Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Herbal Preparations 101

tablets and capsules release their herbal contents in the stomach as they dissolve. They provide an easy way to down herbs. They are slower-acting and generally less potent than tinctures. They certainly offer a faster and more convenient method of treatment than tea, and the allow you to avoid unpleasant tasting herbs. The typical tablet or capsule is roughly comparable to half a cup of tea or one-sixth of an ounce of herb.

prepared by gently simmering the herbs in water for 15-30 minutes. The most common ingredients in decoctions are roots and bark. The high heat releases more properties from heavy barks and roots than steeping does. Keep the heat very low when simmering aromatic roots such as valerian, elecampane, and angelica so that their essential oils aren't lost into the air

made by pouring hot water over herbs and steeping for 5-20 minutes in a saucepan, teapot, or cup. Flowers and leaves are the usual ingredients. To retain heat sensitive essential oils contained in the herbs, cover the pot or pan.

Cold Infusions
made by soaking herbs in cold water for about 8 hours.. Because this method takes a long time, it is generally reserved for delicate, fragrant herbs that lose their essential oils when heated.

a tincture, liquid extract, glycerite, or sometimes a strong tea that is sweetened and thickened with sugar, honey, glycerin, molasses, rice syrup, or fruit syrup. Glycerin is often preferred since it will not ferment like honey. A syrup makes an ideal cough remedy because it coats and soothes the throat, but other remedies can also be taken as a syrup.

Tinctures, also called herbal extracts, are a concentrated liquid form of herbal medicine. The average dose is about 30 drops, a quarter tsp or half a dropperful(based on the once-ounce droppers). Certain tinctures are used externally, mostly as skin antiseptics. All tinctures take effect very quickly.
The liquid medium of a tincture is alcohol. The alcohol draws important properties from the herb, leaving behind the more inactive substances, such as starch or cellulose. It also extracts compounds that are not water-soluble. Since making a tincture involves no heat, essential oils are retained.
One ounce of tincture contains about 600 drops or 6 tsp, which equals about 20 doses per bottle. Price wise, that is about 35-40 cents per dose.
There are a number of variations on the tincture theme:

Concentrated Liquid Extract
 This is a tincture that has had most of its water and alcohol removed, making it a thick, semisolid liquid that can be blended into pills or reconstituted with glycerin or alcohol into a liquid preparation. This is one way to make alcohol-free tinctures.

Double Extraction
This is a double-strength tincture that is made by making a regular tincture, straining out the herbs, then combining that tincture with a fresh batch of herbs to make a second tincture. Because twice as much time and twice as much work are required to make a double extraction, only a few herb companies bother with this method

Standardized or Guaranteed Extract
This product, usually a tincture or pill, is guaranteed to contain a specified quantity of the herb's main active compound. Lab tests are used to determine the amount of an active ingredient in an herb. If that quantity is lowered than guaranteed on the label, that herb is rejected and one that meets this requirement is used in its place.

USP Standardized
herbs that are sold by companies with pharmacist license

Glycerites are syrupy liquids that provide an alcohol-free alternative to the more popular tincture, in which an herb's properties are extracted using alcohol. A glycerite is created using glycerin in place of alcohol.
There are two types of glycerin: one type, derived from animal fat, is a by-product of soap making, the other is derived from vegetable oil. Although, soap itself is not edible, glycerin is. It is even used in some foods, such as frosting and baked goods, to hold ingredients together and keep them moist. Animal fat glycerin is sold in pharmacies. Vegetable glycerin can be ordered through natural food stores.
An average glycerite dose is about 30 drops, a quarter tsp or half a dropper full(based on the one ounce droppers). This dosages should be diluted in water, tea, or juice, as it may irritate the mouth otherwise Glycerites are not as potent as tinctures and are more expensive than teas. Like tinctures, however, they are easy to carry and to make preparations from--like instant tea. They also make a great base for syrups.

Herbal vinegars are prepared like tinctures, but the herbs are infused into vinegar instead of alcohol. Though vinegar does not draw out an herbs properties as well as alcohol, herbal vinegars offer the convenience of a tin cute without the alcohol. Because most herbal vinegars are designed for culinary use, they are not medicinal strength. You can use it in a meal as a salad dressing or any recipe calling for vinegar. A typical dose is one to two tsp. Herbal vinegar makes a fine sore throat gargle. In addition, it can be used as a hair rinse, skin wash for fungal infections, and in douches. *Vinegar eats away at tooth enamel, so be sure to rinse your mouth thoroughly after drinking it.

Aromatic Waters
Scented waters(also called floral water or hydrosols) are used to treat many different skin problems ranging from acne to burns. The can be applied directly to skin and taken internally. They can also be used for herbal compresses.

Essential Oils
     An essential oil is a liquid that is generally distilled (most frequently by steam or water) from the leaves, stems, flowers, bark, roots, or other elements of a plant. Essential oils, contrary to the use of the word "oil" are not really oily-feeling at all. Most essential oils are clear, but some oils such as patchouli, orange and lemongrass are amber or yellow in color.  Essential oils contain the true essence of the plant it was derived from. Essential oils are highly concentrated and a little goes a long way.
Essential oils are not the same as perfume or fragrance oils. Where essential oils are derived from the true plants, perfume oils are artificially created fragrances or contain artificial substances and do not offer the therapeutic benefits that essential oils offer.
The chemical composition and aroma of essential oils can provide valuable psychological and physical therapeutic benefits. These benefits are usually achieved through methods including inhalation and application of the diluted oil to the skin

Body Oils
body oils are made from herbs or essential oils can be an alternative to internal remedies. If you add heat-supplying herbs or essential oils such as cinnamon, cloves, and cayenne to your body oil, it becomes a liniment suitable for rubbing into sore muscles. Takes longer to act than internal remedies

A compress is effective for a variety of problems: headaches, bleeding, bruises, muscle cramps, sore throats, and almost anytime alternating hot and cold is needed to increase circulation. It is also used to bolster immunity and to increase lymph flow, especially when there is an internal infection or a growth, such as a fibroid. To make a compress, soak a soft cloth in a strong herbal tea, diluted tincture or glycerite, essential oils, or aromatic water, wring out the cloth then fold it and lay it on the skin. A castor oil pack is a compress in which the cloth is soaked in warm castor oil(sometimes combined with essential oils). The soaked cloth is placed on the skin, and covered with a hot water bottle to retain heat. The one inconvenience with a compress is that to use it you must either lie down or tie it in place.

a poultice is made by pounding, blending or even chewing a fresh plant into a stick pasted, which is then spread on an injury and sometimes wrapped with a bandage to keep it in place.

A salve is a thickened herbal oil. Olive oil is the most common salve base, but other vegetable oils can be used. To help a salve adhere to the skin, try adding beeswax. Salves are used on almost all skin problems, including minor bruises, cuts, scrapes, rashes, eczema, and swelling. Exceptions include any burns(b/c of its oil base, a slave will hold the heat of a burn and cause or pain), oozing stages of poison oak or sumac, and infected open wounds.

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