How to Make Herbal Preparations and What to Use Them For
Herbal preparations are the basis of natural healing. They can be applied topically, ingested orally, or inhaled. According to The Herbal Academy, when considering which preparation to use, you want to to get the herbs as close to the area of the body that needs the care as possible. You have a cold? Ingest a tincture. Dressing a burn? Cover it with a poultice. Suffering from a sinus infection? Use steam inhalation. Makes sense, right? Bring the medicine closest to the place that needs it most!
These preparations are more than just opening up a box and popping open a lid. But you will know what is going on you, in you, and that it comes with love and care from Mother Nature. What else could you want from your remedies for your awesomely valuable body?? Plus, making any of these remedies is pretty easy (and we link to our recipes that show you how to make them). Most of them take no more than 5 minutes of active work, and the benefits are huge!
So…let’s dive into the different ones you’ll be making and why!
Herbal Preparations: Liniments
Liniments are a thinner topical solution, typically made by extracting the good stuff in herbs using vinegar, witch hazel or ethyl alcohol, so that it absorbs quickly on the skin. They should be used on unbroken skin (unlike salves) and for under-the-top-skin issues like bruises and sprains.
Herbs that have been shown to work well as liniments include:
- Turmeric (inflammation)
- Peppermint or calendula (sunburn/all-purpose skin relief)
- Comfrey or St. John’s Wort (tired muscles)
Herbal Preparations: Salves
Salves are made with an herb-infused oil (learn how to make this by clicking here) and a wax, like bees’, candelila, or carnauba. The thickness of a salve allows it to stay on the skin for a longer period of time. Salves can be used on broken skin (unlike liniments).
Herbs that have been shown to work well as salves include:
- Arnica (aches and pains)
- Lavender (anti-inflammatory)
- Comfrey leaf (skin irritations like diaper rash and bug bites)
Herbal Preparations: Poultices
With a poultice, you take fresh herbs and essentially mash them into a paste-like pulp, after first chopping them into small pieces. (You can also use dried herbs and add hot water if fresh herbs are unavailable.) After you spread the paste on the body part in need, wrap it with a gauze or covering to keep the paste on, as it will get messy. A poultice is great for removing foreign objects from the body, like splinters, and helping with cuts, bruises, and burns.
Herbs most often used as poultices include:
- Dandelion (skin issues)
- Chickweed (skin inflammation)
- Calendula (antibiotic and anti-inflammatory)
- Burdock (antimicrobial)
Herbal Preparations: Infused Oil
If making a salve, you would make an infused oil first and add the extraction to the other ingredients after. However, you can use an infused oil as-is for skin problems like burns, rashes, abrasions, and dry skin. These should not be used on fresh wounds or cuts because the oil can trap the bacteria in the wound and cause the infection to spread. This recipe also works for making a delicious cooking oil, like basil-infused olive oil!
Herbs that have been shown to work well as infused oils:
- Calendula (sunburn and itchiness)
- Chickweed (eczema and minor burns)
- Chamomile and lavender (calming and antifungal)
Herbal Preparations: Herbal Bath
An herbal bath is basically like a giant cup of tea, except instead of drinking it, you’re steeping in it. The kind of herbs you use are going to depend on the ailment you’re suffering from–dry skin, detoxification, rashes, etc. You can either use 3-4 tea bags that you’d buy from the store, or you can make your own bag using a reusable muslin bath bag and add 9 grams of loose leaf (about 4 tablespoons).
- Lavender (calming and soothes the skin)
- Chamomile (relieves pain and skin irritations)
- Eucalyptus (opens lungs and aids respiratory system)
Herbal Preparations: Tea
The most common and familiar herbal remedy to most, herbal tea is used to help several parts of the body–digestion, stress and anxiety, chronic diseases and brain health, or pretty much anything internal you can imagine. Add a little honey for some sweetness and antioxidants, and you’ve got yourself a delicious remedy! Something as easy as finding a tea you like in the grocery store will set you up for this herbal preparation. If you’re lucky enough to have a place where you can buy loose-leaf tea by the weight, all you need is a reusable tea infuser to put the leaf into and steep it in hot water for the recommended amount of time.
- Chamomile (relaxation and inflammation)
- Dandelion (detox and iron deficiency)
- Echinacea (immune support and anti-inflammatory)
- Peppermint (digestion and immune support)
- Ginger (digestion and prevents chronic diseases)
Herbal Preparations: Tinctures
Tinctures are like a concentrated tea: they can be taken orally (or used topically) and are made from an alcohol extraction. Alcohol brings out the medicinal qualities of whichever herb you’re using. It is easy to control the doses using tinctures and this method gets the herbal medicine into your blood stream quickly for the fastest relief or treatment! If alcohol isn’t something that you feel comfortable using, you can make a tincture using vegetable glycerin instead and follow the same recipe, though you should know that you’ll draw more goodies out of your herbs using alcohol instead of glycerin, and the former has a much longer shelf-life with greater lasting potency.
Herbs most often used for tinctures:
- Echinacea (immune support)
- Chamomile (calming and supports sleep)
- Lemon balm (immune and nervous system support)
- Nettle (high in vitamins and minerals)
- Red raspberry leaf (women’s health and immune support)
Herbal Preparations: Steam Inhalation
Steam inhalation is great for bringing relief to your respiratory system. If ever you’re feeling congested and need some alleviation, this is going to be your go-to preparation. Covering your head with a towel as you breath over an herbal steam is going to clear up your breathing in no time! The steam itself helps to open up the nasal passages, and using an herb with menthol ensures that even more! Dr. Sharol Tilgner also recommends adding a strong anti-fungal/antimicrobial herb to help actually fight the infection.
Herbs most often used for steam inhalation:
- Peppermint (menthol and anti-inflammatory)
- Oregano (anti-inflammatory and antibacterial)
- Thyme (eliminates phlegm/mucous, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial)
Herbal Preparations: Syrups
A syrup is made by boiling and simmering your needed herb in water and adding some form of sugar for sweetness. This is very much the “spoon-full-of-sugar-makes-the-medicine-go-down” type of preparation, which especially helps when you’re trying to get your little ones to take medicine. Replace those awful tasting grape-flavored laboratory concoctions with something homemade from the Earth! My favorite herbal syrup is elderberry syrup (learn to make your own with our simple recipe), and the toddler running around in our house eats it on her waffles with no hesitation.
Herbs used most often for syrups:
- Elderberry (cold and flu protection)
- Ginger (antiviral and stimulates circulation)
- Astragalus (immune stimulation through white blood cell production)
Making our own herbal preparations is certainly not above our skill sets nor time restraints. For most all of these, the prep time is five minutes max with time spent waiting for them to be ready. It’s so easy to provide natural remedies for your family, and below we’ve included some resources for you to use to find the right herb for the need you currently have!
Resources for Herb Uses and Benefits:
- The Herbal Resource: Three doctors author this website, in addition to an experienced biologist and botanist.
- Herbs For Healing: A website based out of the UK that has a registered medical herbalist.
- Medline Plus: A government website with a list of herbs and supplements (this list is not exhaustive).
- The Herbal Academy: A subscription-based website that offers ongoing herbal education.
- You Are The Healer: An herbalist and physician, Dr. Sharol Tilgner (who also farms organically) teaches others how to use herbs and food the way they are intended to benefit us.
Here is a round-up of products mentioned in the article for your shopping convenience!
Infused Herbal Oils
- Dried Herbs
- Fractionated coconut oil
- Mason jar
- Fine mesh strainer
- Tincture bottles
- Double boiler
- Rubbing alcohol
- Witch hazel
- Mason jar
- Fine mesh strainer
- Amber glass bottles
- Menthol crystals
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