Mother Earth Living

Herb Basics

Liquid herbal extracts often are prescribed by the drop. But for a nation accustomed to teaspoons and pre-measured pills, envisioning a drop of medicine may run against the grain. And who has time to count all of those drops, anyway?

This chart offers you a guide to your dropper. Note: While droppers can vary in size, manufacturers often mark the dropper with measurements (usually given in milliliters). Generally, though, a standard dropper holds 1 milliliter of liquid.

Add spice to your meals with a zesty herbal blend

Herbalist Rosemary Gladstar’s Fire Cider Zest is a warming, energizing concoction designed to light your fires. It can be added to salad dressings, used to flavor steamed vegetables and sprinkled on grains.

Helpful tincture tips

Liquid herbal extracts, or tinctures, are an effective and convenient way to take herbal medicines. According to herbalist and Herb Pharm co-owner Ed Smith in his book Therapeutic Herb Manual (1999), a liquid herbal extract is a concentrated liquid containing an herb’s chemical constituents dissolved in a solution of alcohol and water.

Most tinctures are sold in one-ounce bottles with droppers. To use, Smith suggests mixing the prescribed number of drops with 2 to 4 ounces of water. You also can add the drops to warm (not hot) tea or juice. For optimal results, Smith says, sip the mixed drops so you can savor the extract flavor and aroma, although you may not always like the taste.

Generally, tinctures should be taken two to five times per day. For chronic conditions (such as poor memory or varicose veins), two to three times daily is usually sufficient. However, for acute conditions (such as fevers and colds), you may need to take a tincture four to five times daily. Consult your health-care provider for more specific dosage information.

Source: Smith, Ed. Therapeutic Herb Manual. Williams, Oregon: Ed Smith, 1999.

Calm down with colorful California poppy

Common name: California poppy

Latin name: Eschscholzia californica

Family: Papaveraceae

Part used: Whole plant

Medicinal uses: California poppy often is used in blends for relaxation and sleep promotion. It also has antispasmodic actions. The herb is used for easing nervousness, sleeplessness, anxiety and toothaches.

Forms commonly used: Tinctures, capsules and teas.

Side effects: Do not use California poppy during pregnancy. The herb also may increase the effectiveness of pharmaceutical MAO inhibitors (used for depression and anxiety), so don’t mix the herb with these drugs.

Notes: California poppy has the reputation of being a nonaddictive alternative to the opium poppy, although it is much less powerful. Some herbalists have had success using the herb for hyperactivity disorders in children, but consult a qualified herbalist before using the herb for this purpose.

California poppy is native to western North America and is a widely cultivated garden plant that prefers sandy soil. Native Americans were known to use the plant’s sap for its pain-killing properties, especially for toothaches.

To make a tea, steep 1 teaspoon of the dried herb in 1 cup boiling water for 10 minutes; strain and drink up to 3 cups daily.

Herbal quiz

Do you know for whom or what the following genera were named?

1) Asclepias
2) Heracleum
3) Hebe
4) Narcissus
5) Lewisia
6) Daphne
7) Iris


1) Asclepias (Greek, Asklepios; Latin, Aesculapius), the Greek god of healing.

2) Heracles (Greek, Herakles; Latin, Hercules), a Greek mythological hero noted for his great strength.

3) Hebe, wife of Heracles and Greek goddess of youth.

4) Narcissus, in Greek mythology, a beautiful youth who fell in love with his own image, killed himself when he couldn’t reach the person he saw reflected in the water, but was then turned into a narcissus plant.

5) Captain Meriwether Lewis (1774 – 1809), American explorer.

6) Daphne, in Greek mythology, a bashful nymph who, when pursued by Apollo, prayed for help and was turned into a laurel tree.

7) Iris, the Greek goddess of the rainbow.

  • Published on Mar 1, 2003
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