Friday, August 12, 2005

Lab Notes II

Last night was a good night. First, I ground up a bunch of herbs in the big grinder down at the clinic and made some big tea bags of mugicha (roasted barley), dokudami (houttuynia) and jiaogulan (gynostemma). The inspiration was the Japanese dokudami migraine tea that my mom sends us for Sara (who now hasn't had a headache in close to a year). Dokudami is an interesting herb that the Chinese use primarily for hot phlegm in the lungs. It's said to be broadly antiviral and antibacterial, and is mildly diuretic and laxative as well. The Japanese adore this herb; since ancient times it's been valued as a detoxifier, and it's hailed as a panacea for everything from migraines and acne to cancer and malaria. The mugicha's roasted nutty flavor does a good job of masking the more intense flavors in the other herbs. Anyway, I figured I might as well make some migraine tea myself, and experiment with other herb combinations. This one I'm calling CLEAR, with the idea that both the jiaogulan and the dokudami clear heat, damp, and toxins, but that overall the formula is pretty balanced and even slightly tonifying because of the barley and jiaogulan. The companion formula, NOURISH, will also have both clearing and nourishing properties, but will be slightly more nourishing, with nettles and gotu kola instead of the dokudami and jiaogulan. Gus says he would switch the jiaogulan and the gotu kola, and now that I'm treating a new teenaged female migraine patient, I can see how that might actually be a very nice combination: heat-clearing,toxin-flushing, liver-moving and liver-tonifying,but also nerves/brain soothing and calming (remember that in ancient days gotu kola was given to epileptics and the insane - which many migraine sufferers can relate to!). Very satisfying to hold in my hands a final product in professional-looking heat-sealed teabags, and even more satisying to be drinking it right this minute. Mental note: market CLEAR to smokers and people trying to stop smoking, also high cholesterol and high blood pressure, as well as migraine headaches and PMS. NOURISH for stressed-out people, anemia, chronic skin problems, and as a post-menstrual (and general) tonic.

AND, I ran my still for the first time this season! It was a three-hour operation, me sitting anxiously in the garage while the cider warmed slowly, worrying that the copper tubing had gotten crimped, or even worse punctured when I wound it up from the pressure cooker over the beams of the garage and then through my new 2-gallon condenser. Played with Charlie, our adopted stray cat (I'm not sure who adopted whom), who was very active, one moment flopping around on the ground meowing to be stroked, then suddenly shooting into the dark garage after a mouse. Then, about two hours into the operation, a splutter and a start and the moonshine began to flow! I discarded the "head", then proceeded to collect about 200 ml of clear fruity goodness. Around midnight I shut the operation down, feeling like an alchemist who has successfully concentrated the elixir. And an elixir it is! Fruity, floral, but with a firewater kick. I estimate by bioassay a strength of 50-60% alcohol. Looking forward to taste tests with different batches, and trying to establish the differences between the two trees, ripening times of the apples after they're picked, fermentation times and temperatures, distillation times and temperatures, etc.


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