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 an 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. 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 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.
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 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 are safe for children.
If treating an illness make a quart of tea at one time. Just boil the water, add the plant material, steep leaves for 3-15 minutes, and add honey for taste if needed. Simmer stems, berries, or roots for up to two hours. (A double boiler is best but not required) Strain and give the patient a warm cup every few hours throughout the day.
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 a personal touch here and there. A pat on the back, a gentle foot massage, a manicure, or just tucking-in the bed-covers can work wonders. Herbs can bring health and beauty, but a loving touch means more to 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 doctor informed. Store herbs properly and discard if moldy. (Herbs and preparations keep best refrigerated in dark-colored glass jars.) 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. Essential oils are best used in aromatherapy. 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. Last but not least, remember that some herbs are photo-toxic (not to be used when outdoors or in sunlight).
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