by Gillie Whitewolf
are countless ways to use herbs - this article aims
to introduce a number of preparations, with recipes
and ideas to help you start making your own herbal
preparations. For information on the herbs mentioned
please click on the appropriate text links. Not
all herbs are safe to use and any health conditions
or prescription medication should be taken into
consideration - please refer to the Health
Issues article for more information.
quick word on utenstils : It is advisable to use
only glass, enamel or stainless steel pots and pans
/ utensils. Avoid using plastic, wood and metals
(other than stainless steel) as these can contaminate
water based infusion is one of the simplest ways
to prepare herbs for a range of uses - and it's
something we do everytime we make the common ol'
cuppa. A single herb or combination of herbs can
be used and the resulting infusion may be drunk
hot or cold :
The standard quantity for a cup of herb 'tea' is
1 teaspoon dried or 2 teaspoon fresh herb/s per
cup of freshly boiled water. If you are making your
herbal brew in a teapot (which in my opinion is
the best method), warm the teapot first with water
from the kettle just before it boils, add the appropriate
quantity of herbs and pour on freshly boiled water.
Put the lid on the teapot and leave to infuse for
about 5 minutes, then strain into a cup and add
honey, lemon or spices to taste as desired.
For medicinal brews use twice the standard amount
- depending on your chosen herb / remedy, and leave
to infuse for longer, generally at least 5 - 10
minutes - but again, this depends on the herb and
herb suggestions please refer to the 'Herbal
infused water preparations can be used in a number
of ways - as a natural herbal bath infusion, skin
rinse, hair rinse, mouthwash and gargle, herbal
cleaning infusion, flea wash for cats and dogs,
or as an ingredient in a more complex preparation.
For a herbal bath brew place a handful of herbs
into a teapot or suitable vessel and pour on freshly
boiled water. Leave to infuse for at least 10 -
15 minutes (I like to leave mine to brew for about
30 minutes) and then strain into bath water. You
may also like to throw in a handful or two of natural
sea salt. Another method is to place the herbs in
a muslin pouch or tie them in a piece of natural,
thin material and leave to soak in the bath whilst
the water is running. Oats lend themselves well
to this method, use rolled oats / porridge oats
to soften the water and soothe irritated skin, particularly
eczema. The pouch can also be used as a gentle exfoliating
rub over the skin after soaking. A handful of Rose
Petals added to the bath water is perhaps an
even simpler infusion - and not only makes for a
romantic bathing experience but may help ease rheumatic
aches and pains.
Rosemary makes an excellent
choice for soothing aches and pains and awakening
the mind - blends well with Lavender, Thyme and Marjoram - all of which will help soothe aches and pains;
Gentle herbs such as Calendula
/ Marigold, Chamomile,
and Nettle are all soothing
and healing for irritated or inflamed skin as is Dandelion; and Lavender, Chamomile and Hops make for an ideal bedtime
bath. Anxiety and tensin can be soaked away
with the help of Chamomile, Lavender, Lemon
Balm, Rose Petals and Marjoram - also all
useful herbs for lifting the spirits.
Feet and Hands
A herbal bath brew can also be used in a foot or
hand bath. Peppermint, Lavender, Rosemary and Thyme would all make
good choices for a foot bath and for the hands try Calendula / Marigold to soothe irritated, chapped skin; or Horsetail
to remedy weak or brittle fingernails.
Irritated or inflamed skin conditions may be
helped by washing the affected area with a herbal
rinse. Make up a herbal bath brew infusion (as above),
allow to cool to a suitable temperature and use
as a skin rinse / swab on to affected area. Calendula
/ Marigold,  Comfrey and Nettle all make ideal
choices for treating inflamed skin rashes - Calendula in particular is useful for sunburn, as is Chamomile. Peppermint and Chamomile are also helpful for eczema. An infusion of Elderflowers
is a well-known folk remedy used to whiten the skin
and clear blemishes. An infusion of Calendula can be used as an effective douche or wash to remedy
For a facial steam place a handful of herbs in a
wide bowl, pour on freshly boiled water and using
a towel draped over the back of your head, sit with
your face at a comfortable distance from the water
and steam for at least 10 minutes, or as long as
is comfortable. Do not put your face too close
to the water to begin with or the steam may scald
you. Herbs to heal the skin include Nettle, Chamomile, Calendula
/ Marigold, Comfrey and Fennel Seed - Chamomile
and Calendula will also help soothe and soften skin. Rosemary and Thyme blend well to offer a beneficial steam to stimulate
the skin - ideal as a pre-mask treatment. Other
popular herbs for facial steams include Lavender and Elderflower.
A medicinal herbal steam or inhalant may offer relief
to certain chest problems - although serious conditions
should be discussed with your health-care practitioner
/ doctor - especially if you have an existing respiratory
ailment. Thyme makes an
effective inhalant to remedy throat and chest infections; Chamomile can help
with shortness of breath and allergic states such
as hay fever - make a cup of chamomile tea and leave
to infuse covered for 5 - 10 minutes - uncover and
inhale the steam and then strain and drink the infusion.
To enrich the natural colours of your hair try using one of the following herbal
infusions as a final rinse after washing your hair
: Rosemary or Sage for dark hair and to darken grey hair; Chamomile for fair hair; and Calendula
/ Marigold, for redheads. Nettle can be used as a general hair tonic for all colours,
and Parsley is helpful
for hair which is thinning or needs thickening out. Rosemary, Sage, Lavender and Cloves are useful for remedying dandruff and itchy scalps.
a simple infusion as if you were making a medicinal
cup of herbal tea (see above) and allow to cool.
Use as a mouthwash or as a gargle to remedy a sore
Sage has an affinity
with mouths and throats and offers one of the best
remedies for a sore throat I know. Rosemary and Thyme are also useful
for sore throats or mouth infections. Cloves is another anti-bacterial, antiseptic herb widely
used in oral hygiene and can help alleviate toothache. Lavender or Fennel mouthwashes will help sweeten breath.
& Dog Wash
Fleas and mites can not only cause your feline or
canine friend a lot of discomfort, but can also
pose a serious threat to their life. Many of the
flea remedies on the market are very aggresive,
and packed full of unnatural chemicals. Herbal infusions
offer a natural way to remedy a flea or mite infestation
or a skin irritation (like eczema), or just to keep
your cat or dog friend happy and healthy. I have
used infusions of the following herbs on my cats
with great success : Yellow Dock and Calendula
/ Marigold, (both excellent if the skin is irritated
too), Rosemary, Lavender,
and Catnip. I have also
used Nettle in a blend
to help soothe irritated skin. Make up the infusion
as if you were making a medicinal herbal cuppa or
a bath brew, leave to infuse and cool, strain and
check that the temperature is not too hot or too
cold before using it on your cat. If your cat does
not like having a bath (I can hear you roaring with
laughter now!) try a flannel wash - soaking the
flannel and stroking the cat gently, squeezing out
of the flannel gently and stroking the infusion
into the fur and skin. Keep your cat warm after
their bath and allow the infusion to soak in as
much as possible before drying them off with a towel.
A strong infusion of Rosemary makes an ideal anti-bacterial solution for wiping
down kitchen surfaces and food storage shelves.
Other useful herbs include Thyme and Lavender.
are certainly not the only ways to make or use a
herbal infusion and an infusion doesn't have to
be water based - click
here to discover the delights of Herbal
tougher herbs, roots, bark, seeds and dried berries,
more forceful treatment than a simple infusion is
often required to extract the herbs medicinal constituents.
Like an infusion, decoctions can be taken hot or
standard quantity (to make 3 - 4 doses) is 20g dried
or 40g fresh herbs to 750ml cold water, simmered
to reduce to about 500ml. Crush, chop or bruise
the herbs and place in a pan. Cover with cold water,
bring to the boil and simmer for 15 - 30 minutes
until the liquid is reduced by about a third. Strain
into a clean jug, cover and store in a cool place
until required - best used within 24 to 48 hours.
Root can be used to make a 'hangover detox decoction'
- use about 15g of chopped root to 750ml water and
make as above. Sip small quantities frequently throughout
the day. Yellow Dock is a mild laxative - use 1
teaspoon to 1 cup of water. For flu with muscle
aches and pains use 5g of Echinacea Root to 750ml
water and drink 2 - 4 cups a day. Cramp Bark is
useful for remedying joint, tendon and ligament
inflammation, as well as back pain, or sleeplessness
caused by backache. A decoction of Cramp Bark also
makes a soothing external rub for tense neck and
compress is a cloth soaked in a water-based herbal
infusion, decoction or diluted tincture which can
be held against the skin to relieve swelling, bruising
and pain, or to soothe headaches and cool fevers.
Resoak or prepare a new compress when the compress
cools (if it was hot to begin with) or warms up
or dries out (if cold to begin with),
A compress soaked in an infusion of Comfrey can be very effective at healing small fractures
where a plaster cast wouldn't be possible (little
toe or rib), it will also help relieve pain and
bruising. Do not use comfrey on broken skin.
Use an infusion of Chamomile flowers and soak cotton pads in the cool solution
and apply the pads to closed eyelids to soothe and
refresh tired eyes. A Chamomile compress can also
be used to ease breast tenderness and sore nipples.
a wonderfully soothing headache
remedy add a few drops of Lavender and Peppermint
essential oils to a bowl of ice cold water, soak
a cloth and use as a compress on the forehead or
nape of neck [or better still, alternated between
poultice is a mixture of fresh or dried herbs applied
directly to an affected area. Some poultices require
the herbs to be simmered first (for roughly 2 minutes)
- the excess liquid then squeezed out and the herbs
applied to the area, bandaging them in place for
up to 3 hours. To prevent the mixture from sticking
to the skin apply a little carrier oil (such as
olive oil or sweet almond) to the skin before applying
Alternatively fold crushed herbs in a surgical gauze
or muslin to make a pack, place in a dish and pour
on just enough boiling water to cover the pack.
Soak for 3-5 minutes, drain off the water, allow
the poultice to cool to a comfortable temperature
and place on the affected area. To make a cold poultice
crush and bruish fresh herbs to make a paste which
is then spread on a piece of gauze and placed in
the freezer for 5 - 10 minutes. Remove and place
on affected area.
of Chamomile flowers can be placed around the throat / neck to
help soothe a sore throat. Comfrey can be used on small fractures and bruises - but
do not use comfrey on broken skin.
are created by soaking herbs in alcohol and result
in a preparation which should last for 1 to 2 years,
if stored correctly.
200g dried or 300g fresh to 1 litre alcohol (Vodka,
Brandy or Rum). A regular dose is 5ml diluted in
water or fruit juice, taken 2 to 3 times per day,
Place the herbs in a clean glass jar, pour on alcohol
ensuring all the herb is covered, put the lid on
and shake. Leave in a cool dark place for a fortnight,
shaking every other day or so. Strain and pour into
clean glass bottles and store in a cool, dark place.
of Hops is recommended by
some herbalists as a remedy for insomnia. Use 10
drops to begin with, increasing to a maximum of
30 if required. Do not take if suffering from depression.
Echinacea Tincture can be effective taken at the
first sign of colds and 'flu - take 1/2 teaspoon
with water 2 times a day. A teaspoon of Myrrh Tincture
diluted in 5 teaspoons of warm water can be used
as a gargle to remedy a sore throat.
Wines are very much like a tincture - herbs are
used to fill a clean jar / vat, over which wine
(or port) is poured so that the herb is completely
covered and the level of the wine is above the top
of the herbs. Close securely and leave to mature
for at least 1 month. Regularly top up the jar to
ensure the herbs remain covered, replacing with
a new batch of herbs as required. Lasts for about
4 -5 months - but keep an eye on the mixture for
any mould and discard remedy if any occurs.
quicker method is to add the herbs and wine / port
to a saucepan (roughly 6 oz herbs to 2 pints liquid),
cover with a lid and heat gently until the wine
begins to simmer - do not allow the mixture to boil
(unless you wish to eliminate the alcohol content
- in which case leave uncovered and allow to boil
for at least 5 minutes). Remove from the heat and
leave covered for 24 hours. Strain and bottle.
are made using equal proportions of herbal infusions
/ decoctions and honey or unrefined sugar. Herbal
infusions / decoctions used in syrups need to be
brewed or simmered for longer than normal. Place
the infusion or decoction in a saucepan together
with the honey or sugar and gently heat, stirring
continuosuly until the honey / sugar has dissolved
and the mixture has a syrupy consistency. Remove
from the heat and leave to cool. Once cooled pour
into sterilised glass bottle, use a cork as a stopper
and store in a cool, dark place. The cork stopper
is important - syrups are prone to ferment and may
explode if kept in a screw-lid topped bottle. A
regular dose for syrups is 5 - 10 ml (1 to 2 teaspoons)
taken 3 times a day. Store for up to 6 months.
leafy herb such as Cleavers, Lemon
Balm, Borage, Fennel and Dandelion can be
liquidised to produce nourishing herbal juices,
which can also be blended with freshly juiced fruits
and vegetables. Place the fresh herbs in a food
processor or liquidiser and process until the mixture
is thick green slurry. Take in 2 teaspoon / 10ml
doses mixed with a little water or fuirt / vegetable
juice if preferred, 3 times a day. Keep herb juices
refrigerated and use within 48 hours.
preparations mentioned in this article are of course
not the only ways to prepare and use herbs - and
quite often the herb needs no special preparation
other than perhaps drying and possibly a little
grinding with a mortar and pestle. Culinary dishes
the world over will offer up a rich history of herbal
ingredients, and the world of herbal crafts is full
of ideas, from a simple strewing herb to pot pourri,
sleep pillows and herb poppets to pomanders and
linen bags, powders and deodorants to incenses...
the list is endless! I hope this article has helped
identify a few herbal preparations and has sparked
a herbal flame of curiousity and inspiration. Enjoy
your herbs and the natural, healing remedies they
offer us so freely.
Herb Articles :
Issues : When not to take herbs and oils - and
which ones to avoid.
Oils : How to make your own herbal infused oils.
Teas : Introducing a selection of herbs suitable
the 'Remedies for Common Ailments' series of articles
featured on the Herblore
Disclaimer : This
article is not intended to replace any professional
medical advice you may have been given - nor is
it intended to be in place of professional advice.
Always check with a medical professional if you
are taking prescription drugs, have a health condition,
are pregnant, breast-feeding, trying to conceive
or are generally unsure about a herb / oil / medicine.
Always research before preparingor using a remedy!
Respect the medicines Mother Nature offers us and
live a healthy, happy life.