Herbal Medicine Making

Percolation – A Herbalists Tool

If I think hard about when I began making herbal concoctions it was well before I even knew I wanted to be a Medical herbalist.  I remember making some luscious, Lavender hand lotion when my children were very young.  I bought beautiful blue, antique bottles and put copper foil around its borders filling them generously with my freshly made cream. This was one of the ways I made a little extra pocket money for the family and it brought me great pleasure to hear how people loved it and how it made their skin so soft and smooth.  Today I make a many unique and traditional herbal products but one of my most useful tools of the trade are my Stainless Steel Percolators. I use these to make divine, made with love, 1:1 to 1:10 Herbal Extracts.

Percolators can be made of glass such as percolation cones or cut off wine bottles.   Some people even make them from old plastic coke bottles but I would be a bit concerned about the leaching of chemicals from the plastic into the finished product.  The percolators that I have made to sell are made from food grade stainless steel and will last more than a lifetime.  They are really easy to clean and transport if needed.

Percolation is used by many of the commercial herbal extract suppliers and is a relatively new concept requiring more skill than maceration.  With more than 10 years of experimentation and practice, I have now mastered the way I like to percolate my herbs! I would not say that percolation is the best and only way to extract your constituents from the herb but you end up with a beautiful extract a lot quicker and in the long run more cost effective. There are some herbs that just can’t be used in the percolator and they are the very resinous such as Myrrh Commiphora myrrha and the mucilaginous ones like Comfrey Root Symphytum officinale.  I also prefer only to percolate dried herbs so herbs such as Skullcap Scutellaria lateriflora and Milky Oats Avena sativa, which I alway prefer to make a tincture from fresh, would be macerated in large jars instead.

When I make a herbal extract I usually use the method known as cold percolation, using alcohol and water with no heat, and this is the most common way to extract the active ingredients.  The percolator is basically a steel tube with a tap at the bottom of it.  In very simplified terms you begin by evenly and not too tightly packing the herb into the tube and then pour you menstruum in allowing it to pass down through the herb picking up the herb’s constituents. The menstruum finally pours out of the tap at the bottom where the final product is collected.  In some cases, the percolator process must be heated to release active ingredients from the stiff cell walls such as Reishi Ganoderma lucidum or to activate some herbal ingredients such as in Echinacea angustifolia root.  For this process I use an in-expensive Brewers belt that I wrap very carefully around the percolator, plug into an electrical point and leave on for the duration of the percolation.  I also completely wrap the percolator and the belt in a piece of woolen insulation or you could use a woolen blanket, just to hold the heat in.

The percolation process can seem a little daunting but once you have made one it all seems to fall into place.  I give clear instructions and alcohol ratios with all my percolators and you may be able to attend one of my workshops if I am in your area.  I am always open to you asking questions via my contact page and if arranged we could even skype.  I would not be without my percolators now as I have control over what extracts I have in my clinic, some you just can’t buy from the big companies, most organic because that’s what I source.

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I love being a herbalist.

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