Herbal preparations should be made with care. Double check the measurements of the herbs and of the other ingredients. Sterilize all bottles and make sure the instruments you use are clean. Also make sure you have containers enough for the preparation you make. The straining of herbs should also be done carefully. You can use either a close weave cloth like muslin or a strainer. Don't use the cloth or strainer for more than one kind of preparation. Store all preparations out of sunlight, preferably in dark colored glass.
Compresses are easy to make. They are traditionally made from herbs but I have made some with essential oils. For essential oils they need to be placed in a base. This is to stop any irritation of the skin. For herbs, soak a soft cloth in a hot infusion. Squeeze out excess water and fold the cloth into a pad. Apply the pad to the affected area and wrap firmly. Be careful not to cut off circulation.
A cream is a base for herbs. It is usually a mixture of fats, oils and water. Creams should soak into the skin, strengthening and soothing. Traditionally creams were made out of rendered lard and beeswax. Today they are made of beeswax, oil and copha or ghee. A simple recipe that will make a large amount of cream is 60 g copha, 30 oz beeswax, 200 g olive oils, and 60 ml strong herb water. Care should be taken to store the cream away from light which can destroy the herb properties.
Decoctions are simply teas made from heavy pieces of herbs such as bark, roots, or twigs. The strength of decoctions can vary. The water and the herbs should be simmered in a saucepan with the lid on for at least a half an hour. Unless said otherwise, decoctions can be drunk three times a day in half cup doses.
Powders mixed with a sweet syrup of glycerin, honey or sugar are called electuaries. They are used internally and usually made as needed as they tend to harden over time. Powders are usually made from dried herbs, resins and roots. Heavy material like barks and roots should be doubled in quntity.
Herbal slushies are simply herbs ground into a paste with water. They can be very soothing to the skin. They also need to be blended fairly fine. A food processor or blender is best for this. The blender or processor used to mix herbs that many be toxic, should not be used for food production.
Infused Or Scented Oils
Oils can be made by two methods. Hot infusions can often be stronger and work better for chunky material. Cold infusions are good for aromatic substances that could be boiled off in hot infusions. Hot infusions can also be made faster than cold infusions. If you use a cold infusion, the oil you use should be heated first to kill any bacteria first.
Hot Infusion: Add roughly 250 grams of dried or 500 grams of a fresh herb to 750 ml olive oil. Place the lid on the saucepan and heat gently 3-4 hours. Slosh the oil gently without spilling now and then while the oils heat. When the infusion is done, the oil should smell like the herbs and have changed color.
Cold infusion: Take a few handfuls of the fresh herb you wish to use and place it in a jar. Cover the herb with olive oil and replace the lid. Let the herbs and oil stand in shaded place for 2-3 weeks. Shake now and then and then strain the oil from teh herbs. Bark and roots will take longer. Some herbalists use the sun to help infuse the herb. Since both hot and cold infusions must be protected from sunlight once they are done, I don't.
A tea made by pouring boiled water over fresh or dried herbs.
All massage oil should be made at 2% strength. More than that might cause skin irritations. A good guide is to use 5 drops of essential oil to 20 ml of the carrier oil. Sweet almond, jojoba, olive, grapeseed and avocado make good carrier oils. You can also used infused oils as massage oils.
An ointment is different than a cream. Unlike a cream, an ointment is a mixture of oils and fats that forms a protective layer over the skin that isn't absorbed. Melt copha, ghee or cocoa butter in a pan and add the herb. Simmer gently for 2 hours with the saucepan lid on. Strain away the herbs and pour into jars while still hot. Ointments parish!
Plasters can be a lot of fun to make. Chop lightly boiled herbs and add them to yogurt. In a food processor or blender make a paste from them. Apply to a pad of soft cloth and press to the affected area.
Boil herbs in a little water until soft for a hot poultice. Then plaster onto a soft cloth and apply to the affected area. Cold plasters can be made of bruised and crushed herbs. So that the herbs do not stick to the area you wish to treat, you can rub a little oil on the skin. Bandage lightly.
Inhalants are very common. They are also very easy to make. Measure out a few tablespoons of the dried herb in a bowl or sink. Pour over the herb boiling water and drape a towel over your head. Breath in the steam with your eyes closed. Make sure children especially don't drop their face into the water. A few drops of essential oil can be used instead of herbs.
Syrups are good to mask the flavor of bitter herbs and so are great for children. Make an infusion or decoction of herbs in a sauce pan. Add honey or sugar and slowly mix until dissolved. Heat gently until a syrup is formed. Store carefully as syrups can ferment or mold. If the syrup ferments, bottles can explode. A tablespoon of vodka or run can help preserve it.
Tinctures are made much like cold oil infusions. Instead of oil, use vodka or rum. Add the herb into a jar and cover with alcohol and a little water. Shake well and then place the cap on. Store for 2-6 weeks in a dark place, shaking now and then. Finally strain off the herbs. A little glycerin can be added to help preservation. Some people create tinctures by making a decoction, reducing it and adding it and the herbs to the alcohol. Tinctures can be taken in 5 ml doses, three times a day diluted in a little fruit juice, tea or water.
For tonic wines, buy a good quality red wine. Use a quater the amount of dried herbs to the amount of wine used. Double the amount of fresh. Cover the wine and herbs to stand for 2 weeks. Strain away herbs and take in 1/3 cup doses.
A lozenge is just a piece of hard candy. Any good candy recipe can be used to make a herbal lozenge. Just be careful that the herb doesn't burn.