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Herbal Preparation Methods

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There are many methods for preparing herbs for therapeutic effect. Here are some of the most popular.


Infusions are basically a herbal tea. You let the herb steep in hot or cold water for a while, then either reheat and drink, or drink it cool. You can use infusions in a bath, as a wash and for many other uses.

Method #1 Hot: Infuse 1 heaped teaspoon of dry herbs with one cup of boiling water. Steep for approx. 3-5 mins, and strain.

Cold: put 1 heaped teaspoon of dry herbs in 1 cup of cold water and soak for 8-10 hours, strain and slightly warm before drinking.

Method #2  (Chinese method) If you are using oyster shell, dragon bone or other minerals you have to add them to 6 cups of boiling water, simmer for 30 mins. If you have no minerals, or after the minerals have simmered for 30 mins, add your heavy roots and bark and simmer for another 20-30 mins. Then add any lighter twigs, fruits and leaves, simmer for another 10-15 mins. Finally remove from the heat and add any leaves and flowers, cover and steep for 10-20 mins. Strain, it’s ready to drink.

Method #3 Steep 2 teaspoons of dry herbal mixture in 2 cups of boiling water for 10-15 mins.

Method #4 Steep 1 oz – 1oz dried herbal mixture to 1 pint (600ml) of water for 10-20 mins, then strain and drink.

Herbal Wine

Use a sweet red wine with an alcohol content of at least 12%. Cover four ounces of herb with three cups of wine. Leave for a week before straining.

Take four teaspoons one or two times daily. Herbal wine is best used within a month.


A cream is a blend of oil, beeswax and water. You can make your own, or purchase an unscented, water based cream. After adding herb to purchased cream, simmer in the top of a double boiler for 30 minutes. Strain before it cools.

Melt two ounces beeswax in a double boiler. Add one cup olive or other vegetable oil and blend. Add two ounces herb. For lighter cream, add a little water, mixing well. Simmer 20 minutes, mixing well. Add a drop of tincture of benzoin as a preservative. Strain thorough a cloth in to sterilized jars


A Decoction is used when a plant is not soluble in hot or cold water but will be released by simmering. This is used for roots, heavy wooden plants. Make sure you don-t use an aluminium saucepan, as the metal will leech into the tea. Glass or ceramic is best.

Method #1  Use 1teaspoon dried plant matter to 1 cup of water. Simmer for 5-20 mins. 5 minutes for shredded plant, and 20 mins for larger pieces. Strain while hot. Drink.

Method #2 Use a handful of fresh herb, or 1 teaspoon of dried herb, simmer for 30 mins in 1cup of water.

Method # 3 Take 30g (1oz) dried herbal mixture and 500ml (16floz) cold water in a pan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10-15 mins.


Also called Fomentation. This is used when the herbs are too strong to ingest, as the skin allows a smaller amount of the herb to be absorbed slowly by the body.

Method – Make a herbal infusion/decoction and soak a face cloth, or cotton cloth in this. Squeeze out excess liquid, and apply to the effected area.


Capsules are used when the plant is unpalatable to take as a tea, or for herbs which require small doses. You can purchase empty capsules from most health food shops.

Method – Capsules come in 3 sizes, -0-, -00-, -000- being small, medium (normal) and large. A medium capsule will hold approx – teaspoon of herb. Fill the capsule with powdered herb. 1 capsule is equivalent to 1 cup of herbal tea.


A bolus is a suppository made from adding powdered herbs to cocoa butter to form a thick paste, which is then refrigerated. Once the bolus is hardened, bring it to room temperature, and it is ready to use. The cocoa butter will melt with the body heat releasing the herbs. You might like to wear old underwear to prevent staining as the bolus melts.


These are made to treat ailments such as strained muscles, arthritis or inflammation. It is similar to a tincture, but may be made using oil, vinegar or alcohol.

Method – Place 4oz of dried herbs of 8oz of fresh herb into a jar. Add 1 pint of Vinegar, alcohol or Vegetable oil. Shake the jar twice a day for 4 days for powdered herb, or 15 days for whole/chopped/sliced etc. herbs. Vitamin E or wheatgerm oil can be added to oil based extracts to help preserve them.


Ointments are used when the active principles of the herb are needed for longer periods of time, such as muscular aches.

Method #1 Take 1 – 2 heaped tablespoons of herb and bring to the boil in vaseline, stir then strain.  Use cold.

Method #2 Melt 1 cup each of beeswax and vegetable oil in a double boiler until the wax is molten.  Add a tablespoon of herbal extract (in an oil base), herbal infused oil or essential oils. If you wish to use herbs, use 1 tablespoon of dried herb, and strain through a heated metal strainer.


Oils are used when ointments or compresses are not practical. Always store your oils in amber glass bottles to prevent sunlight from reacting with the oils.

Method: Take 2 oz plant matter to 1 pint of oil. Leave this to stand for 4 days. If you want this process to happen quickly, you can heat the oil in a saucepan for 1 hour. A small amount of Vitamin E or Wheatgerm oil can be added to help preserve the oil.


A poultice is made from warm mashed herbs, which are applied directly to the skin. Used for inflammation, bites, boils, abscesses etc. You should apply oil to the area before applying the poultice.

Method #1 Add hot water, apple cider vinegar, herbal tea, liniment or tincture to the desired herbs, and mash them into a paste.

Method #2 In a saucepan bring water to the boil, suspend a sieve over the pan, and place into the sieve the fresh or dried herbs you will be using. Steam, these for a few minutes. Spread the softened herbs onto a cloth and apply to the affected area. Cover the compress with a bandage and leave for 2 hours.


A salve is similar to an ointment

Method: Take dried or fresh herbs and cover with water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 30 mins. Strain and add to an equal amount of vegetable oil. Simmer until the remaining water has evaporated from the oil. Add enough beeswax to give the salve a thick consistency (Remembering that it hardens as it cools) and pour into a jar.


Syrups are used for coughs, congestion, sore throats etc.

Method #1 Take 2 oz herb and boil in 1 quart of water until it has reduced to about 1 pint. While still warm ass 2 oz of honey and/or glycerin..

Method #2 Take 600ml (1 pint) boiling water and 900g (2 lb) of sugar. Bring this to the boil. Take off the heat, stir in tincture (3 parts syrup to 1 part tincture)


Tinctures are similar to extracts but are made using alcohol, allowing it to keep for longer periods of time. People with weak digestion may have trouble with tinctures.

Method #1 Combine 4oz of powdered or chopped herb with 1 pint of alcohol (Vodka, brandy, Gin, Rum etc.) Shake daily for 2 weeks, strain and bottle.

Method #2 Take a jar and place the dried herbal mixture into the bottom. Add alcohol to cover the herbs plus 1 inch. Leave sit for 2 weeks, strain.

Herbal Bath

A herbal bath is good for fevers and stress related conditions. A foot bath can be made for soaking tired sore feet, or for food conditions such a tinea, athletes foot and corns.

Method: Steep 200g of dried herb in cold water for 12 hours. Heat the infusion and then add it to your bath water. For a foot bath, steep 50g of herb with the method above, and add to a bucket of water.


Place 50g of dried herb in a bowl or in the sink. Pour a litre of boiling water over the herbs. Cover your head with a towel and hang your head over the bowl/sink to inhale the steam.


Slice garlic and place in a small amount of olive oil. Add a few lavender flowers. Leave sit for 2 hours then strain. Warm 1 tsp of oil by placing it over a cup of hot water. Put few drops into the ear and plug with cotton wool.

Bulk Herbs and Natural Products for Healthy, Natural Living

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2 Responses to Herbal Preparation Methods

  1. Engress September 10, 2010 at 3:58 pm #

    Dee,This is a wonderful article! I have never considered using herbs in this way but have enjoyed many different herbal teas. Normally I take showers but might just have to take a bath soon if I can fit in the bathtub! I especially like the idea of the inhalation method it fits perfectly with how I am feeling this morning. My sinuses are killing me. I will have to research a little on which herb to put in there but this article opened my eyes to a few things I want to try now. Thanks so much for all of the valuable information!


    • Dee Braun, DrR, CA, CCT September 11, 2010 at 12:46 am #

      Hi Engress! Thank you so much for the comment and you are welcome for the info! Eucalyptus and lavender would be good in the bath for sinus issues – also consider using some essential oils such as eucalyptus, pine and cypress. I hope you feel better soon!


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