Part 3: Herbal Preparations – DIY Style This part of the Herbal Preparation series includes Syrup, Compresses, Poultices, Plasters, Oils & Ointments and Herbs for the Bath!
Honey-based syrups preserve the healing qualities of some herbs and can be used to soothe sore throats and provide relief from coughs and colds. To make an herbal syrup, combine two ounces of dried herb(s) with one quart of water in a large pot. Boil down until it is reduced to one pint. Add one to two tablespoons of honey. Store all herbal syrups in the refrigerator for up to one month.
Soak a towel in a hot herb tea and lay it on the affected area. Be careful not to burn yourself when you wring out the towel thoroughly or the “patient” when you lay it on the area to be treated. Cover the compress with a dry towel. Leave it in place until it no longer feels warm and then replace it with another. Keep the area under compresses for up to 30 minutes, depending on the condition and the herb being used. Generally, stop the application when the skin becomes uniformly flushed, or a tingling sensation or feeling of relief develops and interrupt the regimen if the area becomes red or the patient feels discomfort.
Some herbs are stimulating and warming (such as Cayenne or ginger) and are used to increase circulation and energize areas of the boday that are congested or debilitated. Other herbs are soothing and cooling and dissipate excess heat or nerbous energy or calm swelling from sprains or bruises.
Mix dried, powdered or macerated herbs with hot water or herb tea. If you want a paste like mixture, add flour or oatmeal. Place this herbal mixture right on the skin. A warm cloth, or bandage should hold the herbs in place. These are effective for drawing out infection and foreign bodies and relieving muscle spasms and pain. Burdock, comfrey, crab apple, flax seed and slippery elm are safe and traditional poultice herbs.
Cayenne and mustard are best applied as plasters rather than poultices so they don’t actually touch the skin. Other herbs work well as plasters when you want an antiseptic and healing effect on an injury. Make an herb paste (as described in “Poultice”) and place within folds of cheesecloth or muslin. Apply to the injured area.
Oils and Ointments:
Aromatic herbs contain active ingredients in essential oils. Manufactured oils are extremely concentrated, extracting oils from many pounds of plants to produce a few drops. Do not underestimate their potency when purchasing manufactured essential oils. You can make a less concentrated (and safer) oil yourself by macerating two ounces of dried herb(s) and mix with one pint of olive oil (or safflower or vegetable). Keep in a warm place. Shake this mixture twice daily for a few days to six weeks depending on the potency you want. Strain and bottle the oil. For a quicker process, heat the herbs and oil gently, uncovered, for one hour. Do not boil. Strain and bottle when cooled.
For ointments, add one to one and a half ounces of melted beeswax (or tallow) to any herb oil. If using tallow (rendered lard), simmer one ounce of crushed dried herbs in three quarters of a pound of fat. When the herbs break down well, strain and allow to set. For a firmer ointment add melted beeswax while this mixture is still warm. Calendula or comfrey ointment is widely recommended as a first aid cream.
A very old form of medical treatment, the herbal bath is a safe and effective way to use herbs for healing. Relaxing, healing qualities of herbs permeate through the skin. It’s easiest to wrap dried herbs in cheesecloth and hang the bundles from the spout while running the water. You could also make a strong infusion and pour it into the water. Also pay attention to the temperature of the water. Warm baths relax muscles, cool baths stimulate the body. Your body temperature (98 degrees) is the warmest you should have as bath water. Hot baths dehydrate the body, dry the skin and can be exhausting. Cool, refreshing baths should range in temperature from 70 to 85 degrees. (Check out Academy Epic’s Bathology Quick Guide HERE)
The following are some herbs, classified by type, for use in baths:
- Stimulating Herbs: basil, bay, calendula flowers, citronella, fennel, lavender flowers, lemon verbena, lovage roots, mint, rosemary, sage, savory, thyme
- Soothing Herbs: catnip, chamomile flowers, comfrey, elder, evening primrose flowers, hyssop, jasmine flowers, juniper berries, lemon balm, mullein, passionflower, rose flowers, slippery elm, vervain, violet
- Tonic Herbs: blackberry leaves, comfrey, dandelion, ginseng root, jasmine flowers, nettle, orange, patchouli, raspberry leaves
- Herbs for muscles and joints: agrimony, bay, juniper berries, mugwort, oregano, sage
- Antiseptic Herbs: yellow dock, eucalyptus, sandalwood
- Astringent Herbs: agrimony, bay, bayberry, clary, comfrey, dock, frankincense, lady’s mantle, lemongrass, mullein, nasturtium flowers, raspberry leaves, rose flowers, rosemary, white willow bark, witch hazel, yarrow.
That’s all folks!
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