How to make herbal infusions

Posted on: 06 August 2019 by 50connect editorial

Learn how to make your own homemade herbal infusions, decoctions and ointments with these easy to follow recipes.

herbal infusions

You’ve read, you’ve visited herb stores, and web-sites, now you’re ready to try a herbal concoction, right? But, this one would be a tea, that one was referred to as an infusion, and you were told to always decoct roots!! Of, course there are poultices, compresses, salves, tinctures, etc., etc., etc., what are all these and what’s the difference? Well, read on!

Infusions

Most appropriate for stems, leaves, flowers you can infuse bark, roots and seeds, but seeds should be bruised (use a mortar and pestle for this) and bark and roots should be powdered first.

To make an Infusion:
1. Take ½ to 1 ½ teaspoons of the dried herb, place in cup.
2. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over the herb. Cover and allow to brew for 10-15 minutes. May be drunk hot (usually best for medicinals) or cold. A bit of honey, raw sugar, stevia or licorice root if desired, may be added.

If you wish to make larger quantities at one time, be sure to refrigerate after brewing, herbal infusions are usually so rich that bacteria can multiply and thrive very quickly. Even a refrigerated infusion shouldn’t be kept more than 2 days.

Decoctions

When you’re dealing with roots, bark, seeds or hard dense pieces of herbs a decoction is usually the better choice. Pieces should be small.

To make a decoction:
1. Put 1 tsp of dried herb for each cup (or 3 teaspoons fresh) in an enamel or glass saucepan (do not use aluminum).
2. Add 1 cup of water for each teaspoon of dried herb (amounts are approximate)
3. Bring mixture to a boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, covered to avoid losing volatile oils. Strain into cup, drink and sweeten as you would an infusion. Again, refrigerate any you aren’t going to drink right away.

Tinctures

Most times, alcohol makes a stronger tincture than water, glycerin or vinegar. Alcohol tincture is what we’re are going to talk about here.

To make a simple alcohol tincture:
1. Use approximately 4 ounces finely chopped or ground dried herb into a bottle or jar (if using fresh material use twice as much)
2. Pour one pint of at least 60 proof vodka over the herbs. Close the jar tightly.
3. Keep the jar in a warm location, shake twice a day for two weeks.
4. Strain. Place the left over herbal residue into a muslin cloth or bag (several layers of cheesecloth works also) and wring out the remaining liquid.
5. You now have a tincture. Pour your tincture into a dark bottle and keep tightly closed.

Extracts

These usually require a still and are difficult and expensive to try to do at home. There are a wide variety of extracts on the market, check your local health food store.

Salves or Ointments

These are semi-solid and are usually used externally, applied to the skin.

To make an ointment:
I usually use petroleum jelly as a base. I know, I know, it isn’t "organic". But…it’s easy and quick, it isn’t absorbed by the skin, it’s fairly water-proof and makes a great covering which won’t let anything in from outside either. It simply acts as a carrier and lets the herbal stuff sink into the skin... and it works!

Instructions are simple, just simmer 2 tablespoons of herb or a herb mixture in 7 ounces of petroleum jelly for 10-15 minutes. Pour through a fine mesh strainer and press out all you can of the liquid petroleum jelly. Pour into a jar (or even back into the original container). Viola! Almost instant ointment!

Poultice or Compress

Here there is a difference. In a compress an infusion or decoction is made first and a piece of clean cloth or gauze is soaked in the resultant liquid. The cloth or gauze is applied to the affected area. For a poultice you would use the plant material itself. When using a compress, use it as hot as can be tolerated, you can cover the compress with plastic wrap, to keep it hot longer, and change it when it cools off.

For poultices, you can use fresh or dried herbs. Fresh herbs can be bruised and applied directly to the skin. If the skin is particularly sensitive, the poultice can be placed between layers of gauze. When using dried herbs they must be moistened first. Make a paste by adding hot water or apple cider vinegar to the dried plant material. Keep the poultice warm as for a compress. You may want to cover the skin with a thin layer of oil as this protects the skin and may make removing the poultice easier.

By SA Ralf

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