Mother Earth Living

Herb Basics

By Staff


Herbal teas are an easy and inexpensive way to
take your herbs. You can grow, harvest and dry your own tea herbs
and make your own blends, or you easily can find both individual
herbs and tea blends in bulk at health-food stores. To keep teas
fresh as long as possible, store them away from direct sunlight,
preferably in dark glass containers with tight-fitting lids.

To make a tea, place 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried herb leaves,
flowers and/or stems (if using fresh herbs, double that amount) in
a cup. Pour 1 cup boiling water over the herbs, and let the tea
steep for 10 minutes, or until it reaches the desired strength.
Strain, then sip.

Infusions are stronger than teas but are prepared similarly —
just let the herbs steep for twice as long. A standard dose of an
infusion is 1 cup three times daily.

Decoctions, which are stronger than infusions, require that your
boil (rather than steep) the herbs. Decoctions are made from roots,
rhizomes and barks — plant parts whose active constituents are more
difficult to extract than those of flowers, leaves or stems. To
make a decoction, use 1 teaspoon of the dried herb, broken into
pieces or powdered (or 1 tablespoon of fresh herb in small pieces)
per cup of water. Place the herb in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and
gently simmer for 20 to 40 minutes. Strain the decoction while it’s
still hot. The standard dose is 1 cup twice daily.


The unpleasant sensation of heartburn is caused
by stomach acid backing up into the esophagus. This can be caused
by a relaxed or damaged valve between the esophagus and the

Most people experience occasional heartburn from eating spicy
foods. Problems arise, however, when the condition becomes chronic.
The lining of the esophagus is not protected from acid like the
stomach, and it can become inflamed, especially with continued
irritation over time.

Two supplements can help relieve heartburn. First, try
deglycyrrhizinated licorice root extract (DGL), from Glycyrrhiza
glabra. This can help reduce inflammation and soothe tissues. This
type of licorice is preferable, because it has less potential for
causing high blood pressure than other licorice preparations.
Follow manufacturer’s instructions for DGL capsules or chewable

You also might find relief from taking calcium carbonate
supplements, which work as antacid lozenges. Take 600 to 1,200 mg

Avoiding spicy foods in an obvious solution, but many other
foods also can cause heartburn. These include fried foods, high-fat
foods, chocolate, alcohol, orange juice, tomato sauce, coffee, tea
and carbonated sodas.

Source: Hobbs, Christopher and Elson Haas, M.D. Vitamins for
Dummies. Foster City, California: IDG Books Worldwide, 1999.


Looking for a fun new way to take your herbs —
one that’s especially popular with the kids? Try herbalist Rosemary
Gladstar’s Jump for Joy Balls, found in her book Rosemary
Gladstar’s Family Herbal (Storey Books, 2001). To make, grind equal
parts raisins, dried apricots and walnuts (alternatively, you can
use equal parts nut butter, such as almond or peanut, and honey) in
a food processor or grinder. Add the powdered herb of your choice,
in the dosage you need, stir and roll the mixture into small balls.
Roll the balls in shredded coconut, and store them in the

Powdered herbs, such as echinacea (Echinacea spp.) and eleuthero
(Eleutherococcus senticosus), work well in the Jump for Joy


Common names: Skullcap, blue skullcap, scullcap, mad dog

Latin name: Scutellaria lateriflora

Family: Lamiaceae

Part used: Leaves

Medicinal uses: Skullcap is used as a mild treatment for anxiety
and insomnia. It also helps support the nervous system. European
and Russian studies have shown the herb to have tranquilizing
effects. Skullcap is included in many European over-the-counter
sleep aids. Herbs for Health editorial adviser Christopher Hobbs
likes to use skullcap for patients with the nervous tension and
irritability associated with premenstrual syndrome.

Forms commonly used: Tea, tincture, capsules, tablets

Side effects: According to the Botanical Safety Handbook (CRC
Research Press, 1997), skullcap is a Class 1 herb, meaning it is
safe when used appropriately. No adverse effects associated with
skullcap tea have been reported; some users of large amounts of
skullcap tincture have reported confusion and twitching. Use the
herb in recommended amounts.

Notes: To make skullcap tea, steep 1 to 2 teaspoons of the dried
herb in 1 cup of water for 10 to 15 minutes; strain and drink.

Skullcap is native to North America and still grows wild in the
United States and Canada. It often is found in damp areas that get
ample sun, such as along riverbanks.

Skullcap was used traditionally by American Indians for
menstrual problems and in purification ceremonies. In the 19th
century, the herb became well-known in the United States as a
treatment for rabies; hence the plant’s nickname “mad dog

There are approximately 100 species in the Scutellaria genus.
Another commonly used variety, Baikal skullcap (S. baicalensis), is
the Chinese drug known as huang-qin. This variety grows in China
and Russia.

Skullcap is a member of the mint family, but has no scent.


The nutrition experts at the Cancer Treatment
Centers of America created the following recipe, designed to boost
cancer patients’ immune systems and help patients endure the
often-grueling treatments. It’s also a tasty dish useful for those
of us trying to incorporate more essential fatty acids into our


Serves 4

Four 4-ounce portions salmon
2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt and white pepper, to taste
4 blue corn tortillas, chopped very fine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush salmon with olive oil. Season
fish lightly with salt and pepper. Dip one side of salmon into blue
corn tortillas. Place corn side down in sauté pan and cook for 4 to
5 minutes over low heat, until tortillas are crisp. Flip salmon
onto a baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes, or until fish is

Terms to Know

Candida: A common but difficult-to-diagnose health condition in
which the yeasts that normally inhabit the body (particularly the
intestinal tract) proliferate, causing a variety of symptoms, in-
cluding fatigue, digestive problems and muscle weakness .

Chromium: A nutrient that plays a key role in insulin synthesis,
and maintenance of normal blood sugar levels. The supplement has
been shown in research studies to help type 2 diabetics lower their
blood sugar .

Harpagoside: An inflammation-fighting compound found in the
roots of devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens). Studies show the
herb can reduce arthritis pain and improve mobility .

Natto: A stringy, strong-smelling soy condiment made from
soybeans that are steamed and then fermented with salt, sugar,
yeast and the rice straw bacterium. Natto has a strong cheeselike
flavor and popular in Japan, where it often is served over rice for
breakfast .

Saponins: Compounds found in astragalus (Astragalus
membrana-ceus) that are believed to have positive effects on the
immune system. Astragalus has been shown to improve immune function
in several ways; the herb is a good addition to an immune-boosting
regime .

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): The hallucinatory psychoactive
ingredient in marijuana. Marijuana contains anywhere from 5 to 20
percent THC; hemp, a distant cousin, contains less than 0.3
percent. The trace amounts are as harmless as the trace amounts of
opiates in poppy seeds .

  • Published on Sep 1, 2006
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