Medicinal Herbs…Common Forms and Preparations

kids tinctures
Whether you are new to herbs or have been using them for a while, something we can all agree on is the fact that there are so many ways to use and prepare herbal medicine. Upon searching, many find and purchase herbal remedies from health food stores, bulk herbs stores or online. However, they can be pricey and there are no regulations on herbs or herbal medicine. I have found that there are several great ways to prepare your own herbal medicines right at home! With some good research and quality products, you can make many types of healthy, helpful remedies for you and your family and save some money.

So, today I wanted to share the different ways you can prepare herbal medicine in your own home. Please understand that not all herbs can be prepared the same and diligent research is vital in preparing safe, homemade remedies. I am not an expert, but a wife who is crazy about natural health for my family…I have done my own research and like to share my findings with others.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease, but to encourage others to do their own research.

Infusions and Decoctions  43/365 [Strawberries & Cream]

Herbal infusions and decoctions are commonly called herbal “tea”. While they generally don’t contain actual tea leaves, they are prepared in a similar fashion. They both are medicinal strength and may be drunk either hot or cold. To determine whether you would use an infusion or a decoction would depend on the part of the herb you would use.

An herbal infusion is prepared by pouring freshly boiled water over fresh or dry leaves, stems, and/or flowers. The herbs are covered and steeped for 10-20 minutes. Once steeped, the spent herbs are removed and the beverage can be used hot or cold.

A decoction is prepared by simmering roots, rhizomes, barks and/or seeds in a small pot of water for 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool, then strain and drink.

I generally use 1 teaspoon of dry herbs or 2 teaspoons fresh herbs to a cup of water and drink a cup 2-3 times a day for an acute illness.

Tinctures and Tonics

Tinctures and tonics are basically herbal extracts. Making these at home takes a long time however; doing the process yourself can save you a lot of money (especially if you grow the herbs yourself). Tinctures are used to heal chronic or acute illnesses, and are typically taken in small doses 2-3 times daily until illness or condition has resolved. Tonics are used to promote good health and wellbeing and are used regularly.

A traditional tincture is made by using the process of maceration (steeping/infusing/soaking).  The common form of tinctures is alcohol. Preparing a tincture is fairly simple, place fresh or dried herbs into a clean, glass jar until ¾ full. Then pour the alcohol (usually brandy or vodka) over the herbs until completely covered. Seal the jar and allow to sit in a cool, dark place for 4-8 weeks, shaking every couple of days. After the waiting period is over, strain out the herbs and store forever! (Lol…maybe not forever, but pretty close!) (FULL TUTORIAL HERE)

Tonics are prepared in the same manner only with apple cider vinegar. Both can be used internally and externally (when used topically, it’s called a liniment) depending on the herbs. Tinctures and tonic can be made with a singular herb or with blend of herbs that work together. Other forms of tinctures found are glycerin and alcohol/glycerin blends.

Syrups and Elixirs
Honey & Elderberries
Herbal syrups and elixirs are a simple, tasty way to use botanical medicines. Many parents love to use these to get picky children to take herbs for their health. They are made from a traditional tincture base. Syrups are best used during an illness, like a cough or sore throat. Elixirs are great as preventives, like boosting and supporting immune systems or easing chronic illness symptoms.

A syrup is prepared by warming a cup of honey over low heat, then adding 1-2 ounces of a traditional tincture and simmering for 10-15 minutes. Once the syrup has cooled to room temperature, pour into a glass container and store in fridge. Syrups can be given by the teaspoonful. Throw out after six months.

An elixir is prepared by combining ½ cup of honey, ½ cup of fresh or frozen fruit and 1 ounce of traditional tincture in a blender or food processor. (Avoid citrus fruits.) Blend until smooth and store in glass bottle in fridge. These only keep for about two weeks and are taken by the tablespoonful.

*Note: these syrups can easily boil over, so be sure to watch them carefully!

Infused Oil

Infused oils are a great way to use herbs topically for all sorts of skin conditions. They are simple to make and generally last about a year. I like to use infused oils in my salves, balms, and lotions.

Infused oils are fairly simple to make…I have a step-by-step tutorial HERE.

The idea is to “steep” fresh or dry herbs in a suitable carrier oil, like almond, coconut, grape seed, or olive oil.

Ointments and Salves
Lavender Healing Salve Tutorial
The main difference between infused oil, ointments and salves is the consistency. Ointments and salves are basically herb infused oils with beeswax or another type of solidifying agent.

An ointment is prepared by heating up a previously prepared infused oil (1 cup is a good place to start). Add about ½ ounce of beeswax to the warm oil and allow to melt completely. Test the consistency before pouring into a jar or tin, it should be easy to spread across skin. I like to add essential oils or vitamin E oil to help preserve the mixture. The shelf life is generally about a year or so.

A salve is prepared the same way as an ointment, only twice as much beeswax is added to the heated oil. Salve has a harder consistency, but everyone’s preference is a little different. If it’s too hard, reheat and add more oil, if it’s too soft reheat and add more beeswax. {See tutorial here}

Therapeutic Soaks/Baths

Nothing beats a soothing, healing herbal soak after the end of a long, strenuous day. Herbal baths or soaks are a great way to provide relaxation or healing to the whole body.

An herbal bath is prepared by adding a large handful of herbs to a square of fabric (cheesecloth, muslin, cotton, even a washcloth). Carefully pull up and tie the edges, essentially making a giant tea bag. Add to a hot bath and soak for at least 20 minutes.

Poultices and plasters

Poultices and plasters are effective remedies that help draw out infection and to speed healing. Applied to the skin, these remedies help by increasing blood flow, relaxing tense muscles, soothing inflamed tissues, or drawing toxins from an infected area and are pretty successful.

An herbal poultice is prepared by adding hot water to dried herbs or fresh, bruised herbs and placing the mixture directly on the affected area. Cover the mixture with gauze and tape in place. Keep warm with a hot-water bottle or heating pad and if possible, leave on overnight or at least for a few hours.

A plaster is prepared similarly to a poultice only blended with oil or wax like olive or castor oil or beeswax. The plaster is then applied to the chest area or abdomen to stimulate the internal organs.

Compresses

Compresses are often used to help heal wounds and muscle injuries and relieve cysts and abscesses.

An herbal compress is prepared by soaking a cotton or flannel cloth in strong, hot herbal tea, then applied to affected area. Be sure it doesn’t burn the skin though. The heat enhances the activity and opens the pores for faster healing. To stimulate circulation, alternate compresses with hot tea and cold water.

Of course, there are many other ways to use and benefit from herbs…capsules, tablets, essential oils, spritzes, lotions, cooking, etc. But this at  least gives you an idea of some things you can try to prepare in your own home. Remember to always do your research before preparing herbs on your own and if in doubt, consult a professional who specializes in herbal healing.

 

p.s. Linking up to Domestically Divine, Teach Me Tuesdays, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways, Wildcrafting Wednesdays, EOA Link-up, Simple Living Wednesdays, Homestead Helps, Natural Living, Thrifty Thursdays, Homemaker By Choice,Homemaking Hints, Delightful Homemaking… {SEE LINK-UP LIST}

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Comments

Medicinal Herbs…Common Forms and Preparations — 13 Comments

  1. Great post! I am very new to herbal remedies, but am very excited about it all. This was a great basic post that cleared up many questions I have. can’t wait to dive into your blog more and see some of your recipes.

  2. What a wonderful resource. I’m bookmarking it for later this summer. Hopefully my first attempt at an herb garden does well enough that I can make tinctures and salves from home-grown herbs! :)

    Thanks so much for linking up at Thrifty Thursday!

    • Anna…I hope your herb garden does well too. It’s so great to be able to make things with home-grown herbs. You know where they came from and you save a lot of money too!

      • Thanks! I ordered a few seeds from a good source, but the local hardware store had a many more herbs seeds on clearance for 20 cents a packet. I couldn’t help picking up a few, and was so excited that they have sprouted. We’ll see whether they actually grow. :)

  3. Pingback: Echinacea – A “Must Have” Medicinal Herb | Modern Alternative Health

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