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Herbal Preparation
By AmythystFire (copyright, 2000)
Coven of the Tropic Moon
(used with permission, if you would like to use this information on your site please contact AmythystFire for permission)
THIS IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE! Please consult a licensed Physician for medical problems.
Though some herbs have a specific way of processing that should be done, the general and basic preparations should be known.
 
Fresh is almost always the best. However, there are some that should be used ONLY AFTER they have been
dried. This is to avoid or minimize detrimental effects. The next best is properly preserved dry herbs that have been stored correctly. Even the best-dried and preserved herbs can be ruined if they are preserved wrong.

The choice of preparations depends mostly on 5 things:
1. Identity of the herb to be processed
2. Parts of the herb to be processed
3. The elements (Pulp, Oil, etc.) to be extracted, if any.
4. The final resulting remedy's form (salve, liquid, etc.)
5. The desired effect to be achieved.
 
It may take a little experimentation to come up with the adjustments needed for yourself or someone else. Be patient, you may not get immediate results from these preparations. Herbs are not the one-shot wonders of today's medicine, it takes time. It usually involves taking the remedy daily for several weeks.
Effectiveness is also greatly influenced by your life-style. A healthy diet and exercise are integral to preventing illness and over coming it when it does strike.
 
The only prepared remedies that can be stored for any length of time are ointment and those made with alcohol. The ointment is preserved by a little gum Bensoin or tincture of Bensoin (1 drop per oz. of fat). If the ointment
is made with a perishable base (tallow, lard, olive oil, etc). Make infusions, decoctions, cold extracts, juice, poultices and fomentations fresh each time. Whenever you do store any plant preparations, Sterilize the
containers before putting the preparations in them.
 
The following types of preparations are those most commonly and conveniently used in herbal medicine. The doses mentioned are for the average adult and must be adjusted according to age and condition. Foe children and weak or elderly people or when using VERY potent plants use 1/3 to 2/3 the adult dose.
 
Infusion: An infusion is a beverage made like a tea, by combining boiling water with plant material (usually green parts or flowers) and steeping to extract active ingredients. This short exposure to heat minimizes the loss
of volatile elements. The usual amount is 1/2 to 1oz of material to 1 pint of water. Most of the time one can just pour the water over the material and that is good enough. Sometimes, however, it is required that the plant
matter is added to the boiling water or herbs are added to cool water and both are brought to a boil together. The pot is then removed from the heat immediately. Use an enamel, porcelain or glass pot to steep the plants in
for about 10min. Then cover the pot with a tight fitting lid to minimize evaporation. For drinking, strain the infusion into a cup or glass. Sometimes sugar or honey may be added to improve taste. For most purposes
take the infusion Luke warm or cool. However to induce sweating and to break up a cold or cough take it hot. The cumulative daily dose, weather by mouthful or teaspoon full, ranges from 1cup to 4cups. This is depending on the severity of the problem and the potency of the plant.
 
Decoction: When extraction of mineral salts and bitters of the plant is needed rather than the vitamins and/or volatile ingredients, decoction is what you want to do. Hard materials such as roots, barks, wood, and seeds
also generally require boiling to extract their active ingredients. Boil about 1/2oz. of plant matter per cup of water in an enameled or nonmetallic pot. Green matter can also be added to cold water, brought to a boil and
boiled for 3-4 min. Another option is that that they can be added to boiling water and boiled for 3-4 min. The mix should then be steeped for in the pot with a cover for 2-3 min. Hard materials need to be boiled for about 10 min and longer steeping is necessary to extract their active ingredients. Strain to remove plant matter before drinking. Administer the same as you would an infusion.
 
Cold Extract: Preparation with cold water will preserve the most volatile ingredients and extract only minor amounts of mineral salts and bitters. In a non-metallic pot, using double the amount of plant matter and water as an infusion, add the plant matter to cold water. Let the mix stand for 8 to 12 hours. Once strained the drink is ready. Administration is the same as an infusion at this point.
 
Juice: Cut fresh plant matter into small pieces and press to squeeze the juice from it. Add a small amount of water and press again to obtain the remaining juices. This is an excellent way to obtain water-soluble
constituents, especially those sensitive to heat. Excellent for getting the most vitamins and minerals form the plant. The juice must be taken shortly after pressing since vitamin content brakes down rapidly and fermentation
sets in.
 
Powder: Grind dried plant matter with a mortar and pestle or other implement until you have a powder. Powder can be taken with water, milk or soup; sprinkled on food, or swallowed in a gelatin capsule. A #0 capsule will hold about 10 grains; #00 will hold about 15 grains. The most common dose for powder is the amount you can pick up on the tip of a dinner knife.
 
Syrup: Syrup can be made in 3 ways:
* 3lbs raw or brown sugar and a pint of water boiled to the right consistency.
* Heating honey to a boil.
* Heat store bought syrup to a boil.
Boil one of these with medicinal herbs, then strain through a cheesecloth. Cool and use. Essential when giving medicine to a child.
 
Tincture: Combine 1 to 4 oz of powdered herb (the amount depends on the plant's potency) with 8 to 12oz of consumable alcohol (Everclear, Vodka). Add water to make the mix 50% alcohol based on original alcohol %. Let stand for two weeks shaking once or twice a day. Strain and pour the liquid into a suitable storage bottle. Like other alcohol extracts, tinctures will keep for a long time. Homeopaths use very dilute tinctures as the base for their medicinal preparations. Dissolve 1oz of an herb's essential oil into a pint of alcohol. This is a good way to preserve the volatile essential oils of many plants, which are generally not soluble in water.
 
Ointment: Mix 1 part powdered herb to 4 parts hot petroleum jelly, lard, or similar substance. For the purists the old method is to boil the ingredients in water until the desired properties are extracted. Then the liquid is strained, and then the decoction is added to olive oil or other vegetable oil and simmered until the water has evaporated completely. Finally beeswax was added as needed to get a firm consistency. Melt the mix
by heating it slowly and stir until completely blended. As pointed out earlier a little gum Bensoin or a drop of tincture of Bensoin per oz of fat will help to preserve the ointment.
 
Poultice: The poultice or cataplasm is used to apply a remedy to the skin area with moist heat. To prepare, (if using fresh) bruise or crush the plant matter needed into a pulpy mass and heat. If you are using dried plants, or
if needed with the fresh ingredients, moisten the materials by mixing with a hot, soft, adhesive substance. Moist flour or corn meal are excellent, also a mix of bread and milk will work. Apply directly to the skin. A good way is to spread the paste or pulp on a wet hot cloth and apply that to the skin. Then wrap another cloth or even plastic around it to preserve moisture and heat. Moisten and reheat the cloth periodically with hot water, as
necessary. If an irritant plant is used such as in mustard "plaster", keep the paste between two cloths. This prevents direct contact with the skin. After removing the poultice wash the area well with water or herb tea,
Chamomile or Mugwort is recommended. This will remove any residue that may be on the skin. You can use a poultice to sooth, to irritate, or to draw out impurities; depending on which plant or combination of plants used.
 
Fomentation: Soak a cloth or towel in an infusion or decoction, wring out the excess, and apply as hot as possible to the affected area. A fomentation has about the same applications as a poultice but is generally less active in its effect.
 
Cold Compress: Soak a cloth or towel in an infusion or decoction that has been cooled, wring out the excess and apply to the affected area. Leave on until it is warmed by body heat, usually 15 to 20 min. Repeat application with a fresh cool compress. Continue until relieved.
 
Hydrotherapy: The Herb Bath
Hydrotherapy, the use of water for treatment of illness, is highly popular in Europe. There they have spas that offer all kinds of "water cures", these include the use of mineral water or of mineral and herbal additives to
enhance the natural healing power of the water or to produce particular effects on the body. You can also create this type of treatment if you wish.
 
Full or partial herb baths come in all shapes and sizes, from the bathtub to the eyecup. Essentially they are baths in which and infusion or a decoction has been added. Depending on the plants used and the temperature, such baths can calm or stimulate the mind and body; open or close pores; relieve inflammation, itching, or pain; and exert various other beneficial effects.

To make a decoction for adding to a full bath, anywhere from a few oz to several lbs of plant matter may be placed in a linen cloth bag and closed then boiled in a quart or more of water. For partial baths, the only
difference is that smaller quantities are used, usually 1/3 the amount for a full bath. When taking the bath, you can also add that same bag which you boiled into the bathwater or you can use it as an herbal washcloth and give yourself a brisk rubdown.
 
* The Full Bath: Warm baths 90 to 95' Fare calming and soothing to the nerves. They can also be helpful for bladder and urinary problems, mild colds, and low fevers. Both hot, 100 - 113'F and cold 55 -65'F are shocks to the system and causes increased heart action; the cold will slow the heart after the initial shock. Hot baths followed by wrapping the body in blankets will cause profuse sweating; this is helpful for colds and fevers,
eliminating excess fluid retained in the body because of improper kidney function. With the addition of the proper herbs you can create a bath for nearly any purpose: To soften, moisturize, tighten, tone, or scent the skin, to remove excess oil, to relieve itching, to simulate or relax, ease muscle aches and much more.
 
* The Half Bath: A bath where the water is only to the navel with legs and feet underwater, but the upper portion of the body out of the water. A cold half bath once a day for 5 -15 seconds can be helpful for headache, insomnia, nervous problems, over active thyroid, flatulence, and constipation. A warm half bath, 95'F for about 10min, can be used for low blood pressure and menopause problems. The warm half bath often includes vigorous brushing of the skin and may be ended with a brief spray of cold water on the back.
 
* The Sitzbath: The Sitzbath involves sitting in a small amount of water. There are specially made tubs for this, but any tub large enough to sit in will work. To take a stizbath put enough hot or warm herbal water in the
tub so that it reaches the navel when you sit in it. Prop your feet on a stool next to the tub and wrap yourself in blankets or towels so that you are fully covered from the neck down. If using a bath tub put about 4 inches
of water in there and sit with your knees up and splash the water onto your abdomen. Stay in the tub for 10 - 20 min, and then rinse with a cold bath or shower. Sitzbaths are good for the genito-urinary tract, lower abdomen,
rectum, inflammation, pelvic congestion, cramps, hemorrhoids, menstrual problems, kidney and intestinal pain, and is usually prescribed after birth.

* The Footbath: A footbath is simply putting feet and calves into a large pot or tub of herbal water. For chronically cold feet, a hot footbath for about 15 min is a good treatment. It has also been recommended for bladder, kidney, throat, and ear inflammations. Cold footbaths, lasting until the cold is too uncomfortable or the feet are warm, help tired feet, headaches, nosebleeds, and clods. Alternating between cold and hot, 1 - 2 min in hot and then 30sec in the cold alternating for 15 min and ending with cold, helps promote circulation in the legs, helps prevent varicose vanes, and may help a weak menstrual flow. It is said that using the method of alternating helps with constipation, insomnia, high blood pressure, headaches, and chronically cold feet.
 
* The Eye Bath: Two basic methods of treating eye problems; sore eyes, inflammation, etc.; with herbal decoctions or infusions are available.

1. Use an eye cup (a small cup shaped to fit over the eye)
2. Use a bowl or basin that will hold enough of the preparation to immerse the face in.

With either method, the bath consists of three or four applications, during each the eye is opened and closed several times while in contact with the liquid.
 
* The Vapor Bath: These are particularly suited to providing medication through inhalation. You need a pot or bowl, a seat, somewhere to place the bowl, and a blanket or towel large enough to drape over your head. With the pot and chair arranged so that your head is over the pot and you can inhale the vapors, place a measure of extremely hot herbal concoction into the bowel. Keep your heal above the steam and cover your head completely and breath as deeply as possible. Continue this for 15 - 30min. This treatment is ideal for colds, sinus and respiratory problems and middle ear inflammations. The sauna is an ideal vapor bath.