Making Herbal Remedies
Growing, gathering, drying and storing herbs can be very fulfilling. Yet all is in vain, if you do not successfully use your herbs for their medicinal, culinary, cosmetic, and household possibilities. Don't be afraid, making herbal remedies is easy, fun, and economical. There are many ways to use the herbs that you have successfully grown in your container, or garden. Dried, or powdered herbs can be used to make pills or lozenges, while fresh, or dried, herbs can be used to make teas and infusions. You can soak your fresh or dried herbs in alcohol, oils, or vinegar, to make long lasting tinctures, and culinary additives. You can even heat your herbs in oil to release their beneficial healing powers, and make herbal salves, balms, and creams.
Making herbal teas may be the easiest of all herbal remedies. Also known as a tisane, or infusion, Herbal teas can be made by simply adding fresh or dried herbs to a pot, or cup of boiling water. To begin, place 1 teaspoon of dried herbs, or 2-3 teaspoons of fresh herbs, per I cup of water into a teapot or teacup. Add boiling water, cover, and steep for 10 minutes. You must then strain your tea by pouring it through a strainer of some sort. There are multiple ways of doing this, and your own experimentation will prove most valuable.
Similar to an infusion, or tea, a decoction is necessary when you are making remedies from tough plant materials, such as roots, bark, seeds or stems. To begin, place thinly chopped plant material into a saucepan and add cold water. Use 1-2 teaspoons of fresh or dried herbs to one cup of water. Bring the decoction to a boil, simmer for 15 minutes, and strain after the liquid has been reduced by one half.
Herbal syrups are a good way to soothe sore throats and common respiratory ailments. Herbal syrups can be made by combining sugar, honey, or glycerin with tinctures, teas, infusions, and medicinal liquors. Syrups can be preserved by adding glycerin or refrigerating.
1. To begin, make a tea, decoction, or tincture, or infusion.
2. Combine selected herbal solution, and combine with honey in a saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil. A typical syrup would have a ratio of approximately 1 cup of solution, to * cup of honey or other sweetener.
3. Pour mixture into clean, dark bottles, let cool and cap with a cork stopper, or similar, non sealing lid. This will keep syrup from exploding if syrup begins to ferment. Keep refrigerated.
Herbal tinctures allow one to make a large herbal remedy and store for a longer period of time, making them available at a short notice to be used with teas, salves, creams, etcâ€¦ to make an instant herbal remedy. Tinctures are made by steeping fresh or dried herbs in alcohol or vinegar. The liquid extracts the volatile oils and active constituents from the herbs, and preserves them for up to 2 years. Vodka is the best alcohol to use due to its tastelessness.
1. To begin, place cut up pieces of dried or fresh herbs in a large glass jar.
2. Cover herbs with enough alcohol or vinegar to fully immerse the herbs. Let steep at room temperature in a dark spot, shaking the jar daily.
3. After 2-4 weeks, strain the mixture through a fine cloth, paper coffee filter, or cheesecloth.
4. Pour the tincture into clean, dark bottles and store out of the sun until needed.
Herbal oils are made by extracting the herbal constituents and volatile oils from the herbs for a later use. Any vegetable oil will do, yet olive, almond, canola, and sesame oils are the best. Herbal oils can be added to recipes, used for cooking, or massaged into sore body parts. Herbal oils can be infused by two methods; cold infusion and hot infusion.
Cold Infused Oil
1. To begin, tightly fill a large sealable jar with selected herb flowers or leaves.
2. Cover herbs with selected oil and screw on lid.
3. Place jar on a sunny windowsill for approximately one month, shaking daily.
4. Strain the mixture into a container, and transfer into a dark bottle.
5. Place in a cool, dark place.
Hot Infused Oil
1. To begin, place a ratio of 2 cups oil to 1 cup of dried herbs/ 2 cups fresh herbs, in a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water.
2. Slowly heat on low for approximately 3 hours, and strain into a bowl.
3. Transfer liquid into dark bottles, cap, and place in a cool, dark place.
Salves & Ointments
Salves and oils are made by combining heated oil with a particular herb until the oil absorbs the plants healing properties. Adding beeswax will thicken the mixture to the desired consistency.
1. To begin, pour 3-4 fl. Oz. Of desired infused oil into a glass bowl.
2. Place solution over a pot of boiling water.
3. Add a *" square piece of beeswax to the solution, stirring constantly until the wax has completely melted.
4. Pour warm liquid into small dark ointment jars and store in a cool, dark place.
Creams are an emulsion of oil and a water soluble liquid, allowing the final product to be readily absorbed by the skin. The easiest way to make creams is to buy an emulsifying cream from the drugstore, and heat the desired herb plant material in it.
1. To begin, melt approximately 2 tablespoons of emulsifying cream in a bowl placed over a pot of boiling water.
2. Add one large tablespoon of dried herbs to the mixture, and stir slowly until the cream takes on the color of the herbs.
3. Remove from heat, strain, and squeeze the remaining liquid from the clump.
4. Let cream cool in a glass bowl, and spoon into small, dark bottles.
5. Store jars in a cool, dark place for up to one year.
METHODS OF HERBAL PREPARATION:
Herbs (and nearly all patent medicines as well) work quickest in fluid-filled spaces of the body: hence they are not as effective for bone or cartilage ailments. Water is, in general, a very good solvent for many of the herb's properties, but water will not dissolve resins or oils.
Solar Infusions: Put fresh (or dried) herb in a jar with cool water, place in sun for 1-2 days Compared with hot infusions, solar infusions seem more alive and pleasant, with subtle non- acidic flavors, more plant spirit. Adam Seller calls it "Grace in a jar." I make them all summer.
Lunar Infusions are similar: These enter the realm of lunar magickal influences and Moon signs.
Suspended Cold Infusions: A density-based convection cell is set up--good for leaves, flowers, slimy or mucilaginous roots and barks. This method preserves volatiles & mucopolysaccharides: (Ex.: Althea, Comfrey, Echinacea, slippery Elm bark) Mucopolysaccharides are soothing to mucosa, stimulate Tcell multiplication, are used in poultices, good for sore throat, UTIs, upset stomach: 1/2 to 1 oz. herbs to quart jar.
Hot Infusions: Use glass, enamel, stainless steel, or ceramic containers. Boil water, turn off heat, Infuse herbs in covered container. 1 tsp/cup dried herb (or 2 TBL/cup fresh herb) from 5 min.-10 min for chamomile, mint, or beverage teas (tisanes) 1/2 oz to 1 oz. in 1 pt. to 1 qt. water from 30 mins to overnight for medicinal strength teas. (Ex: Valerian root, Mint, Pau d'Arco; For fennel and chamomile: a few teaspoons are OK.; no long infusions for chamomile or it turns bitter.) It is sensible to make a day's supply at one time; usually about a quart.
*Susun Weed's tisanes: are 1 tsp./cup; infusions are medicinal strength at the following concentrations: roots and barks: 1 oz/pint/8 hours; leaves, hips/haws: 1 oz/qt/4hours; seeds/flowers: 1 oz/qt/ 30 min to 2 hours-- except chamomile, which gets bitter after 30 min. Dosage: 2 cup/day-over 125 lbs.; 1 cup/day--65-75 lbs, 1/2 c/day--30-40 lbs, 1/4 c/day-- 15-20 lbs.
Decoctions: Use for Roots, Barks, or Seeds unless they are aromatic. (If aromatic, such as fennel, an infusion is better. Goldenseal and valerian, although roots, are high in volatiles, and are best as infusions., but both taste awful, so you may prefer pills or tinctures.) Put herb in cool water, cover, simmer for 20 minutes (minimum) to 1 hour, let sit covered for one hour to overnight. You can decoct the same batch of herbs several times, adding a little fresh herb mixture each time to maintain the strength. You can decoct, turn the heat off, and then add herbs to be infused to a tightly covered container, if you have a mixture that needs both decoction and infusion techniques.
*Susun Weed's method is unusual: She begins her decoctions with strained infusions, and reduces them by 1/2 for a single or simple decoction, (4x as strong as an infusion); reduced to 1/4 for a double decoction (16x as strong as an infusion). Dosage: single: 1/4 c. adult, 1 TBL infant; double: 1TBL/day adult, 1/2 tsp/day, infant.
Inhalations: Boil water. Take kettle off heat. Pour hot water over herbs in a ceramic or glass bowl, and when cool enough to do so, inhale the herbal steam with a towel covering your head, forming a tent over the bowl. One can put a paper bag over the bowl with a hole to inhale through. Facial steams are great for the complexion, sinusitis, upper respiratory complaints and allergies. These are heating therapies which speed up the heart rate, stimulate flushing and sweat, etc.--They should be used only by those who have some reserves of strength. (Ex: Eucalyptus, Sage:-mild antiinflamatory, decongestant, antiviral)
Adam Seller has made a "Card Table Sweat Lodge" by covering a card table with plastic or blankets, and placing an electric hot plate with a boiling kettle inside-- but be careful!
Poultice: mashed, usually warm, herbs on skin. Fomentation: a compress made of a cloth dipped in a strong tea. Herbal Baths: Many 19th century water cures and spas had ties with the feminist lecture circuit. (Read Donnegan's Hydropathic Highways To Health: many promoted natural attitudes toward sex and nudity, as well as hygiene and public sanitation.) Baths have physiologic & psychologic effects. Bathe with a giant "teabag" to avoid clogging drain with loose herbs.
Combine herbs: for example, a warm lavender bath with a cool rosemary washcloth on forehead. Foot, Hand, or Sitz Baths: Chamomile , rosemary and ginger for tired feet: end with foot massage. Also: soaks, enemas, douches, eyewashes are possible. Boil any substance which is entering a body orifice other than the mouth, let cool to body temperature. Important safety note to avoid amebic keratoconjunctivitis: If making eyewash, always use freshly-boiled water for each dose! Discard any excess and make new eyewash from scratch for each dose.
HERBAL EXTRACTIONS: (Tinctures, liniments, vinegar's, essences, glycerates)
Alcoholic tinctures preserve virtues of the herb for a long time, are easy to carry, are excellent for herbs which go bad or lose their potency easily, and are best for rare plants--Due to better medicinal extraction, they are more concentrated, with less waste. Shelf life is 1 year to a few centuries. The alcohol can be vaporized with hot water if the person taking the tincture does not want to ingest alcohol. Vinegar or Glycerin extracts are not as strong, are more difficult to make,
don't work as well in extracting medicinal properties, don't work at all for resins, and herbal vinegar's last longer refrigerated.
Menstruum Proportions: To each oz. by weight of plant material, 2 ozs. of alcohol by volume. Ex: 1oz wt plant: 2ozs EtOH vol. / 20gms plant: 40ml alcohol (*Susun Weed recommends 1 oz dried herb to 5 oz spirit, or 1 oz fresh herb to 1 oz spirit) Use 195 proof (97.05%) EVERCLEAR (Grana de Puro) if available. (see below for additional comments if not)
Maceration: Herbs sitting in Alcohol 10d.-- 1yr. OK to use whole plants, but more surface area if crushed or cut. If crushed, may also leach insolublessuch as plant waxes, into tincture -- won't hurt anything, but clouds the tincture. (Ex: Yerba Santa) Good to keep in a warm place -- on top of refrigerator is good. Shake daily for two weeks. The leftover strained mash is called "marc." (*Susun Weed suggests average of six weeks' maceration time: put up at new moon, and decant at second full moon.) Some plants require FRESH tinctures (Ex: Avena, Lamiaceae) and some require dried or aged herbs (Ex: Cascara Sagrada.) Consult reputable herbalists or their books for guidance.
If using weaker alcohol than EVERCLEAR: (Ex: 100 proof vodka): Blend Alcohol and herb together in a blender, then shake each day for two weeks.
Dry Plant Tinctures: One can buy or make special percolation glasses, which will speed up the extraction: instead of two weeks, the percolators will result in tinctures finished in 1/2 to 2 days. So far, I have no experience with these.
1 oz herb, freshly powdered in blender --best NOT prepowdered too long in advance, as they dry out too fast. A quart Mason Jar fits the Osterizer blender, which is the herbalist's favorite! Proportion: 1 part by weight to 5 parts by volume (except Cayenne: 1 part to 10 parts alcohol) Shake each day for two weeks, or blend it for FIVE minutes. BE SURE TO LABEL AND DATE IT!!
(For one class, we each made one quart of a tincture, and when it was completed, we divided it into 1 oz. dropper bottles to share. This way we each made just one tincture, but we each got a collection of tinctures in dropper-bottles to take home.) For more dilute alcohol:(100 proof = 50% EtOH) Some plants do better extractions with less than 100% EtOH, for example: skullcap: 50%; goldenseal, osha, black cohosh: 65-70% but 100% for cayenne, myrrh.
Tinctures made with rubbing alcohol are LINIMENTS. EXTERNAL USE ONLY. Liniments can be made with edible alcohol, and then can be used internally or externally. (Ex: Arnica) Flower Essences: A magical remedy, like the dew--flower essences work on energetic and psychic levels. Pick flowers without touching the petals with your hands--you can use the plant's own leaves. Some people prefer crystal bowls for the solar infusion, and cut the flowers with magical knives or crystals. The Solar Infusion, preserved with brandy, gives a "Mother Tincture." Use four drops of Mother Tincture or several Mother Tinctures, to make a treatment bottle, then fill bottle most of the way with spring water, then preserve with brandy. You can use flavored brandies if you like! You can ingest drops, apply topically, bathe in it, or sprinkle it on your Senator's doorstep. Usually flower essences are taken at least four times a day plus as needed to deal with psychological and spiritual issues, often while reciting affirmations focussing on the issue. Used in this way, they do help to re-train the subconscious mind and communicate with the animal-self or unihipili.
Glycerates: equal parts glycerin and water, or 60% glycerin: 40% water. Use to extract herbs; but won't extract resins very well. Vegetable glycerins are best for vegetarian use; animal glycerins will warm the skin if you rub it on and then blow on it; Rosemary Gladstar claims that animal glycerin is for cosmetic, not internal use. People sometimes prefer glycerates for children and alcoholics.
Herbal vinegar's are also a way to extract plants. Chop the herb finely, and pour warmed apple cider vinegar over it to cover it, plus a few inches more, to allow for herb swelling. Macerate for 4-6 weeks. Shake extracts daily. Strain and press extract, and rebottle. They should be refrigerated between uses since they can mold--the acidity of the vinegar has been decreased by plant fluids released into the vinegar.
Plant Oils: 2 ozs. herb: 1 cup oil The wetter and juicier the plants, the more danger of rancidity. Can be placed in the sun, or in sandboxes heated by the sun. You can also extract herbs into oil in a double boiler, crock pot, or in mason jars in a water bath in the oven at very low heat for several (2-4) hours. LOW HEAT is best!! Rosemary Gladstar relates that an "electric oven roaster" can macerate an herbal oil for 2-4 weeks, giving a dark green herbal oil. Olive, almond, or jojoba oils are the usual solvents--(Ex: rose and lavender oil, mugwort oil, St. John's oil, Mullein oil, comfrey & calendula oil.) Steep the plant (usually fresh but wilted to decrease water content) in oil--jar must be full--no air and little moisture, or it will go rancid. Some herbalists recommend wiping the jar's headroom with a cloth or tissue each day, and topping off with oil. Remove any water that collects below the oil with a turkey baster or siphon. Do not mix oils that are pressed or expressed with those that are simply strained without pressing. The pressed oils will be more likely to spoil, as they will have more water, microbes, and sediment. Pressed oil portions should be used up quickly, and it is wise to store them refrigerated.
VERSION 1: Tap jar each day and top off with more oil if needed. Let the oil sit--water will sink to the bottom. Use a turkey baster to withdraw top oil temporarily, then discard water & oil near the bottom. Let sit 2-3 weeks, then strain out herbs--DO NOT squeeze!
VERSION 2: powder herb and moisten with pure grain alcohol as an "Intermediary solvent extraction". Let sit, covered, 20 min to 1 hour, then blend in blender: 1 oz Herb/EtOH/ 6 oz. oil Blend until mixture becomes warm, then blend a little more. Strain through cloth. To get rid of alcohol: put in jellyroll pan, and put in oven with pilot light on, or on radiator (less than 150 degrees), or place fans blowing over jellyroll pan for 4-8 hours.
Can restrain to get particles out, or use turkey baster when particles have settled. Some add vitamin E or tincture of benzoin (1 tsp tincture of benzoin per qt. oil) against rancidity. Store excess in refrigerator.
SALVE: PER 1 CUP OIL, ADD 2 OZ. BY VOLUME OF BEESWAX, or: 1 part wax: 4 parts oil. (*Susun Weed suggests 1 TBL beeswax per 1 oz (2 TBL) oil, or 1 part wax: 2 parts oil.) The wax is a stiffener, and some people prefer softer salves. (Recipe example: yarrow, chickweed, dock, plantain, calendula, comfrey, St. John's wort oil, vit. E, essential oil like thuja or tea tree, myrrh or usnea tinctures.) Olive oil and herbs in double boiler; simmer 30 min to one hour (also gets rid of water) strain, add wax. Spoon test: dip spoon in hot salve, cool in refrigerator or freezer to test texture. You can use a turkey baster to pour into small tins.
Adam Seller starts with a ready-made green oil too: blend oil with wilted comfrey leaves until green, strain, use this as your starting oil. Makes a rich green salve.
PILLS: Powdered herbs can be moistened with water & honey or maple syrup to form a sticky paste. Add a drop of essential oil (orange, peppermint, wintergreen) and mix in well, but too much essential oil can ruin the mixture. Thicken with slippery elm powder, and knead until it becomes the texture of bread dough. Roll into small balls. They can be dusted with carob or slippery elm powder, if desired. Place on a cookie sheet and dry in a very low oven or the sun.
CAPSULES: If you don't have an encapsulating machine, this method works well for small numbers of pills. Since powdered herbs dry out quickly and lose their virtues, you should probably make small batches anyway. Powder the herbs, and place in a bowl or shallow plate. Fill separated caps by "grinding" the open halves gently into a pile of powdered herbs. Place the two ends of the capsule together. Two "00" caps are a standard adult dose, and the "00" size is used in most encapsulating machines. One oz. of powdered herb fills about 30 capsules.
SYRUPS: Syrups sweeten bitter herbs, preserve the mixture from spoiling, and soothe a sore throat. Ex: COUGH SYRUP: Decoct the 2-4 ozs of the following herbs with a quart of water, reduce by one-half: to one pint. mullein, horehound, pleurisy root, wild cherry bark, orange peel. Strain out herbs, add yerba santa tincture, and lobelia tincture. Then dissolve in 1 pint honey or simple syrup (preserves, sweetens, soothes throat.) When cooled, add peppermint, wintergreen, orange, or eucalyptus essential oils. Some people like to add brandy (3-4TBL /cup) or a fruit concentrate. Best to store refrigerated.
*Susun Weed: To one cup fluid, use 8 oz sugar or 4oz honey; OPT: 15 ml or 1 TBL Brandy. Dose: 1 tsp up to eight times per day for adults; 1/2 tsp up to 8 times/day, kids 60-75 lbs., 1/4 tsp. up to 8 times/day, for infants less than 30 lbs. (Safety warning: do not give infants honey--they can get botulism from bacterial spores in the honey.)
Thank you so much for this valuable information. I will try to use it. I was wondering. I just bought a couple of steepers. Hand held. How are these used. They are vintage or antique I am sure. They open like a clam would when squeezed and then close. Is it the same as you had described in your info. I figure I should steep in a cup with boiling water but do I use fresh or dried herbs or does it even matter. Thanks
Thank you so much for this. :)
Thank you for this information and I can't wait to try them all out.