Use your Instant Pot for herbal medicine making and fully utilizing this advanced herbal remedy making machine, while you save on electricity and keep your kitchen cool.
The Instant Pot is a useful appliance for your home. While it allows you to make dinner without heating up the kitchen, giving you options for slow cooking or fast, pressure cooking, it’s prowess as an herbalist’s assistant should not be overlooked. The Instant Pot is a versatile workhorse in the herbalist kitchen, allowing for the execution of several herbal medicine making techniques while saving both energy-costs and time.
The Instant Pot is a multifunction pressure cooker that speeds up cooking by 2
Note: for herbal medicine making, you use the Instant Pot on the lowest “slow cook” setting, as a double boiler. Make sure to use a glass lid when using the Instant Pot in this way, not the pressurizing lid. Do not use the Instant Pot as a pressure cooker for herbal medicine, it will get too hot and damage the herbal constituents.
But I also use my Instant Pot for herbal creations. The beauty of the Instant Pot is it’s ability to maintain an even temperature over a long period time, which is essential for infusing oils in small batches, with prime quality herbal goodness. It also allows for controlled fermentation using the yogurt setting. If you already use an Instant Pot in your kitchen for making dinner, using it for making herbal remedies, healing balms, and herbal soap is an easy transition.
8 ways to use your Instant Pot for herbal medicine making
Infusing fresh or dried herbs in oil
When infusing fresh herbs, especially very moist herbs, it’s best to use heat during the infusion to minimize mold contamination. Fresh and dried herbs can be infused in oil on the low setting of the slow cooker or on the yogurt setting. Place the herbs and oil in a Mason jar. Fill the Instant Pot insert with warm water to halfway up the side of the Mason jar. Allow the herbs to steep in the oil with the Instant Pot set to Low on the Slow Cooker Setting. Steep the herbs for 1 to 4 hours. Turn off the Instant Pot and allow the container to come to room temperature naturally. Strain the herbs from the oil using a potato ricer, (This is the one that I use.) Reserve the oil. Discard the herbs into the compost.
Creating herbal balms, salves, and body butters
The Instant Pot makes creating herbal balms, salves, and body butters in small batches fast and easy. Using 1 cup jam size regular Mason Jars, you can make 6 batches of salves, all different, at one time.
Making herbal infusions and herbal extracts
While you won’t want to use the Instant Pot to create herbal alcohol tinctures, the Instant Pot can be used to make herbal glycerites, water infusions, and strong extractions as a base for other herbal medicines like syrups, candy, and lozenges. One advantage of the instant pot is the ability to make several different preparations using the pot as a double boiler or baine marie, by infusing herbs using Mason jars.
Making herbal soap
Herbs are used in soap making in 4 ways. Infused oils are used in the oil portion of the soap making process. Herbal water infusion are combined with the lye in the lye solution portion of soap making. Whole herbs and essential oils are added at trace, just before the soap is poured into molds. Herbs are used to colour the soap, scent the soap, and to add their beneficial actions to the soap lather.
The stainless steel insert in the Instant Pot is nonreactive and suitable for soap making. The insert can be used for melting fats and blending oils. It can be used to stir the lye into the fats and bring the soap to trace. It can also be used to cook the soap after trace, speeding up the time it takes for the soap to cure.
However, only nonreactive glass should be used to hold the the lye solution whether the soap is made with herbal tea, milk, or water. The hot lye solution should never be held in a metal container.
Rebatching herbal soap
Soap can be milled to produce a denser bar of soap. This involves grating the green soap and cooking the grated soap down until it is liquid again. Then pouring the rebatched soap into individual molds. When there is a soap failure the soap is often rebatched in the same way in order to give the soap a second chance for all the fats to blend with any free lye in the batch. This can be easily done in the Instant Pot.
Simmering herbs and honey for mead
Mead making is similar to wine making, but honey is used instead of sugar to give energy to the yeast. Herbal meads are enriched with lemons or oranges and raisins to give the drink more body. These fruits are simmered in water with herbs before the honey is added to the mead. The Instant Pot is the ideal container for simmering and steeping the herbs and honey for 1 gallon batches of mead, enough for 5 — 750ml bottles of mead per batch.
Making herbal lozenges and candy
Herbal candy and lozenge making begins by making a strong decoction of herbs in water. This can be done easily in a sauce pan on the stove top. But the Instant Pot keeps the kitchen cool and uses less energy in the process than the stove top. Once the strong decoction is strained, it can be returned to the instant pot to be cooked into candy. Use the glass lid for this process so you can see the syrup cooking. Use the saute setting for higher temperatures for candy making. A candy thermometer easily attaches to the side of the insert, once the lid is remove in the last stages of candy making.
Making herbal syrups
When making large batches of elderberry syrup or hawthorn syrup for winter use, the Instant Pot allows for several quarts to be made in a controlled way, without the sticky mess associated with seasonal jam making. While you don’t want to can the jars in the Instant Pot, use a boiling water bath canner for that, the syrup itself can be boiled down in the Instant Pot before ladling it into jars for canning.
When I use my Instant Pot for herbal medicine making I don’t have to stand over the pot while the herbs are steeping and releasing their herbal goodness. The temperature of the Instant Pot is steady and controlled. I can do other things while the herbs are infusing in the instant pot without fear that the pot will boil dry or the temperature will get too hot and scorch the sugar. The pot insert is large enough to do several batches of herbs in Mason jars simultaneously. (I have the 7 in 1, 6 quart model)
One of my favorite uses is to dissolve resinous herbs in oil using the slow cooker setting of the Instant Pot. To do this, I place the resins in a pint Mason jar. Pour the carrier oil over the resin in the jar. I place the jar inside the stainless steel insert of the Instant Pot with a lid on it. Then I put water in the Instant Pot insert until it comes half way up the sides of the jar. I leave this, with the clear lid to hold in the heat, overnight. In the morning I unplug the Instant pot and allow the jars to cool until I can handle them without being burned. Then I strain the oils. This works fabulously for pine, frankincense, and myrrh resins. Once the oil is strained the process can be repeated with fresh oil using any residual resin left in the jar.
Special equipment to make it easier
While you can use your Instant Pot for herbal medicine making without any special equipment, right out of the box, there are a few small accessories you can get to make the Instant Pot even more valuable for assisting you with making herbal remedies.
A second silicone seal
A second silicone seal is very handy to have when you do more than just use your Instant Pot as a slow cooker. The Instant Pot comes with a single silicone seal which is effective for maintaining the pressure of the pressure cooker. However, getting two or three extra seals makes a lot of sense if you plan to do more than make dinner with your Instant Pot. The seal gets discolored with long cooking for meat and it picks up the flavors of the garlic, onions, and herbs that are in your pot roast, beans, or slow cooked chicken. At the same time, simmering aromatic herbs in oil can taint the seal with the flavors of pine resin, frankincense, myrrh, and other aromatic spices. You may not want those flavors to permeate your yogurt or rice. By using one seal for herbal remedy crafting, another for desserts, and another for meats you can control the off-flavours while getting the benefits of the Instant Pot’s even temperatures through it’s full range of applications.
A clear lid
A tempered glass lid expands the applications that you can use the Instant Pot for. The Instant Pot comes with the pressure cooker lid. This lid can be used for nonpressure applications however, the stop-cock that seals the unit for pressure cooking needs to be checked every time you remove or replace the lid, to ensure that it doesn’t close and seal the unit for pressure cooking. Since pressure cooking increases both the pressure and the temperature of the contents, you don’t want to have the pressure seal inadvertently close while you are working with herbs. By using the see-through glass lid, you can maintain the even temperature of the herbal recipe while ensuring that extra pressure doesn’t interfere with the process.
The Instant Pot makes a fabulous double boiler when you fill the bottom of the stainless steel insert with a bit of water, and place a Mason jar or Pyrex measureing cup in the bottom of the insert, then cover with the clear glass lid. The temperatures are high enough to melt beeswax and cocoa butter, but not so high that the fragile infused oils are injured by the heat. A pint size mason jar fits inside the Instant Pot with the glass lid or the regular Instant Pot lid in place.
A Second Stainless Steel Insert
One of the first accessories for the Instant Pot that I bought was a second stainless steel insert. This has come in handy on numerous occassions when I was in the middle of cooking dinner, yet needed a quick herbal remedy for an immediate need. I was able to remove the insert that contained my dinner, and place it in the oven to brown the chicken, while I placed the second insert in the Instant Pot to create some elderberry syrup or a menthol chest rub, so that it would be ready for use by the time dinner was over. Normal people use the second insert to bake dessert in the Instant Pot while dinner is served, but I never claimed to be normal.
The second insert is also useful for making mead. There is just enough room in the insert to steep herbs, fruit, and honey in one gallon lots to fill a gallon jug with healthy, healing herbal mead. Once the herbs are warmed and steeped. The insert can be removed from the Instant Pot and covered with a glass lid to keep out insects. Cool the must completely before adding the wine yeast.
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