Herb of the Day
MAKING YOUR OWN INFUSED OILS
HOT INFUSED OILS
Active plant ingredients can be extracted in oil for external use in massage oils, creams, and ointments. Infused oils will last for up to a year if kept in a cool, dark place, but they are more potent when fresh, so it’s best to make small amounts frequently. The hot method is suitable for leafy herbs such as comfrey, chickweed, stinging nettle, cleavers, bladderwrack, and rosemary.
COLD INFUSED OILS
This method of making an infused oil is suitable for flowers such as calendula, st. john’s wort and chamomile. It is a slow process, the flowers and oil are packed into a jar and left for several weeks, after which the once-infused oil is used again with fresh herb to extract as much active plant ingredient as possible. Cold infused oils are used in massage oils or as the basis for creams, salves, or ointments.
Joelle’s Sacred Grove
Ointments contain oils or fats, but no water. Unlike creams, they do not blend with the skin, but form a separate layer over it. They are suitable where the skin is already weak or soft, or where some protection is needed from additional moisture, as in diaper rash. Ointments were once made from animal fats, but petroleum jelly or paraffin wax is suitable. Infused oils may be used instead of the herb itself.
Parts Used: All parts of the plant (dried or fresh)
Standard Quantity: Use 500 g petroleum jelly or soft paraffin wax and 60 g dried or 150 g fresh herb.
Standard Application: Rub a little into the affected part 2-3 times a day. Storage: Store in sterilized, airtight, dark jars, for 3-4 months in a cool place.
Herbs that are useful for skin conditions (such as comfrey, lavender, calendula, pine needles, aloes, elecampane root, burdock, and elderflowers) can be made into salves. The ideal time to make a salve is summer, when the herbs are fresh and abundant, but dried herbs may be used as well. Green walnut hulls and whole, smashed horse chestnuts may be added to the basic mix for their skin-healing and painkilling virtues.
Simmer herbs in good quality olive oil in a large pot. In a separate pot, melt and simmer three to four tablespoons of fresh beeswax (the beeswax should be of a golden color with a strong honey scent) per cup of oil. Put enough oil in the pot to cover the herbs. Simmer the herbs in the oil for about twenty minutes. When wax and oil reach the same temperature, pour in the wax. Strain and pour into clean jars. Tincture of benzoin may be added as a preservative (about one ounce per quart) while the salve is still liquid although it is not strictly necessary. The most important factor in controlling mold is to have immaculately clean and dry jars and utensils. Boiling followed by a thorough drying is all that is usually needed. Persons living in very hot and damp climates may wish to take the extra precautions of adding the tincture of benzoin.
Joelle’s Sacred Grove
A poultice of bread or mashed potato soaked in herbal extract was once a favorite household remedy for minor injuries and ailments. Today, poultices are generally made with chopped fresh herbs. They are usually applied hot.
Parts Used: Whole plant (dried or fresh) chopped
Standard Quantity: Use sufficient herb to cover the area.
Standard Application: Apply the poultice every2-4 hours or more frequently if necessary.
MAKING YOUR OWN TINCTURES
Tinctures are made by steeping the herb in a mixture of alcohol and water. They should be make individually, and then prepared tinctures may be combined as required. As well as extracting the plant’s active ingredients, the alcohol acts as a preservative, and tinctures will keep for up to two years. The liquid is usually composed of 25% alcohol and 75% water, but for some resinous herbs the amount of alcohol is increased to 45%. Commercially prepared tinctures use ethanol, but diluted spirits are suitable for home use: vodka is ideal since it does not contain additives, but rum helps disguise the flavor of less palatable herbs.
Parts Used: All parts of the plant (dried or fresh)
Standard Quantity: Use 200g dried or 600g fresh herb to 1 liter of alcohol/water mixture (25% alcohol and 75% water – e.g. dilute a 1 liter bottle of 75 proof vodka with 500 ml water).
Standard Dosage: Take 5 ml 3 times a day diluted in a little warm water. A small amount of honey or fruit juice can often improve the flavor.
Storage: Store in dark glass bottles for up to 2 years
There are times when giving tinctures made from alcohol in a normal way is unsuitable, for example in pregnancy, in gastric or liver inflammation, or when treating children or recovered alcoholics. Adding a small amount (25-50 ml) of almost boiling water to the tincture dose (usually 5ml) in a cup and allowing it to cool effectively evaporates most of the alcohol, making it safe.
ALTERNATE METHOD TO MAKING YOUR OWN TINCTURES
Tinctures can be made by grinding the leaves, roots, or other plant parts with a mortar and pestle (or a blender) and just barely covering them with high-quality vodka, whiskey, or grain alcohol (Everclear). After 21 days, add a small quantity of glycerin (about two tablespoons per pint) and about 10 percent per volume of spring water. Strain and store in amber glass airtight containers. Keep the herbal tinctures in a cool, dry place for up to five years.
The dose is generally twenty drops in a cup of herb tea or warm water four times a day. In acute or emergency situations the dose is given more frequently; in the case of labor pains, for example, it might be a dropperful every five minutes.
The decoction method is used for tough plant materials, such as barks, berries, or roots, which need a more vigorous extraction than is possible using the infusion method. Decoction involves heating the plant material in cold water, bringing it to a boil and simmering for 20-40 minutes. Combinations of herbs can be mixed together, or herbs can be used singly. The standard quantity, which can be drunk hot or cold, is enough for three doses and should be make fresh each day. As with infusions, decoctions are frequently used as the basis of other remedies, such as syrups.
Parts Used: Barks, berries, roots (dried or fresh)
Standard Quantity: Add 30g dried or 60g fresh herb to 750 ml (approx 3 cups) of cold water. This reduces to approx 500 ml after simmering. If using a combination of herbs, be sure that the total weight of the mixture does not exceed this standard amount.
Standard Dosage: Take a teacup or wineglass dose 3 times daily. Repeat doses may be reheated. Honey or unrefined sugar may be used to sweeten each dose, or they may be flavored with a little lemon juice. Reduce the dose for children.
Infusions are a very simple and popular way of using herbs, infusions may be taken as remedies for specific ailments or just be enjoyed as relaxing or revitalizing teas. An infusion is made in a very similar way to tea, using fresh or dried herbs. The water should just have begun to boil, since vigorously boiling water disperses valuable volatile oils in the steam. Infusions can be made from a single herb or from a combination of herbs, and may be drunk hot or cold. It is best to make them fresh each day.
Parts Used: Leaves, flowers, and most aerial parts (dried or fresh)
Standard Quantity: For most medicinal teas with a therapeutic action, add 25g dried or 75g (for best results use a kitchen scale to weigh the herbs) fresh herb to 500 ml (approx. 2 cups) water to make 3 doses. If using a combination of herbs, be sure that the total weight does not exceed the standard quantity.
Standard Dosage: Take a teacup or wineglass (approx. 2/3 cup) dose 3 times daily. Repeat doses may be reheated if desired. Add a little honey or unrefined sugar per dose to taste. Reduce the dose for children or the elderly.