In order to make your own medicinal teas, you must first determine which part of the plant is medicinal.
Leaf: the medicinal part of sage, peppermint and thyme are their leaves.
Flower: the medicinal part of lavender, chamomile and calendula are their flowers.
Root: the medicinal part of licorice, ginger and withania are their roots.
Berry: the medicinal part of black elderberry, bilberry and hawthorn are their berries.
Bark: the medicinal part of willow, cramp bark and cinnamon are their barks.
Seed: the medicinal part of milk thistle, fenugreek and horse chestnut are their seeds
Keep in mind that some plants have more than one part used for medicine. For example, the berries, flowers and leaves of hawthorn are all used medicinally.
After the plant part is determined, you can then make either a medicinal infusion or decoction.
Infusion: infusions require the leaf and flower of medicinal plants. These parts are placed in hot water for 15-20 minutes for the medicinal constituents of the leaves and flowers to be pulled into the water. The optimal ratio is usually 1 tsp dried herb or a small handful of fresh herb per 1 cup hot water. After 15-20 mins, strain out the leaves and flowers, let cool, and enjoy.
Decoction: decoctions require the root, berry, seed and bark of medicinal plants. These parts are placed in cool water and brought to a mild boil on the stovetop for 20 minutes. You need higher heat with these plants because they are a tougher plant material and require more heat to extract the medicinal constituents. The optimal ratio is 1 tsp per 1 cup water. Once boiled, strain out the plant material, let cool and enjoy.
If the combination of herbs you want to use contains all parts of a plant, then you can either separate the plants into a leaf & flower group for infusion and bark, root, seed & berry group for decoction and combine afterwards, or you can make a decoction of all the parts and sacrifice the risk of "over cooking" your leaves and flowers.
Some Easy Teas to Start With
Peppermint: use the leaves of peppermint to ease gas, bloating or indigestion after a meal or as a gentle morning tea to wake you up and get the day started. Do not use peppermint if you have acid reflux.
Lemon balm: Lemon balm is in the mint family, you can use the leaves of lemon balm to also ease digestion, and lemon balm is great to calm the nerves if you're experience some stress or anxiety.
Ginger: use ginger root to warm the body on a cool day, to enhance circulation and to ease nausea or cramping. Ginger is also a wonderful tea for period cramps!
Chamomile: The flowers of chamomile are bitter to help with digestion, anti-inflammatory to help with skin hives and gut inflammation, and its mild sedative effect helps with sleep.
Milk Thistle: the seeds of milk thistle are used to support and protect liver function. It can be used to assist a detox and can also be used for liver diseases such as hepatitis or cirrhosis of the liver as an adjunct to other therapies. Do not use milk thistle if you are pregnant.
A Tincture is a delightful herbal remedy which extracts a plant's constituents into a mixture of high-proof alcohol and pure water. The medicinal constituents that can be extracted from the plant using the tincture method are its alkaloids, bitters, resins, oils, glycosides, and some water-soluble constituents at lower concentrations of alcohol.
Why make a tincture?
Because it's fun! And it can offer additional benefits over other methods of herbal preparations, such as:
Ease of use: a tincture is easier and more convenient to take than those who don't like to spend the time making tea.
Stability: Tinctures last for 10 years after making them, so you don't have to worry about it expiring on your shelf any time soon!
Increased absorption: tinctures are readily absorbed into the blood stream
Increased potency: tinctures extract plant constituents that a tea cannot.
Sometimes the hardest part of making herbal remedies is understanding the ancient terminology still used today. Below is a list of commonly used terminology that will be stated as we go along.
"Constituent": a medicinal component of a plant
"Marc": the solid dried or fresh herb you will be using for your tincture
"Menstruum": the solvent you will be using for your tincture - a combination of alcohol and water
"1:5 Ratio": this means that 1 part herb (or marc) to 5 parts menstruum by weight is needed for your tincture. The ratio determines the concentrated strength of your tincture and is predetermined by herbal texts specific to different plants.
"Folk Method": this is the easiest "home-cookin" style of tincture making. There are no measurements required, you just fill a glass jar with fresh/dried herb and then pour in the alcohol until all the "marc" is covered. Let it sit in a dark place for 2-4 weeks, strain, and voila - you have your tincture!
"Maceration": the softening or breaking down of plant material in its solvent over time.
THE SUPPLIES YOU NEED TO MAKE YOUR TINCTURE
Fresh or dried organic/wildcrafted herb: Please note - the quality of herbs you start with will determine the quality of the medicine you make. Also, some herbs, like Cascara sagrada, must be dried in order to reduce toxicity and must not be used fresh.
Clean large glass jar with a lid and a few tincture bottles
Coffee grinder, blender or mortar & pestle
Strainer and cheesecloth
Sharp knife and cutting board
Alcohol (40-50% vodka works for most plants). You can also use vegetable glycerine or apple cider vinegar to make an herbal extract
Pure distilled water for diluting the alcohol if needed
Calculator (if needed)
NOW YOU'RE READY TO MAKE YOUR TINCTURE!
Since not everyone has access to herbal books and information on particular formulations of certain plants (and it's too extensive to list on this website), we will use a more generalized method of tincturing.
Collect your organic/wildcrafted herb. Depending on if you're using a fresh herb or a dried herb, your ratio of marc to menstruum will change. Fresh plants contain more moisture so they require less menstruum, therefor a 1:2 ratio is used. Dried herb has substantially less moisture and requires a 1:5 ratio. And remember, the quality of herbs you start with will determine the quality of the medicine you make, so make sure your get ethically harvested, organic plants. Also, some herbs, like Cascara sagrada, must be dried in order to reduce toxicity and must not be used fresh.
Prepare your Marc. Finely chop or use your blender or mortar and pestle to break-up your herbs to enhance the extraction process. Next, weigh your herb on a small scale to determine the weight in ounces to use in your ratio.
Prepare your Menstruum. Most plants require a 40-50% solution, so your typical vodka works well! If you want to produce tinctures professionally or if you want to create an exact formulation, then you will need to get Everclear or Clear Spring from the US which is 95% alcohol. Using 95-100% alcohol will give you more flexibility in the percentage of alcohol needed for your menstruum. You can dilute the alcohol with distilled water to get a specific percentage required for specific herbs. For example, Withania somniferous requires a 25% menstruum. You can make your menstruum out of 1/4 (25%) Everclear and 3/4 (75%) distilled water to reach roughly 25% alcohol.
Do some math. Now that you have weighed your marc in ounces, you can use that to determine how much menstruum you need. If using fresh herb, you need a ratio of 1:2 - this means that if your marc is 8 ounces then you need 16 ounces of menstruum to cover it. If you're using dried herb, you need a ratio of 1:5 - this means that if your marc is 8 ounces, then you need 40 ounces of menstruum to cover it.
Remember, this website is using a generalized method of tincturing. If you're interested in making exact formulations, please refer to herbal texts for information on particular ratios and percentages for certain plants.
Put it all together. Fill your glass jar with marc (herb) and cover it with the right amount of menstruum (40% vodka). Make sure you have a layer of liquid above the herb to prevent oxidation. If you don't have enough liquid, you may need to alter the ratio and add more vodka. Close the lid tightly and place in a dark room temperature place, a cupboard usually works well, and leave it there for 2-4 weeks. It's important to shake your mixture each day to ensure that the menstruum is working through all the herb.
The big squeeze. After 2-4 weeks, pour the mixture through a strainer into a bowl. Then place the remaining herb into a cheesecloth and gather it up into a ball. Squeeze out the remaining liquid over the strainer into the bowl. The harder you squeeze, the more tincture you'll get! You can also use a juice press to get any remaining liquid out of the marc.
Filter the liquid through a coffee or milk filter or multi-layered cheese cloth to remove any floaters. You can then use a funnel to pour your tincture into an amber small-mouthed bottle and store in a dark and cool place - like a medicine cabinet!
YOU DID IT!
Congratulations, you have made your own super potent medicine! Now, you can either take your single herb tincture or you can combine different tinctures to make your own formulations! The dosing for your medicine depends on your physiology and which herb you're planning on taking. You can book an appointment with me or speak with your healthcare provider to see which dose is best for you!
A salve is a combination of oil, dried herb, and beeswax that can be applied to the skin for cuts, bruises, stings, burns, dry skin, bites, etc. Crushed or powdered dried herb is always used (as opposed to fresh) to prevent spoilage of your formula. What makes a salve different from an oil or ointment is the beeswax - it makes it into a harder consistency. They are used to carry the medicine of an herb into the skin to help sooth, decongest and even draw out splinters or toxins.
What you need
Oil: usually good quality olive oil, almond oil or sesame oil
Benzoin tincture - this is a balsamic tree resin that acts as a safe preservative
Blender or mortar & pestle
Strainer and cheesecloth
Salve jars & labels
Essential oil (if desired for scent)
Prepare the herb. Choose which dried herb(s) you would like to use for your salve. Some nice healing herbs for the skin are Calendula flowers, Comfrey root/leaf, Plantain leaf, Chamomile flowers, and Marshmallow root. Measure out about 1 ounce of dried herb(s) and use a blender or a mortar and pestle to grind the dried herb into powder and set aside.
Prepare the oil. Measure out 4 ounces of desired oil (olive, almond, coconut or sesame are best) and add it to your crockpot. Heat the oil to a maximum of 80-100 degrees F to prevent spoiling your oil. Add the powdered dry herb to the warm oil in the crockpot, stir and leave uncovered for 2-48hrs (I usually do 12 hours). Do not let the oil mixture exceed 100 degrees F during the 12 hours.
After 12 hours of stewing, strain the oil well first with a strainer then a layered cheesecloth to ensure that your salve will be silky smooth. Wipe out the pot then return the oil to the crockpot.
You can skip steps 1 & 2 by purchasing infused oil, such as lavender oil, calendula oil, arnica oil, etc. Once you have the oil, you can heat it to 80-100 degrees F and continue onto the next steps right away
Prepare the beeswax. With the oil warming in the crockpot, grate about 1/4 ounce of grated beeswax into a small saucepan. Heat the saucepan until the beeswax has melted. You can then stir the melted beeswax into the crockpot with the warm oil until it is mixed thoroughly.
Check the consistency. It's important for your salve to have an ideal consistency - not too soft and not too hard. In order to test this, place a droplet of the oil and beeswax mixture onto the back of your hand, once cooled it will resemble the consistency of your salve. If it's too soft - add more beeswax, if it's too hard - add more oil. If you live in a warm climate, you can use a bit more beeswax, and if you live in a cold climate, use a bit less. Once the consistency is set, you can add your benzoin tincture. You need 1 drop per ounce of oil used, so if you used 4 ounces of olive oil you need 4 drops of benzoin tincture.
Fill the jars. You're now ready to fill your little dispensing jars with healing salve. Pour the salve while it's still a warm liquid into the jars, it will set as it cools inside the jars. Now place your labels on and you're ready to hand out your homemade healing salves as special gifts to friends and family.
Making an infused oil is probably the simplest form of medicine you can make for yourself. Infused oils can be wonderful culinary additions to your kitchen when using spices like chilli peppers, cayenne peppers, garlic, basil, lavender and zests, and can be a powerful contribution to your first aid kit. The most common use of oil as a medicine is as an ear oil for earaches, excess ear wax, and ear infections. Ear oils help to relieve pain and contain antibiotics and decongesting properties to fight infections. The two best herbs to infuse into an oil for ear afflictions are mullein and garlic. Caution: ear oils should never be used in an ear with a perforated ear drum. Other uses of medicinal oils are as bug repellents with citronella, pennyroyal, eucalyptus and lavender, or as muscle rubs with arnica flowers, peppermint or rosemary.
What you need
Herbs (ex: mullein or garlic for ear oil, arnica for muscle rub)
Large glass jar
Dropper bottles or small glass jars
Prepare the herb. For mullein oil, you can pick fresh mullein flowers or buy dried ones and pack them, unwashed, into a jar (the water may ruin the oil's consistency if washed). For garlic oil, pull apart the individual cloves of garlic and peel away excess paper, cut into thin slices and place into a jar. For Arnica, chop the flowers finely and place inside a jar.
Add the oil. Pour olive oil (or almond oil) into the jar of you desired herb. Pour enough oil so that the herb is covered, but leave some space at the top to allow for expansion.
Secure the jar. Fasten the cheesecloth on top of the jar with a rubber band and let stand in a warm place for 14 days, you can even leave the oil in sunlight to warm it naturally. The cheesecloth allows for any moisture in the jar to escape to prevent spoilage.
Final touches. After 14 days, strain the bottle first with a strainer, then with a cheesecloth to remove any particles. You can pour the infused oil into smaller glass jars or dropper bottles and give them away as gifts or keep it in a large glass jar for your own first aid kit.
You can also combine the separate Mullein and Garlic oil preparations into a 50/50 combined ear oil for extra strength!
While a compress uses the tea or juice of herbs, a poultice uses fresh or dried herbs to be applied directly to the skin. Poultices help to sooth, heal and regenerate tissue, stimulate circulation and organ function, warm and relax muscles, and can draw out toxins and foreign particles from the skin. The most useful herbs to use as a healing poultice are listed below
Comfrey leaf to heal cuts or scrapes
Plantain leaf to sooth inflammation, burns and insect stings, or to draw out slivers and foreign particles
Chopped onion on the chest for lung congestion and bronchial inflammation
Mustard seed powder to stimulate circulation (caution - mustard seed can burn - mix with whole wheat flour and egg whites for prevention)
Witch hazel leaves and bark for varicose veins
What you need
Herb to be used (see above)
Blender or mortar and pestle
Large gauze or cheesecloth
Pick your own herb or buy it from a store, then wash, rinse and shake the herb dry. Blend or grind the herb to be used with distilled water to create a thick mash. Place the mashed herb in a large gauze or cheesecloth and fold it around the herb so that it is fully enclosed in a pouch.
Apply the wet herbal pouch to the area to be treated. Wrap it in rolled gauze to hold it in place. You may wish to wrap it again in plastic wrap to secure it better and to make it a less messy event. You can also apply a hot pack or hot water bottle on top (with a towel in between) for additional soothing effect and to aid absorption.
A compress is made from either an herbal tea, a diluted tincture, essential oils in water or a combination of any of these forms. A cloth is dipped in the liquid and applied hot or cold onto the forehead for headaches, the abdomen for stomach pain, the legs for varicose veins or directly onto sore muscles.
What you need
Clean absorbent cloth
Essential oils (lavender for headaches, peppermint for muscle aches and fevers) or
Tinctures to add to water (distilled witch hazel for varicose veins) or
Herbs to infuse into a tea (fresh ginger for abdominal pain or menstrual cramps, marshmallow root for mastitis)
Make your base. If using an infusion, make your tea of the desired herb, steeping for approximately 15-20 mins. You can use about 2 oz of herb in 2 cups water for small areas and double this ratio for larger areas.
Add other medicines. Add 5 drops of your tincture or essential oil to the tea or warm water. Then dip an absorbent clean cloth into the liquid and allow it to soak for 5-10 minutes to absorb the liquid and the medicinal components.
A compress can be made hot or cold. Hot compresses are great for tight or sore muscles, menstrual cramps, and abdominal pains. Cold compresses are great for inflammation, fevers, varicose veins and headaches (although some people prefer hot compresses for headaches).