The following are common preparations used in herbal medicine. Be sure to put all herbal preparations into sterilized containers for storage and take note that most should be made fresh each time. Only tinctures don’t spoil quickly.
Note- The proportions here are for dried herbs. If you are using fresh herbs, double them.
See also Oils and Salves
Infusions are made from the more delicate plant parts, including leaves, flowers, buds, and berries. They are gently steeped in hot water to avoid destroying the enzymes, vitamins, and essential oils. Infusions at standard strength are used as teas, gargles, lotions, compresses, and fomentations. Dilute with an equal amount of water for hand or foot baths, douches, or enemas.
To make an infusion, use a ratio of 1 tablespoon dried herb to 1 cup boiling water. Because medicinal (and magical) teas are made stronger than beverage teas, they should be steeped for anywhere between 10 and 45 minutes, depending on the herb. Cover teacup or teapot while the herbs are steeping to prevent the escape of the valuable oils. Once the herbs have steeped, they should be strained out.
Standard adult dose is 1 cup 3x a day for normal conditions, or up to 6x a day for acute conditions. Drink 1 cup 2x a day as a long-term strengthening tonic.
You may sweeten the infusion with sugar or honey if you wish. It should be drunk lukewarm or cool, except in the case of preparations designed to induce sweating or break up a cold.
Decoctions are made from fibrous or woody plant parts, such as roots, bark, twigs, seeds, and nuts. In order to extract the constituents from these tough parts, a slow simmer is required.
Using 1 tablespoon herb per cup of water, place the herbs in a pan and cover with the water. Turn heat on low and bring to a simmer. Stir and cover tightly, and let simmer for 25-45 minutes. For a stronger decoction, simmer for 20-30 minutes, remove from heat, then store in sealed container overnight to infuse.
Plant parts should be strained out before drinking. The decoction can be sweetened with sugar or honey and should be taken hot if it is being used to break up a cold or to induce sweating. Otherwise, it can be taken cold or lukewarm.
A cold extract is called for when you want to minimize the loss of volatile oils and do not seek to extract mineral salts.
Using 1 tablespoon of dried herbs per cup of cold water, place in a non-metal container. Let it stand overnight. Take as you would an infusion. Refrigerate the unused portion and take within 24 hours.
A variation on the cold extract is a solar or lunar infusion, which is simply a cold extract placed in a sealed container in direct sunlight or moonlight and left to steep. This imbues the infusion with solar or lunar energy.
Juicing retains vitamins, minerals and volatile oils the best.
Chop up the fresh herb and press to release the juices, add some water and press again. Unfortunately, juicing by hand leads to a great deal of waste. If you have a commercial juicer, you should use that. Drink immediately for best value.
Powdered herbs can be sprinkled onto food or into drinks or added to a gelatin capsule and taken like a pill.
Grind dried herbs with a mortar and pestle until you have a powder. Depending on the herb, two to three pinches of powder is usually a sufficient dose.
Making a syrup from an herbal tea sweetens and preserves it. The sweetness of syrup makes it particularly helpful when giving medicine to children.
Prepare a strong decoction, simmered until the liquid has reached half of its original volume. Strain herbs from the liquid and measure its volume. For each pint of liquid, add 1 cup of sweetener such as honey, maple syrup, vegetable glycerin, or brown sugar. Warm over low heat, stirring well, for 20 minutes or until well-combined.
Tinctures last the longest. Use a very fine grain, high proof alcohol, vodka is suggested.
Depending on the potency of herbs, use about 1 ounce dried herbs to 8 ounce alcohol. Combine these ingredients in a wide-mouthed non-metal container and let stand for two weeks, shaking once or twice a day. Then transfer into a sterilized container suitable for long-term storage, as tinctures are generally dosed out in drops, a dropper would be helpful.
Essence is created by dissolving one ounce of essential oil into a pint of alcohol.
Poultices are used to apply herbs directly to affected areas of the skin with moist heat.
Pound fresh herbs into a pulpy mass and apply to the affected area. Soak a cloth in hot water and place over the herbs. Replace the hot cloth as it cools.
If using dried herbs, add warm water and soak a bit. If necessary, mix with cornmeal or flour.
In some cases, herbs may be used that might be irritating to the skin. If this be the case, the poultice should be placed between two pieces of cloth and applied that way.
After the poultice is removed, cleanse the area carefully with water, or an infusion of chamomile.
Soak a cloth in a warm infusion or decoction, wring out and apply to the affected area.
Same as a fomentation, but using a chilled decoction or infusion. Replace the cloth when it warms to the body temperature.
Herbal baths are used for muscle aches and for those herbs the fumes of which you may wish to inhale. You can bundle fresh or dried herbs into a cloth and let them steep in the water, or add an infusion of your desired herbs to the water.