Herbal products for healing can be made right from your own home, many times using regular household ingredients and medicinal plants from your herb garden. Many people find that once they start growing and making their own natural remedies, they will never turn back. It becomes such an enjoyable, peaceful hobby and the results that come out of the products created are typically far better than anything you can buy in a store.
If the taste of raw herbal medicines bothers you and you don’t mind taking pulls, creating your own is the perfect solution. To convert an herb into pill form, it needs to be dried and crushed into a powder. Then you simply purchase gelatin capsules, open them up and scoop the powder into the capsule. If this seems too tedious to you, capsule machines can be purchased.
While the term “infusion” may sound intense, this is actually one of the most popular forms of herbal medicine. That’s because herbal tea is nothing more than an infusion of herbs, but an infusion is meant to make medicinal-strength teas. To create an infusion, leaves, stems and flowers from herbs are often used. Preparing an infusion is nothing more than pouring water that has been brought to a boil over herbs and covering with a lid while it steeps for 10-15 minutes. A rule of thumb for measurement is 1 teaspoon of dried herbs or 2 teaspoons of fresh herbs for every cup of water. When you are ready to drink the tea, strain out the herbs and enjoy! Your infusion will last about 3 days if kept in a tightly-closed glass jar in the refrigerator.
A decoction is very similar to an infusion, except you use different parts of the plant and the preparation process is slightly different. The parts of the medicinal plants used for a decoction are roots, rhizones, bark and seeds. When preparing a decoction, you want to bring your water to a boil and then add the herbs to the teapot and reduce the temperature until the water is at a gentle simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Then strain and enjoy! The measurements and amount of time you can store a decoction are the same as those listed above for infusions.
Tinctures are herbs soaked in either alcohol or vinegar. To prepare, you will need to cut up your herbs and place them into a jar. Then, you pour the alcohol or vinegar over the herbs. Close the lid and store the tincture at room temperature for 4-6 weeks, making sure you shake the jar vigorously every 2 days or so. After it has soaked for the allotted time, you can strain out the herbs by placing a cotton cloth over a colander and pouring the liquid out. Then, squeeze out the cloth to capture all of the liquid. Alcohol tinctures will last indefinitely and vinegar tinctures will last about a year.
Syrups are great for making cough syrups, for giving herbal medicine to children or for immune support during cold and flu season. Syrups start with 1-2 ounces of tincture, added to 1 cup of warm honey over low heat. Simmer gently for 10-15 minutes. Then let cool to room temperature and store in a glass bottle in the refrigerator.
Infused oils are great for skin conditions. They also form the base for ointments and creams. Start with a completely dry jar and utensils, and place 1/3 cup of dried herbs into the jar. Add high quality olive oil (only enough to cover the herbs completely). Let it sit for several hours and then check that the herbs have not absorbed all the oil. If they have, add more. Then, cover the jar with a cotton cloth or a coffee filter (unbleached). You can hold it on with a rubber band (NOTE: adding a lid at this point could cause the lid to blow right off the jar as gases are released). Allow the oil to infuse for 10 days in a sunny window. Then, remove the herbs and store the oil in a glass jar for up to a year.
An ointment starts with an infused oil and adds beeswax or cocoa butter as a solidifying agent. Start by warming about 1 cup of the infused oil (but do not boil), and then melt 1/2 ounce of beeswax or cocoa butter in a separate pan, and pour into the oil. You can store the ointment in a tin or glass jar, and it will last for about a year.
A cream is an ointment that has had air whipped into it to turn it into a creamy consistency. Start by melting about 1/2 cup of cocoa butter and 1/2 cup of coconut oil into 1 cup of your infused oil. Then pour into a bowl and let it cool in the freezer. You will then need to remove the mixture every couple minutes to whip it with your electric mixer, and then return it to the freezer. Repeat that process until you reach the consistency you want, Now you can add essential oil and store in glass jars. Creams that are left in room temperature will last only about 1-2 months. Storing your creams in the refrigerator will increase their shelf life.
A poultice is great for healing injuries, inflammations, cramps, or other spasmodic problems. To create a poultice, you simply chop the herbs into small pieces, and then apply them directly to the affected area (oftentimes covered with a hot, moist bandage). A very simple form of poultice can be created simply by chewing up some leaves and applying the moist, chewed herb to the affected area. This is great if you are away from the house, out in nature and need a quick solution (just make sure you know where to find the herb you need and know exactly what it looks like).
Essential oils are used in many ways, from cosmetic use, fragrances, massage oils, aromatherapy and therapeutic and healing purposes. These oils are processed through cold pressing or steam distillation, and they help to provide relief for pains and ailments.
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