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Preparing Herbal Remedies

Herbs can be used to heal in a variety of ways. Here's how you heal yourself, your family and your friends by using a tincture-based herb.

A tincture is a preserved form of the herb, using some form of alcohol as the preservative. But more than that the alcohol is used to extract the active properties of the herb as well as concentrate them to ensure their effectiveness.

A tincture also has the advantage of being very easy for your body to use. Tinctures are indeed both concentrated and cost-effective.

There is one downside to them, however. When you drink a tincture, you receive the full flavor of the herb. And for some people this taste will be just too much. Some people may find this just downright unpleasant. Cayenne for example, will come through hot! And goldenseal, when used in a tincture has an extremely bitter taste.

Of course, the presence of the alcohol in this form of herbal preparation may bother right from the start. Quite frankly, I don't blame you one bit if it does. This is of special concern many times for parents. They would love to give their children a serving of the tincture herb to make them feel better, but they're fearful of the alcohol content of it. Some herbalists say that you can just lessen the concentration of the alcohol in the tincture by mixing the serving with one-quarter cup of very hot water.

Wait about five minutes, and then most of that alcohol taste will have evaporated. And the tincture should be cool enough to drink.

Making your own tincture:

· Dried or fresh herbs

· 80 to 100 proof vodka or rum (Never use rubbing alcohol, also known as isopropyl alcohol or wood alcohol)

· Wide-mouth glass jar with lid (a canning jar is perfect)

· Unbleached cheesecloth or muslin

· Labels

· Markers

· Small amber glass bottles

Tincture Recipe.

The exact amount of the individual herb you use is up to you, depending on the amount of tincture you want on hand. A good rule of thumb is to use one (1) part herb to every five (5) parts of alcohol. It really doesn't matter how large that "part" is.

Place your herbs -- finely chopped -- into the canning jar. Pour the alcohol in the ratio advised into the jar. Make sure the alcohol base completely covers your herb.

Now close the lid tightly. Allow the herbs to soak for up to six weeks. During this time visit the jar every several days to shake it. The alcohol siphons and extracts the active ingredients from the herbs during this period.

At the end of six weeks, use a large sieve, strainer or other type of press to strain the mixture. Immediately take the wet herbs, wrapping them in muslin, cheesecloth or another type of fine cloth. Tightly but gently squeeze the herbs to get as much of the alcohol-based mixture off the herbs as possible.

The herbs that are the most saturated will naturally also be those that are strongest when it comes to carrying the active medicinal ingredients of healing power.

You next step is take the herbs from your large container and place them in smaller glass bottles. Preferably, the bottles should be amber color.

That's it! You've made your first tincture from your own herbs grown in your own garden. How clever and resourceful are you!

Oh, and by the by the way. The tincture you made today? It'll be effective for up to five years! That's what I'm talkin' about!

Herbal Plasters.

Okay, so the first time I heard this phrase I thought it meant a cast of some sort. I admit it. But nothing can be farther from the truth. It actually has little to do with plaster in any sense that you may be thinking about. And no, I really don't know why it's called a plaster.

But, a plaster is a thick, moist herbal paste that's warmed and placed between two layers of cheesecloth or muslin. Some herbalists us a cloth pouch. This is then placed directly on the skin where the irritation is. The herb itself, because it is wrapped in the cloth never actually touches the skin.

And for this reason you need to be very careful in using one of these.

Most frequently used in the treatment of respiratory congestion, a plaster can also be used for such conditions as skin infections, irritable bowel syndrome and even high blood pressure.

Plasters work well because they release their oils which contain the healing ingredients.

When making a plaster, your first step is to grind your herb -- preferably a dried herb -- immediately prior to actually preparing the remedy itself. The grinding of the herb releases the pockets of enzymes which in turn active the essential oils of the plant.

Once you've ground your home-grown herbs, then you mix about ¼ cup -- or roughly 2 ounces -- of the herb in just enough water lukewarm (never hot for this preparation) to make a thick paste-like concoction. Do not get this mixture in your eyes or under your fingernails.

Take this paste-like mixture, place it between several layers of clean cloth, like cheesecloth or muslin. Place the plaster over the affected area of the body.

After about five minutes, you'll notice a burning sensation. Don't be alarmed; this is part of the healing process. It's merely a signal that the herbal oils are penetrating the deeper layers of your skin.

Once this burning sensation begins though, you should remove the herbal plaster immediately. You have a window of about five to 15 minutes when it can safely stay on your body. But 15 minutes is really the very most.

A word of caution: if you have a circulatory problem, herbalist and nutritionists, Phyllis Balch advises in her book. Prescriptions for herbal Healing. Not to use a plaster for any reason.


A what? That might be your question when someone mentions the word, poultice. But an herbal poultice is nothing more than a thick, moist, warm herbal paste applied directly to the skin.

Its purpose is to relieve pain, inflammation as well as swelling or muscle spasms. You make poultices with your homegrown herbs, either while they are still fresh or after you've dried them.

To create a healing poultice from dried herbs, place a steamer, heat-proof colander, a strainer or even a sieve over a pot of rapidly boiling water. Place up to 2 ounces -- or ¼ cup of your herb in the container. Reduce the heat under the water so it just simmers. Cover the pot.

Allow the steam to penetrate through the herbs until they are wilted. This should occur within five (5) minutes. Then spread the softened, warmed herbs on cheesecloth, folding one layer of the cloth over the herb itself.

Apply this directly the affected area of your body. If you'd like cover the poultice with a towel or even a woolen cloth. This will help it to retain the heat longer.

The poultice can remain in place fro at least twenty minutes. In fact, you may even leave it on overnight. But it absolutely must be covered.

If you prefer to make your pulped poultice from fresh herbs, place the herbs between two layers of cheesecloth that's twice the size of the area affected. Take a rolling pin -- other equally heavy round object -- and finely crush the herbs. You'll know that the herbs are sufficiently crushed when the cloth feels damp from the moisture of the herbs themselves.

If you have a food processor, you may want to place the herbs in that. If you do this, then mix a small amount of hot water with them.

Now place a towel or woolen cloth over this to retain the "juices" and to help to hold the herbs in place. A poultice like this may also remain on the affected area overnight, if necessary.

The key to a poultice's effectiveness is that you use these particular set of herbs only once. Don't try to store a used poultice and use it again. Toss it and start all over again the following day or even several hours later.

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