Making Homemade Medicine

Use this guide to make your own simple, effective herbal remedies, and add medicine-making to your self-sufficiency repertoire.

| March/April 2017

  • Tansy and Tarragon Tincture
    Tinctures, or alcohol extracts of dried or fresh herbs, are one form of natural medicine.
    Photo by iStock
  • Herb Poultice
    An herb poultice is made by combining chopped or powdered herbs with warm water and applying directly to the skin.
    Photo by iStock
  • Dandelion Tincture
    Infused medicinal oils can be used for massages, or be thickened with beeswax to make salves.
    Photo by iStock
  • Herbs
    Horsetail, juniper and calendula are three of the many herbs that make great homemade medicines.
    Photo by Fotolia
  • Beeswax
    Use only beeswax to make salves, as other types of wax use petroleum byproducts.
    Photo by iStock

  • Tansy and Tarragon Tincture
  • Herb Poultice
  • Dandelion Tincture
  • Herbs
  • Beeswax

Making our own herbal medicines and body-care products can save money and improve our health, and it’s much easier than you may think. If you already make herbal teas, then making infusions, decoctions, tinctures, salves and poultices can quickly become part of your repertoire, too. Don’t worry if they sound confusing; you’ll soon discover how to prepare a variety of plants to make a range of simple but effective herbal medicines. 

One very important note before you begin making herbal medicines: Always make sure you are using the correct plant (check the Latin name) and the correct part of the plant (flower, leaf, roots), as some parts may be toxic if used internally.

Internal Medicines

Tea Time

Making herbal tea may seem fairly straightforward, but to reap the greatest medicinal value from herbs, we need to do more than dunk a tea bag in hot water. There are two main forms of herbal tea: infusions and decoctions.

Infusions: Infusions are the commonly known form of herbal tea, in which herbs are literally infused in hot water, usually one heaping teaspoon of dried herb (or one teabag) per cup of hot water for 10 to 20 minutes. This is the ideal method for extracting the medicinal compounds in most berries, flowers and leaves. You can also use fresh herbs, but because of their higher water content, you usually need to double the amount of herbal matter per cup of water (two teaspoons per cup of water instead of one). 



Decoctions: To extract the medicinal compounds from seeds, roots or stems, you’ll want to make a decoction, which involves boiling the herbs and allowing them to simmer for about an hour, usually allowing one heaping teaspoon of dried herb per cup of water. Note that this method is less suitable for berries, flowers and leaves because it tends to destroy many of the delicate medicinal compounds they contain. As with infusions, you can use fresh herbs, but you typically need to double the amount of herb matter per cup of water.

What if you want to make a tea from some combination of roots, berries, seeds, stems, flowers and leaves? Start by making a decoction with the roots, seeds or stems. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer to continue brewing for an hour. Turn off the heat and add any berries, flowers and leaves. Allow the mixture to steep for an additional 10 to 20 minutes. Now you’ve extracted the best medicinal compounds from all of the herbal components you’re using.



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