Herbal Preparations

Each herb is prepared a different way, depending on the ailment it is treating. An herb made into an infusion might be used for a different application than a tincture, as the alcohol in a tincture might affect the herb’s properties. These are the most popular herbal treatments.


Similar to a tea, water is boiled and then poured over the herb of choice, then left to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before straining and drinking. It is best to use fresh flowers or leaves, but if only dried are available, use only one-third the amount of fresh flowers or leaves called for. For delicate herbs, stir a few times when steeping, and keep covered. Though the ratio can vary greatly, in general you use 1 teaspoon of powdered herb, or 2 teaspoons of a more bulky herb. In general, powders are stronger. Drink infusions off the top, as the powder settles on the bottom. If using a fresh cut herb, strain after steeping. Take the same day. One cup
is consumed 2 to 3 times per day.

More fibrous parts of the plants—roots, husks, stems—are prepared as a decoction, which is boiled longer than an infusion. In addition, the plant is boiled in the water, rather than pouring boiling water over it. Most decoctions are boiled for 15 to 30 minutes, and kept covered. They are strained before use. To make a strong decoction, after you remove from the heat, allow to soak overnight before straining.

Herbs become softer through maceration, or soaking the herb in water, wine, or alcohol for 10 to 24 hours, depending on the part that is used. Strain the mash before use, and take within 8 hours.

Poultices are made to apply herbs directly to
an affected area, and used for conditions such as inflammation or skin wounds. You may use whole or chopped leaves; ground roots, leaves, or stems; or flowers. Some herbs are boiled first, and then poured onto a clean cloth or gauze that is affixed directly on the body. Other herbs use whole leaves or petals.

Juices are obtained by grinding the herb in a juicer, by hand, or by using a manual mill or food processor, and then passing it through a sieve.

Baths are made with bark or leaves placed directly in a tub of water. Warm baths are used for “cold” illnesses, and cold baths are used where any inflammation is present.

Make an infusion, let cool, and gargle with it several times throughout the day. Especially good for respiratory issues, sore throat, and toothache.

Salves are made by infusing herbs in oil, beeswax, or cocoa butter. This is good for skin conditions.

Herbs are placed in a container of heated or boiling water. Place a towel over the head, and inhale deeply. This is good for sinus infections, colds, and flu.

Typically buds or young leaves are consumed. They also may be crushed and added to other food, such as to beans, soup, or a sauce.

People normally chew the leaves or stems
of plants and sometimes the bark. For the treatment of mouth sores or teeth problems, they do not rinse after, but spit out the chewed item after all liquid has been removed for it. You can also press a lightly chewed herb directly into a wound.

Suppositories are inserted directly into the rectum, vagina, or urethra. They are used to treat both systemic conditions, as well as local issues.

A tincture is made from fresh or dried herbs that have been soaked in an alcohol-water solution called a menstrum or solvent. They last a long time, especially with higher levels of alcohol.

In general, when making tinctures, use a dark bottle, keeping it out of sunlight. A good rule of thumb is to use 2 ounces plant material (uncut or powder) for each 8 ounces of liquid. Many tinctures are prepared as 4:1 tincture—1 part herb to 4 parts liquid. Shake the bottle frequently, and when complete, strain through a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth. If using powder, don’t shake the bottle 3 days before consuming, as you’ll want the sediment to settle.