There are multiple ways to prepare herbs; fresh or dried. Here is an overview of ways to enjoy using herbs at home. Remember to consult with your healthcare professional about the ingestion of herbs and possible interactions with medications and contraindications related to specific health conditions.
Teas make for a great way to enjoy the healing benefits of herbs. Commonly, about one teaspoon of herb is steeped for five minutes in one cup of water that has been boiled. More delicate plant parts require a shorter steep time or water that is less hot. Infusions are a stronger drinkable preparation. Infusions involves a longer steep time of 10 to 20 minutes; it also pulls out the glycosides, alkaloid salts, and water soluble vitamins. Decoctions are more appropriate for wood, bark, roots, and hardy stems that do not contain volatile oils and are water soluble; extracting minerals, salts, and bitter components. Decoctions involve simmering the herb in a pot for an even longer time, until 1/4 of the water has gone down. Teas, and infusions should be drunken immediately and decoctions should be drunken within 72 hours.
Tinctures are the preferred way to use herbs. Solvents: water, alcohol, vegetable glycerin, acetic acid, or apple cider vinegar are used to dissolve the herb into a solution. A basic recipe is one ounce of dried or two ounces of fresh herb to one pint of alcohol placed in a sealed glass jar for two weeks, shaking the jar three times a day. Then remove the plant parts with a strainer and store the tincture in a dark bottle.
Fluid extracts are the most concentrated form of an herb, twice as strong as a tincture, but require special equipment. Liquid extracts have a very long shelf life if stored properly. A basic recipe using essential oil would be 1 teaspoon of EO to 3 Tbsp of alcohol; shake and store in an amber jar up to six months.
Fomentations, salves, and poultices are for topical use; the cold type for sprains and bruises and the hot type for pains, abscesses, and boils. For fomentations, first make a decoction and then dip a cloth in and administer to the needed area. Salves are made with a thick carrier oil blend including shea butter, lanolin, bees wax, and other oils, that is then melted down in a double boiler, and then essential oils or herbs are added. Herbs need to be strained out, so essential oils are easier; use a ratio of one cup of carrier oils to 10 drops of essential oil. Immediately pour all the mixed and melted ingredients into storage jar and allow to cool before closing the lid. A poultice is a way to soak fresh herbs directly on the skin. Mash the herbs, add a small amount of boiling water and some ground flax or bran. Apply to the skin and wrap in a cloth.
Syrup is often made for coughing such as mixing honey and vegetable glycerin with a decoction.
Powders are fine dried ground up herbs often taken as a capsule and measured in grains; keep in mind that herbs loose their potency in this process.