How to prepare and use herbs

Common ways to use herbal remedies

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How to utilize herbs for healing

Like a lot of folks in the holistic health and natural healing fields, I started with herbs. I read about herbal remedies, tried MANY over the years, and helped others choose herbs that might be helpful for their issues when I was a wellness counselor.

There are common ways to use herbs and this is just a few of the terms you might see when working with herbal remedies.

Infusion – a teaspoon of leaves, blossoms or herb flowers steeped in hot water. Water is poured over and then the herbs are steeped 3-5 minutes. Strain and enjoy.

Decoction: Stronger than infusions, decoctions come from stems, roots and barks of herbs. They are usually simmered uncovered for 10-20 minutes to extract the properties. Some tougher herbs are simmered covered, such as valerian or burdock root. Strain before using.

Fomentation – External application. Fomentations are used to treat aches and pains, swollen areas, cold and flu symptoms, etc. To prepare a fomentation, you soak a towel in the herbal tea or extract you want to use and warm the towel as hot as can be tolerated. You can warm in a warmer, the oven or microwave.
Cover the wet, hot towel with dry flannel. Keep on til cool, then repeat as needed.

Poultice – Herbal poultices can be used to reduce swelling, similar to fomentation but a poultice will contain a mass of the herbs themselves, rather than tea or extract. To make the herbal mix for the poultice just add enough water to form a thick paste, apply directly to skin and cover with hot moist towel. Of course, you should be sure you are not allergic to any of the herbs being applied to your skin. A lobelia poultice is often used for pain. Catnip and valerian also for this purpose.

Other terms for using herbs include plasters, slaves, extracts and capsules but that’s a blog post for another day.

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