This section is from the book "A Practitioner's Handbook Of Materia Medica And Therapeutics", by Thos. S. Blair. Also available from Amazon: A Practitioner's handbook of Materia Medica and Therapeutics.
Green Plant Tinctures are official under the title "Tinctura Herbarium Recentium," and are made of green or recent herbs, cut into small portions, 500 grams, and alcohol 1000 c.c. The whole is digested for two weeks, run through a tincture press, and filtered. The fact has been long since developed by English chemists that narcotic herbs are much deteriorated in the process of drying, and their medicinal value almost wholIy destroyed by careless drying, by age, or by exposure. The Germans go still further, and some of them contend that drugs other than narcotics are similarly influenced, and they would have nearly all tinctures made of tire recent drug. Differences in physiologic actions have been observed as regards dried and fresh specimens of various plants. This has been studied in detail with belladonna, cimicifuga, gelsemium, hyoscyamus, and pulsatilla.
Many medicinal plants have no appreciable odor until a branch is broken off or they are otherwise crushed. Chlorophyll exists in all plants, and its change or degeneration is due to the oxidizing ferments contained in the cells of the fresh plants. A ferment action is initiated so soon as there is any solution of continuity or the plant is separated from its stem, and then the chlorophyll is soon destroyed. Changes within root structure are usually due to resinous matters. When a plant is uprooted from the soil, is crushed or severed from the stem, the end of organic existence begins and the plant dies just as does an animal, only more slowly and in detail. Micro-organisms collect in the plant tissues and multiply with enormous rapidity. No amount of care in curing or drying can do more than merely modify the changes so produced.
Left alone, the plant rots; carefully handled, it ferments and destructive changes occur in it, destroying volatile and even alkaloidal constituents and developing the deleterious products of fermentation and decay. These changes have an important bearing upon the active principles and the medicinal value of a large number of our plant remedies. The argument of dollars and cents will not serve to minimize the importance of these considerations.
The tall crowfoot and other weeds are known to cause abortion in cows. Many weeds will injure the stock, and yet when the grass crop is cut, weeds and all, it is seldom that the hay does much damage in this direction. Animal instinct does not always serve to warn against injurious weeds in the field or in the manger. In Germany, wind-flower or pulsatilla is a weed of this character. It is dangerous only when in its green state. In the curing of the tobacco leaf infinite care is taken, and even cultures of certain bacteria are sprinkled upon the leaf in order to modify the kind of decomposition occurring during the drying process. We all know the differences between fresh and dried fruit, but we can enjoy dried apples or peaches, since their flavors are not so volatile and they do not decay too rapidly during the drying process; but we would not so much care for dried strawberries or pineapples. If the articles of food value are influenced by drying, and common experience testifies to the fact that most plants we eat are so influenced, why do we neglect this factor in the infinitely more complex relationships plants sustain to us as medicines? Many of the therapeutic actions in small doses cannot be obtained with fluidextracts and tinctures made in the usual manner, owing to the almost entire absence of certain volatile constituents. Quite naturally, this is purely a matter of chemistry, and does not apply to plants of more stable chemic structure. Persons practically conversant with the complexities of plant chemistry will not feel that it is drawing things to too fine a point to insist upon these matters even in our lack of ability to always define the exact nature and action of these elusive and not always well-defined substances. Several kinds of green plant tinctures are upon the market. Many discriminating clinicians report much satisfaction from the use of "German tinctures." They cost about $2.50 per pound, and are of the highest grade therapeutically and pharmaceutically.