcohol as the water you got out in the first step. Combine the two extracts.

Quick-Hot tincture process: blend plant material with water, glycerin, or high proof alcohol. Place in a jar or double boiler, cover tightly (but not in a way that will make anything explode), and GENTLY heat for a while. For herbs that have mucilage/polysaccharides/pectin, add about 20% glycerin by volume during the heating process.

Alder Tincture

Alder (quick-hot)

Hawthorn Tincture

Hawthorn (quick-hot, add 20% glycerin during heating)

Oregon Grape Tincture

Oregon Grape (quick-cold)

GrandMother Cedar Tincture

GrandMother cedar (quick-hot, add 20% glycerin during heating)


Video: Herbal Toothpaste

This is not meant to replace a toothpaste recommended by your dentist, but as a helpfully-medicated addition to your dental routine. We will use a baking soda base and moisten it with medicines just enough to form a useful paste texture.

Process: take a quarter cup of baking soda, and add about 2 tablespoons of decoction, infusion, or tincture. After that, slooooowly add more until the texture is right. If it gets too soupy, add more baking soda. Optionally, you can add bone powder - the hydroxyapatite that bone is made from helps remineralize teeth. Crush bones that have been softened by repeatedly making broth, and then grind them to powder. Try about a tablespoon of bone powder per quarter cup of baking soda, alter for personal preference.

General purpose toothpaste

Baking soda, Alder decoction, Yarrow infusion, GrandMother cedar tincture

Smoke bundles

Smoke bundles can be used for biochemically sanitizing spaces, and can also be used for ceremonial purposes. GrandMother Cedar boughs and Yarrow bunches are the most widely used for smoke among the medicines we are studying, but Alder leaves could likely be incorporated into a smoke bundle as well.

Process: ideally, use plant material that has dried somewhat, but is still soft enough to not crumble while working it. Yarrow needs to be somewhat dry, but GrandMother Cedar shrinks very little as it dries, so it can be used fresh. Make a bundle an inch or two around, and 3-12 inches long. Tightly wrap thread or small string in a spiral up the bundle, then down again, and tie it off. If the bundle loosens as it dries, the material should have been dryer or the wrapping tighter.

Cleansing, energizing smoke bundle

GrandMother Cedar leaves

Cold/flu syrup

Our bodies need various kinds of support when we are facing an infection that produces symptoms of cold and flu. In this formulation, we have direct antiviral actions from Elderberry and GrandMother cedar. Alder helps our immune system function by helping lymph and our lymph nodes to function properly, and Elderberry, Alder, and GrandMother Cedar have polysaccharides that directly help to modulate our immune response. Willow can help relieve fever and pain, and GrandMother Cedar can help soothe the throat. After feedback from the first medicine workshop… the foundation of this formula is the Elderberry, and to a much lesser degree the Alder. The Cedar and Willow have strongly medicinal flavors, so just add a little of them. Most of the herb matter should be the Elderberries!

Process: Hydrate the elderberries by soaking with Apple Cider Vinegar for 20 minutes or so. Combine all plant material and do a quick-cold tincture process. Strain and measure. Add about twice that much water to the marc, about 20% glycerin, and about 20% honey. Simmer for about 20-60 minutes, till volume is roughly equal to the quick-cold tincture you made. Combine both extracts.

General purpose cold/flu syrup

Willow, Alder, GrandMother Cedar, Elderberry


There are endless herbal teas we can make, and a single blend can often be used for many different purposes. We will be making a tea that is generally calming and aromatic. The use of Yarrow and GrandMother Cedar means that this isn’t a tea to heavily drink on a daily basis, but daily use for a few weeks should be just fine. This tea can be helpful during a cold/flu, during periods of stress, and before/during a woman’s period.

Process: Cut/smash/crumble plant material, and mix thoroughly. Add hot water, and let steep till cool for maximum medicinal effect, but it can be drunk at any point. Use about a cup of hot water for each heaped teaspoon of tea for a regular brew, or a tablespoon for a cup of hot water for an extra strong brew.

Soothing and Aromatic Tea

Hawthorn leaf and flower, Yarrow, GrandMother Cedar


Alcohol is an extremely useful material for herbalists to wield, and making our own gives us more freedom and resilience in hard times, cost savings in good times, and greater satisfaction at any time! Distillation equipment and skills are needed to get very-high-proof alcohol, like anything about 15-20%. That is a worthy endeavor, but not one we are getting into now. It is very easy to brew low proof alcohols, in the range of 4-8% alcohol - but at that percentage, once exposed to oxygen they are liable to spontaneously convert to vinegar. Using champagne yeasts, we can also brew fairly high-proof alcohol, in the range of 12-20% alcohol. This is a sweet spot where the alcohol content is high enough to block the acetobacter fermentation into vinegar, and high enough to be a potent solvent, but low enough that we can ferment straight to it without needing distillation.

Process: Take apple juice (or other fruit juice), and add a yeast starter. Close the lid enough so that gasses can escape, but just barely. Don’t close it too tightly or it may explode! Once the bubbling is more or less stopped the fermentation is complete. At this point it will be about 5-6% alcohol. If you want to go to a higher proof, add a pound of sugar. The bubbling will start up again, and then taper off when the alcohol reaches about 12%. If you want to go even higher, add another pound of sugar, and the alcohol content may reach as high as 20% eventually. It is likely that there will be some residual sugar, though.

Soothing and Aromatic Wine

Take leftover tea as made above, mix with apple juice and a pound of sugar, and add yeast starter.

Honey Paste

Video: Yarrow Wound Honey

Honey infused with herbs, or made into paste by mixing with herbs, is a fantastic wound healing medicine. In fact, honey has been used for thousands and thousands of years for wound healing: the osmotic pressure from its high sugar concentration helps keep a wound moist yet sanitized, and made into a paste it is an excellent vehicle to make herbal powders easy to deal with. Yarrow has been used for lacerations, burns, abrasions, and pretty much every other kind of wound for thousands of years - it is powerfully antimicrobial, and promo

Process: Powder an herb. It doesn’t have to be a fine, flour-like powder, but generally the finer it is the nicer the paste will be to use. Warm honey till it flows very easily - but don’t burn it!! - and then mix the herb with the honey till it forms a nice paste. The heat and sugar content from the honey helps break open the cells and very effectively release the medicine from the herb, yet also capture it in a solid form that is highly resistant to oxidation.

Yarrow wound honey

Honey, Yarrow.


Kombucha is essentially a one-step process for making vinegar. It is a culture that has yeast (which ferments sugar to alcohol) and acetobacter (which ferments alcohol to acetic acid, i.e. vinegar). Like alcohol, vinegar is also a fantastic tool for the herbalist to wield, as it gives us yet another form of shelf-stable liquid extract. Vinegar is not as potent a solvent as alcohol, but compared to alcohol it takes something like 1/8th as much sugar to make a shelf stable vinegar, and is easier to brew. Process: Brew an herbal infusion or decoction, and add ¼ cup sugar per gallon of infusion. Let cool, then add starter culture (about 10% is a good amount). Cover with something breathable, like a towel, paper towel, or cheesecloth, and let ferment.

Tonic Kombucha

Alder decoction, Hawthorn berry decoction, Hawthorn leaf/flower infusion

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