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.
Capsule: Capsule have become the most popular way to ingest an herbal remedy. Capsules are an easy way to take these medications, have no taste, and there is no preparation.
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.
Mucilage: Mucilage is a sticky secretion put out by the plant naturally. Mucilages can be applied or ingested.
Powder: Herbs and roots can be ground to a powder. This can be done with a mortar and pestle or by using a coffee grinder. Remove larger particles after grinding. Apply as instructed for each herb.
Sap: Sap is like mucilage but is usually the secretion of larger plants and trees. It occurs naturally and sometimes can be ingested, but is primarily applied to the skin.
Inhalation: Inhalation is the fastest method of absorption. Some plants like eucalyptus can be inhaled directly, others such as cannabis, must be smoked.
Syrup: Syrups are made from a base (usually honey or corn syrup) and added to the desired herb. The mixture is then cooked on very low heat for 12 to 24 hours. Strain well.
Tonic: Tonics are similar to tea. The same process is followed but often the resulting solution is thicker than tea.
Juice: Juices are the natural nectar of plants and herbs. Juice is referred to in its unadulterated form. It is ingested as a liquid.
Gel: Gels are generally used in cosmetic healing applications. Oils and Waxes are sometimes mixed to obtain a semi-thick liquid that can be applied to the skin without quickly drying out.
Scrub: Scrubs are primarily used to exfoliate the skin. Scrubs can be made from bark, roots, plant leaves and other herbal materials. Usually they are added to an oil base and cooked for 2 hours.
Wash: Washes are made from oils, juices, mucilages or any other liquid form of plant extracts. They have been shown to have medicinal or beneficial uses when washing parts of the body.
Eating: Any plant or herb that can be safely ingested and is fit for human consumption. See the individual plant for instructions on preparation.