Herbs packaged in tea bags tend to have lost much of their beneficial properties. It’s best to gather the fresh herb yourself and use it immediately, whenever possible. If you buy dried herbs or dry them yourself, store them in tightly sealed containers to preserve their freshness. Always use pure water and organic ingredients in making your remedies. Do not use aluminum wares for making any herbal preparations. Preparations made in aluminum utensils can cause stomach ulcers. Enamel, glass, and stainless steel pots are best.
Basic Tea (Infusion) Recipe
An infusion is a tea made from an herb, usually the leaves, flowers, and some berries. Bring pure water to a boil. The standard formula for an infusion is one teaspoon of dried herb to one cup of boiling water, although you might use less herb if the herb is very strong, more if it is weak. If you are using green (fresh) herbs, use one-half ounce of herb to one pint of boiling water. Remember: never boil the herb with the water, as boiling can make the herb lose its medicinal properties unless you are preparing seeds, barks, roots, branches, and some leaves and berries (see Decoction, below). With most flowers and leaves, pour the boiling water over the herb. Then steep in a covered container for five to ten minutes. Strain and drink while warm.
If you prefer a sweeter-tasting tea, add one-half teaspoon of either cardamom powder or licorice root powder to the herb and steep together. You won’t need to do this with fennel, which is naturally sweet.
A decoction is also a tea, but it’s stronger, and it is actually boiled or simmered. This is the method used to extract the mineral salts and bitter principles—the medicinal properties—from barks, roots, branches, and some leaves and berries. Use one teaspoon of herb to one cup of water. Boil for ten to thirty minutes. The longer you boil, the more medicinal properties you extract, but how long you boil also depends on the herbal materials you are using. Strain out the boiled plant parts before drinking.
Chop the herbs finely and add one ounce of herb to one pint of lab-proof alcohol (not rubbing alcohol!) or vodka. Shake daily. After two weeks, strain, and use according to instructions. The usual dose is one teaspoonful in one-half cup of warm water, three times a day.
Use the herb and isopropyl alcohol in the same proportions as a tincture. For external use only.
Balm or Salve
Use either fresh or dried herbs and chop up very finely. For balms, salves, and poultices, the formula is usually one part herb to four parts of whatever you mix it with. Cook in pure, cold-pressed olive oil or another cold-pressed vegetable oil over a very low flame in a double boiler. Do not use iron pots because they contain tannic acid. Use only stainless steel, glass, or porcelain. Do not boil the herb. Cook for ten to thirty minutes, depending on the herb. Once the herb properties are extracted, strain off the roughage, then add slowly either cocoa butter or lanolin or beeswax until the desired consistency is reached. As the mixture cools, it hardens. For external or topical use only.
Bathing and the proper care of the skin are far more important to the health of the body than many people realize. Somehow the skin is not generally thought of as a vital organ such as the heart, liver, or lungs. Yet science tells us that if the skin fails to function even for a few hours, all the internal organs can break down. The nervous system can become paralyzed and the kidneys, liver, and heart can become toxic to the point of failure.
The skin performs many essential functions. Its pores allow the body to eliminate wastes, more than the lungs, bowels, and kidneys combined. The skin regulates body temperature, conserving heat when outside temperatures are cold and perspiring when the body becomes overheated. In severe scaldings or third-degree burns where two-thirds of the skin is destroyed, death follows shortly—the result of the reflex destruction of the internal organs. Likewise, if the skin is completely coated or covered with a substance through which no air can penetrate, an individual will soon die. He becomes poisoned by his own gases and toxins, and the increased internal temperature causes inflammation of the visceral organs. Cases are recorded in which individuals have died in a very short time after their bodies were covered with an impervious material such as paint.
The ancients recognized the value of bathing in promoting the skin’s optimum functioning. Magnificent buildings were erected to serve as public baths, and herbs were added to the baths for esthetic and medicinal purposes. Hydrotherapy is still very popular in European countries, and you can have your own herbal bath in the privacy of your bathroom.
To prepare an herbal bath, use either of the following methods:
- Cover the herbs to be used with boiling water, lower the heat, cover, and allow to simmer for ten to fifteen minutes. Strain the decoction and add to the bath water or use it as a final rinse.
- Add an equal amount of borax to the fresh or dried herbs being used to soften the water. (Borax crystals are optional.) Place the mixture in a nylon, cloth or cheesecloth bag or a clean nylon stocking. Tie and hang on your hot water tap and fill the tub high enough so you can sit and soak for ten to fifteen minutes. Or you can simply drop the bag into the bath water. Because the skin absorbs so much, it’s a good idea to always include a healing herb whenever you do take a bath. The water temperature should be warm, neither too hot nor too cold, either of which can be debilitating. A warm bath soothes, rather than shocks, the body. You can also use aromatic oils, placed directly in the bath water with baking soda added to disperse the oil.
Herbs mixed in healing clays are wonderful external applications that naturally extract boils, cysts, and tumors.
A poultice is used to draw impurities from the body by applying it externally with moist heat. Bruise or crush the medicinal parts of the plant to a pulpy mass and heat.
If you are using dry herbs, mix with hot cornmeal to make a poultice and apply to affected area. Aloe gel is also effective for this purpose. Or you can grind up an herb and mix it with pure cold-pressed vegetable oil or water to make a paste.
Another alternative is to simply take whatever is strained off when you are making an infusion or decoction, and use that as the base for a poultice. Or you can dip a clean cloth in the tea or decoction and apply it to the affected area. Ginger compresses are an example of a popular poultice used to bring heat and circulation to an area and to break up congestion. Soak a washcloth in very hot ginger water and apply to the affected area until the heat fades.
Pure water blended with fragrant herbs and flowers such as lavender and rose make aromatic waters. They can be used as skin toners, tonics, and body washes or hair rinses. Never use chlorinated or fluoridated water when making aromatic waters. Use instead pure spring water, rainwater, or distilled water. Prepare the waters in ceramic or glass containers. Use one cup of dried herb to one pint of pure water in a quart jar with a tight-fitting lid. Put in a convenient place and shake once or twice a day for two weeks. Strain and store in small glass vials with tight-fitting lids.
Almost any herb can be powdered and placed in a gelatin capsule. The standard capsule size is referred to as “00.” Capsules allow you convenience and mobility. You can swallow them with water, and you still have the option of opening the capsules, pouring out the contents, and adding hot water for tea or making pastes for a poultice.
A basic premise followed by most herbal healers is that even if a condition seems to affect one organ only, you must treat the entire person. Another tenet of herbology is that different herbs are best used during specific times of the year. Roots and barks are considered most appropriate for use in winter-time, while leaves and flowers are best used during summer-time. Spicy herbs such as cayenne promote resistance to infection and stimulate circulation. Dry herbs should not be used after one year, as they lose fifty percent of their effectiveness, even if you picked and dried them yourself. Roots, barks and some berries can be kept and used longer than most leaves.
Herbs can be divided into several basic groups:
Tonic herbs regenerate the digestive system, reviving energy and stimulating function. Because they are used to start an action, they should be taken for the short term only, as after prolonged use they can leach out essential vitamins and minerals. A good example of a tonic herb is goldenseal root, which regenerates mucus membranes anyplace in the body. Its bitter properties stimulate the functions of the gallbladder, liver, and salivary glands. However, if overused, those secretions can cause irritation in the mucous membrane.
Nutritive herbs soothe, calm, and build, and can, therefore, be used for long periods. A good example of an herb with powerful healing properties is yarrow leaf or flower.
Carminative herbs expel gas, stimulate stomach secretions, and help the stomach to absorb and assimilate nutrients. A good example is a spearmint, an herb more soothing to the digestive system than peppermint, yet equally effective as a carminative.
Astringent and disinfectant herbs cleanse, eliminate, and break down excess matter, such as the excess mucus created by an ulcerated area. Raspberry leaf is a good example of a soothing, easy-to-take astringent herb.
Herbs for the nervous system are as follows:
Nervines build the central nervous system (brain), the peripheral system (spine), and the nerves that correspond to organ systems.
Antispasmodics relax and regulate nerve function in both the autonomic and voluntary systems. They help relieve cramps, spasms, tension headaches, aching knees, and spinal pain.
Cephalic herbs are usually flowers and work specifically on the brain to help you relax.
Unless otherwise indicated, herbs should be taken at least one-half hour before meals or at least two hours after them.