Preparation Of Herbal Remedies
We think of many kinds of remedies which we could benefit from herbs, but the best way to get cured by herbs is by planting them around your garden or keeping small herb plants inside your home, just by smelling their fragrance it will show positive effects in your body. The best way though is to consume them and these days we are eating quite a lot of herbs in our daily foods like, parsley in salads, dill in fish, marjoram in pizza, mint with lamb, horseradish with beef, basil with pasta and garlic with most of the foods we eat. These herbs are easily absorbed into our digestive system and other parts of the body.
Preparations for internal use
Apart from consuming herbs into our body system through food, it can be consumed through tea, tinctures and tablets.
- Infusions are made in a similar fashion like one makes a cup of tea the normal way. The doses are 1 ounce or 25 grams of dried herbs, or 2 ounce or 50 grams of fresh herbs, should be added to 1pint or 600 ml of water, which is at boiling point. You can make adjustments in the measurement to suit your taste buds so that you make it a regular habit to drink the tea. You can put herbs in a warm teapot, add boiling water, cover for ten minutes, and strain and drink it. If the person is suffering from any chronic disease, then one cup of tea should be consumed three times a day and if the condition is quite acute, then one cup of tea should be consumed 6 times a day. An infusion can be stored in the fridge till about two days maximum. Herbs (for example comfrey), which have a high content of mucilage, should be prepared in the same way, but with cold water. Infusions are mostly taken hot but only in cases like treating urinary system, the infusion should be drunk lukewarm to cold.
To make sure you drink the infusions religiously you can add more herbs to make it tastier. Many types of herbs can be blended to make a tasty brew and aromatic herbs can be added too. Mints, lemon balm, lemon verbena, fennel, licorice and lavender are aromatic herbs, which can be added to more bitter herbs to make the infusion more drinkable for both adults and children too.
- Decoctions are preparations from hard woody parts of plants like barks, roots, rhizomes, seeds and nuts. They are quite similar to infusions and require more heat in preparing it and imparting their constituents into the water. To prepare decoctions, you have to break or hammer barks, roots, etc. with a mortar and pestle. You could also chop them if they are fresh, and put them in a pan of water and start boiling, cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes and then strain. The measurement of the water can go over a pint per ounce of herb, in case some of the liquid is evaporated during simmering. The measurements of decoctions and infusions are the same.
- Children mostly like syrups and if it is prescribed to an adult, then the dose should be doubled. 2 teaspoons 3 times a day is prescribed for any chronic problems and twice the dose for acute health problems. Infusions and decoctions can be added to the syrup, mix 12 ounce or 325 grams of sugar into 600ml of liquid and heat till the sugar has dissolved. Cool and store the syrup in a refrigerator. Once you weigh the infusion or decoction you can add a quarter of its weight of honey into it. This should be heated slowly and brought down to a thick liquid, and remove the scum that can form on top of the liquid mixture.
There is another preparation, where you have to pour 1pint of water and start boiling it, add over 2.5 lbs or 1,25 kg of brown sugar and start stirring it over low heat till the sugar dissolves completely and the solution is boiling. After it is removed from the heat, add 1 part of herbal tincture to 3 parts of syrup and set aside.
- Tinctures are extracted from herbs, which are very concentrated, and they are mostly used in mixture of water and alcohol, so that their constituents are extracted for various remedies and they also act as preservatives. The ratio of water and alcohol depends on what is prescribed for the person. 25 per cent of alcohol is utilized for simple glycosides and tannins and 90% of alcohol is required for gums and resins.
To prepare a tincture, use 1 part of dry herb to 5 parts of liquid and if they are fresh herbs, then you can use 1 part of herbs to 2 parts of liquid. Place all the herbs in a big jar and pour the alcohol and water in it, leave it aside to macerate shaking it 2 times a day for 2 weeks only. Press out the liquid and throw the herbs. Although, the discarded herbs should not be thrown; they can be used for good compost. Store in dark bottles or glass jars kept away from heat and light and make sure they are labeled.
If you are making tincture at home, then you can use brandy, gin and vodka, these are undiluted alcohol drinks. To make the mixture tastier, glycerol or glycerin can be added. Glycerin can give a sweet taste to the extracts and could be enjoyed while drinking it. Equal parts of water and glycerin are used for dried herbs, 80% of glycerin or glycerine is used for fresh, watery herbs like borage. If the condition is chronic, then there is a standard dose of 1 teaspoon of tincture diluted with a little water 3 times a day and if the condition is more acute then it is every 2 hours. Children should be given half the dose, while babies should be given quarter of the adult dose. Tincture can be stored for almost two years though it is time consuming to prepare it, but the advantage is that it can be stored and consumed in small quantities.
Tinctures are also used to prepare gargles, mouthwash, lotions and douches. In a cup of water use half to one teaspoon 2-3 times a day for chronic problems, and for acute problems it is taken every 2 hours.
- Suppositories can be prepared with ease at home itself, add finely powdered dried herbs to melted cocoa butter and pour this mixture into moulds, allow it to cool for some time. You can store it in the refrigerator and it can be packed in aluminum foil also.
Suppositories can cure people suffering from local and systemic problems. They can pass the alimentary canal and can be absorbed into the system of the body. The herbal remedy goes directly into the blood stream, through the mucosa of the rectum.
- Tablets and capsules
- Though herb tablets and capsules are available in herbal shops or health food shops, it can easily be made at home too. The capsules can be made at home by utilizing gel capsules and filling them with the herb mixtures. If you use a capsule maker, then you can make larger quantities and the process is much easier. There are two standard capsule sizes, which are 0 and 00. Size 0 can hold approximately 0.35 grams of powdered mixture for a person to consume 3 tablets to be taken 3 times a day according to the dose. Size 00 can hold 0.5 grams of the powdered mixture for two capsules to be taken 3 times a day on a daily basis.
Preparations for external use
The skin is a highly absorbent layer of the body, which can be used to absorb any herbal preparation on it. The remedy is carried by very small capillaries under the layer of the skin into the blood stream and around the body. The skin can be easily used as a pathway for the remedy to reach the body.
- Herbal baths
- A warm bath with fragrance and herbal medicines in it could be quite good experience and made easy especially if it is for treating children and babies. You can fill a muslin bag with fresh or dried herbs and leave it under the tap. Strong herb infusions can also be added to bath water, and you can soak in it for about 15 -20 minutes. You can also drop a few droplets of herbal oil to the bath water, but if the bath is for babies and kids or for people with sensitive skin, then they should be diluted first and then added to the bath water.
When taking a herbal bath the pores of the skin are opened by the warm water allowing the remedy to go inside the body. Volatile oils can be inhaled through the nose and mouth and then paves a way to the bloodstream. It is through the nose, the oils sends messages to the nerves, then to the brains, and only then it makes the person relax mentally and emotionally. Oils like lavender, chamomile and ylang ylang are good for healing and have a good aroma. Rosemary is also relaxing and can stimulate a smooth blood flow to the brain and increase alertness in the person.
- Hand and foot baths
- Hands and feet are the most sensitive parts of the human body. All the nerves end up on the hands and feet and even though the skin is thick they can absorb any herbal constituents into it with total ease and allow it to pass into the blood stream.
Mustard footbaths are known to be an old English remedy which is used to cure colds and flu, poor circulation of the body and arthritis. Well known French herbalist Maurice Messegue who recommends in most of the remedy books, that foot bath are to be taken 8 minutes in the evening and hand baths for 8 minutes in the morning.
Hand and footbaths can be done on babies and children too, but they can stay in the water for half the time, which is prescribed for adults, which is like 4 minutes in the morning and 4 minutes in the evening.
- Salves and creams
- Herbs are macerated in oil to make a simple mixture of salve. Put 16 ounce or 450ml of olive oil and 2 ounce or 50 grams of beeswax into a dish, which is heat proof. Add as many herbs as you can till the mixture is covered and leave it on low heat for a few hours in a bain-marie. In low heat the remedy is allowed to get absorbed into the oil. Now strain the mixture through a muslin cloth and discard the left over herbs and pour the oil into jars, the oil will soon solidify inside the jar as it cools down.
You can also make creams for make up by adding tincture, infusions and decoctions. You could add a few drops of remedy oil bought from a pharmacist, into any water-based cream and use it.
- Ointments consist of only fats or oils and are not water based like creams and salves. Creams blend into the skin while ointments form their own layer on the skin. Ointments are most appropriate when the skin is soft and weak or when the skin needs added moisture or some kind of protection like in the instance of diaper rash. Ointments were previously made by animal fat, but these days' petroleum jelly and paraffin wax are being used.
To prepare an ointment, you have to melt the petroleum jelly or paraffin wax over a pan of water, which is at boiling point, add the herbs and leave it on heat for 2 hours till the herbs become crispy. Transfer the mixture into a jelly bag or cheesecloth tightened with a rubber band or a string and pours the mixture till the rim of the jar. You must wear rubber gloves when working on this mixture and make sure you pour the mixture into the jar while it is warm, as it can solidify as soon as it starts cooling.
- Poultice is a dampened mixture, which is applied on the part of the body, which needs the remedy. Fresh or dried herbs are used as poultice. They are placed between two pieces of gauze and applied on the area, which is to be cured .If you are using fresh leaves, stems or roots, then you should break them or crush them before utilizing them. If dried herbs are being used, then a little warm water can be added to the herbs, which are either finely chopped or powdered. After the mixture is ready to use, and then spread the paste into gauze.
Bind the gauze poultice to the area which is affected, a light cotton bandage can be used for this purpose and after binding it to the affected area, you can keep it warm with a hot water bottle. Cabbage leaves can also be used in this manner to cure pains like arthritic joints and engorged breasts. There is a bran poultice, which is good in curing mastitis.
- Compresses are very useful for conditions like period pains, backaches, inflame joints or varicose veins and headaches. You can take a clean cloth or a towel and soak it in hot or cold infusion or decoction or in water with a few drops of oil, which are prescribed for you. Wring out the water and apply the towel over the affected part of the body, repeat this for some time and you will find a lot of relief from the pain.
- Liniments are oils for rubbing on the body to relieve any muscular pain, they are used for massage, for the stimulation of the muscles and ligaments of the body and they can cure any pain, which is caused by inflammation, or any other injury. The mixture is an extract of herbs with an oil base or alcohol base, or they could be a mixture of herbal oils and alcohol tinctures. They can be easily absorbed into the skin and get transferred into the affected part of the body. Liniments are mostly made of stimulating oils or cayenne to increase the circulation of the affected part of the body.
- Essential oils are a product of aromatic plants, which cannot be extracted at home; it has to go through a method called steam distillation. These oils can be purchased from health food shops.
If you are keen on making herbal oils at home, then you can infuse finely chopped herbs into pure vegetable oils. Oils like almond oil, sunflower oil and olive oil can be used for this purpose. This process can take approximately two weeks.
Place the herbs and pour the oil into a tight fitting glass jar and make sure you keep it covered. Place the jar by the windowsill where a lot of sunlight can come in and make sure you shake it everyday. After two weeks, once the oil has absorbed the constituents, filter this mixture through a muslin cloth and store it in an air tight dark colored bottle.
Oils are generally used for massages and it is mostly used on babies and children A few drops of essential oil diluted into a base oil could be perfect for a massage. 5-10 drops of oil into a bowl of hot water can be inhaled, a few drops of aromatic oil in water can be sprayed around the room which could also act like a disinfectant, and a few drops of oil inside a facial steamer could do some wonders for the skin.
- Infused oils
- Massage oils, ointments and creams consist of active plant ingredients, which are used externally. Infused oils can be preserved up to one year if kept properly in a cool and dark place, but making small and fresh quantities of infused oils are more effective. There are two types of technique to make infused oils. The hot process is best suited for comfrey, chickweed or rosemary. The cold process is most appropriate for marigold and St. John's wort. The process for the cold infused oil can be repeated by using new herbs and the oil, which is infused once, can be set aside for storage for few weeks.
In the process of hot infusion: put the oil and the herb into a glass bowl placed over a pan of boiling water or in a double saucepan and let it cook for 3 hours. Once the mixture is ready pour it into a jelly bag or cheesecloth fitted tightly to the rim of the wine press and strain the mixture into the jar.
In the process of cold infusion: fill a big jar full of herbs and pour oil into it covering the herbs completely. Close the lid tightly and leave it on a window, which has lot of sunlight coming in or in a green house for about 2-3 weeks. Once the mixture is ready pour it into a jelly bag or cheesecloth secured with an elastic band to the rim of the jug. Squeeze the oil through the bag and you can repeat this process a few more times with newer herbs added to it and after few weeks it can be strained again and set aside for storage.