What are herbs?
A herb can be described as ‘any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for flavouring, food, medicine, or perfume.’
This article focuses on the medicinal uses of herbs, looking at some of the ways we can use herbs as a part of our healing regimen.
The forms in which we use herbs include teas, capsules, compresses, poultices, salves, douches and oils.
Teas are prepared by pouring cold, hot or boiling water over herbs and steeping for several minutes or boiling herbs with water for a minimum of a few minutes to up to several hours. There are different ways we can prepare teas – as infusions, decoctions or tonics.
Usually the leaves and flowers, the delicate parts of the herb are used to make infusions. Infusions are prepared by steeping herbs in hot or cold water. Though it’s usually hot, cold infusions are becoming popular.
Decoctions are usually prepared using the stem, root and bark of the plant. These are usually boiled, anywhere from 30 minutes to up to a few hours. It ideally depends on which type of wood the bark is and whether it is in bigger pieces, small chips of wood or powdered form.
Tonics are a form of decoction and are usually created to nourish the body, improve energy and build immunity.
Capsules are powdered forms of the herbs that have been put into capsules. This could be any part of the plant, such as flowers, leaves, bark, stems or root.
Tinctures are created by infusing the herb in alcohol, apple cider vinegar or vegetable glycerine.
These usually act very fast so one can get the effects of the herb immediately. They are also convenient and easy to carry medicine.
Compresses / Fomentations
Compresses or fomentations are decoctions or infusions applied externally, usually using gauze or cloth. It it preferably to use natural fibres – cotton seem to work well for this.
1 part Mullein Leaves / Flowers
1 part Lobelia Leaves / Flowers
1. Make an infusion and let it cool.
2. Submerge the cloth in infusion, gently wring out excess liquid and apply to affected area.
Uses: Swollen glands.
A fomentation can also be done with oils, castor oil packs being a popular example.
This is made using dry or fresh herbs. The leaves, flowers, barks and roots can be used to make a poultice. The fresh leaves and flowers can be bruised and applied to the affected area.
Roots and barks can be powdered and mixed with water to form a paste which can then be applied to the affected area of the skin.
3 tablespoons Fresh or Dried Herb(s)
Hot Water to make a thick paste
Cloth for covering (flannel, cheese cloth or any natural fibre)
Waterproof covering to keep poultice on
1. Combine desired herb(s) and water to make a thick paste.
2. Apply directly to the affected area.
3. Leave on for 1 to 3 hours or as needed.
4. Repeat whenever necessary.
Uses: Bruises, swellings, to improve circulation, to soothe skin and heal internal organs.
Salves / Ointments
Herbal ointments or salves contain oils and wax (beeswax or plant-based wax) in addition to essential oils and most importantly herb(s) with beneficial properties.
Salves are often used to heal, moisten, protect and soothe the skin.
4 oz Chickweed infused oil
4 oz Plantain infused oil
1 oz Carnauba Wax
10-20 Drops Lavender Essential Oil (optional)
Glass jars or tins
1. Melt wax over double boiler at low heat. If you don’t have a double boiler it can be heated in a saucepan over low heat.
2. Add infused oils and remove from heat.
3. Add essential oil.
4. Pour into tins or glass jars before it quickly before it solidifies.
5. Let sit in a cool dry place until solidify.
Uses: Skin irritations, bee stings, bites, skin inflammation, small burns, scratches, scrapes, sores and similar afflictions.
Suppositories / Bolus
A suppository is a solid dosage or herbal preparation (usually bullet-shaped) that is inserted in the vagina or rectum.
For all ingredients use grounded / powdered form of the herb.
2 parts Plantain Leaf
1 part Yellowdock Root
1 part Marshmallow Herb
1 part Dandelion Root
1 part Slippery Elm
1 part Chickweed Herb
Cocoa Butter / Shea Butter
1. Combine all herb powders together in a container.
2. Add melted butter and mix to form a firm dough.
3. Roll into size of suppository and put in the refrigerator to become firmer.
4. Insert into vagina at nights before retiring to bed.
5. Douche the morning following the application.
Uses: Fibroid tumours, vaginal infections
Douches usually refer to vaginal irrigation. A herbal douche can be made with any combination of beneficial herbs.
An herbal syrup is prepared in a base of strong herbal decoction which usually combined with sugar or honey and maybe even alcohol. It is often used for digestive issues, coughs and sore throats.
Infused oils are a result of steeping herb(s) in a carrier oil to transfer the properties of the herb to the oil. Infused oils can be used as salad dressings, base for ointments, soaps and shampoos.