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Powders, herbs and the Process

Sorry for the long gap, I was working on something. Needless to say, while the work goes on, it was about time I published a blog. This one is for the medical practitioners and those out there who are willing to take the risk and make their own medicine concoction.

While many of us believe that powders of all the herbs are similar to the actual herb, and will render the same effect, it is not the entire truth. When dealing with powders, you realise a lot of facts about the herb anatomy and how it reacts to the act of being ground.

Let us start by the process, there are a lot of ways to grind a herb into the powdered form. The consistency of powder which we are using here is flour-like and not the coarse grind many people like to put in their teas and other decoctions. One way to get powdered form is by grinding the herb in a domestic grinder. One thing to keep in mind is, you need to have smaller pieces in the grinder, and not the whole herbs. Even for smaller herbs like Aamla, or Halela (Haritaki), you should get them crushed into smaller pieces and then put in the grinder. That will yield a comparatively less coarse powder, which you can then run through a sieve or a muslin cloth and get an extremely fine powder.

For already small herbs, like seeds, or structurally week herbs like Jatamasi (Bal Chad), you can put directly in the grinder, but ensure enough contact or the herbs like Jatamasi have a nature of sticking to the top of the grinder, and not getting ground much.

Another method is an Industrial grinder, and the third method is grinding using mortar and pestle. We will not talk about mortar and pestle because nowadays people neither have the time nor the energy to be spent on grinding herbs for hours, even though it is the most effective method, both cost-wise and nutrient preservation wise. An Industrial grinder is not good for smaller quantities of herbs. Its effectiveness and use will shine best when there is north of 12-15 Kg of herbs to be ground for the compact herbs like Bahera (Balela) or Kooth Meeth (Quasht Sheerein). While 8-9 Kg of volume intensive herbs like Gul Gaozaban (Gaozaban Petals) and Jatamans (Bal Chhad).

But grinding herbs is not without its loss. When you grind herbs, anywhere and using any common method, you are bound to lose weight. And it happens due to a variety of reasons.

  • Loss of moisture

  • Loss of fine particles

  • Loss due to un-grindable particles

Each of these loss results in you getting a lesser herb than what you put in the grinder. In an industrial grinder, the same things happen on a larger scale. To give you an example of loss, 100gm of Aamla when prepared for grinding after crushing will be ~99 gm. The first loss is due to crushing. After the grind, the end result will be ~ 89-92 gm. Why? Well as mentioned dried Aamla also has some residual moisture that escapes when it is ground to fine powder amidst the high temperature of the grinder blades. 2nd loss happens when you open the domestic grinder, extremely find, dust-like particulate matter just escapes the grinder. That can not be captured. And the final loss is a black particulate matter which cannot be ground, not matter how much you run it. This is why pure Aamla powder looks muddy yellowish-brown in colour, and not greyish white like the whole herb.

In conclusion, making powder from herbs is not as easy an affair as it looks. There are caveats and there are precautions we need to take as well as the certain loss we need to be ready for. Because if done properly, powdered herbs have a much wider use case, and can benefit more people. Get Grinding!

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