Herbal lotions are water based. They are used as toners, splashes, and moisturizers. Potions have healing, magical, or poisonous properties. Tinctures contain alcohol -- fresh herbs are soaked in vodka for several weeks until properties are extracted. They are used in cough syrups, muscle rubs, and other home remedies. Herbal teas are the easiest to prepare. Just steep plant material in water, strain, and drink.
Herbal lotions are liquids prepared for external application and are usually used for protecting or healing the skin. They contain one or more herbs and a water, alcohol, witch-hazel, or vegetable oil base. Facial toners, astringents, and body moisturizers are all lotions. The healing properties of lotions are absorbed directly into the skin. Lotions can become creams, ointments, or salves with the addition of waxes, fats, or starches to act as thickening agents.
Ointments and salves offer greater protection than lotions. Containing waxes and butters, they are more resistant to water and act as a barrier to germs. Ointments are used to heal, soothe, and protect. Diaper rash ointment and poison oak salves are examples.
Tinctures are made with alcohol like vodka. They are good for preserving summer herbs for winter use. Herbal properties are absorbed into the alcohol and may retain their potency for years. Tinctures are used as tonics and in medicinal treatments such as cough syrups. They may also be used as muscle rubs.
Teas are a popular way to get the healing properties of herbs into the body. Teas are made out water and plant material including leaves, flowers, seeds, berries, bark, stems, roots and tubers. Mint, basil, thyme, and other culinary herbal teas are usually made from leaves. Chamomile and calendula teas are made from flower petals. Rose hip and juniper teas are made from seeds and berries. Cinnamon, white oak, and wild cherry teas come from the inner bark of trees. Dandelion tea can be the root, the leaves, or the flowers. Try single teas before experimenting with different blends. Most teas -- like mint and catnip -- are safe for children but some are not -- so do your research or consult a healthcare professional when treating children.
Herbal preparations like tinctures and ointments keep best refrigerated in dark-colored glass jars with tight lids. Dried herbs keep well in paper sacks stored in a dry, ventilated attic. Herbs need to be protected from dampness, high heat, and insects.
Make a quart of tea at one time. Just boil the water, add the plant material, and steep leaves for 3-15 minutes. Simmer stems, berries, or roots for up to thirty minutes. Strain and give the patient a dose every few hours throughout the day. Depending on herb and strength of tea, doses can be from one tablespoon to one cup of tea. Add honey and lemon to taste.
When nursing a loved-one back to health remember that a pair of healing hands can do as much as any medicine. Take time to give the personal touch. A pat on the back, a gentle foot massage, applying sunscreen, giving a manicure, tucking-in the bed-covers, or even just dabbing essential oil on a bug bite can work wonders if done with love. Herbs can bring health and beauty, but a loving touch uplifts the spirit.
* Always treat herbs with respect. Use common sense and discontinue use if irritation develops. Use herbs only as needed and know when to stop. Keep your healthcare professional informed. Store herbs properly and discard if moldy or if they smell rancid. Watch for possible allergic reactions. Realize that essential oils are extremely concentrated and may be toxic in large amounts. Use essential oils only when diluted with carrier oils. Do not take essential oils internally. Use special care with herbs like ginger and cayenne since they may cause burns. If considering using herbal remedies during pregnancy, consult with your physician first. Use lower doses for children. Do not treat children under 2 with herbal remedies (even catnip and chamomile could cause allergic reaction). Last but not least, remember that some herbs are photo-toxic and should not be used when outdoors or in sunlight.
"The only way to really learn about herbal medicine is to touch and smell herbs, taste them, use them daily, and grow them if possible. Herbal medicine is a way of life. It is not a quick fix." ... Janice Boling, herbalist, web designer, writer, photographer
* Note - the information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
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