Over the weekend, my husband and I visited family out in Tucson Arizona. I had half expected the Sonoran Desert to be dry, brown, and brittle, but to my surprise, the recent rains had turned the barren landscape into a profusion of green.
Among these green desert plants stood towers of spiny arms – not the Saguaros as you may imagine, though they dotted the Sonoran mountainsides aplenty, but long spindly bursts of ocotillo as far as the eye could see.
You can guess how excited I was to see them, for I have long been a lover of its powerful medicine. I wasted no time at all asking my husband’s dad if I could harvest some of his ocotillo in the yard and here we are learning how to make ocotillo tincture.
Ocotillo Tincture Recipe – For Stagnancy & Lymphatic Drainage
Ocotillo, or Fouquieria splendins, is a desert shrub that grows throughout the Southwestern United States, primarily in the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts. It grows from a single trunk where a multitude of spiky arms (sometimes up to a hundred!) branch out like sticks up to the sky.
During the dry season, these arms appear brown, dry, and dead, but once the monsoons come or just after a good rain the arms become covered in bright-green oval leaves. In the Spring and early Summer, the tops of each branch are tipped in red flowers that attract hummingbirds and other desert wildlife.
Despite looking so thorny and unapproachable, Ocotillo is one of my favorite medicinal plants.
How to Harvest Ocotillo for Medicine Making
As you can imagine, the ocotillo is a protected plant and should therefore only be harvested on private land and in minimal quantities. It may seem like there are many, but you have to remember that ocotillo grows in a very small area and should be harvested sustainably.
Once you have located a plant from which you can legally harvest its branches, it’s time to get your supplies!
Harvesting from ocotillo is much like pruning a rose bush so you will need the following:
To begin harvesting, choose a good healthy branch that has nice green leaves. It is always best to harvest after a rain in order to get the freshest and strongest medicine possible, though I have heard that leaf-less ocotillo is still effective.
Make a clean cut at the base of the branch with your shears, being careful of the thorns.
Next, you will want to cut the harvested branch into smaller more manageable pieces and place them in your basket.
Bring the ocotillo home for the next steps.
How to Make Ocotillo Tincture
Ocotillo Tincture Recipe
You will need:
- A mason jar
- A hammer (this is for cracking open the branches and getting the bark)
- 80 proof Vodka
- Freshly harvested ocotillo branches with leaves (you can also use the flowers)
On a clean flat surface, lay out your ocotillo branch pieces. Make sure you are still wearing your gloves when handling the ocotillo since its spines are quite sharp.
Use the hammer to crack open the branches and peel away the bark from the inner pith. I’ve left some of the pith in the final tincture, but you don’t need to.
Peel away the bark and add it to your jar including the leaves.
Once finished, cover the ocotillo completely with the 80 proof Vodka and allow it to macerate for 4-6 weeks before straining.
Don’t want to make your own? You can buy ocotillo tincture already made here.
Why Should You Make Ocotillo Tincture?
So, you may be wondering why on earth would you make a tincture from a plant that is so vicious looking and hard to come by.
Well, let me tell you why I believe most of my readers could benefit from its medicinal properties.
Ocotillo is a powerful lymphatic and stagnation mover meaning that it targets fluids in the body that need to flow for optimal health. It has an affinity for the pelvic region, the respiratory system, and the liver and is known to be warming, stimulant, expectorant, a decongestant, and a mild emmenagogue (increases menstrual flow).
Ocotillo is also a digestive tonic in that it improves the digestion and assimilation of fats, improving the absorption of lipids into the digestive lymphatic tissues, stimulating the production and secretion of bile, and moving stagnant intracellular fluids.
It also moves stagnant Qi, blood, energy, and mucous from the pelvic region, the upper thighs, and in respiratory tissues.
“The tincture is taken in a little warm water every three or four hours, usually in doses of 25-35 drops. It is useful for those symptoms that arise from pelvic congestion, both lymphatic and venous. It is absorbed from the intestines into the mesenteric lymph system by way of the lacteals of the small-intestinal lining: this stimulates better visceral lymph drainage into the thoracic duct and improves dietary fat absorption into the lymph system. With fewer dietary lipids going into the liver by the portal blood, there is less tendency for the intestinal blood to back up (portal hypertension) and less stagnation in the pelvic and upper thighs.” – Michael Moore
Ocotillo is also known to improve:
- Alcoholic cirrhosis
- Cardiovascular edema
- Chronic constipation
- Chronic psoriasis caused by pelvic congestion
- Colitis (irritation and swelling of the large intestine)
- Decreased sex drive
- Dysmenorrhea (painful periods)
- Dysuria (painful or difficult urination)
- Eczema caused by poor fat assimilation
- Emotional stagnation (meaning bottled up emotions that need somewhere to go)
- Emotional turmoil associated with broken heart, feeling adrift, disconnected, depressed
- Epididymitis/Orchitis (swelling or pain in the back of the testicle in the coiled tube)
- General sedentary lifestyle
- Impaired immunity – ocotillo helps the body eliminate stuck wastes
- Liver Qi Stagnation – where feelings of frustrated anger seem to ERUPT and take control
- Lymphadenitis (swollen lymph glands/nodes)
- Mononucleosis (kissing disease)
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
- Poor self-esteem
- Portal venous congestion – the veins from the intestines to the liver
- Sluggish menstruation
- Sore throat
- Steatorrhea (the excretion of abnormal quantities of fat with the feces owing to reduced absorption of fat by the intestines)
- Symptoms of endometriosis
- The chronic abdominal pain and hemorrhoidal aching associated with Hepatitis
- Uterine congestion
- Varicose veins in the legs and inner thighs
- Venous stasis in the pelvis and legs
Ocotillo is a deep yet gentle energy mover that will gently force everything that is stuck and stagnant to the surface, most often at the root of the problem.
One of my favorite uses of Ocotillo is for emotional support. I am one of those people who strongly feel emotions and will often stuff them down inside myself to keep them from coming out. The thing is, they always DO come out, often at the wrong times and cause all sorts of problems. There have been countless times when I wish I used more tact and kept my mouth closed when emotions have flared or when I have felt “triggered” – ocotillo definitely helps with that.
I also experience a lot of circulating thoughts that don’t serve me and have trouble processing and eliminating them.
Ocotillo helps to very gently allow the release of these bottled-up emotions and allow me to process them in a calm and almost nurturing manner instead of them surging forward and hurting or embarrassing others at inappropriate times.
I also love using ocotillo tincture for my poor circulation issues in order to keep my veins strong and healthy since I do sit at a desk most of the day.
All in all, ocotillo has really helped keep my body flowing as it should!
How to Use Ocotillo Tincture
Once your tincture has macerated for 4-6 weeks, you can strain it and bottle it as you like. Just make sure to store it in a cool dark place. The tincture will stay fresh for years.
To use ocotillo tincture, take 10-30 drops up to 4x daily with water.
Before taking ocotillo, or any herb for that matter, I strongly urge you to do your own research.
According to Michael Moore:
Since ocotillo is a strong mover of fluids in the pelvis, it should never be used during pregnancy.
It is also contraindicated for use in those who suffer from thrombosis (local coagulation or clotting of the blood in part of the circulatory system), cholinergic dominance, and lymphatic diseases that involve the immune system.
Have you ever made ocotillo tincture before? What are your favorite uses for it? Please share in the comments below!
You may also enjoy reading:
How to Make Simple Elderberry Tincture
Usnea Tincture – The Lungs of The Forest
Pedicularis Tincture for The Side Effects of Stress
How to Make Cottonwood Tincture
7 Ways to Maintain a Strong Lymphatic System
How to Detox the Lymphatic System Using Essential Oils
Jones, Feather. Medicinal Herb Handbook: An Herbal Application Guide for Novice and Clinician Through Simplified Herbal Remedy Descriptions. Lotus Press, 1999.
Moore, Michael. Medicinal plants of the desert and canyon west. UNM Press, 1989.
Page, Linda. Healthy Healing’s Detoxification: Programs to Cleanse, Purify & Renew. Healthy Healing, Inc., 2008.