We’ve been using our chickweed ointment as lip balm, so new supplies were in order. St. Mary’s Cathedral around the corner from us has yielded a wonderful harvest of luscious deep green chickweed, Stellaria media, untouched by dogs, chemicals or pesticides and traffic fumes – so much so that I have been able to make plenty of ointment, with some infused oil left over for cream, and I have made a tincture from the rest.
To make ointment you need infused oil and beeswax. For the infused oil take a good handful of chopped chickweed (sort through carefully for foreign bits – mine included loads of Cleavers) and spread out in a small baking tray. Mine made a layer about a centimetre high. Cover this completely with olive oil and mix in well. Place the tray on the hob and heat until sizzling – about 1 minute in my case – then transfer to an oven at 140 C degrees – no fan. Let this ‘simmer’ until the herb has crisped. This way you know the aqueous (water) content of the herb has evaporated. I left this to cool overnight and lengthen the infusion time.
Once the oil has cooled strain it carefully through muslin and squeeze out the last drop of oil from the plant material left over (the marc). My infused oil turned out a beautiful deep green. You will need oil to beeswax (organic unbleached) in a ratio of 85g oil to 15g beeswax for a reasonably firm ointment. I had several containers I wanted to fill so took the trouble to do the maths and use exactly (nearly exactly) enough oil. I had 5 15g ointment pots and one 60g one, requiring 135g, or slightly less, of finished product. This worked out at 108g of infused oil and 19g of beeswax, giving me 127g – I didn’t want to overfill the pots.
Oil and beeswax then go in a glass pyrex bowl in a saucepan with boiling water coming not more than half way up the glass bowl. In other words, a bain marie. Keep the saucepan on a low heat and wait for the beeswax to melt. I tend to stir a lot, as I am usually quite excited by this stage. When the mixture is clear, you can test how firm the ointment is going to be by cooling the mixture on the back of a spoon. If it’s too runny add a few more grammes beeswax. If it is setting too hard add a few grammes of infused oil.
Pour it carefully into squeaky clean (sterilized) pots and let cool before putting the lids on. I labelled as follows: Stellaria media Lips and Itches ointment, 85:15 oil to beeswax, 05.06.12. The rest of the oil I bottled and labelled for later use.
For the tincture I followed The Herbarium’s advice again (except I only had 40% vodka and they recommend 30% alcohol) and tried a 1:1 40% tincture with the Stellaria chopped very fine in the Braun blitzer. This means weighing out your herb and adding the same weight of 40% vodka. Unless you have 30% something, in which case use that. Hmmm. We shall see whether the 40% is the right menstruum for persuading the goodies out of chickweed. Some herbal constituents are extracted with water and some with alcohol, and sometimes the ratio has to be just right – hopefully with Stellaria it won’t be crucial. If one is using fresh plant material there is a fair bit of water in any case, and as the alternative is to chop roughly and make a 1:3 mixture, i.e. 1 part herb to 3 parts alcohol, I suspect it will be ok. Clueless, really, just enthusiastic.
Tempest is finished – photos to follow on ravelry when I can get a moment free. Am very pleased with it :)