- Though some herbs have a specific way of processing that
should be done, the general and basic preparations should be
- 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
- 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
* 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
- 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
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
- * The Eye Bath: Two basic methods of treating eye problems;
sore eyes, inflammation, etc.; with herbal decoctions or infusions
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.