by Kimberly Allen R.N.
There are numerous natural home remedies that you can make yourself. The best place to start is in your kitchen making use of your spice rack. The first thing you need to do to become your own herbal pharmacist is understand the medicinal properties if the various herbs and spices in your kitchen. There are several ways to prepare herbs for medicinal purposes, the most common being herbal teas.
Herbal teas have been used world wide to treat a variety of illnesses for centuries. It’s important to remember that not all herbs are suitable for making tea so you must know and understand the herbs you plan to use and the reason you are making the tea.
Once you have selected the herb you want to use measure the herb, always using twice as much fresh herb as dried herb. For example, use 2 Tbls fresh herb or 1 Tbls dried herb per cup of water. After selecting and measuring the herb, bring a pot of cool water to boil . While waiting for the water to boil take a non-metal tea pot or a jar with a tight fitting lid and warm it by rinsing with hot tap water. It’s important to use a non-metal container as metal can compromise the purity of the tea. Add the measured herb plus an extra 2 Tbls of fresh or 1 Tbls dried herb for the pot.
Pour the boiling water over the herbs then seal the container and allow to steep. This process is known as infusion. Infusions are made from the more delicate parts of the plant like the flowers and leaves. There is no exact time limit for steeping however, it should not be less than 5 min. The length of time the tea is steeped determines the strength of the tea.
Herbal teas can be served hot or cold depending on preference. If you are planning to drink yours ‘iced’ then increase the herbs to 3 Tbls fresh and 2 Tbls dried herb per cup to allow for dilution by ice. Herbal teas are best prepared by the quart and should always be refrigerated after cooled to room temperature. Herbal tea stored in the refrigerator will last up to a week. They can also be sweetened to taste or mixed with fruit juice.
For herbal medicinal teas to be effective you must drink at least 1 cup 3-4 times daily. For acute illnesses like colds take several sips every 1/2 hr.
Herbal Tinctures are a concentrated extract of the herb that is in liquid form. They are very concentrated and strong and should be taken sparingly and carefully. The primary solvent for tinctures is alcohol. Though the amount of alcohol used is very small many people avoid alcohol based tinctures for a variety of reasons.
Tinctures can also be made using other solvents such as apple cider vinegar or vegetable glycerin. These may not be as strong as the alcohol tinctures but they are preferred and effective for children.
The easiest way to make an herbal tincture is to use your solvent of choice with a jar and a tight fitting lid. For tinctures, use fresh herbs whenever possible. Finely chop the herbs and place in a clean dry jar. Pour enough solvent into the jar to cover the herbs plus an additional 2-3 inches so that the herbs are completely submerged.
When using vegetable glycerin as a solvent, be sure to dilute it with an equal amount of water before pouring over the herbs. If using vinegar, it should be warmed before pouring over the herbs. Then cover and seal with lid. Place the jar in a warm dry place and allow to soak for 4-6 weeks. The longer it’s allowed to sit the stronger the tincture. The jar should be shaken daily to prevent the herbs from settling on the bottom of the jar.
After soaking the herbs strain using a large stainless steel strainer lined with cheese cloth or muslin. Rebottle the liquid and store in a dry dark place out of the reach of children. Tinctures can be kept almost indefinitely.
Poultices and compresses are another effective use of herbs. However, because they are more time consuming and messy, they aren’t used as much today. Both methods are for external application of an herbal preparation for absorption into the tissue of an affected area. The main difference between a poultice and a compress is that a poultice uses the plant and a compress uses the liquid.
When making a poultice, use whole fresh herbs and mash into a paste. The paste is then applied directly to the affected area then wrapped with a clean cloth.
To make a compress, soak a clean cloth in an herbal liquid preparation then ring out and place over the affected area. Compresses are usually applied warm, however, they can be applied cold for swelling and inflammation.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.