HERBAL MEDICINE CHEST

HERBAL MEDICINE CHEST. A Simple, Straightforward Approach To Herbal Medicine and learning how to use them. Holistic health focuses on using the natural healing power of herbs for illnesses and maintaining well-being of both the mind and body. You can incorporate the benefits of natural health into your everyday life by making your own herbal remedies. Preparing some herbal concoctions requires a certain degree of time and skill, but there are plenty of simple herbal remedies you can make yourself, including herbal teas, syrups, and creams. Whether you have your own herb garden or purchase herbs from the supermarket, research which herbs are most effective for what ailments. Once you have selected your herbs, you're on your way to making your own herbal remedies following the recipes below:

Infusions (Herbal Teas)

Herbal infusions are essentially herbal teas, also known as tisanes. You can make herbal tea yourself by simply infusing the aerial parts of herbs (including the flowers, stems, and leaves) in water.

If using dried herbs: use 1-2 teaspoons of dried herb for each cup (8 ounces) of water, or 1 ounce per each pint. Steep the herbs for 10 minutes in water that has just been boiled. Then strain the infusion.
If using fresh herbs: use 3 teaspoons of the fresh plant parts per each pint of water. Make the same way as above, and strain.
You can make the concoction in cup-sized doses or larger teapot doses. If using for medicinal value, the infusion should be consumed in 8-ounce doses, three times a day.
For storage: cover mixture, store in a cool place, and use within 24 hours.
Macerations

A maceration is essentially an infusion that is made by soaking the herbs in cold instead of boiling water. Some herbs are most effectively infused in cold water, including marshmallow root and valerian. Be sure to research your herbs before you begin the process.

Use the same proportions of herb to water as for an infusion, and steep the herbs in the cold water.
Leave the mixture overnight in a cool place.
Strain the mixture in the morning, and consume the same way you would an infusion.
Decoctions

A decoction is also similar to an infusion, and necessary when using tougher plant material like herbal roots, barks, seeds, berries, and stems. These parts need to have their active components extracted in a more intense process.

Chop up the plant material thinly. Use 1-2 teaspoons of the dried or fresh herbs for 1 ½ pints of water.
Place the herbs in a saucepan with the water, and boil the decoction.
Simmer the mixture until the volume of the liquid has been reduced by about a third. This will take about 15 minutes.
Strain the mixture.
The decoction should be used in three wine-glass-sized doses throughout the day. It should be stored in a pitcher in a cool place.
The decoction can be reheated and flavored with a little honey if desired.
Tinctures

A tincture is a liquid herbal preparation in which the active ingredient of an herb is extracted with alcohol. Tinctures can be prepared in large volumes and stored for a long time, available at hand to be used in quick preparations of infusions, creams, and other herbal recipes.

Vodka is a good choice to use since it is more tasteless than most other alcohol. A standard herbal tincture should have 1 fluid ounce of pure alcohol for every 3 ounces of water; essentially 25% alcohol.
You can prepare a tincture using either dried or fresh herbs, but be sure to cut the herbs into small pieces first.
If using dried herbs: put 8 ounces of the dried herb into a large, glass jar and pour in 1 ½ pints of the liquid mixture.
If using fresh herbs: you will need three times as much of the herb. Use 1 1/2 pounds of the herb for 1 1/2 pints of the liquid mixture. Put herbs and mixture in a large, glass jar.
Store the jar in a cool, dark place for at least two weeks. Make sure to shake the mixture every day.
Filter the mixture through a wine press, cheesecloth bag, coffee filter, or fine cloth, capturing the tincture liquid below in another container.
Store the tincture in clean, dark glass containers, out of the sun. If stored properly the tincture will be preserved for two or more years.
Syrups

You can make an herbal infusion, decoction, or tincture into a syrup, using sugar or honey as a preservative. Herbal syrups are soothing for coughs, sore throats, and other common respiratory ailments.

First make an infusion, decoction, or tincture according to the above directions, and strain.
For each pint of liquid add one pound of unrefined sugar or honey.
Stir mixture together in a saucepan and boil until the sugar or honey has dissolved completely. The mixture has become a syrup at this point.
Let the syrup cool.
Store the syrup in dark, glass bottles capped with a cork or another non-sealing lid. It is important that the syrup is not kept in a tightly sealed container because as the syrup begins to ferment it may cause the bottle to explode.
Store in the refrigerator.
Tonic Wines

Like herbal tea, a glass of tonic wine is a delicious way to intake herbal remedies. Using root remedies of tonic herbs like ginger, licorice, or Dang Gui can be a refreshing remedy for ailments. Choose a tonic herb to suit your needs and then begin preparation.

Fill a large glass pot, jar, or vat with your chosen tonic herb.
Pour in a good quality red wine, covering the herbs.
Leave the mix for at least 2 weeks.
Filtering out the liquid, drink the mixture in one sherry-sized glass (2-3 fluid ounces) dose per day.
As you pour out the liquid, keep adding more red wine to cover the herb so it doesn't get moldy.
This mixture will last you for several months, as the wine continues to extract the active components of the herbal roots, before the herbs will need to be replaced.
Infused Oils

You can make multi-purpose herbal oils that can be used for cooking or massaging into sore body parts. Herbal oils can be prepared through either cold or hot infusion. You can select any kind of vegetable oil to extract the active constituents from the herbs, the best being olive, canola, sesame, and almond oils.

Cold Infusion

Obtain a large jar with a tightly sealing lid, and fill it compactly with herb flowers or leaves.
Pour in the oil, covering the herbs, and screw on the lid.
Place jar on a sunny windowsill for about a month. Remember to shake the mixture daily.
Strain the mixture, capturing the oil in another container.
Transfer the oil into a dark bottle, and store in a cool, dark place.
Hot Infusion

For dried herbs: for each 2 cups of oil use 1 cup of dried herbs.
For fresh herbs: for each 2 cups of oil use 2 cups of fresh herbs.
Prepare a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water. Place the herbs and oil in the glass bowl.
Heat mixture slowly over low heat for about 3 hours.
Strain into a bowl. Let the oil cool, then transfer into dark, glass bottles sealed with a cap. Store in a cool, dark place.
Creams

You can make herbal skin cream with a simple recipe, combining herbs of your choice with an emulsifying cream.

Melt about 2 tablespoons of emulsifying cream in a bowl placed over a pot of boiling water.
Add one large tablespoon of dried herbs to the mixture. Stir slowly until you see the cream taking on the color of the herbs.
Remove the mixture from heat and strain. Squeeze out the remaining liquid from the clump.
Allow the cream to cool in a glass bowl.
Spoon the cream into small, dark bottles, and store in a cool, dark place. Cream will be preserved for use for up to one year.
Salves and Ointments

Choose herbs with healing, soothing properties to prepare your own salves and ointments to apply to sore skin and wounds. Simply combine an infused oil with chosen herbs and beeswax.

Pour 3-4 fluid ounces of an infused oil into a glass bowl, and place over a pot of boiling water.
Add a small, square piece of beeswax to the infused oil, stirring constantly until the wax has completely melted. The beeswax will thicken the mixture, giving it just the right consistency.
Pour the warm liquid into small, dark ointment jars.
Store in a cool, dark place.
Want to grow an indoors herb garden so you can make your very own herbal concoctions? Read how to HERE: Even if you have little experience with gardening or you don't have the space to grow outdoors, a simple indoor herb garden may be just the solution for you. Indoor herb gardens require little maintenance, but they will provide you with the beauty of having plants indoors, not to mention the convenience for cooking.

Step 1 - Choose Your Herbs

Start your indoor gardening adventure at your local greenhouse or the gardening section of your local discount store. The choices you make here will affect the quality of your herb garden when you get home. Buying healthy seedlings can be an easier way to start an indoor garden, but many people still prefer to start from scratch. In this case, be sure to select quality seed packets that have not expired. Buy extra seeds. Sometimes only a fraction of the seeds you plant will actually flourish. Herbs that will thrive indoors include mint, rosemary, chamomile, lavender, basil and oregano.

Step 2 - Pick Your Containers

You can buy a set of new gardening pots for your herbs, but it isn’t necessary. Indoor herbs will grow just as well in many spare containers you'll find laying around your home. The important part of selecting containers for your herbs will be to make sure the container has proper drainage.

Step 3 - Prepare the Soil

Proper soil is another crucial part of growing indoor plants. To make your own, mix potting soil with sand and a small amount of lime to give your herbs the best soil conditions for growth. Premixed soil can also be purchased. Before adding soil to your container, layer the bottom with gravel to ensure suitable drainage. Be sure you don't leave your herb plants in standing water as this can encourage pathogens that cause roots to rot.

Where you choose to place your indoor herb garden will greatly affect your garden's success. Most herbs require at least a moderate amount of sunlight, so a place near a window or skylight is ideal. Windows facing south provide the best sunlight, while windows facing north supply less adequate lighting. If you think your herb garden may not be getting enough light, you can supplement by using fluorescent lighting. During the warm months, a little time outdoors can give your plants a boost.

TIP: Our expert gardening advisor Karen Thurber suggests, "Plants in windows should be rotated regularly exposing all sides of the plant to the sun. Plants without adequate light will stretch and be come leggy. Pinching back the plants can help rejuvenate them."

Step 5 - Maintain Your Herbs

When your herbs receive the right amount of water, they will flourish and thrive. While it's important to make sure your herbs are getting enough water, over watering can also be harmful to your garden. Keeping an eye on the moisture level of your soil will give you a good idea of how often you need to water your herbs. Typically, once every 1 to 2 weeks will be plenty. Water just enough to keep the soil moist. Too much water can deprive your plant of oxygen. Yellowing of the leaves is a sign of over watering.

TIP: Karen adds, "For soft leafy plants like basil and mint, pinch back the plants leaving the bottom 3-4 leaves. This will encourage more branching of the plant. Herbs that become woody like rosemary, lavender and sage require careful pruning. Be sure to trim them lightly, removing only the soft tips of the plants. Cutting them back to hard can cause damage."- http://www.doityourself.com/stry/herbgardening101

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