Herbs for Home Use
Updated: Feb 28, 2019
From: Annie's Remedy- Essential Oils & Herbs Website You don't have to be a health "expert" to get the many benefits of using herbs and natural remedies to replace many of the over-the-counter personal health & hygiene products sold at your drugstore and supermarket. This includes much of the so called "natural" health food supplements that are sold at the health food store too. Think of the difference between a can of tomato paste, and a fresh, ripe homegrown tomato. Both have the same origins, but the processed product has only a fraction of the vital health benefits of the fresh fruit and often has added sodium and synthetic preservatives. The pros and cons of prescription drugs, which come with their own set of benefits and side effects, also are not addressed here, except with the notion that as your health improves, your dependence on drugs can hopefully be lessened. While most will make the disclaimer at this point to check with your doctor before using any herbs, I live in the real world where mainstream MD's know next to nothing about them. It is your responsibility, as an adult to make your own health care decisions, and own the responsibility for them, including being responsible for knowing the benefits and possible side effects of drug and herb combinations. As a very general rule of thumb, don't attempt to treat the same condition with herbal remedies that you are taking prescription drugs for. Be cautious and informed, and aware that many drugs are so strong, and have so many unintended side effects that combining them with herbal therapy is rarely a good idea. What we mean by using herbs is the use of medicinal plants in their whole and natural state - and then processing them straight from the garden, or organic bulk herb suppliers. Herbs and medicinal plants can be used fresh, eaten as healthy foods, used as culinary spices, taken as teas or decoctions, made into homemade creams, salves and liniments, used as non-toxic household cleaners and the list goes on., The most versatile and easy system for measurements is the simplest method, because it is based on ratios, measurements are referred to as "parts", for instance 3 parts dandelion, 1 part nettle, 2 parts raspberry, is a very common 3:1:2 synergy. This simple way of measurement lets you make your formulation in any volume you wish, whether ounces, tablespoons, cups, liters, grams etc.
Herbal Teas and Tisanes Water infusion - This method is commonly referred to as a "standard brew". Making herbal tea is almost the same as making a standard cup of tea, with some important differences. It is not usually necessary to strain most herbal infusions as the leaves will settle to the bottom in ten minutes time. In fact it is a good idea to just let the herbs steep, as this will extract more of the medicinal properties. You need not throw out the leftovers either, and may want to reuse them as a "starter" for another fresh batch. Herbs that have a lot of tannins, or are bitter will get even more so the longer they steep and can be strong and bitter to drink. Herbal tea making is just as much of an art as it is a science. Color, taste, aroma all will signal you when the brew is "just right". Ratio : Pour two cups boiling water over one ounce dried herb, (1 to 2 tablespoons), or 1 cupped handful of the fresh herb. Brewing time : 10 to 20 minutes. Depends on the material. Generally, leaves and flowers will take less time than seeds, roots, or barks. Average Dose. The average dosage is usually 3 to 4 cups in a day. Bitter medicines need only be taken in small doses, usually 1/2 cup at a time. Variations : Spices like ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and allspice add heat and energy to the infusion. Almond and vanilla extracts, raw honey, fresh lemon, or a pinch of stevia add flavor and zest. Tools : You don't need anything fancy, the most important tea tool is a non-aluminum pot with a tight fitting lid. Add a strainer and a tea cup and you are good to go. Decoction Unlike infusions, decoctions are boiled. Woody roots, non-aromatic seeds and barks are suited to this method. To get more of the "good" out of the herbs you can place them cold water over a low heat and slowly bring to a simmering boil. Keep the pot covered and simmer for 20 minutes. I often let the mixture set all day or overnight without straining, you can use the same herbs over again 2 or three times, adding a bit more fresh material if you wish. Overnight Method : Use this method when the material you want to extract is a bitter, or mineral salt. The whole herb, roots or seeds, or the bark of a woody plant are soaked in cold water for several hours, then brought to a boil and simmered for 30 minutes. The correct proportion if not otherwise specified is one ounce of plant material to two cups of water. Embrocation Dilute a decoction in a gallon of water. This method is useful to soaking a sprained ankle, swollen foot or finger.
Tincture/Liquid Extracts There are three basic solvents used to extract the chemical compounds of herbs in tinctures: alcohol, glycerin, and vinegar. Alcohol is the most used because it can extract fats, resins, waxes,most alkaloids, and some of the volatile oils, as well as many other plant compounds. Water is also necessary to extract the water soluble plant chemicals. Using an 80 to 100 proof alcohol such as vodka, brandy and gin provides the alcohol-water ratio you need without having to add anything. If pure grain alcohol ( 190 proof) is used, water will have to be added. Don't use city tap water that contains chlorine, use either distilled or pure spring water Herbs: Either fresh or dried finely chopped herbs can be used. Use of one pint of solvent to two ounces of dried herbs, or about two handfuls of fresh. The important thing is to completely cover the herbs, leaving a couple of extra inches of liquid about the herbs to allow for swelling as the herbs absorb the liquid. Leave some headroom in the jar. If using vinegar, warm first before pouring it over the herbs. Procedure for making an easy tincture: Chop herbs finely Place in a glass jar, labeled with the current date and name of the herb Add sufficient liquid solvent to completely cover the herb Cap with a tight fitting lid, put the jar in a dark place at room temperature, and shake at least once daily. After 2 to 3 weeks, strain the contents through several layers of cheesecloth. Allow to settle overnight in a clean jar Restrain through a filter paper Store in a labeled, amber glass bottle away from light and heat. The Chinese macerate herbs for months sometimes even years. For stronger tinctures a suggested time can be 4 to 6 weeks. The duration depends on the mixture and on your patience, in time you will develop your own style. I use a kitchen cupboard that I open on a regular basis, so I don't forget to shake the bottle. Tinctures will keep for 6 months. The standard dose is one tablespoon in a wineglass of water once or twice a day. Syrup This method is good for preparation of cough syrups. Make a concentrated infusion, eight ounces of herb to 12 ounces of water. Infuse for 15 to twenty minutes, strain and pour the liquid back into the pot. To each pint of liquid add one cup of honey, warm the mixture to mix well, but do not over cook the honey as it will kill the enzymes. Some additions could be a flavored brandy, a few drops of essential oil or a fruit concentrate. Poultice External use. Herbs are chopped fresh or dried are moistened with apple-cider vinegar and mixed with whole wheat flour or cooked barley, to hold it together. The proportion should be 1 part herb to 3 parts vehicle. Spread the mixture on a warm, moist cloth and fold the ends and sides over. Oil the skin before applying the hot poultice, and plastic or a heating pad can be used to help retain the heat.
Balms/Salve Infused herbal oils form a great basis for salves and balms,or you can use a plain vegetable oil such as jojoba or olive. Heat the infused oil together in a double boiler with beeswax until the wax is completely melted. Check the consistency by placing a few drops on a cool plate, the more wax, the firmer the salve. A good working ratio to start with is about 1 part wax to 3 parts oil for body salves, and 1 part wax to 2.5 parts oil for lip balms. In an average balm you would use 3 oz. of oil to 1 oz of beeswax (liquid measures). As you get a feel for making salves, experiment with different oil/wax ratios, making salves harder or softer, depending on the purpose of the salve. Salves that are the perfect consistency in cool, winter temperatures, become softer and "melty" in summertime, so plan accordingly. Pour while warm into jars or tins,and cover. Add essential oils for increased fragrance and potency, while the mixture is still warm, but not boiling hot. Cover to prevent the volatile oils from escaping. Quick Salve: Fresh or dried herbs are covered with water, brought to a boil in an enamel or stainless steel pot, using spring water. After the mixture comes to a boil, simmer for 30 minutes. Strain. Add to an equal amount of olive or safflower oil. Return to the pot and simmer until the water is gone. Remove from flame and add enough beeswax to give a thicker consistency. Test by putting a teaspoonful on a cool plate. If it thickens at once, the amount of wax is correct. Lotions/Creams You have always heard that oil and water don't mix. But that is exactly what creams and lotions are - a mixture of oil and water that form the basis of our skin care products. Creams can be tricky to make - but are well worth the effort. To reduce the chances of bacterial contamination, use distilled water, and clean hands and equipment. Basic Cream: 6 oz liquid oil, 3 oz solid oil, 1 oz beeswax, 9 oz water Liquid oils: Oils that are liquid at room temperature such as almond, olive, jojoba, and borage. Also included in the liquid oil portion are herbal infused oils, and any fat soluble ingredients like lecithin. Solid Oils: Solid at room temperature: Shea and coconut butters, coconut oils. (Coconut is rather in between, becoming a liquid at 76 degrees) Water: Distilled water, herbal waters, witch hazel, herbal infusions and fruit juices are all included in the water portion. If you add aloe gel, glycerin, or herbal tinctures include them in the water portion of the formula. 1. Pour the liquid oil into a pyrex, or heat resistant measuring cup. 2. Add the solid oils until the total volume equals 9 oz., giving you 3 oz of solid oils 3. Add 1 oz. beeswax 4. Use a double boiler, or place your heat resistant measuring cup in a pot of water. Melt oils and wax together until the oils and beeswax are completely dissolved. 5. Remove from heat and let cool to body temperature. 6. While oils are cooling heat water to body temperature. 7. Pour the water in a blender, food processor, or mixer. Add the oil slowly in a thin drizzle. The mixture will begin to thicken and emulsify. 8. Store in clean jars away from heat and sunlight.
Essential Oil Blends When applying essential oils to the skin, always dilute with a carrier oil before applying. 5 drops EO per teaspoon or 15 drops EO per tablespoon of base oil . One teaspoon will be sufficient for most bodies. Save empty essential oil bottles to store massage or synergy mixes. Most come in handy 1/2 oz bottles. Steam Inhale Steam is one of the best methods to ease breathing and break up congestion. 2 - 3 drops essential oil, or a handful of fresh herbs such as eucalyptus in a bowl of hot water. Make a tent over your head with a towel. Close your eyes lean over the bowl and breathe in the steam for about a minute. Bath When adding essential the essential oils to the hot bath, wait until the water has stopped running, so they don't evaporate. You can dilute the oils in a base oil or honey, or add them neat, using a total of 10 to 14 drops per bath as a general rule. When using fresh herbs, put them in a muslin bag. To soften skin and remove impurities, dissolve 1 cup of epsom salts in the bath water. Aromatic baths with herbs and essential oils are an important part of hydrotherapy (water therapy), benefiting both the body and the mind aspects of conditions such as stress, troubled skin, and arthritis. Compress Both infusions and decoctions made from herbs and essential oils diluted with water may be used for external applications. You may dip a cloth in a full strength infusion, wring out the excess moisture and apply to the treatment area. This method is used to treat skin irritation, headaches, chest congestion or swelling from an injury. A compress can be made with a bandage or any clean cloth folded to form a pad. Soak the material in teas made from herbs, roots or essential oils. They can be hot or cold. Wrap over the area firmly ( but not so firm as to cut off circulation). Shower As directed or a maximum of 8 drops. Add the essential oil to your washcloth and rub briskly while standing under the running water. Use a decongestant oil like eucalyptus to ease congestion from a cold, or to simply wake up.
Herbs in Southern Gardens- UGA Publication