Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Herbal Preparations (workshop handout)

How to make basic herbal Preparations

Nourishing Herbal Infusion:
One ounce by weight of dried plant material; nutritive herbs and often the leaf such as Nettle, Red Clover, Red Raspberry leaf, Oat Straw, Comfrey leaf, Mallow, Violet leaf; placed into a quart sized mason jar or French press. Pour just boiled water until filled. Let steep overnight or at least four hours to withdraw the vitamins, minerals, and trace minerals. Drink throughout the day and feel great!


Pour hot water over teabag or baggie with herbs inside. A tisane is most useful for delicate flowers or leaves and highly aromatic herbs that diminish with heat. The medicine here is mostly the volatile oils and not the minerals and vitamin content. Examples would be Chamomile, Lavender, Mint, Jasmine, Green Tea, Calendula, Sage flowers, Sage leaf, Roses, Bee Balm leaf and flower, Hyssop.
Let steep between 5-20 minutes depending on plant and desired strength.


A decoction is the simmering of a denser plant part for longer in order to withdraw the deeper medicine. Roots, barks, and dried berries are good examples. Simmer your herbs for at least an hour on low heat. Add more water and continue with the same pot herbs for three rounds.


Simmering down herbs until the water is reduced by ½ or ¾ yields a concentrated water extract. To this, add desired sweet syrup/s of choice such as cherry concentrate, brown rice syrup, honey, or molasses. Endless variations can be made. Keep in mind if your syrup is made with ingredients that will need refrigeration. For example syrup that is made with 50% honey and a tablespoon of vinegar or vodka will need refrigeration less soon than a syrup with maple syrup.
Adding mineral-rich vinegar to your syrup will add nutrition and help preserve it. An herbal syrup made in a simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water) will usually not need to be refrigerated.

Herbal Honey:

Probably my favorite preparation of all is herbal honey. Gather some of your favorite tasty healing herb such as Lavender, Bee balm, Sage, Hyssop, Rosemary, or Thyme. Be sure there is no moisture on it. Place it coarsely into a jar. Cover it with good local raw honey. Allow at least two weeks to infuse before using. If you have used good honey you will not need to refrigerate it, honey is a natural preservative.
Inverting the jar once a day will help keep the plant material submerged and aid in the infusion process (and help to prevent fermentation)

Herbal Vinegar:

One of the very best ways to keep absorbable minerals in your diet. Add fresh or dried plant material such as Dandelion, Mugwort, Rosemary, Violet leaf, or Nettle to a jar with a plastic lid. Metal lids will rust from the vinegar. Cover with good quality Apple Cider Vinegar. Allow to infuse 4-6 weeks. Some folks strain the herbs out but I personally like to eat them. Pickled Dandy blossoms are delicious, and so are pickled Burdock roots!

Herbal Tinctures:

Herbalists have many varied ways to make tinctures. I prefer the old-fashioned wise woman method for fun and simplicity although I do make some adjustments depending on the plant. You can always consult a Materia Medica if you are not sure.
Loosely pack a jar with your plant material, weighed if possible. Pour vodka to cover. Let steep 4-6 weeks. Indefinite shelf life. Store out of light and heat.
Some adjustments that I make are for blossoms like Red Clover, St. John’s Wort, Roses, and Goldenrod, which I tincture in Brandy, sometimes with a little honey added.
Echinacea requires higher water content so I tincture this in brandy as well or just use a water preparation. The list goes on … but to start with you can make simple tinctures and you will get good medicine.

Herbal Oil:

Gently fill a (clean, dry) jar with fresh plant material that has wilted for a day or so to evaporate excess moisture.
Cover with olive oil or jojoba oil
Cap and Label:
Common Name
Latin Name
Part of plant
Fresh o dried plant material?
Store out of light and heat while infusing
Strain through cheesecloth or muslin after 6 weeks
For dried herbs or fresh herbs with higher water content: slowly warm plant/oil combination over double boiler throughout the day uncovered. Strain and bottle.

Herbal salve:
Melt 1 ounce of beeswax per ¾ cup of oil, in a double boiler
Remove upper pot and dry off the water thoroughly
If adding essential oils or vitamin E do so now and stir
Pour into heat proof salve containers/jars and let cool completely before capping.

© Ananda Wilson http://www.amritaapothecary.com/

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