Herbal Preparations

Herbal Preparations


A decoction is herbs that have been simmered in water.
It is the best method for drawing the healing elements from tough plant parts such as bark roots, stems and heavy leaves. To make a decoction use 1 ounce of dried herbs to 1 pint of water that has been brought to a boil. Keep water just below boiling for about 30 minutes and let herbs simmer. Simmering may take up to 1 hour, depending on plant used.
A higher heat than infusions is necessary because of the toughness of the plant parts.

Decoctions should always be strained while hot, so that the matter that separates on cooling may be mixed again with the fluid by shaking when the remedy is used. Use glass, ceramic or earthenware pots, or clean, unbroken enameled cast iron. Do not use plain cast iron with astringent plants.



When powders are mixed with syrup, honey, brown sugar, or glycerin to produce a more pleasant taste or to make them easier to use internally, they are called electuarys. These are rarely prepared in advance, but are done when needed. Different substances need different proportions of syrup. Light vegetable powders usually require twice their weight, gum resins 2/3 their weight, mineral substances about half their weight. If an electuary is made up in advance and it hardens, add more syrup. If it swells up and emits gas, merely beat it in a mortar.



Extracts are solid substances resulting from the evaporation of the solution of vegetable principles. The extract is obtained in three ways: by expressing the juice of fresh plants, by using a solvent such as alcohol, or simmering a plant tea and reducing it to a thickened state.
The last is done by simmering a plant and by repeating the process until most of the water used has evaporated, making a decoction. This gives a distillation of the most active principles in the plant. Add 1/4 teaspoon of alcohol (brandy, gin or vodka will do), glycerin, or tincture of benzoine to preserve the extract.



A fomentation is a strong herbal tea in which a clean cloth is dipped.
The cloth can be filled with herbs. The cloth is then applied to the affected part.



This is the origin of the idea of witches potion. It is a process of soaking herbs in water.


Hot Infusion 


To make an infusion boil water. Add the boiled water to 1 teaspoon dried herb. Cover and let steep for 9-13 minutes. Strain, cool. Infusions are drunk as teas, added to bath, rubbed into furniture and floors, and to anoint body. Powdered Bark, root, seeds, resin and bruised nuts, seeds, bark and buds may be used in hot infusions.


Cold infusion


Steep in cold water or cold milk for several hours. Wet, mashed herbs can be used internally as a tea or ad poultices on body.



Aromatic oils and rectified alcohol can be combined. The oils seep into the alcohol to produce an essence. Oils may be captured by evaporation from flower petals. Vegetable, nut, or fruit oils can be used as a medium for steeping aromatic plants to extract volatile oils. Aromatic oils can also be steeped in alcohol to extract essence.

To make an oil, pick your own fresh herbs or purchase dried herbs form a reputable source. Pack a large jar with the chosen herb and pour in any favorite mono unsaturated or polyunsaturated oil. Use enough to cover the herb. Close tightly. Label the jar and place in a sunny place for several weeks. Strain out the herb by pouring through cheesecloth into a fresh jar.

Hold the cheesecloth over the opening of the jar containing the herbs and secure with a rubber band. Invert the jar and pour the infused oil through the cheesecloth. Before discarding the herbs, squeeze all the oil out of them. Repeat the entire procedure.

Repack a clean jar with more of the same herb. Add the infused oil, plus enough additional oil to cover the herbs. Store again in sunlight. Strain again through cheesecloth. Pour the oil into a labeled jar and store until needed.



Medicinal syrups are formed when sugar is incorporated with vegetable infusions, decoctions, expressed juices, fermented liquors, or simple water solutions. Sometimes tinctures are added to a simple syrup, and the alcohol is evaporated. The tincture is sometimes combined with sugar and gently heated, or exposed to the sun until the alcohol is evaporated. The syrup is then prepared with the impregnated sugar and water. Refined sugar makes a clearer and better flavored syrup. Any simple syrup can be preserved by substituting glycerin for a certain
portion of the syrup. Always make syrups in small quantities.


To make an herbal syrup, add 2 ounces of dried herb with 1 quart water in a large pot. Boil down and reduce to 1 pint, then add 1-2 tablespoons of honey. If you want to use fresh fruit, leaves, or roots in syrups, you should double the amount of herbs. Store in refrigerator for up to a month. Honey-based syrups are simple and effective way to preserve healing qualities of herbs. Syrups can soothe sore throats and provide some relief from coughs.




Home-made herbal teas are much more potent than the store bought teas. Their flavor can be quite strong and sometimes unpleasant.


To make a tea, boil 1 pint of water. Add 1 ounce of dried herb tops ( leaves flowers, stems) steep 3 -5 minutes.



Tinctures are solutions of medicinal substances in alcohol or diluted alcohol. To make a tincture, grind plant parts with mortar and pestle (or a blender). Add just enough high-quality vodka, whiskey or grain alcohol to cover herbs. Let sit for 21 days then add a small quantity of glycerin (about 2 tbs per pint) and about 10 % volume of spring water.
Strain and store in airtight amber colored glass. If kept cool and dry it will last for up to 5 years.

Dose is usually 20 drops in a cup of tea or warm water, 4 times a day.
For a stronger tincture place herbs in a cone-shaped piece of parchment paper. Pass alcohol repeatedly through the powdered or cut herb. Catch the slow drippings in a jar.

When it has passed once, you may use it, but the more you repeat the process, the stronger the tincture will be. It is acceptable to dilute any alcohol tincture with water.

Add 4 ounces of water and 1 teaspoon of glycerin for every pint of alcohol. The glycerin is optional, it is an additional preservative.


Non Alcoholic Tincture

Alcohol is a near perfect preservative of plant attributes.
If for some reason you wish to evaporate the alcohol, add the tincture dose to a cup of water then add 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of boiling water. Some herbs can be steeped in milk to make a milk tincture. Strain out the herbs, and store in a labeled jar in the refrigerator.



An ointment is a soothing, healing, slightly oily or fatty substance into which the essence of a healing plant has been dissolved. This is done by heating the fat or oil with the plant until it loses its normal color and the oil or fat has absorbed the healing chemical principles. the plant is then strained out, and beeswax is added to harden the ointment.

Preservatives such as drops of tincture of benzoin, poplar bud tincture, or glycerin are optional additions. If you make ointments in small batches and keep them tightly closed with paraffin wax, they don’t decompose. The traditional folk, herbal, and pharmaceutical base for ointments is pork lard. Purify it by simmering and straining. It has healing abilities even without the addition of herbs, but so do a lot of fats and oils. It is said to have great drawing power. Purified, liquefied anhydrous lanolin is also used as a base for ointments. Lanolin is the substance washed from the wool of sheep. It comes in many levels of purity, so the results vary depending on the product. This oil is the closest to skin oil.

Almond oil, cocoa butter, wheat germ, and vitamin E are neutral bases for ointments. If no other product is available, Vaseline may be used, but is listed here in case nothing else is available. All ointments must contain one substance that will thicken the final product. Lanolin is a thickener, as is cocoa butter. Both are non sticky and mix well with most other oils.

Other useful but sticky thickeners are glycerin, honey, or liquid lecithin.
Also, various powdered resins and gum swell up and thicken when first soaked in cold water, then simmered in gently boiling water, and added to preparations. Agar-agar and Irish moss are seaweed thickeners.
Green apples provide and excellent acid fruit pectin that is a good addition to creams and ointments. While any of the above sticky and non sticky thickeners will help swell a product and keep it emulsified, you will still need some wax to harden a cold cream or ointment. Beeswax is perfect, although expensive. It may be combined with paraffin wax.



A poultice is a raw or mashed herb applied directly to the body, or applied wet directly to the body, or encased in a clean cloth and then applied. Poultices are used to heal bruises, putrid sores, soothe abrasions, or withdraw toxins from an area. They may be applied hot or cold, depending on the health need. Cold poultices(and compresses) are used to withdraw the heat from an inflamed or congested area. Use a hot poultice or compress to relax spasms and for some pains.

To make a poultice, use fresh or dried herbs that have been soaked in boiling water until soft. Mix with enough slippery elm powder to make poultice stick together. Place on affected part then wrap body part and poultice with clean cloth.



Herbs that are soluble in alcohol are usually soluble in vinegar, and are useful for salad vinegars, cosmetic vinegars, some liniments and preventive sickroom “washes”.



Steeped herbs, water, and alcohol and steeped herbs plus honey and other fruits are often called waters. Sometimes extracts or spirits of various herbs, such as lavender, are also called waters.