Herb Vinegars

This unit explains why we prefer to use nourishing herbs on this course and it clearly describes how to make herb infused vinegars.

Freshly harvested dandelion, burdock, mugwort and magnolia.

Nourishing Herbs
So what are nourishing herbs and why does this course use them, rather than really strong medicinal herbs?

Nourishing herbs are generally considered to be the safest and may be taken internally by most people, in appropriate amounts for quite some time. I have included mainly nourishing herbs in this course and also some stronger herbs and a few which are generally fine for use on the outside of the body but not for ingesting. Even so, be cautious and, just as with foods, don't rely too much on any one plant.

If taking a nourishing herb, in quantity for some time (perhaps Stinging Nettle infusion daily), it is a good idea to stop and have a break after a maximum of 8 weeks. You may like to return to using it some time later but have a break. I usually eat nourishing herbs and for infusions, I rotate them every two weeks or so.

A few examples of nourishing herbs are: Hawthorn, Chocolate, Lime, Lemon balm, Ginger, Garlic, Dandelion, Burdock, Yellow dock and Astragalus.


How to Make Herb Infused Vinegar
Acid extracts of herbs.

Materials needed
Pasteurised apple cider vinegar*
Fresh nourishing herbs
Knife, chopping board
Sterile glass container with well fitting lid
Chopstick
Label

*other vinegar will also work but apple cider is preferable. I sometimes use Kombucha instead of vinegar.

One of my mixed wild herb vinegars. This one contains geranium, wild garlic, stinging nettle and deadnettle.

Method
[This is the Simpler's method]

1. Chop up the fresh herbs and loosely pack them into the sterile glass jar. The herbs should almost fill the jar without much space being left at the top.
2. Pour vinegar over the herbs, until the jar is full.
3. Prod gently with a chopstick, to release any air bubbles.
4. Top up again with some more vinegar. You need the jar to be totally full now.
5. Seal with the lid and label the jar. It is best to label the jar and the lid, in case the vinegar leaks out and wipes off the writing from a label.
6. Leave the herbs in the vinegar only for 2-6 weeks. After this time they may become moldy.

Storage
Herb vinegar usually stores well for up to one year. Check regularly for mold growth as vinegars are very susceptible to it. A jelly-like vinegar mother may form at the bottom of the jar and this is acceptable. Mold looks blue/white/grey and tends to float on the top of the contents of opened containers of herb vinegar. This is not desirable and should be removed or the whole vinegar discarded.

Vinegar mothers are living cultures of the microbes which convert fruit juice or wine into vinegar. They tend to be vinegar coloured and bounce around the bottom of the vinegar.

Sage vinegar makes a great hair rinse and can be soothing to the skin.

Uses
Herbal Vinegars made from pleasant tasting herbs can be used as salad dressing. They are also an ingredient in Oxymels which we look at later.  I like to take about a tablespoon per day, as a salad/greens dressing or used in green leafy vegetable cooking. There are many other uses for herb infused vinegars such as hair rinses and to soothe skin.

Chickweed may be more difficult for novices to identify but most gardeners know lavender. Here are both, growing in my pavement garden.

Suggested herbs
Aromatics such as Sage, Tarragon, Rosemary and Lavender and mineral rich herbs such as Chickweed, Stinging nettle and Burdock. Each year I make sure to set up a wild garlic vinegar also. It has a very strong taste and aroma which I love adding to meals.

Wild garlic. If it doesn't smell strongly of garlic, it probably is another plant.

Assessed Task
When you have tried setting up a herbal vinegar, make a record in your Crafting notebook and place a short comment about how you found the process in the Crafting Forum.

Move on to Tinctures

Crafting – Welcome

Chopped Feverfew.

This Welcome Unit aims to:
Introduce the contents of the Urban Herbology Crafting module and outline how learning to craft with herbs can be very empowering. Also, the type of equipment that you will need for this module and the need for a healthy respect for herbs will be introduced. This welcome unit also explains how to work through the Crafting module.

After reading this unit you should be able to:
- State the main topic areas which this module covers.
- State how your work for this module will be assessed.
- Organise your personal notes and assignments for this module.
- Name two household items which can be used for herbal crafting.
- State a couple of ways in which holistic herbal crafting empowers us.
- List three reasons why herbs should always be treated with respect.

Read through the unit notes.
You may also like to listen to the welcome unit audio.

In the Crafting Module you will learn:
- About the history of herbalism.
- How to source herbs to make preparations.
- About the safely, ethics and legality of making herbal preparations.
- How to create herbal preparations such as infusions, tinctures, oxymels, creams, poultices and lozenges.
- How to create a herbal medicine chest.
- Herbal first aid for common issues.

Module organisation
The Crafting course if organized into 6 modules:

Introducing Herb Crafting
Kitchen Apothecary
Core Techniques
External Preparations
Honey Crafting
Additional Techniques

Each module contains a number of units for you to work through. There are 33 units in total.

Assessment of your Crafting work
At the end of each unit in this course, there are tasks to complete. Some of these are optional tasks, which you may like to complete. Others are clearly indicated as Assessed Tasks. Your responses to the Assessed Tasks need to be shared with your tutor for marking and feedback.

Progression
There are 4 levels of unit access in this course. This is encourage progression through the units. The levels are called A, B, C, D. Student's starting the course begin with access to all the units at Level A. When they have successfully completed that work and the tutor has marked it, they can move on to the Level B units.

Course Certificate
To qualify for your Urban Herbology Herbal Crafting certificate, you need to :
1. Work through each of the Crafting units and successfully complete all of the Assessed Tasks. These must be completed and marked as a pass by your tutor.
2. Submit a summary to your tutor, of how your journey through the Crafting module has impacted you. Your summary does not need to be very long but it needs to show what you have gained from this module. It can be in several forms (short report, poetry, drawing with annotations etc).

How to share Assessed Tasks
Some of your assessments are shared with your tutor though the Crafting Forum and other assessments will be shared with your tutor via email.

Please ensure that each task states the unit number and name, when you send it through.

We strongly advise you to keep a backup copy of all work which you send to your tutor for marking. Please do not rely on email or the forums as a way to organize your work.

Organizing your notes and tasks
Decide on how you will make and keep personal notes as you work through this module.

You may like to begin a Google doc or purchase a notebook or ring binder to file your work and keep it organised.

There are some worksheets to complete through the module but most of the tasks will be notes sent via email or the Crafting Forum.

Sharing with the UH community
The Crafting Forum and the private Facebook group are great places to ask questions and share your thoughts with your tutor and the other students, about any of your crafting work and experiences. Please feel free to use them.

Many of your assessed tasks will be submitted to the Crafting Forum to allow for discussion with other students, to encourage deeper engagement and learning.

Simple equipment
Throughout the Crafting module, you will only need to use common kitchen materials. There is a full unit regarding herb crafting equipment but you will quickly come to realize that many items in your kitchen can be used in multi-functional ways. This saves time, money and resources.

Three common kitchen items which can be used for the recipes in this module are the small used but cleaned glass jars, a wooden spoon and a small saucepan.

The recipes in the module are designed for use in small spaces, so homes or kitchens with little space and with minimal equipment. A small metro kitchen in an Amsterdam apartment was used to write the recipes and they have since been tested in many another simple homes. The recipes can be scaled up if required.

You will also learn that it is perfectly possible to make many herbal preparations outside.

Healthy respect for herbs
Herbs have an important place in today's healthcare although their misuse can also cause great harm. Anyone using herbs, either self harvested, purchased or prescribed, needs to be sensible and cautious.

Always avoid overuse, only use herbs when necessary and safe, otherwise they may cause unwanted effects.

In the module you will learn that some herbs interact with conventional medicines. For instance St John's Wort, can reduce the effectiveness of the contraceptive pill and interacts with several other medicines.

Be aware that not all herbs are helpful. Some are very strong or poisonous in regular doses.

Also be aware that herbs should be used in a holistic way. This means that rather than looking for a herbal cream as a quick solution for an issue such as eczema, we should look at the whole (holistic) picture. What is the cause of the eczema and how could herbs possibly help to balance the whole system. Could a cleansing tea help? Relaxation? Avoiding toxins? Herbs should not be used as a quick fix, they are better used as part of a holistic approach to health.

Incorporating common, local nourishing herbs into our lives does not mean that we should turn away from modern medicine. Always consult a medical professional before treating yourself with herbs.

Elderberries

Empowerment
Learning how to craft simple, safe and effective preparations with herbs can be incredibly empowering. It can help us to become more involved in managing your own health.

When able to create some helpful preparations, we are better able to help ourselves more often, by using simple nourishing herbs for minor ailments.

Being able to craft our own holistic herbal preparations, makes us active participants in keeping healthy and happy.

As mentioned in the Healing module, the Wise Woman way involves nourishment and seeking answers within ourselves, as well as seeking external help when needed.

Please add any notes which you find useful, to your personal Crafting notes. There are no Assessed Tasks for this Welcome Unit.

Move onto History of Herbalism