When using herbs and plant materials medicinally, there are a host of ways in which they can be used. For example, a leaf may be rubbed on a tender spot of skin to help cure a rash. Another herb may be ingested after it has been turned into a tea.
In this regard, we have put together a list of methods and applications for each of the specific uses mentioned on each herb’s page. These descriptions are used only to serve as general knowledge as to what the method entails. More specific instructions are given in the “Applications” section of each plant.
Infusion: Infusion is the most common way to prepare an herb. Quantities vary depending upon the application, but a teaspoon of leaves, blossoms, or flowers is recognized as a standard measurement. This dosage is mixed with boiling water (usually 1 cup). The water is poured over the herb and steeped for 3 to 5 minutes. Straining is recommended before drinking. Honey is often used to improve the taste.
Decoction: Some herbs are hard and course (ie: stems, roots, bark). A special process known as decoction is necessary to extract the deeper essences from them. Simmer uncovered for about 10 to 20 minutes until 1/3 of the water has decreased through evaporation. More stubborn roots such as Burdock and Valerian must be simmered gently in a covered pot for a longer period of time before their medicinal properties will be extracted. Always strain.
Fomentation: is an external application that is generally used to treat pain, swelling, cuts, colds and flu. After having boiled the herb or root, soak a towel in the solution. Apply the towel to the affected area as hot as can be endured without burning the skin. Cover the towel with a dry cloth. Repeat as necessary.
Poultice: A poultice is used to reduce swelling by applying a warm mass of powdered herbs directly to the skin. A general poultice is created by adding enough hot water to form a thick paste to be applied on the surface of the affected area. Then cover with a moist, warm towel and leave until it cools. Repeat as necessary. Plantain and Comfrey poultices are sometimes used to draw out toxins. Muscle spasms and pain have been successfully treated with poultices of Kava Kava, Valerian, Lobelia or Catnip (each used separately).
Plaster: A plaster is much like a poultice, but the herbs are placed between two pieces of cloth and applied to the affected area. This method prevents irritation because the herb is not directly touching the skin.
Ointment: An ointment can be made with 3oz. of powdered herb (or plant material), 7oz. of cocoa butter or pure vegetable shortening, 1oz. beeswax (or more if necessary). Blend the three ingredients together in a covered pot on low heat for 1 to 2 hours. When it cools, it should be firm and ready for use.
Extracts: An extract is a highly concentrated alcohol (the kind you drink, not rubbing alcohol) base in liquid form derived from pure herbs. Extracts are often used in place of capsules or other hard to swallow methods. In general, anywhere from 3-4 drops and up to 12-15 drops of extract in a cup of water is used. Dosages vary depending upon the condition and the herb.
Tincture: A tincture is synonymous with an extract. It’s a highly concentrated alcohol (the kind you drink, not rubbing alcohol) base in liquid form derived from pure herbs. Tictures are often used in place of capsules or other hard to swallow methods. In general, anywhere from 3-4 drops to 12-15 drops of the extract in a cup of water is used. Dosages vary depending upon the condition and the herb.
Tea: Teas are often used as a simple way to take in herbal materials. Teas can be flavored and absorb quickly. Put one tablespoon of the herb that you prefer in a tea ball and put it in one cup of boiling water. Let it simmer for about five to fifteen minutes and it’s ready to drink.
Oil: Oils to be applied to the skin can be made easily. Pack herbs into a jar and cover with any neutral base oil (olive or almond oil are most common). After capping tightly, set the jar on a sunny windowsill. Shake the jar once each day for 30 days. Strain with cheesecloth into a new receptacle.
Eating: Any plant or herb that can be safely ingested and is fit for human consumption. See the individual plant for instructions on preparation.