Polarity Post, prequel to "Solubility; If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate"
Some different menstruum (solvents). Let's start with the most common (it's not what you think) it's water. Water??? Whaaaaa??? Yes, water is a solvent. Why is water a solvent? Because it is polar (I'm not letting all that chemistry go to waste...read on, it's going to be fun...I think) Ok what the hell is this polar business? Is it frozen? Let's discuss polarity and how it helps us to make a tincture, hopefully it will give us some ideas on how to proceed and think about what we are trying to accomplish and how to go about it. Ok? Still with me? Here we go.
Polarity is where there is a rogue electron or gang of electrons are looking to get neutral. This electron (-) is a junkie looking for a positive (+) fix. It is looking to become balanced. So in order to be balanced the electron needs to snatch a positive to balance out and be at peace. Water looks like this: see picture. The little hydrogens (H+) are latched onto the the big oxygen (O-) in an unequal power game. The oxygen is always looking to pick up more H dates and the H's just hang on for the ride. There is an unequal power share here. Can you see it? This inequality is called polarity. I daresay many solvents are polar...some are not polar...like oils...we will get to that later. (Have I fried your cookies yet?). So water is polar as we can see, and so is alcohol, but it is MORE polar...yes, you can have degrees of polarity.
So what do we make with herbs and water? That's right, teas. Hot teas (the heat speeds up the process) and cold infusions which take hours (I recommend overnight).
Water draws out some of the constituents of the plant due to its polarity and the polarity of the constituent. It's really just a positive/negative charge game. (electrons are negatively charged, they are looking for positive charges to be neutral and whole)
So to sum up for today (finally). Rogue electrons want the peace of neutrality, and will go on the prowl to grab those constituents from your herb. This is how the benefits of the herbs are attained.
I hope this is helpful. I know this is confusing if you didn't take chemistry. Please if you have a question just ask and I will attempt to not confuse you further. ~Mamma moon
Last time we started our discussion of solutions and mixtures and cool stuff like that. Today we are going to talk about bonds and bond strengths. Why do you care? Because as medicine makers we are breaking bonds and re-making bonds of molecules that are going to cause an action. We are going to put plants in stuff to draw out their properties to facilitate healing. We are going to use our GSBs to make new and exciting healing discoveries. So, off we go!
First lets get the definition of chemical bonds. According to Kahn Academy; "Chemical bonds hold molecules together and create temporary connections that are essential to life. Types of chemical bonds include covalent, ionic, hydrogen bonds and London dispersion forces." In my opinion an excellent definition. So, now on to types of bonds.
We will check these out one by one, so we can understand how they pertain to our art of herbalism.
Covalent bonds: the "official" definition from my chemistry book "A covalent bond is the additional force of attraction that results form valence electrons being shared between two nuclei. The bond holds molecules together."
So we started talking about polarity and solvents. So if water is so polar why not just use that for everything? And why should you care? As with most everything in life there is just more to the story. I feel like I put the cart before the horse so let's back up and take a look at what solubility is, solutions are and how they work.
What we are working toward is a better understanding of how we can make tinctures, oils, honeys and vinegars in a different and more informed way. We are going to do this in easily digestible chunks, so if you have a question; ask, because someone else probably has the same one. Here we go.
Lets start by talking about mixtures. There are homogenous (means the same) mixtures, example; a cup of tea with sugar. The tea, water, and sugar cannot be separated. If you test anywhere in the mixture. the tea, water and sugar will be present. A decanted tincture for example, is a homogeneous mixture. Anyplace you test it it will have plant constituents and alcohol.
Heterogeneous (means different) mixtures, in these mixtures components can be separated. For example, a tea blend. If you blend a tea from dried herbs ie: peppermint, Valerian, and hops. You can test this mixture in one area and find mostly or all peppermint, or mostly hops. Even if you grind it very finely there will not be the exact same mixture of herbal particles throughout the mixture.
Recap: the tea and the sugar (smaller amounts hence solUTE) are soluble in water (the greater part and solVENT). The dry tea is not soluble at all together till you add water to make the tea. Make sense? Do you see how this concept is important in herbalism? Still with me? Having fun? If you are cool with this we can move on to the next concept. If you have questions or need clarification do not hesitate to ask.
Where was I? Oh yeah, science...right. Now on to Solvents.
Solvent definition: In a solution the substance present in the greatest amount. These can be anything, but in herbalism we use: water, vinegar, alcohol, oil, honey and glycerin, am I missing anything? All of these solvents have different actions and draw out different constituents of the plant matter,
One of the things that is really important is which solvent will draw what constituent from the plant matter? We aren't going to get the same effect when we use oil to make a tincture as we will when we use alcohol to make a tincture, Why is that? Is it magic? Do we as herbalists just prefer vodka to oil? (certainly in a martini...would that be homogenous or heterogeous?) or does the vodka extract different constituents than oil extracts? Now that we have solutes and solvents understood we can now have a solution.
The definitions of a solution is this: "a homogenous mixture of solute or solutes dissolved in a solvent." Ok so now we know that we are not really talking about dried herbal tea blends (we will cover tea blending later), but the product of steeping the dried plant matter in water or alcohol or whatever we decide is best with our new Giant Scientific Brains (GSB).
Now we can see where polarity fits into this picture, can we not? Let us review what we learned in the post about polarity. (see previous post)
Now we see the importance of polarity and how knowing about polarity would be beneficial to medicine making. BUT! (there is always a but in science) there is so much more. There is ph to consider, pressure, bonds, ionic capturing, phases...we will be here a while. All of this gives us a peek into the possible, and hopefully sparks ideas that are unique that you can share with me! This is going to be super fun. I am really excited! So next we are going to talk about bonds, different types and strengths. I think that is a good place to go.
Welcome to the Mamma Moon Blog.
We discuss Herbs, the Science of Herbs and Aromatherapy. We also discuss Multiple Chemical Sensitivities.
Grab a cup of tea or wine and enjoy. Feel free to participate. ~Mamma Moon