Monday, July 8, 2013

Make an Herbal WHAT?!?

Ever get to researching on using an herbal remedy and everything you can find assumes you already know what a decoction is versus a tea?

Well, I am going to help clear that up, at least some of it. Here is a list of common ways to use herbs and how to make and use them.

Understand that different methods bring out different constituents of the plants. Do your research and know what you want to draw out of the plant. mineral salts? bitters? vitamins? volatiles?

I hope its helpful to you.

  1. Cold Compress--Make an infusion or decoction (see below) let it cool off completely. Soak a cloth, preferably 100% cotton such as muslin in it. Wring it out and apply to the affected area. When the cloth becomes warm from absorbing body heat, remove and replace with another.
  2. Cold Extract--In an enameled pot (make sure the enamel is intact) or glass container place 1-2 ounces of herb to each pint of water. Let this stand for 12 hours, strain and the drink is ready. Follow directions for taking an infusion (below).
  3. Decoction--This method extracts mainly the mineral salts and bitters. Again, use a non metal pot (glass or enamel) The general rule for measurements is half an ounce of plant parts per cup of water. If using green (fresh) plant parts place in cold water, bring to boil, boil for 4 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let steep 3 minutes. Hard plant parts should boil about 10 minutes and steep 5-10 minutes. Strain before drinking. 
  4. Essence-Research and locate a reputable supplier of food grade essential oils. Dissolve an ounce of food grade essential oil in a pint (2 cups) of 50%/100 proof alcohol. (Personally I use cheap vodka).
  5. Fomentation--Make an infusion or decoction by the above directions. Soak a cotton cloth in the hot liquid, wring out the excess and apply to the affected area. Fomentations are used similar to a poultice but are less active in effect.
  6. Infusion--This is a beverage made in a way that the herbs are not exposed to heat at length. This minimizes the loss of volatile oils. Usual amounts are ½-1 ounce of herb to a pint of water. Place the herbs in a glass jar, boil water in a non-metal container and pour about a pint of boiling water over the herbs. Cover and let steep 10 minutes. Tighten the lid and place in refrigerator. For drinking, strain just before. Sometimes you can add a touch of natural sweetener (not processed sugar). Generally, an infusion should be taken lukewarm to cool, the exceptions would be when trying to induce a sweat, or break up a cold or congestion-in those instances take it hot. 
  7. Juice--Chop fresh plant parts (the parts that have the constituents you need) and press to squeeze the juice out. Add a small amount of water and press again. You can purchase presses to do this with or use a juicer-I do not recommend using any electric or battery operated equipment as they heat as they are being used. The heat will cause the constituents you are trying to get-to be ruined. This is the method to use to extract the water-souble vitamins, minerals, etc. from the plant. Juice only what you are going to drink immediately. The vitamin quality declines rapidly and fermentation can set in.
  8. Poultice--Bruise or crush the plant parts to mush and heat. If using dried herbs or fresh that need it, add a hot, moist binder to help hold the poultice in place such as flour, corn meal, etc. Apply directly to the skin except in the case of using irritants such as mustard or cayenne. In those instances, keep a hot, moist cotton cloth between the skin and the poultice. You can apply the poultice to piece of cotton cloth, lay it on affected area and wrap it. Keep it hot and moist by placing a cotton cloth that has been dipped in hot water and wrung out over it.
  9. Ointment--There are different ways to make an ointment. In years past it was recommended to add some form of benzoin as a preservative, but due to sensitization issues, that can be short lived or permanent, it is no longer recommended. 
        1. Determine the herb or mixture to be used. Mix it, in powdered form, one part herb(s) to one part lard, bear fat, coconut oil, etc. (some use petroleum jelly but as it is a by product of the crude oil industry, I personally do not recommend its use)
        2. Determine the herb or mixture to be used. Boil these in pure clean water until the compounds needed have been released into the water. Strain. Add the water to olive oil, coconut oil, or another oil of your preference. Simmer gently until all water is evaporated. Add beeswax until the consistency is as you wish. 
  10. Powder--Obtain the dried herb(s) you need and use a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder (not used for coffee and cleaned well between uses) to grind the dried herbs into a powder. The powder can be encapsulated in veggie caps, sprinkled on food or stirred into a beverage. 
  11. Syrup--Again there is more than one way to make this:
        1. Make a syrup of raw sugar and water (light, medium or heavy as needed). The water for the syrup should be a tea, infusion or decoction of the herb(s).
        2. Obtain organic, local honey, pure organic syrup, agave, etc and boil the herb(s) in that. Strain.
  12. Tincture--Obtain 50% grain alcohol which is 100 proof (moonshine can be bought in most states at the local liquor store but Vodka will do. I do not use Everclear as it is 190 proof so must be diluted). Place herb(s) in a glass jar (preferably brown). Lightly pack a quart jar with the herbs. Cover with alcohol. The majority of tinctures will need to be placed in a dark place for 14 days, a very, very few will need to be placed in a warm place or sunny window. Shake twice a day. At the end of 14 days, strain. Tinctures will keep for a long time, if  properly capped.
This is a basic description of some of the ways to use herbs. I hope you find it helpful. Please feel free to leave comments and please do share this posting.