Let’s Talk Witch – Herbal Preparations
An herbalist’s definition of an herb differs from that of a botanist. The botanist defines an herbaceous plant as one with a fleshy stem that dies back in the winter. The herbalist, however, considers all medicinal and cosmetic plants as <!=-1″>herbs. This broad definition of <!=-1″>herbs includes trees, shrubs, mushrooms, lichens and, of course, fruits and vegetables that have medicinal properties. In many of my recipes, you will find items that you consider food rather than herbs, such as apple juice or <!=214″>shiitake mushrooms.
There are countless different herbs and combinations of herbs that are used for health and healing. But even the most potent herb can become worthless if not properly prepared. Fortunately, there are only a few basic kinds of preparations that are used in treating illnesses and wounds herbally; these are the delivery systems for the healing powers of <!=-1″>herbs.
These preparations transform dried or fresh herbs into something that can be taken internally, such as a tea or capsule, or applied externally, as in a skin salve or a massage oil. In many cases, more than one preparation is applicable for a specific treatment.
Some preparations, such as tinctures and body oils, can be made from either fresh or dried <!=-1″>herbs. The best method for extracting an herb’s properties varies from herb to herb. For example, <!=222″>Saint-John’s-wort, oat berries and <!=99″>feverfew lose most of their properties when dried. A significant portion of the <!=-59″>essential oils in fragrant herbs such as <!=183″>peppermint and <!=61″>chamomile is lost in even the most careful drying process. On the other hand, herbs that contain a great deal of water-<!=75″>comfrey and <!=54″>calendula flowers, for example-are sometimes best when used in dried form; otherwise, the final product will be too diluted.
Whenever one type of preparation is better than another to treat a specific condition, the reason is explained in that chapter. For example, if an <!=13″>aloe vera lotion is better for a burn than a salve is, you will find out why this is so.
Most of these preparations can be bought ready-made from natural food stores-either as individual herbs or in blends of several different herbs. If you feel ambitious enough to make your own concoctions, I have also provided a number of recipes. When deciding which preparation is the most suitable for you, consider availability, cost, convenience and, of course, effectiveness.
Many herbal recipes will use as their basic ingredient not herbs, but <!=-59″>essential oils derived from <!=-1″>herbs. These oils carry many medicinal properties of the herbs from which they are extracted. They are easy to use but are also highly concentrated, so they must be diluted and used moderately to prevent overdoses. As a result, they are mostly used externally, and appropriate cautions are given throughout this book. Do not confuse <!=-59″>essential oils with vegetable oils such as olive oil, which are used as carrier oils in skin products.
Treatments are divided into internal preparations and external preparations, as the nature of the ailment generally determines the nature of the treatment.