Basics herbal How To’s

Always remember when you are creating your own herbal remedies to use an enamel or nonmetal pot.

Herbal Teas

To make a cup of herbal tea, for drinking or as a face wash, boil 10 ounces of water. Prewarm your teapot, put in 1 tbsp. or less of dried herbs or a large pinch of fresh herbs and pour the boiling water over them. Add honey, if you like. Cover and steep to taste, 3 to 5 minutes. Strain and drink.

Infusions
To make an infusion, fill a teapot with one quart of boiling water. Then throw in a large handful of fresh herbs or an ounce or more of dried herbs. Add some honey, if desired, and let the mixture steep for ten to twenty minutes. Now strain and drink.

Decoctions
Making a decoction involves boiling your mixture. It is usually made from the tougher parts of a plant, the roots, seeds or the bark. Put one ounce or more of the herb parts in a quart of water and cover the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for about twenty minutes. Steep and strain the mixture. Drink or apply externally.

Ointments
An ointment, or salve is made by combining the decoction of a herb with olive oil and simmering it until the water has completely evaporated. A little beeswax is then added to get a firm consistency. Some gum benzoin or a drop of tincture of benzoin per ounce of fat will help preserve the ointment.


Infusions, Decoctions, Poultices and Tinctures

Herbs (medicinal) may be prepared as infusions, decoctions, poultices and tinctures. They can also be used in the bath, cosmetics, ointments, and compresses. Be sure to consult a professional for diagnosis and a treatment plan.

Infusion
Infusions work best for making tea from leaves and flowers because these plant parts give up their active constituents easily. Allow the tea to steep for 10 to 20 minutes so the therapeutic properties can pass from the herb into the water.

Infusing Oil
To make an infused oil put dried herbs in the top of a double-boiler, cover with oil about an inch over the herb (olive works well for this because it has a fairly long shelf life), let infuse on warm heat for 2 hours without letting it get too hot or boiling, a temp of 150 F is good. Strain the oil into a clean jar, date & label. Without any preservatives an infused oil will last about a year.

Decoction
Teas made from roots and twigs are usually brewed by decoction because it’s more difficult to extract their medicinal properties. Boil or simmer 1 to 2 teaspoons of the herb per cup of water for 10 to 20 minutes.

Poultice
A poultice is a paste of chopped, fresh (or dried but remoistened) plant material that’s applied directly to a wound or skin infection. It’s usually held in place by a wet dressing covered by a bandage. Poultices are typically used to prevent infection and hasten healing.

To make a poultice, boil, steam, or pound your chosen healing herb to release more medicinal compounds. Then shape the material into a small, coin-size wad that can lie flat against the wound. Many herbalists recommend mixing 1 part herb with 3 parts water, alcohol, witch hazel or vinegar. Thicken with corn starch to make the poultice easier to handle and apply.

Tincture
Stuff dried herbs into a jar, add enough alcohol (usually vodka or everclear, depending on the strength needed for the particular herb) to amply cover the herbs, and screw the lid on. Allow the mixture to stand for about a 4 week, shaking it every day. Then strain it, discard the plant material, and store the tincture in a bottle. Label and date the bottle. Most tinctures have a shelf-life of 2 years.

Ointment
2 oz solid fat -such as Coconut oil, cocoa butter or lanolin
5 oz herb infused olive oil
2 oz herb infused water
1 tsp (approximately) beeswax -shave or grate before use
3-5 drops essential oil, if desired for fragrance or effect

Gently melt solid fat, wax and oil over double boiler or carefully in microwave; use low heat and stir until blended. Remove from heat.

Put water into blender or mixer bowl and agitate. While water is spinning, slowly pour the oil, fat, wax mixture into the water. Continue mixing until emulsified. You may notice a distinct change of sound as the cream congeals.

Remove cream, while still warm, into clean containers and leave open until completely cool. Label each jar with contents and date, be sure to note the date your herbal oil was made if it is much older than your cream.

Store in a cool, dark place; should stay fresh for 6 months to a year. Sniff before using and look for mold after 6 months. If the oil and water separate, just stir before using.

Compress
Make a compress by dipping a clean cloth in an herbal solution – an infusion, decoction, tincture or herbal vinegar.

You can hold a poultice in place with a compress, in which case it doubles as a bandage. Or, apply the compress directly to the skin (also called a fomentation).

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