My sisters and I long ago stopped buying each other gifts for birthdays and Christmas. I think we all hate the process of shopping for presents because, when you live far apart, it’s a guessing game with too many wrong answers.
There’s one gift that my sisters will accept any time of the year, though. It’s always the right color: brown. And size doesn’t matter, except the bigger the better.
It’s my homemade tincture of Lobelia inflata.
One sister suffers from fibromyalgia and tremors, another from chronic back and foot pain. I blend custom teas for them that are calming to the nerves and anti-inflammatory. I give them nervine tinctures to help them sleep.
Their most-requested remedy, though, is the lobelia tincture. It is a powerful anti-spasmodic, and when they dab it on their sore joints and muscles, it gives instant relief.
“I’d shower in it if I could,” said Maggie.
“Can you brew me a gallon of this stuff?” Chris asked.
So now I do exactly that – brew a gallon of lobelia tincture at a time.
The various species of lovely Lobelia are common in the Southern Appalachians. The medicinal species, L. inflata, is a weed found in many yards and fields. I harvest it right from our yard in Booger Hollow.
That supply isn’t nearly enough to cover the needs of my sisters, so I buy it in bulk online. Commercial shops only sell the lobelia leaves, though – and the highest concentration of medicinal chemicals is in the seed pods. So I collect the pods and add them to the bulk leaves.
The pods are what make Lobelia inflata easy to identify. They look like little balloons (hence the name inflata):
Lobelia has many other medicinal properties. It can be used to help nicotine withdrawal, and is used to treat asthma and respiratory congestion.
The tincture I make is based on a traditional recipe. I use up to one-third grain alcohol mixed with water, and the rest raw apple cider vinegar. I cover the lobelia with the liquid in mason jar, and shake it every day for a month, then strain.
This fully extracts the medicinal chemicals in the plant. While most tinctures are made with alcohol, the acetic acid in the vinegar draws out the valuable lobeline in lobelia.
Maggie jokes that she smells like a salad when she uses it.
But she uses it.
Today’s penny is a 2012, the first year that I gifted my sisters with Lobelia tincture.