The Making and Use of Herbal Preparations

Making herbal concoctions for medicinal purposes. Herbal preparations are best made when plants are fresh, and depends on the parts of the plant to be used as to the desired result the of the remedy. The following methods of preparing fresh herbs are most commonly used in herbal medicine. Use an enamel or non-metallic pot.

Common Herbal Terms and Methods

Herbal Decoction:

A decoction is made when herbs that have been simmered in water for drawing the healing elements from tough plant parts such as bark roots, stems and heavy leaves. Use 1 ounce dried herbs to 1 pint water that has been brought to a boil to make a decoction. Bring herbs and water to boil for about 10 minutes, then simmer for up to 1 hour depending on the plant used. This allows you to extract the mineral salts and bitter principles rather than vitamins and volatile ingredients. If the plant parts are tough a higher heat may be necessary for the infusion.

Herbal Extracts:

Creating solid substances (called concrete) resulting from the evaporation of the solution of vegetable principles. The extract is obtained in two ways:

The last is done by simmering a plant and by repeating the process until most of the water used has evaporated, making a decoction. This gives a distillation of the most active principles in the plant. Add 1/4 teaspoon of alcohol (brandy, gin or vodka will do), glycerin, or tincture of benzoine to preserve the extract.

Herbal Juicing or Cold Extract:

Herbal Electuary:

When powders are mixed with syrup, honey, brown sugar, or glycerin to produce a more pleasant taste or to make them easier to use internally, they are called electuarys. These are rarely prepared in advance, but are done when needed. Different substances need different proportions of syrup. Light vegetable powders usually require twice their weight, gum resins 2/3 their weight, mineral substances about half their weight. If an electuary is made up in advance and it hardens, then add more syrup. If it swells up and emits gas, merely beat it in a mortar. A basic recipe for syrup - make syrup by boiling 3 pounds of raw, brown sugar in a pint of water until it reaches the right consistency to which you will add your medicinal ingredients!

Herbal Essence

It is the preservation and concentration of volatile oils of plants which are not water soluble - dissolve 1 ounce of the herb's essential oil in a pint of alcohol. Aromatic oils and rectified alcohol can be combined. The oils seep into the alcohol to produce essence oils captured by evaporation from herbs and flower petals. Vegetable, nut, or fruit oils can be used as a medium for steeping aromatic plants to extract volatile oils.

To make cooking essence oil, pick fresh herbs or purchase dried herbs form a reputable source. Pack a large jar with the chosen herb and pour in any favorite mono unsaturated or polyunsaturated oil. Use enough to cover the herb. Close tightly. Label the jar and place in a sunny place for several weeks. Strain out the herb by pouring through cheesecloth into a fresh jar. Hold the cheesecloth over the opening of the jar containing the herbs and secure with a rubber band. Invert the jar and pour the infused oil through the cheesecloth. Before discarding the herbs, squeeze all the oil out of them. Repeat the entire procedure. Repack a clean jar with more of the same herb. Add the infused oil, plus enough additional oil to cover the herbs. Store again in sunlight then strain again through cheesecloth. Pour the oil into a labeled jar and store until needed.

Herbal Fomentations:

A fomentation is a strong herbal tea in which a clean cloth is dipped. The cloth can be filled with herbs. The cloth is then applied to the affected part.

Herbal Bath:

Herbal baths include the use of various herbal additives to enhance the natural healing power of the water. They are baths to which plant decoctions or infusions have been added. There are full and partial herbal baths. For a full bath some of the medicinal plant parts should be sewn into a cloth bag and then boiled in a quart of water; the strained mixture is then added to the bath. Sometimes you can put the bag right into the tub for a more thorough extraction of the herbal properties

Herbal Infusion:

This is the origin of the idea of witches potion. It is a process of soaking herbs in water. This is made like tea, combining boiled water with the plants and steeping it to extract the active ingredients. The normal amounts are about 1/2 to 1 ounce of the plant to one pint of boiled water. You should let the mixture steep for five to ten minutes, covered, and strain the infusion into a cup.

Herbal Ointment - quick method:

Combine well one part of your powdered remedy with four parts hot petroleum jelly or lard. For purists: Add the decoction of the desired herb to olive oil and simmer until the water has completely evaporated. Add beeswax as needed to get a firm consistency. A little gum benzoin or a drop of tincture of benzoin per ounce of fat will help preserve the ointment.

Herbal Powder:

Grind your dried plant parts until you have a powder. the powder can be taken with water, milk, soup, or swallowed in gelatin capsules.

Poultice: A poultice is a raw or mashed herb applied directly to the body! To make a poultice, you just crush the medicinal parts of the plant to a pulpy mass. Mix with a hot, sticky substance such as moist flour, corn meal, or with enough slippery elm powder to make the poultice stick together. Apply the pasty mixture directly to the body, or encased in a clean cloth and then apply. Poultices are used to heal bruises, putrid sores, soothe abrasions, or withdraw toxins from an area. They may be applied hot or cold, depending on the health need.

Herbal Tinctures:

Tinctures are solutions of medicinal substances in alcohol or diluted alcohol. To make a tincture, grind plant parts with mortar and pestle (or a blender). Add just enough high-quality vodka, whiskey or grain alcohol to cover herbs. Let sit for 21 days then add a small quantity of glycerin (about 2 tbs per pint) and about 10 % volume of spring water. Strain and store in airtight amber colored glass. If kept cool and dry it will last for up to 5 years. Dose is usually 20 drops in a cup of tea or warm water, 4 times a day. For a stronger tincture place herbs in a cone-shaped piece of parchment paper - pass alcohol repeatedly through the powdered or cut herb. Catch the slow drippings in a jar. When it has passed once, you may use it, but the more you repeat the process, the stronger the tincture will be. It is acceptable to dilute any alcohol tincture with water. Add 4 ounces of water and 1 teaspoon of glycerin for every pint of alcohol .The glycerin is optional, it is an additional preservative.

To make a non-alcoholic tincture you can always evaporate the alcohol, add the tincture dose to a cup of water then add 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of boiling water. Some herbs can be steeped in milk to make a milk tincture. Strain out the herbs, and store in a labeled jar in the refrigerator.


Herbs that are soluble in alcohol are usually soluble in vinegar, and are useful for salad vinegars, cosmetic vinegars, some liniments and preventive sickroom "washes".


Steeped herbs, water, and alcohol and steeped herbs plus honey and other fruits are often called waters. Sometimes extracts or spirits of various herbs, such as lavender, are also called waters

Return to the Main Index to Elkin Vanaeons Website fro the Mysts of Time

Idaho Web Design Tools
 Idaho Web Design Tools