4 Medicinal Herb Preparations You Should Know

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Alisa is a Natural Wellness Consultant in Bisbee, Arizona, and has studied natural health and herbal protocols formally and informally for more than 15 years. She is working toward her credential to become a board certified Traditional Naturopath. Alisa has also studied holistic care for animals. She works with Bisbee Chiropractic and Natural Health Center and is the owner of Love Your Pet Natural Therapies.

There are many ways to use healing herbs in your life to help maintain health or recover from an illness. If you’ve tried herbs, many times it is in capsule form, or perhaps an herbal tea. But there are many additional ways to enjoy the medicinal benefits of herbs. 

1. An infusion is most recognizable as a type of tea. In this case, however, the herb is steeped anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes, in order to extract the most water-soluble constituents possible. A common way to prepare an infusion is using loose-leaved herbs. In a (preferably ceramic) vessel, such as a cup, add boiling water and the herb or blend of your choosing. Allow the combination to steep then strain out the herb. An infusion can also be prepared by placing the herb or blend of your choosing in a muslein sack, tea bag or ball. 

The basic recipe for most infusions is two teaspoons fresh herbs, or one teaspoon dried herbs, for each cup of water. (Make a rosehip infusion.)

2. A decoction is reserved for herbal remedies that use roots or barks. In a decoction, water is brought to a boil and the herbal preparation is added. Bring the blend to a gentle, rolling boil for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the herb or blend. The decoction is most often loose, and strained upon completion of the decoction. 

The basic recipe for most decoctions is the same as most infusions.

3. A poultice is helpful for the external use of herbs or herbal blends. Basically, the fresh herb is crushed or applied whole to the skin or wound requiring treatment. If dried herbs or roots are used, they are often added to hot water to rehydrate and then applied to the skin. Herbal poultices can also be combined with carriers to help with application. For example, mix goldenseal with bentonite clay to treat puncture wounds, or combine comfrey with oatmeal to make a soothing treatment.

4. A tincture can be used for roots, bark, leaves or flowers, and is many times preferred for ease of administration and a long shelf-life (especially if alcohol is used). Depending on the herb being used, the tincture can be made in a variety of strengths. A common ration of herb to alcohol is 1:5 (1 ounce herb to 5 ounces alcohol). Different strengths of alcohol can be used. For example, some herbs require stronger percentages of alcohol than others. Horsetail (Equisetum arvanse) requires only 25 percent alcohol, where echinacea (Echinacea spp.) requires 45 to 50 percent alcohol. The herb is combined with the alcohol (vegetable glycerin and apple cider vinegar can also be used) and allowed to soak for 2 to 3 weeks (for most herbs). The blend is shaken every day and when done the alcohol infused blend is strained, with the remaining herb (in cheesecloth) being squeezed into the liquid to allow for maximum strength of the blend.

*Please note: As with all medicines, herbs should be used carefully. There are contraindications for many herbs, and they are also sometimes contraindicated with medications that you  might be taking. Always check with your health practitioner regarding diagnoses of conditions and treatment that would be appropriate. I also have to add that this post is not meant to diagnose or treat a condition; herbs are powerful medicines and should be used with care and with guidance from your doctor. I am always available to help in this regard. Feel free to call 520-432-4044 or email me at acook@bisbeechiropractic.com.

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