Continuing in our series of Herbal Preparations, DIY Style… we cover teas, capsules, infusions, decoctions, extracts and tinctures…
Herbal teas are quite pleasant and a healthy addition to your diet. They have a mild relaxing or invigorating effect, depending on the character of the herb. They don’t, however, have the potency, the medicinal dose, of the active constituents in herbs such as other preparations we will discuss going forward.
The easy way to make a medicinal cup of tea is to triple up on herbal tea bags or the loose tea leaves that you would normally use and steep them in one cup of very hot water, covered, for ten minutes. By tripling the amount of tea you come very close to the medicinal value of an infusion.
Dosage is in cups per day. Single strength herbal teas can be taken as often as you wish.
To use bulk dried herbs, toss a quantity of the herb in a nonmetallic container, pour in boiling water and allow to steep for ten to 20 minutes. Most herbalists prescribe an ounce of dried herb (you should invest in a small scale) in a pint of water. Strain the herb parts. Usually, the tea is consumed at room temperature. Drink the tea hot only if the goal is to induce a sweat or to break up a cough or cold. Sip throughout the day, the cumulative dose would be one to four cups a day depending on the herb.
You can buy empty gelatin capsules from your health food store. There are varying sizes of capsules. Simply fill the capsules with powdered or finely cut dried herbs. The reason capsules are not as beneficial as the following liquid remedies is because no extraction process is performed and thus the active constituents of the herbs are not as readily available to your body. Digestion alone does not guarantee the release of the healing agents of herbs. Capsules are, however, preferable when you want the herbs released in the intestines rather than the stomach. Many people prefer capsules and pills for convenience and also because some herbs are rather bitter to taste. The bitterness however, provokes an important series of bodily actions that are important to the process.
This is another easy way to make an herbal remedy. Start by bruising one ounce of dried flowers, leaves or petals of the herb of your choice in a clean cloth. If you are using multiple herbs, the total amount used should equal one ounce. Then, pour three cups of boiling water over the herb. Cover and let steep for at least 20 to 30 minutes or up to several hours (the longer, the stronger). Strain and drink at room temperature or cold. Infusions generally will last in the refrigerator for three days. Dosage is in cups per day. Follow the same “Important Considerations” (above) as in making medicinal teas.
A decoction is made by boiling the hard and woody parts of herbs. Be sure to break up the bark or roots into small pieces, the smaller the better. More heat is needed in making decoctions than infusions because these parts of herbs are more difficult to extract active constituents and be absorbed by water. As with teas and infusions, follow the previously mentioned “Important Considerations” (above in the tea section).
Boil one ounce of your herb(s) in four cups of water for about ten minutes. (Remember, one ounce total if you are using more than one herb.) The liquid should reduce to three cups. If you wish, at this point you can add any lighter herb parts — flowers or leaves that you would use in infusions. Cover this mixture and steep for ten more minutes. Strain and refrigerate for up to three days. Dosage is in cups per day.
Extracts & Tinctures:
Because extracts and tinctures are much more potent than decoctions or infusions, much smaller dosages are used. They are dosed in drops, not cups. They are strong preparations that should be stored out of the reach of children and in a cool place (it’s not necessary to refrigerate). A tincture is made by pouring five ounces of alcohol (preferably 100 proof vodka) over one ounce of a dried herb (or a one ounce combination of dried herbs). An extract uses three ounces of fresh herbs. Use a small, sterile, leak-proof, air tight bottle or jar. Shake the tincture or extract twice a day to maintain the blend of active ingredients. Continue to do this for at least two weeks (and up to six weeks). It takes time for the active ingredients of the herb to be released into the alcohol. Tinctures can last for over a year. The alcohol acts as a preservative. If you prefer not to use alcohol you can use vinegar instead. Or, add the tincture when finished as above to one cup of warm water to cause most of the alcohol to evaporate. This will also dilute the bitter taste however, the strength is also changed.
Up next, we will discuss Other Medicinal Recipes…
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