This is a corrected version of "Methods Of Herbal Preparation." It does not contain the misquotes common as posted in many websites. These are class notes taken by Anna Korn from a class at the Pacific School of Herbal Medicine. Adam Seller was the instructor. (Pacific School of Herbal Medicine)
I am thankful to the authors Michael Moore, Rosemary Gladstar, Susun Weed, and to local teaching herbalists Adam Seller (Bay Area) and Prudence Smith (Massachusetts) for teaching me. Also to Edward Bach, Patricia Kaminski and Richard Katz for flower essence information.
Herbs (and nearly all patent medicines as well) work quickest in fluid-filled spaces of the body: hence they are not as effective for bone or cartilidge ailments. Water is, in general, a very good solvent for many of the herb's properties, but water will not dissolve resins or oils.
Put fresh (or dried) herb in a jar with cool water, place in sun for 1-2 days. Compared with hot infusions, solar infusions seem more alive and pleasant, with subtle non-acidic flavors, more plant spirit. Adam Seller calls it Grace in a jar. I make them all summer. Lunar Infusions are similar: These enter the realm of lunar magickal influences and Moon signs.
A density-based convection cell is set up--good for leaves, flowers, slimy or mucilaginous roots and barks. This method preserves volatiles & mucopolysaccharides: (Ex.: Althea, Comfrey, Echinacea, slippery Elm bark) Mucopolysaccharides are soothing to mucosa, stimulate T-cell multiplication, are used in poultices, good for sore throat, UTIs, upset stomach: 1Ú2 to 1 oz. herbs to quart jar.
Use glass, enamel, stainless steel, or ceramic containers. Boil water, turn off heat, Infuse herbs in covered container. 1 tsp/cup dried herb (or 2 tbsp/cup fresh herb) from 5 min.- 10 min for chamomile, mint, or beverage teas (tisanes) 1Ú2 oz to 1 oz. in 1 pt. to 1 qt. water from 30 minutes to overnight for medicinal strength teas. (Ex: Valerian root, Mint, Pau d'Arco; For fennel and chamomile: a few teaspoons are OK.; no long infusions for chamomile or it turns bitter.) It is sensible to make a day's supply at one time; usually about a quart.
*Susun Weed's tisanes are 1 tsp./cup; infusions are medicinal strength at the following concentrations: roots and barks: 1 oz/pint/8 hours; leaves, hips/haws: 1 oz/qt/4 hours; seeds/flowers: 1 oz/qt/ 30 min to 2 hours-- except chamomile, which gets bitter after 30 min. Dosage: 2 cup/day-over 125 lbs.; 1 cup/day--65-75 lbs, 1Ú2 c/day--30-40 lbs, 1/4 c/day-- 15-20 lbs.
Use for Roots, Barks, or Seeds unless they are aromatic. (If aromatic, such as fennel, an infusion is better. Valerian, although a root, is high in volatiles, and is best as an infusion., but tastes awful, so you may prefer pills or tinctures.) Put herb in cool water, cover, simmer for 20 minutes (minimum) to 1 hour, let sit covered for one hour to overnight. You can decoct the same batch of herbs several times, adding a little fresh herb mixture each time to maintain the strength. You can decoct, turn the heat off, and then add herbs to be infused to a tightly covered container, if you have a mixture that needs both decoction and infusion techniques.
*Susun Weed's method is unusual: She begins her decoctions with strained infusions, and reduces them by 1Ú2 for a single or simple decoction, (4x as strong as an infusion); reduced to 1/4 for a double decoction (16x as strong as an infusion). Dosage: single: 1/4 c. adult, 1 tbsp infant; double: 1tbsp/day adult, 1Ú2 tsp/day, infant.
Boil water. Take kettle off heat. Pour hot water over herbs in a ceramic or glass bowl, and when cool enough to do so, inhale the herbal steam with a towel covering your head, forming a tent over the bowl. One can put a paper bag over the bowl with a hole to inhale through. Facial steams are great for the complexion, sinusitis, upper respiratory complaints and allergies. These are heating therapies which speed up the heart rate, stimulate flushing and sweat, etc.--They should be used only by those who have some reserves of strength.(Ex: Eucalyptus, Sage:-mild anti-inflammatory, decongestant, antiviral)
Adam Seller has made a "card table steam room" by covering a card table blankets, and placing an electric hot plate with a boiling kettle inside-- but be careful !!
Mashed, usually warm, herbs on skin.
A compress made of a cloth dipped in a strong tea.
Many 19th century water cures and spas had ties with the feminist lecture circuit. (Read Donnegan's Hydropathic Highways To Health: many promoted natural attitudes toward sex and nudity, as well as hygiene and public sanitation.) Baths have physiologic & psychologic effects. Bathe with a giant tea bag to avoid clogging drain with loose herbs. Combine herbs: for example, a warm lavender bath with a cool rosemary washcloth on forehead.
Foot, Hand, or Sitz Baths
Chamomile , rosemary and ginger for tired feet: end with foot massage.
Also: soaks, enemas, douches, eyewashes are possible.
Boilor steep any substance which is entering a body orifice other than the mouth, let cool to body temperature. Important safety note to avoid amebic keratoconjunctivitis: If making eyewash, always use freshly-boiled water for each dose! Discard any excess and make new eyewash from scratch for each dose.
Alcoholic tinctures preserve virtues of the herb for a long time, are easy to carry, are excellent for herbs which go bad or lose their potency easily, and are best for rare plants--Due to better medicinal extraction, they are more concentrated, with less waste. Shelf life is 1 year to a few centuries. The alcohol can be vaporized with hot water if the person taking the tincture does not want to ingest alcohol. Vinegar or Glycerin extracts are not as strong, are more difficult to make, don't work as well in extracting medicinal properties, don't work at all for resins, and herbal vinegars last longer refrigerated.
To each oz. by weight of plant material, 2 oz of alcohol by volume.
Ex: 1 oz wt plant: 2 oz EtOH vol. / 20 gms plant: 40 ml alcohol (*Susun Weed recommends 1 oz dried herb to 5 oz spirit, or 1 oz fresh herb to 1 oz spirit) Use 195 proof (97.05%) EVERCLEAR (Grana de Puro) if available. (see below for additional comments if not)
Herbs sitting in Alcohol 10 days.--> 1 year. OK to use whole plants, but more surface area if crushed or cut. If crushed, may also leach insolubles such as plant waxes, into tincture --won't hurt anything, but clouds the tincture. (Ex: Yerba Santa) Good to keep in a warm place --on top of refrigerator is good. Shake daily for two weeks. The leftover strained mash is called "marc." (*Susun Weed suggests average of six weeks' maceration time: put up at new moon, and decant at second full moon.)
Some plants require FRESH tinctures (Ex: Avena, Lamiaceae) and some require dried or aged herbs (Ex: Cascara Sagrada.) Consult reputable herbalists or their books for guidance.
If using weaker alcohol than EVERCLEAR: (Ex: 100 proof vodka): Blend Alcohol and herb together in a blender, then shake each day for two weeks.
Dry Plant Tinctures
One can buy or make special percolation glasses, which will speed up the extraction: instead of two weeks, the percolators will result in tinctures finished in 1Ú2 to 2 days. So far, I have no experience with these. 1 oz herb, freshly powdered in blender --best NOT prepowdered too long in advance, as they dry out too fast. A quart Mason Jar fits the Osterizer blender, which is the herbalist's favorite! Proportion: 1 part by weight to 5 parts by volume (except Cayenne: 1 part to 10 parts alcohol) Shake each day for two weeks, or blend it for FIVE minutes. BE SURE TO LABEL AND DATE IT!!
(For one class, we each made one quart of a tincture, and when it was completed, we divided it into 1 oz. dropper bottles to share. This way we each made just one tincture, but we each got a collection of tinctures in dropper-bottles to take home.)
For more dilute alcohol:(100 proof = 50% EtOH) Some plants do better extractions with less than 100% EtOH, for example: skullcap: 50%; goldenseal, osha, black cohosh: 65-70% but 100% for cayenne, myrrh.
Tinctures made with rubbing alcohol are LINIMENTS. EXTERNAL USE ONLY. Liniments can be made with edible alcohol, and then can be used internally or externally. (Ex: Arnica)
A magical remedy, like the dew--flower essences work on energetic and psychic levels. Pick flowers without touching the petals with your hands--you can use the plant's own leaves. Some people prefer crystal bowls for the solar infusion, and cut the flowers with magical knives or crystals. The Solar Infusion, preserved with brandy, gives a "Mother Tincture." Use four drops of Mother Tincture or several Mother Tinctures, to make a treatment bottle, then fill bottle most of the way with spring water, then preserve with brandy. You can use flavored brandies if you like! You can ingest drops, apply topically, bathe in it, or sprinkle it on your Senator's doorstep. Usually flower essences are taken at least four times a day plus as needed to deal with psychological and spiritual issues, often while reciting affirmations focusing on the issue. Used in this way, they do help to re-train the subconscious mind.
Equal parts glycerin and water, or 60% glycerin: 40% water. Use to extract herbs; but won't extract resins very well. Vegetable glycerins are best for vegetarian use; animal glycerins will warm the skin if you rub it on and then blow on it; Rosemary Gladstar claims that animal glycerin is for cosmetic, not internal use. People sometimes prefer glycerates for children and alcoholics.
Also a way to extract plants. Chop the herb finely, and pour warmed apple cider vinegar over it to cover it, plus a few inches more, to allow for herb swelling. Macerate for 4-6 weeks. Shake extracts daily. Strain and press extract, and rebottle. They should be refrigerated between uses since they can mold--the acidity of the vinegar has been decreased by plant fluids released into the vinegar.
2 oz herb: 1 cup oil
The wetter and juicier the plants, the more danger of rancidity. Can be placed in the sun, or in sandboxes heated by the sun. You can also extract herbs into oil in a double boiler, crock pot, or in mason jars in a water bath in the oven at very low heat for several (2-4) hours. LOW HEAT is best!! Rosemary Gladstar relates that an "electric oven roaster" can macerate an herbal oil for 2-4 weeks, giving a dark green herbal oil. Olive, almond, or jojoba oils are the usual solvents--(Ex: rose and lavender oil, mugwort oil, St. John's oil, Mullein oil, comfrey & calendula oil.) Steep the plant (usually fresh but wilted to decrease water content) in oil--jar must be full--no air and little moisture, or it will go rancid. Some herbalists recommend wiping the jar's headroom with a cloth or tissue each day, and topping off with oil. Remove any water that collects below the oil with a turkey baster or siphon. Do not mix oils that are pressed or expressed with those that are simply strained without pressing. The pressed oils will be more likely to spoil, as they will have more water, microbes, and sediment. Pressed oil portions should be used up quickly, and it is wise to store them refrigerated.
VERSION 1: Tap jar each day and top off with more oil if needed. Let the oil sit--water will sink to the bottom. Use a turkey baster to withdraw top oil temporarily, then discard water & oil near the bottom. Let sit 2-3 weeks, then strain out herbs--DO NOT squeeze!
VERSION 2: powder herb and moisten with pure grain alcohol as an "Intermediary solvent extraction". Let sit, covered, 20 min to 1 hour, then blend in blender: 1 oz Herb/EtOH/ 6 oz. oil Blend until mixture becomes warm, then blend a little more. Strain through cloth. To get rid of alcohol: put in jellyroll pan, and put in oven with pilot light on, or on radiator (less than 150 degrees), or place fans blowing over jellyroll pan for 4-8 hours. Can restrain to get particles out, or use turkey baster when particles have settled. Some add vitamin E or tincture of benzoin (1 tsp tincture of benzoin per qt. oil) against rancidity. Store excess in refrigerator.
SALVE PER 1 CUP OIL, ADD 2 OZ. BY VOLUME OF BEESWAX, or: 1 part wax: 4 parts oil.
(*Susun Weed suggests 1 TBSP beeswax per 1 oz (2 TBSP)oil, or 1 part wax: 2 parts oil.) The wax is a stiffener, and some people prefer softer salves. (Recipe example: yarrow, chickweed, dock, plantain, calendula, comfrey, St. John's wort oil, vitamin E, essential oil like Thuja or tea tree, myrrh or Usnea tinctures.) Olive oil and herbs in double boiler; simmer 30 min to one hour (also gets rid of water) strain, add wax. Spoon test: dip spoon in hot salve, cool in refrigerator or freezer to test texture. You can use a turkey baster to pour into small tins.
Adam Seller starts with a ready-made green oil too: blend oil with wilted comfrey leaves until green, strain, use this as your starting oil. Makes a rich green salve.
PILLS: Powdered herbs can be moistened with water & honey or maple syrup to form a sticky paste. Add a drop of essential oil (orange, peppermint, wintergreen) and mix in well, but too much essential oil can ruin the mixture. Thicken with slippery elm powder, and knead until it becomes the texture of bread dough. Roll into small balls. They can be dusted with carob or slippery elm powder, if desired. Place on a cookie sheet and dry in a very low oven or the sun.
CAPSULES: If you don't have an encapsulating machine, this method works well for small numbers of pills. Since powdered herbs dry out quickly and lose their virtues, you should probably make small batches anyway. Powder the herbs, and place in a bowl or shallow plate. Fill separated caps by "grinding" the open halves gently into a pile of powdered herbs. Place the two ends of the capsule together. Two "00" caps are a standard adult dose, and the "00" size is used in most encapsulating machines. One oz. of powdered herb fills about 30 capsules..
Syrups sweeten bitter herbs, preserve the mixture from spoiling, and soothe a sore throat.
Decoct the 2-4 oz of the following herbs with a quart of water, reduce by one-half: to one pint. mullein, horehound, pleurisy root, wild cherry bark, orange peel. Strain out herbs, add yerba santa tincture, and lobelia tincture. Then dissolve in 1 pint honey or simple syrup (preserves, sweetens, soothes throat.) When cooled, add peppermint, wintergreen, orange, or eucalyptus essential oils. Some people like to add brandy (3-4 tbsp /cup) or a fruit concentrate. Best to store refrigerated. *Susun Weed: To one cup fluid, use 8 oz sugar or 4 oz honey; OPT: 15 ml or 1 TBSP Brandy. Dose: 1 tsp up to eight times per day for adults; 1Ú2 tsp up to 8 times/day, kids 60-75 lbs., 1/4 tsp. up to 8 times/day, for infants less than 30 lbs. (Safety warning: do not give infants honey--they can get botulism from bacterial spores in the honey.)