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Flowers

There are relatively few flowers that are used on their own to make tinctures, but they count amongst some of the most important remedies.


Harvesting

Flowers should be harvested in the middle of a sunny day, preferably at least two days after any rainfall. There must not be any surface rainwater or dew on them and, whether taken in bud or fully open, should be free of blemishes, soil-splash, infections or infestations. In most cases the ideal is to harvest flowers when fully open (and pollinating); if time or opportunity is limited, it’s acceptable to include some that are half open, but never ones that are ‘blown’, i.e. starting to wilt, fade or drop.

Usually the whole flower is used, but sometimes the calyx is removed. In the case of Rose, only the petals are used, taking care to discard the calyx and stamens. When collecting Hawthorn flowers, a high proportion of unopened flower buds is recommended; usually these come away with one or two leaves attached, which should also be incorporated.

A few subjects (e.g. Limeflowers) have a single flowering, which may be very brief. Vigilance is needed to be ready to capture the moment. Most flowers used are repeat-flowering from anywhere between a couple of weeks and the whole summer. In these circumstances one can make up a litre or two of menstruum in advance and add to it every day or so until filled.

Preparation & maceration

Flowers should always be harvested in good, clean condition, though it’s as well to pick through them again carefully before using. Flowers should never be washed. Generally speaking flowers require no further preparation before macerating – but there is no harm in tearing by hand or food-processing if you wish, provided this is all done quickly – picked flowers wilt rapidly. As mentioned, it’s common to have a bucket or jar of menstruum prepared in advance to which flowers are added every day or so as they come into bloom. It would be over-pedantic to try and work to a fixed weight:volume ratio with this method.

Flowers with double or interleaved petals will trap a lot of air when introduced to the menstruum unless carefully stirred, perhaps repeating after an hour or two if anything floats to the surface. Most flowers require a much briefer maceration than the standard 10-14 days – in the case of Rose petals, overnight is sufficient to extract the essential oils, anything longer will risk a ‘stewed’ tincture with unwanted tannins. By comparison the resins of Marigold flowers will never be fully extracted even in 96% alcohol – macerating for 3-4 weeks is recommended.

The weight:volume ratio quoted for each flower is intended only as a rough guide – more than any other tincture preparation it’s recommended to work to the ‘just enough menstruum to cover the marc’ method. Likewise maceration times are flexible – it should be apparent on checking when flowers have become fully saturated.


Chamomile, German
, Chamomilla matricaria1:3 45%, 7 days

Gather in full flower. Provided the plants are in sufficiently firm soil, the flowers of this annual are easiest to harvest by gathering several stems between forked fingers, palm upwards, closing the fingers together and pulling up firmly, yielding a fist-full of flowers. In lighter soil, gather the flowers together in bunches and snip them off the flowers with a centimetre or two of stem attached.

One can also use the flowers of the Roman Chamomile, Chamaemelum nobile, which are gathered every few days throughout summer flowering. Whilst the yield may be modest, this is more powerful remedy, and is much loved as a pretty and durable front-of-border perennial.


Clover, Red, Trifolium pratense – 1:3 25%, 10 -14 days

Red Clover can be grown as a garden subject, valuable as a nitrogen-fixer, but will need quite a patch for a useful yield of flowers. Alternatively, it’s a common subject of meadows and field margins. The flowers are plucked when full and a good red/purple colour, trying to avoid too many that are immature or ‘browned off’, and macerating as soon as possible, as Red Clover is very quality-sensitive.


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