How to home craft your own herbal preparations!
Since I was a child I have been crafting my own herbal creations. I grew up in Utah in the Mormon religion and spent a great deal of time with my Grandmother who told me stories of the pioneers and the Old Ways of natural healing. I was fascinated by these stories and would often wander into the mountains we lived near or wander away while camping and find plants and berries and dye cotton or bring home plants and herbs and ask my Grandma about them.
I would use the cotton I dyed to weave my Barbies "clothes". So instead of always having the prettiest dresses for my dolls I often had what we might refer to as hippie clothes for them :) I had an interesting childhood. But I did learn to appreciate nature's healing bounty.
I have been crafting herbal concoctions in the form of teas, medicine, bath products, cold process soap, eye pillows, hand pressed paper and so much more for years. I have even taught some of these methods to my son's Cub Scout Troop.
As my kids grew up they called the shed where I did most of my herbal crafting "Mom's Laboratory" and it WAS much like one! There is something magical and alchemical about creating your own naturally crafted products! Hope you try some of your own! Look for recipes tomorrow! ~~~ Lori
Here are some of the most common ways to prepare herbs.
Infusions and teas
The most commonly known and used method for preparing and using herb is an infusion, or “making tea”. This is an easy way to use herbs that easily give up their properties. Do not use metal pots to make herbal preparations. To make an infusion, boil water for 30 seconds, turn heat off and sprinkle the herbs on the water to steep for 10 minutes or until cool. Strain and drink. Use 1 teaspoon dried herd or 1 tablespoon fresh herb to 1 cup of water. Obviously, if you are using a tea bag, you just submerge the bag and steep. To sweeten teas that are a little bitter, try adding some peppermint or lemon verbena to the herb mixture or use raw honey.
If you want to dry your herbs and make tea bags check out:
They have small heat sealable tea bags for single cups and large bags that I often use to make “Bath Tea Bags” (recipe below)
Herbal Bath Tea Bags
- 2 tablespoons Oatmeal
- 2 tablespoons epsom salt
- 2 tablespoons baking soda
- 2 tablespoons Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Catnip, Hops, Comfrey, Rosemary, Peppermint or Lavender
Mix all together and add to a large tea bag, seal up and use in the bath. Don't squeeze or it may burst open. To make lots at a time simply increase the recipe. I like to stamp the bag with a pretty stamp or write an affirmation on it. If giving as a gift, always add a note with ingredients in case of allergy.
This method is used for harder plant material such as roots, barks or seeds which have been “bruised” or crushed a bit to help release their properties. Place the herbs in an enamel pot and cover with cold water, slowly bring to a boil. Reduce heat and continue boiling for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and steep for about 20 minutes. Strain. If needed, sweeten as described above. This concoction should keep for about 3 days refrigerated.
Syrups are used to mask the taste of bitter herbs making them easier to take, especially for kids. Boil 2 1/2 cups of the infusion or decoction with 2-4 tablespoons honey, agave or coconut syrup until the mixture turns syrupy. It doesn’t keep long but makes a great alternative to commercial cough syrups. Store in the refrigerator .
To make tinctures use 4 ounces powdered herbs or 8 ounces fresh herbs in a container, preferable glass, with a tight fitting lid.Add 2 1/2 cups alcohol, which must be at least 60 proof, like vodka or brandy. Do NOT use ethyl or “rubbing” alcohol. Let mixture stand in a warm spot and shake twice a day for 2 weeks. Then strain through double muslin, squeezing to remove as much liquid as possible. Store in a dark glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Use 5-15 drops directly under the tongue or in a cup of hot water. Please don’t use these preparations with children.
Hot or Cold Compresses
A compress is used to apply the herbal preparation directly to the skin. Soak a clean cloth in the hot decoction or infusion and apply to the skin as hot as can be tolerated but not so hot that you burn the skin. Cover with plastic and a heavy towel to retain heat. For a cold compress use the same procedure, just use a cold preparation.
So why use hot over cold? If you have stiff muscles for example, use heat. If you have any inflammation, DON'T use heat. Just think, you don’t want to increase heat to anything thats already “inflamed.”
A poultice is similar to a compress but you use the actual plant material rather than the liquid extract. Mash or crush the plant material and heat in a pan over boiling water with a small amount of water added. Apply the plant pulp directly to the skin as warm as can be comfortably tolerated. Hold in place with a gauze bandage. Poultices stimulate circulation, soothe aches, and draw out impurities depending on herb used.
So go create a lab of your own and see what amazing things you can create for yourself!
In love and health,
Lori Clayton, LMT, CHHC