Good Medicine: Medicine Making + Plant Alchemy

Plant Alchemy

Good Medicine Confluence Classes

Medicine making can be exquisitely easy, as with folk simples or the act of making tea, or it can be incredibly complex, all depending on what the practitioner prefers and what the patient needs. At the Good Medicine Confluence, we strive to provide classes that cover all parts of the spectrum, and with as many hands on labs and demonstrations as possible!

If you’ve ever wanted to dive in to advanced soxhlet extraction, immerse yourself in the flavors of teas and infusions, learn the basics of percolation, or even make your own hydrofoils, this is definitely the time and place to do so! Honey and glycerine based medicines, simples, formulae, and every kind of booze based medicine are being taught at this year’s Confluence, so be sure to try a little bit of everything! 

For more about this May’s Good Medicine Confluence in Durango, Co, including more about our amazing teachers, more class descriptions, and the schedule head over to

An Introduction to Building Deep & Lasting Relationships 

With Our Plant Allies Through The Use of Simples

Traci Donat

(2 hrs.)

By working with plants, one at a time as a simple, we are best able to fully understand the magic of that plant, and to appreciate its gifts physically, emotionally and spiritually. In this beginner level class, Traci will introduce several ways in which to fully immerse yourself into a relationship with a plant.  By exploring various ways of working with and connecting with individual plants we approach plant medicine as a deep immersion in the bounty and layers that the plants offer rather than simply being a salve for symptoms or complaints.  

Traci will share her personal journey with Motherwort and will be exploring several other commonly available plants that are used as simples. You will learn how to connect, experience and make medicine with them.  The class will include tasting several different plants and herbal preparations as well as hands-on experience.

Hands-on Demonstration Art Lab:

Tinctures & Percolations 101

Amanda Furbee

(1.5 hrs)

Do you like making things with your own hands? I do! I love to get in there with the plants and create delicious and healing blends for friends, customers, family and myself. Kitchen witchery is a growing and evolving revolution that is awakening people globally. Making us aware of what we are putting into our bodies, on our bodies, our pets, children’s and our homes.  

Tinctures. What the heck is a tincture? Curious about learning how to preserve herbal medicine? Tincture making is one of the oldest ways of producing and preserving a concentrated form of herbal medicine. Join me in this hands-on Tincture making basics class. We will go over the art form of making a tincture with the folk method, percolations and double extraction method. Go into details on why you might choose one over the other depending on the plant. I look forward to seeing you all there!

The Science of Herbal Extractions Part I:  The Basic Essentials

Lisa Ganora

(2 hrs)

Medicine-making is one of the best parts of being an herbalist. As we transform the gifts of the plants into teas, tinctures, oils and salves, we can honor those herbs by making the best of their powers with cleverly crafted creations. Throughout life we continue to experiment with our herbal products, inevitably coming up with some expensive compost, some steady workhorses, and some shining stars of potency or deliciousness. By learning a few basic scientific principles behind extraction, solubility, preservation, and formulation of our herbal medicines, we can improve both efficacy and flavor and help our medicines to be more appealing and powerful. More stars, less compost! And remember – the best form of medicine is the one that your clients will continue to take.

In Part 1, we’ll talk about what’s behind solubility and extraction: what makes some herbal constituents love water, while others would rather come out into various percentages of alcohol and water, glycerin, fixed oils, or other solvents/menstrua. We’ll look at the effects of heat and pH (acidity or alkalinity) on solubility, the influence of the individual plant matrix, how extraction/infusion time comes into play, and which herbal extracts are compatible or incompatible with each other. How oxidation, light, and heat affect stability and storage will also be discussed. And we’ll practice organoleptic evaluation (the traditional herbalist’s way of judging quality) which can be quite as effective as phytochemical analysis in many cases. Detailed handouts will be provided.

The Science of Herbal Extractions Part II: Advanced Techniques

Lisa Ganora

(1.5 hrs)

In Part 2 of this celebration of medicine making, we’ll look at some specifics of water extractions (infusions, decoctions), tinctures (macerations, percolations), and infused oils, and share tips to improve the consistency/stability of your salves. Learn how to take your pretty-darn-good herbal preparations to the next level by understanding weight and volume measurements and conversions; the polarity of your solvent systems and alcohol percentages in your hydroethanolic menstrua (!); how like-dissolves-like in herbal pharmacy; theory & practice of extraction ratios; and the dreaded and beloved Dilution Equation, which comes in extremely handy for getting the right alcohol concentration for your tinctures.

Herbal pharmacy is an art and a science; come infuse your art with the power of phytochemistry! Detailed handouts will be provided.

Understanding Plant Alchemy: Spagyric Preparations & Chemical Synthesis

Warren Kistenbroker

(1.5 hrs)

Spagyrics is the Alchemical preparation of plants based on reuniting the soul, spirit and body of the plant. We will discuss different methods and techniques within plant alchemy along with what constituents are extracted within those methods. This will be more of a practical and lab based approach and understanding to the esoteric philosophy of alchemy. We will touch base on traditional methods, along with exploring advanced concepts of chemical synthesis within the alchemical practice that gave birth to the modern day pharmaceutical industry.

Alchemical Cannabis & Herbal Extraction 101

Warren Kistenbroker

(1.5 hrs)

Soxhlet Extraction is arguably the most effective and time efficient method for the extraction of medicinal constituents from medicinal herbs including Cannabis, as well as from spices and fruits. Soxhlet extraction can be use to make incredibly potent tinctures, infused oils and raw extracts that are impossible to make otherwise. In this introductory class we will explore how a soxhlet extractor works, and its different actions; along with using it to make an extremely potent oil infusion of medicinal herbs for topical use.

Hands-On Demonstration Lab: 

The Endocannabinoid System, Constituents, & Preparation:

Advanced Soxhlet Extraction

Warren Kistenbroker

(1.5 hrs)

We will dive into the ancient history of cannabis and talk about different traditional preparations from around the world. We will explore the endocannabinoid system within the human body and how this system works with the constituents found in cannabis/other plants. We will also learn about the extraction of cannabis and how all these constituents work together to increase the vital action and synergy (aka entourage effect). Upon diving deep, we will recombine an alchemical preparation of hemp and walk through both the chemistry and philosophical/spiritual representations.

Making Medicine With Hydrosols

Leslie Lekos

(1.5 hrs)

Hydrosols are made through the process of steam distillation and consist mostly of the water-soluble components but also some of the oil soluble components of the plant.  The use of hydrosols in herbal medicine is vast and under utilized in modern times. Historically in Europe hydrosols were used widely until around the 1850’s at which time they fell out of favor due to the commercialization of essential oils. Essential oils were marketed as much stronger and effective and the use of hydrosol became unpopular.  

Hydrosols and essential oils; though both made in the same steam distillation process, are very different in application.    Essential oils can be quite toxic due to their extremely high concentration levels; where as hydrosols are quite safe and have a broad array of uses.  To illustrate just how concentrated some essential oils are, it takes about 10,000 roses to make a 5 mL (about 1/6th of an ounce) bottle of rose essential oil, where as to make the same amount of hydrosol it would take about 4 to 8 roses.

Today the benefits of hydrosols are regaining attention. Many herbalists have begun to distill their own and use is becoming more known.  Yet the use of hydrosols is still somewhat unfamiliar to the herbal world on a whole.  Hydrosols add medicine and flavor to cooking, they shine in skin care recipes, they are stable water extractions that are used internally as medicine, they can be used in mouthwashes, as cleaning agents and in aromatherapy practices.  In this class we will be discussing in detail how to use them and providing demonstrations and recipes for making many different types of herbal medicine. 

Hands-On Demonstration Lab: 

Hydrosol Co-Distillation

Leslie Lekos

(1.5 hrs)

The process of making hydrosols is not difficult once you have the right equipment and understand the basic processes that are involved.  Anyone can be a distiller and in fact historically in many parts of Europe most households were distilling for personal use for their food, medicine, cosmetics and cleaning.  

In this class we will be going through the step by step process of producing hydrosols through the steam distillation method in a 50-liter copper still.  We will also talk about production in other sized stills and the benefits and drawbacks from different sized stills.   Essential oils are also mostly produced in this same way and we will touch upon that process.  

Each part of the still will be discussed and how they each work during distillation: the boiler, retort, hat, bird’s beak, condenser, heating elements, sealants and hoses.  We’ll discuss the benefits and drawbacks of distilling in different types of mediums: copper, steel and glass and good places to purchase the equipment.  Storage and ways to detect spoilage will be covered as well as care for the still between usages.  There will be ample time to answer your questions.

To demonstrate the distillation process we will be making a co-distillation hydrosol from a variety of aromatic species from the Durango area.   Co-distillations as opposed to a single plant distillation, is when multiple species are combined to be distilled together at the same time.  Co-distillations can be a way to remember and enjoy a place or to formulate for a particular use.

Sweeten Up!: 

The Healing Medicine of Honey

Jenny Solidago Mansell

(1.5 hrs)

Herbal preparations such as teas and tinctures are standard in almost every herbalist’s apothecary but for some reason herb-infused honey hasn’t enjoyed quite the same popularity. Herb-infused honeys are a good choice for many people who are unable to, or prefer not to, use alcohol-based preparations. Honey is emollient (soothes and moistens skin) and antibacterial. For this reason it has been used as a dressing for wounds and burns in both ancient times and modern. Honey is also a convenient way to extract water soluble constituents for those who may not have time for tea. In this class, learn how to make infused honey using the folk method as well as some favorite herbs for infusing in honey and their applications. We’ll go over when and why to take herb-infused honey internally and how to use it externally for both cosmetic purposes and to support the body’s healing processes, including personal case studies from Jenny’s experience. We’ll also touch on other preparations which utilize honey such as elixirs and oxymels and also about the importance of sourcing local honey. Things may get a little sticky since participants will have an opportunity to try a honey facial mask while learning how to use honey as part of their regular cleansing regimen. There will also be a variety of herb-infused honeys to taste and enjoy. Honey reminds us how joy can be a medicine in its own right and how to take delight in our herbal practices. Come learn about this amazing substance from the bees!

Hands-On Demonstration Lab: 

External Herbal Care:

Plant Medicines For Pain & Healing

Sage Mauer

(1.5 hrs)

It’s time to love up the body with some big plant magic! Come join us as we cover ourselves in plants and soak in their healing energy. Applying herbs externally to the body is a powerful and effective way to receive their medicine. Many topical applications of plants will be explored experientially in this class, including herbal washes, juices, oils, salves, compresses, poultices, laying on leaves, and brushing with bundles. We will explore herbal oils, salves, and compresses to relieve pain, soothe inflammation, calm the nerves, relieve aching muscles and joints, and speed tissue healing. We will discuss different formulas for specific conditions, troubleshooting herbal oils, and working with both fresh and dried plants. Through self-massage we will experience some of the most incredible plant infused oils together. Herbal oils will be offered in class for self-massage including Pine, Spruce, Cottonwood, Black Birch, Mugwort, Calendula, St. John’s Wort, Sweet Annie, Turmeric, Ashwagandha, Ginger, Violet, Plantain, and more! Those attending class should wear comfortable clothes that you don’t mind getting a little dirty with plants. Come give your body some love!

Sensory Exploration Through Herbal Infusions

Brigit Anna McNeill

(1.5 hrs)

There is a way to taste a plant in stillness and openness that can bring one into bodily conversation and an understanding of how the plant works.

Take a moment to still the body and awaken the senses, allowing the sacred art of tea drinking- herbal infusions and potions to be the gateway into the language of your body. Things shift and change within the body as the plant starts to have an impact, things open and move. The emotional and physical start to come alive in different ways and memories and visual stories are felt. From tuning into the felt sense of what the plant does by learning to pick up on the plants smell, feel and sensations that start to whisper through the body and be felt in different places can really help one to see the power of their own senses and the power of the plant.

When the body touches, tastes, looks at and absorbs a plant it changes something within; a warmth in the heart, a relaxation, an aliveness, an upliftment, grief, lust, love, sadness or a grounded awakening. When a person can start to awaken to how to listen with all of their body, magic can happen and a conversation has begun between plant being and human being.

Tea Time:  A Tasting Experience

Rose Nuffer

(2 hrs)

This is a workshop for the senses. We will begin by calming and quieting the body and mind, to open ourselves up to observing with all of our senses. Then we will taste, one single herb tea at a time. Each tea will be made of one Arkansas grown or Arkansas wildcrafted herb, and the herb’s name will be undisclosed before and during tasting so that we can taste unhindered by assumptions, facts and details we have stored in our minds. Of the five herbal teas we will taste, some will be of herbs commonly known and some, lesser known.

In silence, we will take time to sample each tea and record our observations as we listen to our bodies’ senses. After each tasting we will share what we experienced and work with language to help us describe our experiences. And during this post-tasting discussion, each herb will be named as well as the type of tea preparation. Some history and information about each herb will also be shared, to help put our experiences into context. All skill levels are welcome. A list of possible contraindications for each herbal tea we will taste will be available for those who would like to participate and need clarity. This is an opportunity to get outside of your logical mind, listen to your body, connect with the herbs and learn more.

Hands-On Demonstration Lab:

Sweet Remedies: 

An Herbalist’s Guide to Glycerin in Medicine Making 

Dani Otteson

(2 hrs)

Glycerine is a sweet, emollient liquid that lends itself well to plant extraction and the preservation of products. This class has a very specific focus on the use of glycerin in medicine making. We will discuss the nitty-gritty of this substance, from glycerin’s origins and makeup to specific methods for use. Class will include a hands-on demonstration of making glycerites for ingestion (a great alternative to traditional alcohol-based tinctures). We will also address other ways in which glycerin can be used in herbal preparations, both topical and internal.

Hands-On Demonstration Lab:

Infuse With Booze: 

Bitter & Cordials Making 101

Amber Shehan

(1.5 hrs)

Fresh herbs, fruit, spices, and booze - what’s in your jar? Join in a hands-on workshop that will let you craft your own bitters or cordial. There will be a demonstration and discussion of techniques, but then you get to dive in and have fun! 

Preserving herbs and fruit in alcohol for both health and pleasure has been done for centuries. You can make your own easily, whether you want a simple cinnamon whisky or something to rival the 56 herbs of Jägermeister.