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Monday, March 14, 2011

Herbal Medicine Chest #7 - Capsules, Pastilles, Lozenges, Chewables, Gels and Electuaries

Welcome to week #7 of our Herbal Medicine Chest.  Join us on Mondays for the next few weeks to explore herbal preparations and put together your own Herbal Medicine Chest. Share your favorite remedies with the linking tool at the end of each Monday's post. (Now closed to new entries)  Don't forget to check the comments section of each week's post to read the remedies shared by savvy folks who aren't blogging.

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See the Herbal Medicine Chest page (directly linked from the new button) to connect with all the articles in this series...even info pages that are not included in the hop, or visit the archives for direct links.

Pastilles, Lozenges, Capsules, Chewables, Gels and Electuaries

This article in our Herbal Medicine Chest series is really more about presentation...How do we present herbal remedies to the more selective palate in a way that is most likely to be accepted?  In other words, how do we get our kids to take them?
Capsules - The idea with capsules is to get the remedy beyond the taste buds and into the stomach where it should dissolve quickly before passing into the intestines.  They are also more convenient to carry with you.
The process is fairly'll need finely ground herbs.  There are quality ground herbs available but to insure the most potent dose, you should grind the dried herbs as needed with as little heat as possible.  I like to use a mortar and pestle or suribachi. You can also use a coffee grinder but again, try not to create too much heat.  Hard roots can bind up in a domestic grinder or damage the blades.
You'll need empty capsules in size "00" for adults.  Size "00" holds about 1/4 tsp. of powdered herb.  Standard dose is 2 capsules 2-3 x/ day.
And "0" for children, elderly or anyone in a weak state of health.  Dose = 1 capsule 2-3 x/ day.
One oz. of powdered herb will fill approx. 30 size "00" capsules and 60 size"0" capsules.
You could also wrap the powdered herb in edible rice paper in a pinch.
Capsule "jigs" are available, too.  These are basically a device that holds quantities of capsules while you do a mass fill.  Capsules are loaded into the jig individually, tamped with a plate that matches the jig and then capped.  For my needs, individually works fine because once you have a "groove" going things move fairly quickly.

Place the powdered herb in a shallow bowl or large plate.
Separate the capsule and taking a half in each hand, slide them together through the herb until full.  The herb will compress as you slide the two halves back together.  This delivery method works well for bitter herbs, small dosages and long term remedies.  Children may or may not cooperate with swallowing a capsule.  That's where the following presentations come in handy.  Store in a tightly sealed, dark glass bottle in a cool place. 
Freshly ground, completely dried herbs should keep well for a year.  Commercially ground herbs, because we don't know how long they've been ground and once ground, they begin to lose their potency, will not keep as long, maybe 3-6 months.  But once enclosed in the capsule, they don't deteriorate as quickly.

Common Sense - If you are drying the herbs yourself, please be sure that they are "corn flake" dry before grinding.  Any moisture that remains can lead to mold growth, especially in an enclosed capsule.

Pastilles, Electuaries, Chewables, Troches and Lozenges - These terms, and probably another one or two, are nearly interchangeable.  They are all basically a mixture of powdered herbs, a sweetener and a binder.  Let's look at their subtle differences.

Pastilles, Troches and Lozenges - all names for a pressed, solid "pill" that is made with powdered herbs, sugar and a mucilaginous herb with a little water for moisture. If essential oils are to be added, they should be mixed with the dry sugar first to ensure thorough distribution. (Triturated)
These preparations are made to dissolve on the tongue allowing the remedy to coat the throat on the way down.  These are for the delivery of herbs that will be working directly on contact rather than being digested first to work systemically.  Expectorant (to loosen and remove phlegm from the respiatory tract), demulcent (soothes inflammed mucous membranes), antiseptic (kills pathogens), analgesic (pain relief), anesthetic (deadens sensation) or sedative (calming) herbs work well this way. 
Slippery elm and Marshmallow are mucilaginous herbs that not only work as binders and cause the remedy to slide smoothly down the throat as it dissolves but also coat and soothe inflammed tissues on the way down.
To make, mix the mucilage (6 parts powdered herb) with 100 parts water overnight.  Press through a cloth to extract mucilage.  Mix the other dry ingredients well.  Stir in to mucilage until a light dough consistancy is reached.  Hold back a little of both the dry ingredients and the mucilage until you've reached the right consistancy to roll the mixture without crumbling but will dry overnight.  At this point, you are going to form the lozenges.  The herbs you're using here will not really be dose specific so as long as they've been mixed well, you'll either just roll little balls about the size of marbles and flatten or using guides to ensure equal thickness, roll with a rolling pin and cut into lozenges with an improvised cutter like a small bottle or cap.  Place on a wire rack and allow to dry completely.  Store in a cool, dark place.

Note - you may have to "play" with your ingredients to get the right consistancy.  Start with a fun taste, like mint, that you can have folks sample willingly to test the texture.  Does it crumble in their mouth?  (Not what we're looking for.)  Can they "suck" it slowly to allow the "remedy" to dissolve slowly, coating the throat?
Make notes for the next time.  Consider that different herbs may absorb moisture at different rates requiring minor adjustments.

Don't be overwhelmed by this process it's really quite simple.  I'll be adding pictures a little later.  Think of the old "fisherman's" lozenges...same type of thing.

Cough Drops - This is the hard candy version of an herbal remedy that most of us are familiar with.  Follow your favorite "hard tack" recipe and add herbal powders, other herbal preparations or essential oils to the finished product just before pouring into molds or onto a pan.  Cool quickly.  Because of the high heat involved, some of the potency may be lost but it's still a means of delivering some soothing, pain relieving help to calm a cough, loosen phlegm or coat irritated mucous membranes.

Please use common sense about choking hazards when giving these types of remedies to children.  Don't give these "hard" versions to anyone who is lying flat and may fall asleep before it is completely dissolved.  Another, softer presentation may be better.

Electuaries - Here we're making a remedy with powdered herbs, honey or fruit puree to make a moldable putty-like mix which can be formed into small marble sized balls that can be chewed up and swallowed like soft candy.  A little glycerin added to the fruit puree keeps it from drying out and becoming hard.  Again, any essential oils should be blended with sugar first to distribute.
Basic measurements:
1 part powdered herb
2-3 parts honey or fruit puree (don't forget the glycerin, try about 1 Tbsp to start)

Note - a softer version of this type of herbal preparation was traditionally called a Bolus, which was described as a "soft mass of medicine mixed with honey to be swallowed."

Chewables - Oils, like coconut oil which is healing, can be added to herbal extract blends as well as sugar, tapioca or rice flour to make a soft, chewable that kids won't refuse.  Here's a recipe for a tummy soothing chewable from Jessie Hawkins (Vintage Remedies):

4 oz. coconut oil
1/2 # powdered sugar
2 cups of tapioca flour
1 Tbsp ginger extract
1 Tbsp Chamomile extract
1 tsp. Spearmint extract

Blend ingredients until a smooth dough forms.  Press into a candy mold or form small balls.  Allow to dry overnight and store in an air tight container.

Gels - think Jello Jigglers (need I say more!) except healthier
1 quart organic 100% juice
pinch of salt
5 Tbsp agar agar flakes or 4 Tbsp powder ( red marine algae with gelling properties - used as a vegetarian gelatin)
boil stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes.
Add up herbal extracts (1Tbsp each. Like fennel, ginger and chamomile for upset tummies)
pour into shallow pan and allow to "set up" before cutting into shapes or squares.

In a pinch, use an herbal infusion or tea instead of boiling water to dissolve a package of flavored,store bought gelatin.

All the herbs and supplies you need for these remedies are available at:

Organic herbs, spices, teas and oils.

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Please add to the Herbal Medicine Chest by sharing your favorite Home Remedy recipes. 

I'm sharing this post with:
Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth
Monday Mania
Homestead Barn Hop
Hearth and Soul
Real Food Wednesday
Simple Lives Thursday
Wildcrafting Wednesday #56
Natural Living Mamma


  1. Thanks for sharing great information and for hosting this link up. I shared my facial oil post. I will grab your button and put it on my health corner blog...Have a great week!

  2. Tons of great information here - I have already used some of it for our bout with winter colds. Thanks for linking it up to the Hearth and Soul Hop!

  3. Oh how wonderful, I had just been wondering how to make pastilles and lozenges. I've bookmarked this page, and know that I will be returning frequently as I learn these methods.

  4. This is great information!!! Lovely post -- I too am bookmarking.

    In other news, CONGRATULATIONS! You're the winner of the CSN Giveaway I hosted the past two weeks!

  5. Wow- lots of great info- I'm still new to the world of herbal remedies, but they fascinate me. Enjoying looking around your site! Thanks for sharing this lovely post with the Homestead Barn Hop!

  6. Hello! Just want to say thank you for this interesting article! =) Peace, Joy.

  7. Oh this helps! I've been toying with ideas for making-well, I guess they have a name already- chewables! (f 2 sorts; one for calcium, the other for heartburn...but possible combined.) Thanks! :]


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