By Don Wildgrube ñ 1992
In Herbalism, the definition of herb is not the dictionary definition. Herb
refers to all parts of the plant, whether it is the leaves (dictionary
definition), stems, seeds, roots, flowers or fruit, and each are prepared
Unless noted otherwise, the rule of thumb for herbal teas are as follows:
1 Teaspoon of herb per cup of water. Most recipes call for 2 cups of water (one
pint) per person or dose. This would need 2 teaspoons, total, of the herb. If
three or more herbs are used, mix the herbs in proportion in a container then
measure out 2 teaspoons. Please note that some powdered herbs are too
concentrated to be used at this strength, for example cayenne pepper and
For regular teas (hot infusions):
Leaves and flowers are steeped. Boiling water is poured over the herb and
allowed to steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Sometimes it is good to allow them to
steep longer to increase the strength, but herbs like Chamomile should be
steeped no longer then 5 minutes or they will become bitter.
Seeds should be bruised and steeped in hot water for 5 to 10 minutes.
Stems, bark, roots should be chopped and simmered for a minimum of 5
Fruit coatings such as citrus can be “zested” and added to hot water to
steep. Do not boil or the volatile oils will go off in the vapor. Fruit juices
can be added while steeping or just before drinking.
Teas may also be made by COLD INFUSION, commonly known as “Sun Tea”. Please note that the Sun is not necessary. Just place the herb in cold water, in
the proper proportion as above, and let stand, in the shade, in the Sun or
wherever, for at least 2 hours. This is an excellent method to extract the
essence from very fragile hers, such as flowers. This way the essence will not
be “boiled off”.
Another method is called maceration. This means to soak in a liquid to get the
essence of the herb. It us usually done in one of two ways. The first is soaking
in oil, the result is an “oil”, the second is soaking in alcohol, and called a
Oils are made by filling a bottle with the herb, pouring oil over the herb to
fill the bottle. Let it stand for a week or two, shaking daily, then strain the
used herbs out. If the oil is not strong enough, add more herb to the bottle or
jar and pour the same oil over it. Repeat as often as necessary.
The same method is used for tinctures and is an excellent way to extract certain
oils that can be damaged by boiling. Place the herb in a jar or bottle, pour
alcohol over the herb. Note: do not use rubbing alcohol, or wood alcohol. These
are very poisonous. Wood alcohol is made from just that and can cause blindness
and brain damage. Rubbing alcohol or other “denatured” alcohols are denatured by
adding things such as acetone. Use alcohol which is manufactured to drink. I
use Vodka, and I buy the plain label brands or the cheapest brand.
To make salves, put a large amount of herb in a bowl. Add 1 pound of lard or
other semi-solid fat, plus 2 to 3 ounces of bees wax (for firmness). Place in a
low-medium oven, 250-300 degrees for 3 hours. Strain, bottle and cool.
There are many more types of herbal preparations that are not listed here, they
may be found in many herbal books. I would suggest a good herbal book, such as
“The Herb Book” by John Lust. In regard to Herbal Books, some books have very
valuable information, but others have information that can be harmful. Be
cautious, check several sources. Some Herbal Books such as “Culpeppers Herbal”
base their information on planetary considerations, or the “doctrine of
signatures”. Planetary rulership of herbs is useful for magical purposes, but
may get you into trouble when used for other purposes. The “doctrine of
signatures” in essence says that Herbs heal parts of the body that they look
like, such as: Broad Leaf Plantain looks like the sole of the foot, therefore is
for healing feet, or Toothwort and Dandelion (Dent = tooth, of the Lion) is for
teeth because they look like teeth, or Boneset for setting bones because the
opposing leaves are joined at the stalk.
I hope that the above information will be of some help, and happy Wortcunning.