Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Making our first Lozenges and Creams

Today's class was all based around making lozenges and creams.


The main ingredient in lozenges is Gum arabic.

Gum arabic in its powdered and crystal forms. The bowl contains Gum arabic crystal that has been left in water, this dissolves the crystal and forms a glue-like paste.

The most common form for Gum arabic is the crystal.

Gum arabic is a natural gum made of hardened sap taken from the two species of acacia tree. The gum is harvested commercially from wild trees throughout the Sahel from Senegal and Sudan to Somalia, although it has been historically cultivated in Arabia and West Asia.
Gum arabic is a complex mixture of polysaccharies and glycoproteins that is used primarily in the food industry as a stabiliser. It is edible (although it does have the consistency of paste and has a pretty vile taste), and has E number E414.

Gum arabic's mixture of saccharies and glycoproteins gives it the properties of a glue, and binder which is edible by humans, making it the perfect base ingredient to make our lozenges. The reason we use a gum instead of a resin is because a resin contains volatile oils, its aromatic and doesn't suit the purpose as well as the gum which is a carbohydrate, and has very little to no smell.
Resins and Gums are effectively the same thing, they are both wound healers, but for different trees. In the commercial collection of Gum arabic, the trees are actually scored and cut to create wounds for it to heal.

Making lozenges is a fairly simple process. You begin by dissolving the Gum arabic in water, to help speed along the process this can be done over gentle heat. It will turn a bright white colour as it fully dissolves and turns into a glue-like gum.
Dissolving the Gum arabic in water.

One the Gum arabic is fully dissolved, the mixture is now ready to be removed from the heat. The next step in the process is to add the secondary base ingredient to the Gum arabic, which is powdered Slippery Elm. You will be surprised how much Slippery Elm will be taken in by the Gum arabic. Mould the Gum arabic in your hands, it'll be dough-like, and whilst doing this keep your surface covered in Slippery Elm. Also at this stage you can add other herbs, either powders or concentrate drops, or even honey to sweeten the final result!

Mixing the first lot of Slippery Elm into the newly dissolved Gum arabic.

Kneeding the Gum arabic/Slippery Elm dough - powdered Slippery Elm is dusted over the table.

Rolling out the dough after having mixed in the herbs of choice - preparing it to be cut into lozenges.

Adding the powdered herbs and spices to the dough.

Rolling out our "Winter Spice" dough in preparation for cutting.

Dusting the newly cut "lozenges" in spice and Slippery Elm.

The other lozenges - Liquorice & Cinnamon (top left) and Lemon Teardrops (right).

Once you've added what you would like to the dough mixture, roll it out and cut into the sizes you would prefer for your lozenges. Dust the lozenges in Slippery Elm, and leave them out in the air to dry for a few days until rock solid - otherwise they may go bad and mould as they've allowed bacterial growth when damp. Once they've hardened, the lozenges are ready for use - tackling sore throats.

Base Creams

Creams can become complex, however base creams with simple herbal elements are quite simple to make. The base cream we concocted in class only required three simple ingredients.
  1. An oil of your choosing.
  2. Beeswax.
  3. A herbal element.
To make around 120ml of cream, take 80ml of base oil - in our case, we were given the choice of a light coloured Sunflower oil or a deeper coloured Olive oil. We chose the Sunflower oil due to its asthetically pleasing light colour. A tablespoon of beeswax in flakes, as it dissolves readily when heated. And finally the herbal element, either a herbal distillate, fluid extract in either alcohol or water.

In our cream we used an alcohol extract of Chickweed - the taste of which was stated to be like "bitter alcoholic pea" and "rotten salad". A definate anti-romantic (anti-roomatic).

The herbal element is to be put in one bowl, the chosen oil and beeswax in a second - they are to be heated together in a water bath until the beeswax has fully melted. Heating them both together, helps prevent the two seperating when mixed together.

Gathering ingredients and beginning the heating procedure.

Stirring the beeswax in the oil, helps heat it through thoroughly and encourages the beeswax to melt faster.

Once heated, remove the two bowls from the water bath, and slowly, while beating the mixtures (similar to making Mayonnaise) - slowly add the herbal element to the beeswax/oil.

Beat the mixture until it becomes a cream. Then decant it into containers of choice.

These types of base cream have no preservative, unless an alcoholic fluid extract has been used, however the effects have not been determined in that case. So if decanting into glass jars, store them in the fridge so as to help keep them fresher for longer. Otherwise a good idea is to freeze the mixture in ice cube tray, and as and when you need some of the cream, pop out one cube of frozen cream, defrost it and use within 24 hours.

So we left todays class, our bags clinking with empty glass jars and bottles, four little labelled glass jars full of cream and then little plastic containers, dusted utterly in Slippery Elm and holding a selection of the three different lozenges that were made. We had been given our instructions on how to handle each green pharmacy preparation when we got home - creams into fridge, lozenges out into the air to dry - as well as a new piece of homework... to make our own alcoholic extract percolator! Oh dear... that'll be a challenge!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this wonderfully detailed account!