Herbal remedies can start in your very own kitchen with a single idea and some simple ingredients. If you can cook (even if it's just mac n' cheese) you can put together an herbal remedy. It starts with knowing what types of medicinal remedies exist and what your needs are. Some may have the time to make a tincture that takes 4-6 weeks while others need a quick herbal tea in minutes.
To start, there are some kitchen secrets to set you off on the right foot.
There are a few kitchen secrets that can be shared to build your Little Apothecary successfully. Plus useful ways to measure plants, determine dosage amounts, and how many drops in a dropperful.
Infusions are the process of steeping a plant, usually leaves, flowers, and buds, in boiling water. Making an herbal tea this way ensures that the plant parts will not be overcooked and the beneficial enzymes, vitamins, and essential oils stay intact. So the longer you steep, the stronger the tea! (which is not always a good thing)
A decoction is the process of simmering plant parts in boiling water. This of course is a bit more destructive and is usually done with much hardier plant parts, such as bark or roots. Same rule applies, the longer you simmer the stronger the tea (again, not always a good thing depending on the plant).
Medicinal oil is a fancy name for oil infused with herbs. The process is as simple as choosing a high-quality oil and heating the oil to just the right temperature for extraction. We typically use olive oil for medicinal purposes and salves due to their nature but there are other oils that can be used for bath or massage oils. In making a medicinal oil there are two general paths to take, the double boiler or solar method.
If you've made a herbal oil then you're just one quick step away from making a healing salve. A salve consist of three basic ingredients, beeswax, herbs, and oils. The medicinal oils serve as a healing base while the beeswax, although protective and soothing, give the salve its necessary firmness. You can change the amount of wax in your salve to give it a more firm or soft consistency.
If you've made a salve then you've basically made lip balm. Lip balm, like a salve, consist of three basic ingredients, beeswax, herbs, and oils. Other ingredients such as shea butter and essential oils can be added for additional benefits and various oils can give the balm a bit of shine or add healing properties to the mix. The medicinal oils serve as a healing base while the beeswax, although protective and soothing, give the lip balm its necessary firmness. The more wax added the more firm the lip balm will be.
Tinctures are a highly concentrated liquid extract of an herb and are one of the more popular ways to take herbal medicine internally. Tinctures are typically made with alcohol (80-100 proof) as the solvent, however vegetable glycerin or apple cider vinegar can be used as well. They're taken by the dropperful usually diluted in some water, tea, or juice but some can be taken straight from the bottle.
Herbal baths are basically a way to immerse yourself in a wonderful herbal tea infusion. Depending on the herbs you use and the temperature of your water, your herbal bath will benefit you in a variety of ways, from soothing to decongesting. Baths are able to open the pores of your skin and easily allow your herbal formula to work its magic.
Syrups are simply two steps away from an herbal tea or decoction. Once all the ingredients are simmering in a pot, the next step would be to let the liquid cook down to half its original amount and add a sweetener. The sweetener (I prefer raw local honey) not only sweetens the syrup but gives it a little thickness and acts as a preservative.