Transforming Plants Into Medicines
Transforming plants into herbal medicines: an Art and a Science
The production of phytotherapeutic compounds is more of a craftsmanship process than a manufacturing or industrial process. If there is a trade that is akin in its procedures and by carefulness it requires, it is wine making. Indeed, wine is made with grapes (plants) and most of the recipes are well known and the results vary greatly in terms of quality and typicality. The same goes with the production of alcohol (Cognacs, Armagnacs, and Scotches) with the result that some wines and alcohols are sold at affordable prices while others are very expensive.
If we compare the production of phytotherapeutic preparations with that of wine, the latter is sitting on a set of traditions, conditions and characteristics that are widely accepted (if not understood) by the marketplace and the consumers. It is somewhat understood that a Chateau Margaux is different then a Beaujolais and that the difference in price is not only a marketing ploy but it is directly linked with the quality of the raw materials used and the production methods employed.
If all the wines are not born equal so are the phytotherapeutic products. In the same manner the Botavie products distinguish themselves by:
The great care taken in the selection of raw materials
The wide variety of plants and natural substances used for each composition
The extraction methods used to isolate the various properties offered by the plants
But above all, the distinctive element of the Botavie products reside in the exclusiveness of the recipes that are strongly influences by ancient knowledge and traditions, European as well as Oriental. Also at play, the refinement of the extraction methods, for which the art consist in isolating the desired properties of a given plant and to mix it with the properties of another plant at a specific dosage as required by a given recipe.
It all starts with the plants, which have to be harvested at a precise moment in their growth cycle, depending on the specific characteristics that are desired. The harvest time also depends on which part of the plant will be used (leaves, fruits, flowers, roots or shoots). Plant picking for phytotherapeutic needs must be very "picky". Some plants have to be gathered at night at a specific time of the year, the phase of the moon and the altitude are also to be considered.
Then comes the processing of the plant, more often than none, Botavie uses dry plants. Again, the drying process has to be carried out according to the active principle that is sought. Sun drying is the method most employed. The plants are laid on a bed of hay mulch and exposed to the sun during daytime, to be taken indoors at night. The mulch bed keeps enough humidity to insure a gradual drying process. For some other plants, or in order to obtain a specific active principle, drying in the shadow is the way to do it. The plants are thus set out on wicker trays indoors. These methods allow for the capturing and conservation of the properties of the numerous components found in plants; i.e., the enzymes or antibiotics principles to name a few.
Some of our preparations use the plants directly; in those cases the plants are grinded or powdered to be integrated into the compounds. It is however more frequent to use extracts and mix them. The extraction methods employed are inspired by both, traditional and "spagyric" methods, the latter uses fermentation, distillation and calcinations processes.
Steeping plants in vegetal oils is a method we also favour to extract principles from fresh and dried plants (since some plants lose their virtues in the drying process).
Distillation with water vapour is also extensively used to extract active principles that are to be combined (in the form of distillates) with dried plants that will impregnate from it. Distillation also allows to process hardly soluble staples such as natural resins and gums. The resulting distillates are alcohol free.
The residues from the distillation process are kept to be burned: that is the calcination. This process allows the extraction of mineral salts and oligo-elements from the plants and substances used in the distillation. Those components are added into the distillates in order to increase their complexity and consequently their efficiency.
Exposing the full production method of the phytotherapeutic components makes for an even closer kinship with the craft of wine making; hay mulch, wicker trays, steeping, fermentation and distillation are all methods and processes that are common to both of those worlds.
As a last comparison with the domain of wine making that is applicable to the domain of phytotherapy, here is the greeting that we wish to each other: To your health!