Herbal Preparations
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Nature has given us the gift of herbs to use in a variety of ways. They season our foods, treat our ailments, help us to sustain natural good health, cleanse our skin and hair, freshen our breath, brighten our eyes, provide cosmetic enhancement and fill our senses with calming and precious fragrances.

There are a number of ways we can prepare herbs in our own kitchens, and Herbal Extracts Plus has provided a condensed guide for those who would like to enhance their herbal experience.


Useful Implements for your Herbal Preparations:

  • Heatproof glassware
  • Enamel pot with lid (avoid copper or aluminum pots)
  • Enamel double-boiler
  • Mortar and Pestle
  • Clean, dark glass bottles and jars with airtight lids
  • Kitchen scale
  • Blender
  • Coffee Grinder
  • Clean gauze/ linen towels/cheesecloth
  • Strainer/sieve
  • Wooden spoons
  • Recipe ingredients

Basic Herbal Preparations:
Infusion:   An infusion is a beverage made like tea. To make an infusion, pour one pint of boiling water over about one ounce of fresh herbs (usually green parts or flowers), and steep for about ten minutes to extract their active ingredients in a tightly covered pot (to minimize evaporation). The relatively short exposure to heat minimizes the loss of volatile elements. Do not use an aluminum or copper pot (enameled is preferable). Strain infusion into a cup or glass. (To promote sweating or break up a cold, drink hot.)  Some recommend that the steeping process be continued up to thirty minutes; it is entirely a matter of preference.

Decoction:  This method is usually employed for the tougher parts of the herbs (roots, bark, stems and seeds) or when it is desirable to extract mineral salts and bitter principles from plants, rather than vitamins and volatile ingredients. Bring to a boil about one ounce of plant parts per two (or two and a half) cups of water in a nonmetallic pot (preferably enameled). Reduce heat and simmer for thirty minutes; by this time liquid should have reduced by half. Strain into a cup or glass.

Cold Extract:   When prepared with cold water, most volatile ingredients will be preserved, and only minor amounts of mineral salts and bitter principles will be extracted. Add about two ounces of fresh herbs to cold water in a nonmetallic pot and let stand for twelve hours, strain and drink.

Powder:   Chop large dried plant parts, such as roots, bark or thick stems, then crush these (or dried leaves and flowers) with mortar and pestle or in coffee grinder. Powdered herbs can be sprinkled on food and added to drinks, soups, etc.

Pulverizing:  Grind, bruise or mash dried plant fibers and seeds with a mortar and pestle or blender.

Tincture:  Combine four ounces of powdered herb (or eight ounces of fresh chopped herb) in a nonmetallic pot or clean glass jar (never plastic) with a tightly fitting lid – and preferably one that is dark.  Add two and one half cups of alcohol (at least 60-proof, i.e., brandy or vodka or rum).  As a rule of thumb, it is also often recommended that for every one part of herb, add five parts of the alcohol.  Make sure the herb is completely covered.  Close and label the jar.  Shake well for one or two minutes; then allow the herbs and alcohol mixture to stand in a cool, dark place and shake twice daily for a period of two weeks.  Strain, discard the herbs, and pour the liquid tincture into clean, dark glass, well-stoppered jar and store. May be added to a cup of hot water or drunk separately. Tinctures are easy to make and can be kept for up to two years.  Never use industrial alcohol, methyl or isopropyl spirits.

Ointment and Creams:   Prepare and strain a strong decoction or infusion of preferred herb and add to a quantity of pure cold-pressed vegetable oil (i.e., sunflower).  Bring to a boil until liquid has evaporated (bubbles cease to appear), leaving herbal principles in the oil.  Add melted beeswax to create a cream - about one ounce should suffice for two and one quarter cups of oil.  OR Quick Method:  Combine well one part of your powdered remedy with four parts hot petroleum jelly. A little gum benzoin or a drop of tincture of benzoin per ounce of fat will help preserve the ointment.

Syrup:  Simply boil three pounds of raw or brown sugar with added medicinal ingredients in one pint of water until it reaches proper consistency, or boil plant materials in honey or store-bought syrup and then strain through cheesecloth. (Do not give honey to small children.)  If you order herbs in powdered form, you can also mix the powder with a flavorful, pleasant-tasting, ready-prepared syrup, such as chocolate or strawberry, maple syrup or honey.  Some herbs have a pungent taste, so you may wish to mask that taste with a sweetly flavored syrup when mixing the two together.

Macerating:  Pack a glass jar with crushed, fresh herb and cover with vegetable oil, cider vinegar or alcohol.  Seal and leave for two weeks, shaking the jar each day. Strain and top up with fresh. Repeat until the liquid smells strongly herbal.

Compresses:  For a hot compress (or fomentation), soak a clean linen or cotton cloth in a hot decoction or infusion (wring out excess), and apply it to the affected part as hot as can be tolerated. Cover it with plastic and a towel or blanket to maintain the heat. Replace it when cooled.  Prepare a cold compress in the same manner, but allow it to cool before applying.

Poultice:   A poultice (or cataplasm) is used to apply a remedy to a skin area with moist heat.  It is thought to be more active than a compress and is similar, except that plant parts are used, rather than liquid extraction. To prepare a poultice, mash fresh plant parts to a pulpy mass, and either heat in a pan over boiling water, or mix with a small amount of boiling water.  Apply the pulp directly to the skin as hot as can be tolerated, holding it in place with a clean gauze bandage. If using dried herbs, powder it, and make a paste with a little boiling water. Depending upon the herb chosen, a poultice can relieve aches and pains, draw out poisons, stimulate circulation or repair wounds.

Herbal Baths:   Hydrotherapy is used for the treatment of illness, to relieve stress, smooth skin, relieve itching or inflammation or to stimulate the mind and body. Herbs can be added to baths via decoctions or infusions made from large quantities of herbs sewn into a cloth bag and boiled in several quarts of water. The bag can also be added to the bath to enhance its efficacy.

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