Tincture remedies help farmers treat livestock organically
By Jody Padgham, MOSES
Many drugs found in modern medicine cabinets have been based on derivatives from natural plant or animal sources. An alternative to utilizing derived medicines is the use of tinctures, solutions made of extractions of the essences of plant or animal ingredients. Tinctures are generally allowed in organic production when some conventional treatments, such as antibiotics, are not, making tinctures a great tool in the organic livestock producer’s barnyard toolbox.
Organic animal health should focus on prevention and immune system strengthening more than on treatment. Nutrient-rich, diverse feed, appropriate and comfortable housing, and stress-reducing handling procedures all lead to strengthened immune systems and resistance to illness. However, even with the best preventive care, certain life stages, events or accidents can create a need for intervention to solve a problem, cure an illness or remedy a condition. Tinctures are a great alternative to consider in these cases.
“I myself was a doubter that this kind of thing would work—organic healing takes a change in mind-set,” Dr. Paul Dettloff, DVM, said as he began his tincture workshop at the 2014 MOSES Organic Farming Conference. “The use of tinctures goes back all the way to the Egyptians and Greeks. You may not believe what I have to say, but just listen with an open mind, and try things on your own. You may be surprised by what you find.”
Dr. Paul has been working with organic producers since the late 1980s. Trained as a conventional veterinarian, Dr. Paul taught himself organic ways so he could offer solutions for an increasing number of organic farmers who called him for help. Now working as a staff veterinarian for Organic Valley, Dr. Paul has gathered a deep knowledge about the use of tinctures for animal health in the past 30+ years.
Dr. Paul is one of three suppliers of ready-made veterinary tinctures available in the area (see sidebar). During his MOSES Conference workshop, he explained how tinctures are made.
Tinctures start with high-quality plant material. “The higher the brix level in the plant material, the higher the potency of the tincture,” he explained. Brix is the measure of the total dissolved solid content (sugars) in tissues, and can be measured using a refractometer. “High-brix plants are grown on well-balanced, mineralized soils, creating stronger and more effective tinctures,” Dr. Paul stated. He grows some of the plant materials that go into his own tinctures, so he can maximize brix levels and ensure strong, effective tinctures. Technically, organic ingredients are not required if a tincture is used for treatment, but must be used if it is used as a preventive. Dr. Paul’s lab uses all organic ingredients.
The base of a tincture can be several things: alcohol is the most common (Dr. Paul uses 190 proof organic alcohol), but water, glycerine, apple cider vinegar, ammonia or a combination can also be used. Dr. Paul finds raw organic apple cider vinegar is especially effective for alkaloid components. There are various techniques for extracting the plant essence into the solvent. In Dr. Paul’s lab they stir the plant into the solvent and allow it to rest for four weeks. Every week the batch is stirred vigorously using a wooden stick, either clockwise or counterclockwise, based on the result of a dowsing divination. This stirring “flips the electrons,” Dr. Paul explained, increasing the energy of the solution. The resultant liquid is decanted and stored in dark or amber glass. (For more on making your own tinctures, see the book “The Herbal Medicine- Makers Handbook,” by James Green.)
Dr. Paul has discovered that each specific type of plant tincture generates a unique reading on an electrical conductivity meter. “If we use an inferior, low nutrient or moldy plant material, the reading—and thus the potency and effectiveness—will be less than we expect.” He has been experimenting with several plant combinations to create tincture mixes with particularly high strengths and targeted uses. One of his favorites is comfrey, echinacea, garlic and lavender, which has shown a conductivity reading of 1,800-2,000 ergs. “There is a synergy with the combination,” he explained. “Adding the reading of each of these alone we’d only expect about 500 ergs.” Dr. Paul is experimenting with finding more powerful combinations like this.
As for application, Dr. Paul pointed out that “cows are rear-end friendly.” Most ruminants will not like to be approached head-first for dosing, but, luckily, seem to barely mind an approach to the vulva from the rear. “Your most effective treatment will be vaginally just after the heat/estrus. The mucus membranes allow almost immediate absorption into the bloodstream.” Dr. Paul recommends the use of a 5cc pipette, which is inserted into the vulva and angled up to get over the pelvic brim. If you don’t get the tincture in far enough, it will drip back onto the uretha and sting. “Dose orally any animal with kidney problems, who is holding her tail up,” he cautioned. Pre-heat calves and steers or bull calves must also be treated orally. All of Dr. Paul’s examples in his workshop were for ruminants, but tinctures are also effective for horses and other animals.
Dr. Paul explained the uses of over 60 specific plant tinctures. This is a list of plants most he considers most “impressive” and their uses. Note that these are uses for animals and may not correlate with human uses.
• Arnica Montana: for trauma, bruising, swelling, blood clotting. Essential after the trauma of pulling a calf, for both cow and calf (via milk)
• Aronia (berries): Rather new in the industry, helpful for depression, super antioxidant, useful for heart problems, severe infections, Lyme disease
• Black Walnut (green hulls): anti-fungal, anti-parasitic
• Calendula (flowers): wounds & salves
• Cayenne (ground fruits): very potent, synergistic antibiotic. Will stop hemoraging.
• Chamomile (flowers & leaves): relaxant, soothing, calming. Good for colic.
• Comfrey (leaves): heals bone breaks. Hastens healings, will double healing rate.
• Echinacea (flowers): immune system booster
• Garlic (bulb): Great antibiotics. Good for all-round health.
• Milk Thistle (leaves): gut and liver support
• Nettle (leaves): valuable diuretic.
• Osha Root (Ligusticum porteri): strong anti-viral, good for udder herpes
• Liver flushing (more useful in conventional operations where a lot of grain is fed, creating fatty livers): beet root, burdock root, dandelion leaves
• Wormers: ginger (root), plantain (leaves & flower)
Dr. Paul believes that creating and using tinctures is an art—and must be done with intent. Whenever you need to treat an animal, begin by letting the animal know that you are there to help and do it good. Our positive thoughts and attitude go a long way to helping the animals around us thrive. Tinctures will then help with the next stage of healing, he said.
Jody Padgham is the Finance Director for MOSES and Associate Editor of the Organic Broadcaster.
Places to buy tinctures:
Dr. Paul’s Lab, Arcadia, Wis.
Agri-Dynamics, Dr. Jerry Brunetti, Martins Creek, PA, 877-393-4484
Crystal Creek Natural, LLC, Spooner, Wis. 888- 376-6777. (Call for a catalog of tinctures.)
Alternative Treatments for Ruminant Animals, Dr. Paul Dettloff
The Herbal Medicine-Makers Handbook, James Green
The Book of Herbal Wisdom, Matthew Woods
Herbal Antibiotics, Stephen Buhner
Farmer shares how he uses tinctures to keep herd in production
By Jody Padgham, MOSES
Mark Wickenhauser of Wicmar Dairy in Cologne, Minn. claims that without the use of tinctures, he’d have to sell almost every cow in the barn.
“I rely on tinctures to keep my cows healthy,” he said. “I wouldn’t farm without them.”
“In order to get the quality of milk the co-op requires (Mark sells to Organic Valley), I need to use tinctures and other mineral supplements to make up for the mistakes I make in balancing my soils,” he said in a recent interview. “In a perfect world of soil mineral balance we might only need tinctures for emergencies, but every farm will benefit from the use of tinctures.”
Mark uses tinctures on a daily basis for his herd of 43 registered Holsteins. He carries 2-ounce dropper bottles in his pocket each time he goes out to milk, and will apply anywhere from 4 drops to a half-dropper-full of a needed tincture as he works his way through the barn. Rather than apply tinctures internally, Mark finds it works well to apply a few drops of tincture to the soft tissue on either side of a cow’s tail. He may rub the tincture in with his finger to break the oil base found in the cow’s hair. “This is faster and less tricky than inserting into the vulva, and works well,” he claimed. Because he uses many tinctures so frequently, he generally buys 32-ounce bottles and transfers into 2-ounce bottles that he can easily carry around.
The tincture Mark uses most consistently is the Dr. Paul’s Lab blend of cayenne, echinacea and garlic (“CEG”). This is “the first line of defense in the cow’s system” he said. CEG is very high in vitamin A and helps maintain milk quality by controlling the inherent bacteria and viruses that can spike somatic cell counts. Garlic acts as a multi-faceted antibiotic, echinacea sparks the immune system, and cayenne, high in vitamin A, also has potent antibiotic qualities. Most of Mark’s cows get 2 drops of CEG on each side of the tail every day.
Mark follows CEG with rose hip tincture. High in vitamin C, this is a “natural cleanser” and helps to clear the toxins released by the CEG out of the blood stream. Mark will hook up his milkers, then walk the row applying 4 drops of CEG to each cow. A few minutes later, he again walks the row applying the same dose of rose hip tincture.
A new favorite of Mark’s is nettle tincture. Mark claimed nettle is “super food,” offering a heavy dose of nutrients and “food for the cells.” It is good for any infection, specifically any problems with the respiratory system. Nettles also encourages milk production.
Mark also has specific treatments if he sees any problems in the herd. He finds tinctures particularly helpful with calves. If he notices a slight congestion or hears a rasp in a calf’s breathing, he will dose with rose hips (vitamin C) and nettles, adding in CEG if the situation seems severe. He’ll dose with these three for a few days to a week, depending on how deep the problem is, until the animal seems back to normal. He offers the reminder that isolation is really important with calf respiratory problems, as they “can really pass problems around.”
Before calving, Mark starts applying arnica to help bring about contractions and calm the cow pre-birth. Once calving is imminent, he uses Dr. Paul’s “Nature’s Cycle” blend (Organic Grain Alcohol, Blue Cohosh, Wild Yam Root, Viburnium (Black Haw), Red Clover, Saw Palmetto, Dong Quai, Apple Cider Vinegar and Cloves). Once calving starts, Caulophyllum is helpful all the way through until after the calf is born. “Caulophyllum will help stimulate hormones, and helps a cow perk up and start eating after calving,” Mark shared. It will help to bring a cow up on her feet and get her chewing her cud. Comfrey and St. John’s wort are both useful for calving pain. If a calving was particularly hard he will infuse the uterus with aloe vera and St. John’s wort. “You’ll notice when she feels better right away, as she’ll start taking bites of hay and chewing her cud,” he said.
A similar product, though not technically a tincture, is Wound Spray from Crystal Creek, which Mark sprays on a newly fresh cow’s vulva. “The active ingredients will be adsorbed through this especially sensitive area and help to heal the internal organs,” Mark claimed.
Dr. Paul’s “Tonic Tincture” (organic grain alcohol, apple cider vinegar, burdock root, barberry, echinacea, dandelion, celery seed, shitake) is good for cleansing the liver after freshening. Mark noted that cows put on weight for calving, and then need to convert the extra fat into milk. This is stressful on the liver, and so the Tonic Tincture helps.
Tinctures are just one part of the “team of things needed to keep cows healthy and make good milk,” Mark explained. Also on his “team list” are: minerals (from forages, developed through well-balanced soils), high-quality forages, good water quality (he treats water with hydrogen pyroxide and swears by the positive effect), and micronutrients, again needed to make up for limitations of the soil and feed. He stressed that particular attention must be paid if you are buying in feed. “Bought forages, even if they are organic, will often be low in minerals,” he added.
Certified organic for 10 years, Mark started using tinctures at the same time he converted to organic. He is happy to have this set of useful plant-based supports that make all the difference in keeping his cows healthy and allowing him to produce high quality milk.
From the September | October 2014 Issue