An Introduction to Herbal Extractions:
Medicine comes in all shapes and sizes. Whether it is a hug from a loved one or a handmade herbal formula they all give us the same gifts. They give us peace, love, comfort, and a level of joy.
Herbal medicine does more than just heal our physical bodies, it heals our souls. When we take the time to have some tea, take a few drops from a tincture, or rub on a salve, we are putting an intention into that wound we feel needs healing.
In this blog I am explaining a few simple herbal extractions so that you can do them at home!
Decoctions- Decoctions are long hot water extractions of roots primarily.
Infusions- Infusions are short hot water extractions, or overnight cold extractions of aerial tops (flowers), & leaves of herbs.
Tinctures- A tincture can be made many ways but the most common is called a “maceration”.
Infused Oils: An herb infused in oil.
These are the basics for putting herbs to great use!
Here are a few recipes:
1oz Dandelion root
1oz Burdock root
4 cups of water
1 pot with a lid
Take the herbs and put them in the pot of water. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 1 hour or until the water has decreased by half. Strain herbs with a fine strainer, and drink while hot. You may combine this formula with other herbs, add honey, lemon, and ice if you would like. This decoction is a strong one and has a very “earthy” taste to it. (Caution these are in the Asteraceae family so if you are allergic to this family do not use these herbs.)
½ oz Calendula flowers (Asteraceae)
½ oz Plantain leaf
1-quart size jar
1 quart of hot water
French press (this is the easiest way), or you can simply use a quart size jar. Fill the jar with the suggested amount of herbs, pour the hot water over the herbs and cover. Let sit for 10-15 minutes, or overnight for a much stronger infusion. Then you will need a pot and a fine strainer. Pour the infusion through the mesh strainer and into the pot. Take a spoon and press out all the remaining liquid from the herbs. Discard the herbs (called marc if you want to get really fancy! These herbs are great for composting!) and pour the infusion back into the rinsed jar. You can consume it hot, or cold which ever you prefer!
1oz passionflower herb
1oz skullcap herb
1oz valerian root
1-quart size jar
Approximately 12 oz of brandy (or menstruum), or until the herbs are completely covered in alcohol. Place in a cool dark place and shake daily.
After one month strain out the herbs using the same method as mentioned above in the infusion explanation. Be sure the press out all the remaining liquid from the spent marc (or herb material).
Bottle in the same cleaned jar, or if you want to be official, get yourself a brown 8oz bottle and pour your tincture in it.
This tincture is sedative and designed for restorative, and restful sleep! You only need about 1 dropper (or 30 drops) full before bed.
There are many ways you can infuse an herb in oil.
The first things that you will need are:
The herb you want to infuse, a jar, an oil of your choice, and some sort of heating device.
If you are looking for face oil, I prefer two types of oils: Rosehip seed, or Jojoba. Both of those are the lightest and the closest to our natural skin sebum or oil.
If you are looking for oil for the rest of the body, I prefer safflower. It is again less dense and seems to do well in larger areas of the body.
For the hair I prefer sweet almond. It is much thicker and moisturizing.
Infusing the herbs in oil either takes time or it takes heat. If you do not mind waiting, then the process is the same as a tincture except instead of alcohol you would use oil. Keep away from direct sunlight and shake daily.
If you are impatient, like me, then you will need some heat. Creating a double boiler is the way to go. You can take your jar full of herbs and oil and place it in a crockpot with water in it. Be sure to not get any water in your oil mixture!! Just let the water surround the jar of oil up to where the oil line is in the jar.
Put the crock on very low heat for about 4 days. Always check the water level in the crock every 4 hours or so. You can feel free to unplug it at night and if you leave to go to work. Just turn it back on when you wake up or come home.
If the herb you would like to infuse is fresh it contains water so you will have to leave the lid off the jar to allow the excess water to evaporate from the jar.
If the herb is dry just gently place the lid on don’t screw it on tight.
After four days of on and off heating your oil is ready! Simply strain like the tincture or infusion and enjoy your beautiful herbal oil.
If you want to take it one step further you can add some beeswax and make a salve!
These are just a couple of ways that you can make your own medicine at home. If you want more ideas or different things to try Dr. Sharol Tilgner’s book; “Medicine from the Heart of the Earth” is a really great reference for medicine making. You can always reach out to me anytime you need any more information!
-Carrie Calvin, Licensed Clinical Herbalist & Nutritionist