How To Make And Prepare Herbs
Since the effectiveness and the value of most herbs are greatest when the plants are fresh, the best preparations are usually those that you make yourself from freshly gather herbs. And what a satisfying feeling to be able to identify your remedy in the field and to extract natures healing elements and put them to use, all through your own efforts! (Some plants, however, should be used only dried or in professional preparations to avoid or minimize the detrimental effects.)
But even the best plant materials can be ruined if you use the wrong kind of process in preparing your remedies. The choice depends primarily on the identity of the plant, the plant parts being used, the elements to be extracted, the form in which the remedy will be taken or applied, and the effect to be achieved. A little experimentation will soon indicate the adjustments that need to be made to suit you or someone else’s needs.
Don’t be impatient, though, if you don’t get immediate results from the preparations. Herbs are not one-shot wonder drugs in the modern sense; rather, their effectiveness is based on gradual action to restore the natural balance of bodily functions that constitutes health. Very few plant remedies produce lasting beneficial effects after only one or two doses; most treatments involve taking the remedy daily for at least several weeks of this is also greatly helped or hindered by your overall lifestyle, especially your diet. A healthful diet and sufficient exercise to keep your body in good condition are valuable for both preventing much illness and for helping to overcome it when it does strike.
The only prepared remedies that can be kept for any length of time are ointments and those made with alcohol. The alcohol will preserve the latter, and a little gum benzoin or tincture or benzoin(a drop per ounce of fat) will preserve selves or ornaments made with a perishable base. 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 given our four average adult use and must be adjusted for age and condition for children and weak or elderly people, or when using very potent plants, use 130 to 2/3 the adult dose.
An infusion is a beverage made like tea, by combining boiling water with plants, usually the green parts or the flowers, and steeping to extract their active ingredients. The relatively short exposure to heat in this method of preparation minimizes the loss of volatile elements. The usual amount is about 1/2oz to 1oz to a pint of water. Most often the water is poured over the plants, but some recipes require that the plants be added to boiling water, the pot then being immediately removed from the heat. Use an enamel, porcelain, or glass pot to steep the plants for about 10 minutes; 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 is added to improve the taste. For most purposes, take the infusion luke warm or cool; but to induce sweating and to break up a cold or a cough, take it hot. Most herbal teas are taking over a period of time in small, regular doses ranging from a teaspoon to a mouthful. The cumulative daily dose usually ranges from 1 to 4 cups, depending on the severity of the problem and the potency of the plant.
When you want to extract primarily the mineral salts and the bitter principles of plans, rather than the vitamins on volatile ingredients, decoction is your method of preparation. Hard materials such as wood, roots, bark, and seeds, also generally require boiling to extract their active ingredients. Boil about a half ounce plant parts per cup of water in it and I’m old or nonmetallic pot. Green plant parts can be added to cold water, brought to a boil,and boiled for 3 to 4 minutes; or they can be added to boiling water and then boiled for the same time. The mixture then steeps with a cover on the pot for 2 to 3 minutes. Hard materials need boiling for about 10 minutes the longer steeping to extract their ingredients. Strain of the plant parts before drinking or using the decoction. Directions for taking decoctions are the same as for infusions.
Preparation with cold water effectively preserve the most volatile ingredients and extract only minor amounts of mineral salts and bitter principles. Add about double the amount of plant material used for an infusion to cold water in and enamelled or nonmetallic pot. Let the mixture stand for 8 to 12 hours, strain, and the drink is ready. Directions for taking are the same as for infusions. (Korach: I’ve had luck using oil and alcohol for Cold Extracts. My favorite being minced garlic in olive oil, I use it primarily for cooking)
Chop fresh plants or plant parts up into small pieces and press to squeeze out the juice. Add a little water to the pressed material and press again to get the rest. This is a good method for extracting water-soluble constituents, especially those sensitive to heat. It is excellent for getting vitamins and miinerals from the plant; but the juice must be taken within a short time after pressing, since a vitamin content declines rapidly after fermentation sets in.(Korach: Of course we also have Juicers & Cold Presses to do this)
Grind dried plant parts with the mortar and pestle and or other implements until you have a powder. Powder can be taken with water, milk, or soup; sprinkled on food; or swallowed in gelatin capsules. A number 0 capsule holds about 10 grains; number 00 holds about 15 grains. The most common dose for powders is the amount that you can pick up on the tip of a dinner knife.
A basic syrup to which you can add medicine ingredients can be made by simply boiling 3lbs of raw or brown sugar in a pint of water until it reaches the right consistency. Or you can boil the plant materials in honey or store-bought syrup and then strain through cheesecloth. Syrup is especially useful for administering medicines to children.
Combine 1oz to 4oz powdered herb(the amount depends on the plant’s potency) with 8 to 12 ounces of alcohol. Add water to make a 50% alcohol solution(you have to know what percent alcohol you started). Let stand for two weeks, shaking once or twice a day; then strain and pour the liquid into a bottle suitable for storage. Like other alcoholic extracts tinctures will keep for a long time. Homeopaths use very dilute tinctures as their basic medicinal preparations.
Dissolve an ounce of the herb’s essential oil in a pint of alcohol. This is a good way to preserve the volatile essential oils of many plants, which are generally not suitable in water.
Mix well one part of the remedy in powdered form with four parts hot petroleum jelly, lard, or similar substance. For purists, an old method is to boil the ingredients in water until the desired properties are extracted. Strain the liquid add the decoction to olive or other vegetable oil, and simmer until the water has completely evaporated. Add beeswax as needed to get a firm consistency. Melt the mixture by heating slowly, and stir until completely blended. I was pointed out above, a little gum benzoin or a drop of tincture of benzoin per ounce of fat(when a Percival fat is used as a base) will help to preserve the ointment.
The poultice, or cataplasm, is used to apply a remedy to a skin area with moist heat. To prepair, bruise or crush the medicinal parts of the plant to a pulp mass and heat. If using dried plants(or if needed even with fresh plants), moisten the materials by mixing with a hot, soft, adhesive substance, such as moist flour or corn meal, or a mixture of bread and milk. Apply directly to the skin. A good way is to spread the pace or pulp on a wet, hot cloth, apply, and wrap the cloth around to help retain moisture and heat. Moisten the cloth with hot water periodically as necessary. Where the irritant plants are involved(as in a Mustard “plaster”), keep the pace between the two pieces of cloth to prevent direct contact with the skin; after removing the poultice, wash the area well with water or herb tea(especially camomile or mugwort) to remove any residue that may have gotten on the skin. You can use the poultice to soothe, to irritate, or to draw impurities from the body depending on which plant or plants you use.
Sook cloth or towel in an infusion or decoction, ring 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 and its effect.
Soak 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 minutes. Repeat application with a fresh cool compress. Continue until relieved.
HYDROTHERAPY: The Herb Bath
Hydrotherapy – the use of water for treatment of illness – is particularly popular in Europe, where health spas have elaborate facilities for all types of “water cures.” Often these include the use of mineral water or of mineral and herbal bath additives to enhance the natural healing power of the water or to produce particular effects on the body. But you don’t have to go to a European health resort to take healing baths: with a few simple supplies, you can enjoy the benefits right at home.
Full or partial herb baths come in all shapes and sizes, from the bathtub to the eyecup. Basically they are baths to which plant decoctions or infusions have 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.