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Preparing Herbal Remedies

To get the maximum benefit from herbal remedies, the herbs must be properly prepared. Women of childbearing age should always make sure the herbs they are using are safe during pregnancy.

Here are some standard herbal preparations:


A standard infusion is prepared by adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried herb (or 2 to 4 teaspoons of fresh herb) to a cup of boiling water. Infuse for 10 minutes before straining. If the herb is left too long, the infusion will become bitter. It's best to use a ceramic pot with a lid.

The standard dosage is one cup three times a day. It may be taken hot or cold, but infusions prepared for colds and flu should be taken hot. Never prepare the infusion more than 24 hours in advance.


A tincture is an alcoholic extraction of herb. Alcohol dissolves the active constituents out of the plant matter and acts as a preservative, allowing the tincture to retain its effectiveness for up to 2 years. Any part of the plant may be used.

Place 4 ounces of dried herb in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and add 2 cups vodka. Leave for two weeks, shaking occasionally, then strain through a cloth into a brown glass bottle. Keep tightly closed.

The standard dosage is 15 drops three times daily.

Oil Infusion

Oil infusions are for external use only. They can be prepared by hot or cold methods. For the hot method, fill a jar with fresh herb and cover with olive, sunflower or almond oil. Place the jar up to the neck in a saucepan of water and bring to a medium temperature. Simmer for up to three hours. Strain through filter paper or cloth into a brown glass bottle. Follow the same instructions for the cold method, except that the oil should be placed on a sunny windowsill instead of heated. The process can be repeated with the strained oil infusion and a fresh supply of herbs to make a stronger oil.


A cream is a blend of oil, beeswax and water. You can make your own, or purchase an unscented, water based cream. After adding herb to purchased cream, simmer in the top of a double boiler for 30 minutes. Strain before it cools.

Melt two ounces beeswax in a double boiler. Add one cup olive or other vegetable oil and blend. Add two ounces herb. For lighter cream, add a little water, mixing well. Simmer 20 minutes, mixing well. Add a drop of tincture of benzoin as a preservative. Strain thorough a cloth in to sterilized jars.


Ointment does not penetrate the skin like cream, but covers and protects it. Petroleum jelly is a good base, and the method is the same as for a cream.

Melt petroleum jelly in a double boiler and add plenty of herbs, making sure that the melted petroleum jelly covers the herb. Simmer until the herbs are crisp. More herb may be added to make a stronger ointment. Strain into jars while hot.

Steam and Inhalant

Use steam for skin problems like acne and an inhalant for bronchial problems like sunusitis and laryngitis. Add a strong decoction, one or two drops of essential oils, or 2 teaspoons of tincture to boiling water.


This is usually the method of choice for bark and seeds. Use 1 to 2 teaspoons of herb per cup of cold water. Bring the mixture gently to a boil. Keeping covered, simmer for about 10 minutes.

The usual dosage is 1 cup three times a day. If the herb is very bitter or strong, use 4 teaspoons three times a day. Prepare no more than 24 hours in advance.

Herbal Wine

Use a sweet red wine with an alcohol content of at least 12%. Cover four ounces of herb with three cups of wine. Leave for a week before straining.

Take four teaspoons one or two times daily. Herbal wine is best used within a month.


Sugar is a good preservative and is ideal for cough mixtures, especially since some herbs for cough are very bitter.

Prepare two cups of an infusion or decoction of the required herb. Strain and add 1 cup brown sugar or a honey and sugar mixture. Heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Pour into a clean glass bottle and seal. Store in the refrigerator.

The standard dosage is one teaspoon three times a day.


Dry, powdered herb can be placed inside empty capsules. This method is preferred by some people who cannot tolerate bitter herbs.


These are best made in advance so they will be ready when needed. Blend equal quantities of powdered herbs with cocoa butter. Place the mixture into bullet-shaped molds made of foil and refrigerate. Remove the foil before use.

Soak a cloth in a hot decoction of herb, squeeze most of the liquid out and apply the hot cloth to the affected area. Once it has cooled, repeat the process. Tinctures of other herbs and essential oils can be added to the liquid.


Poultices are effective for boils, abscesses, chest infections and sprains. Mix chopped herb or powdered seeds with boiling water to make a pulp. Place the pulp in a piece of cloth and apply to the affected area while hot. It should be replaced when cool. A thin layer of calendula cream will protect the skin and prevent the poultice from sticking.