Purpose: A wonderful way to relax at the end of a long day. By using specific medicinal herbs, the bath can be both therapeutic and relaxing. One can breathe in the vapors of the herbs, and the active ingredients in the herbs are also absorbed through skin. Herbal baths can be especially helpful for relieving the symptoms of arthritis, rheumatism and skin conditions.
Method One: Simply steep approximately 200 g of dried herbs in 2-3 liters of cold water for 12 hours. Gently heat the infusion and strain into warm bath water.
Method Two: Simply fill a piece of clean rep cloth with the recommended amount of herbs. Tie with a knot to secure and place it in a large bowl or bucket. Pour boiling water over the herb sachet and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. Add the infused liquid and the herbal sachet to warm bath water. Relax in bath for 10-15 minutes.
Compress (or Formentation)
Purpose: These are very effective in relieving bruising, swelling, pain and inflammation, general aches and pains, and for soothing headaches and fevers. A fomentation or compress can also be used to help clear skin complaints such as acne.
Method One: Soak a clean cloth or towel in a herbal infusion or decoction, wring out the excess and apply externally (as hot as possible, yet tolerable temperature) to the affected area.
Purpose: Herbal foot baths are a wonderful remedy for tired, aching feet and legs, poor circulation and many other problems that affect the feet and legs.
Method One: To prepare a foot bath, steep dried herbs in a bucket with cold water for 12 hours. Heat the infusion and strain into a tub of warm water. Bathe feet for 20 minutes.
Purpose: These are simply hip-deep baths widely used in herbal medicine to stimulate circulation in the abdominal area.
Method One: To prepare a herbal sitz bath, steep approximately 100 g of dried herbs in 1-2 litres of cold water for 12 hours. Heat the infusion and strain into warm water in a tub that's large enough to sit in, making sure the water covers the kidney area.
Decoction (from Dried Herbs)
Purpose: This method is used to extract the medicinal ingredients from the harder parts of herbs such as roots, bark, twigs and berries.
Method One: To prepare a decoction take 1 heaped teaspoonful (or recommended quantity) and place them in a nonmetal pan with 1 cup of cold water. Bring the mixture to the boil, simmer for 10-15 minutes (longer if the roots are very hard), uncovered. Be sure to strain the herbs out before drinking. If not using straight away, a decoction can be stored in a covered jug or container in a cool place for up to 24 hours and then gently warmed again before drinking.
Purpose: Usually recommended for preparing more delicate herbs whose active ingredients can be damaged by high temperatures.
Method One: To prepare a cold infusion, take 1 heaped teaspoonful (or recommended quantity) and pour 1 cup of cold water over the herb. Cover and allow to steep for 8-12 hours (this is best done overnight). Strain and warm slightly before drinking.
Herbal Tea / Hot Infusion
Purpose: One of the simplest ways to prepare many dried herbs for use as a medicine or as a revitalizing herbal tea. Herbal teas are the most ancient form of taking herbal medicine. Not only are they cost effective, but they are a particularly gentle and soothing way of taking herbs. Most don't drink enough water for good health, and herbal teas have the added benefit of adding to your daily fluid intake. Drinking medicinal herbal teas is also a helpful way of cutting down on caffeine-containing drinks.
Method One: To prepare a hot infusion take 1 heaped teaspoonful of herbs (or recommended quantity) and pour 1 cup of boiling water over them. Cover the cup with a lid or saucer - this ensures that the volatile oils in many medicinal herbs do not evaporate. Allow the mixture to steep for 3-5 minutes and strain before using. If not using straight away, you can store an infusion in a covered jug or container in the fridge for up to 24 hours and gently warm the mixture before drinking. Use 1 teaspoon dried herb to 1 cup of boiling water. Steep for 5 minutes. Add fructose, sugar, or honey to sweeten. Some herbs don't need sweetening such as liquorices, so know what your herb tea tastes like before you add sweetener. Some herbs smell and taste very bad and in those cases this is a harder path to follow.
Purpose: Steam inhalations combine the benefits of steam and antiseptic herbs to effectively clear nasal congestion and relieve the symptoms of colds, flu, hay fever and sinusitis.
Method One: To prepare a steam inhalation, place 50 g of dried herbs in a bowl or saucepan. Pour 1 litre of boiling water over the herbs. Cover head and the bowl with a towel, close eyes and inhale the steam for 20-30 minutes.
Purpose: Poultices are often used to relieve muscular pain, to relieve pain associated with sporting injuries, and to draw pus from boils, ulcers and infected wounds. Poultice is a very direct form of healing. This is very simple and good in emergencies.
Method One: To prepare a poultice, hang a sieve containing fresh or dried herbs over a saucepan of water and bring the water to the boil. Cover and steam for a few minutes. Spread the softened herbs on a cloth and place on the affected area. Cover the poultice with a woolen cloth and leave on for approximately 2 hours.
Creams and Ointments
Purpose: Herbal creams combine herbs in a water base to bring soothing relief from a range of skin problems. Creams are quickly absorbed into the skin where the active plant ingredients can go to work.
Unlike creams, ointments do not contain any water and, as a result, are thicker, greasier and not as readily absorbed. Salves are easy to make and are very versatile in their uses. You can make a pleasure balm with edible love herbs, or a balm that helps heal burns, rashes and cuts such as comfrey and goldenseal. I will use the measurement in parts because it is up to you how much you want to make. 1-2 pt beeswax, 7 pts cocoa butter, and 3 pts. herb powdered. Mix these together and heat on the stove for 1-2 hours on a low setting. Let cool and use.
Purpose: Capsules contain dry plant extracts that have been carefully dehydrated to preserve the plant's active ingredients. They are especially useful when you need to take a large dose of a herb, because the ingredients can be highly concentrated. For example, ginkgo biloba capsules can contain the equivalent of 7.5 g or 7500 mg ginkgo biloba leaf -that's a lot of ginkgo! In today’s' world it seems that this is the most popular way to intake herbs (kind of like holding your nose to eat your vegetables, I think). You can make up your own by buying gelitin or vegi-gelitin capsules at your local health food store and either weighing or estimating your dried herb dosage. Talk to a store clerk to help you with how much you should take of the herb(s).
Herbal Extracts and Tinctures
Purpose: Liquid extracts contain the plant's vital medicinal properties in a form that is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and rapidly distributed throughout the body. These liquid forms of herbal medicines have a penetrating action and are well suited to people with poor digestion. A liquid extract is a solution that contains the active plant ingredients combined with a carrier such as glycerin or alcohol and generally contain more than 1000 mg of dry herb per 5 mL. A tincture is a solution containing alcohol and active plant ingredients. It usually contains less than 1000 mg of dry herb per 5 mL.Alcohol is used in extracts and tinctures for two reasons: it is a solvent that extracts non-water-soluble compounds from the herbs, and it acts as a preservative. Extracts/Tinctures are very simple to make. A high percentage alcohol is necessary, anywhere from 150% to 200%. Use a small glass or plastic container and fill about 1/3 with the herb of your choice. Fill the container the rest of the way with the alcohol. Shake vigorously. Keep this mixture somewhere accessible because you will need to shake it once a day for 6-8 weeks (a shorter time is necessary if the herb is powdered). This activates the alcohol to extract the potency from the herb. After the process has ended, be sure to strain the tincture from the herb residue in the bottom of the container. Pour it into a clean container and use the remaining herb as compost. To intake the herb, pour one dropper full (about 20 drops) into hot water and let it sit for 3-4 minutes. This allows the alcohol to evaporate, so you don't have any effects from it, only the herb.
Purpose: Drying is a fairly simple process. Choose an area in or around your home which is dry but doesn't get any sun. The sun draws the essence of the herb out of it and weakens it's potency. Hang the herb up on a line and leave it for 6-12 weeks. It is easy to tell when the herb is ready. Use in capsules, for infusions or for formentation.
If the flowers and leaves are the part of the herb you are supposed to use, add them to a jar and fill the jar with olive oil. Seal it tightly, shake often and leave in a warm place or in the sun for six to seven weeks, or until potent. After this length of time has passed, strain the oil from the decaying plant through a cloth. Siphon off the watery layer that may appear over time. Store in a dark container for up to two years.
A syrup is made with the juice of a fruit, and sugar. Mix 7pts. juice to 10pts sugar and cook over low heat until you reach desired consistency.
To make an herbal vinegar concoction, it is necessary to follow one of the previous steps. Mix 1 part syrup with 2 parts wine vinegar.