Herbs are very useful not only to help the human body grow and function (eat your veggies kiddies), but they are good for other reasons such as medical and magical. In my lessons you will not only learn the magical reasons to use herbs but the medical reasons for some of them too. A lot of you already know about aloe so I will use that as an example here.
Aloe - medical purpose - treats sun burn, and in small amounts such as a tea, can help with stomach problems and in a mild amount can cure constipation (that means you can't poop)
Magical purpose- Aloe is good for protection (like many herbs) but it can be used as a substitute for various herbs that you may not have in your area. it can substitute cloves, or any protection herb.
The Following are ways to use herbs and this is the main point of this lesson.
Air drying herbs is not only the easiest and least expensive way to dry fresh herbs, but this slow drying process also doesn't deplete the herbs of their oils. This process works best with herbs that don't have a high moisture content, like Bay, Dill, Marjoram, Oregano, Rosemary, Summer Savory and Thyme. Moisture dense herbs, like Basil, Chives, Mint, Tarragon preserve better in a dehydrator, or try freezing them. Use a microwave or oven to dry herbs only as a last resort. These actually cook the herbs to a degree, diminishing the oil content and flavor.
* Harvest before flowering. If you've been harvesting all season, your plants probably haven't had a chance to flower. But non-hardy herbs will start to decline as the weather cools, so late summer is a good time to begin drying your herbs.
* Cut in mid-morning. Let the morning dew dry from the leaves, but pick before the plants are wilting in the afternoon sun.
How To Dry Herbs
1. Cut healthy branches from your herb plants.
2. Remove any dry or diseased leaves
3. Shake gently to remove any insects.
4. If necessary, rinse with cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Wet herbs will mold and rot.
5. Remove the lower leaves along the bottom inch or so of the branch.
6. Bundle 4 - 6 branches together and tie as a bunch. You can use string or a rubber band. The bundles will shrink as they dry and the rubber band will loosen, so check periodically that the bundle is not slipping. Make small bundles if you are trying to dry herbs with high water content.
7. Punch or cut several holes in a paper bag. Label the bag with the name of the herb you are drying.
8. Place the herb bundle upside down into the bag.
9. Gather the ends of the bag around the bundle and tie closed. Make sure the herbs are not crowded inside the bag.
10. Hang the bag upside down in a warm, airy room.
11. Check in about two weeks to see how things are progressing. Keep checking weekly until your herbs are dry and ready to store.
Storing Dried Herbs
1. Store your dried herbs in air tight containers. Zip closing bags will do. I like to use small canning jars.
2. Be sure to label and date your containers.
3. Your herbs will retain more flavor if you store the leaves whole and crush them when you are ready to use them.
4. Discard any dried herbs that show the slightest sign of mold.
5. Place containers in a cool, dry place away from sunlight.
6. Dried herbs are best used within a year. As your herbs lose their color, they are also losing their flavor.
7. Use about 1 teasthingy crumbled dried leaves in place of a tablesthingy of fresh
If you had been in the audience at one of Doc Wellman's Amazing Traveling Medicine Shows during the late 19th century, you would have probably bought a tincture after the performance. A tincture is an alcohol-based derivative of a fresh herb or other natural plant material, used primarily as an alternative medicine or dietary supplement. Few mainstream pharmaceuticals still offer medicines in tincture form, although this method is still popular among herbalists and homeopathic practitioners.
One of the main problems faced by early pharmacists was drug potency. Many drug compounds were mixed by hand at the drugstore and sold to patients soon afterwards. The drugs in powdered form often lost much of their potency within a few days or weeks. Remedies in tincture form, however, could remain potent for several years.
The alcohol, glycerin or vinegar used in a tincture added stability to the concentrated chemicals found in the herbs. Although hundreds of herbs and plants could survive the tincture process, the most common tincture formulas involved chemicals like laudanum, mecurochrome and iodine. An opium-based anesthetic called tincture of paregoric was also very popular in the late 19th century.
Because the list of ingredients is small and the process very straightforward, many believers in herbal medications make their own tinctures to this day. Homemade tinctures are considerably cheaper than their commercial counterparts, and they remain potent for up to two years. To prepare an herbal tincture, you will need a supply of dried, powdered or fresh herbs; a clean wide-mouthed jar; cheesecloth or muslin; and a supply of vodka or rum.
Place the herbs inside the jar and pour enough vodka or rum to cover them completely. Continue to pour the alcohol until you've reached the halfway point of the jar. Place a lid on the jar and store it in a dark, cool place for up to two weeks.
Shake the jar at least once a day. The alcohol should draw out the essence of the herbs. After two weeks, carefully strain the tincture through a cheesecloth or muslin into another clean jar and store it in a medicine cabinet. Most tincture recipes call for one tablesthingy to be consumed at mealtime at least once a day. In place of the vodka or rum, vinegar or glycerin can be used. The ultimate point of a tincture is not to cause intoxication, but to provide the strongest possible concentration of an herb's healing essences.
An infusion is the outcome of steeping plants with a desired flavour in water or oil.
An infusion is very similar to a decoction but is used with herbs that are more volatile or dissolve readily in water, or release their active ingredients easily in oil. Boiling water is poured over the herb (or water of the appropriate temperature) and allow to steep for a time, usually 15 to 30 minutes or until the mix cools. The mix is then strained, bottled, and refrigerated for future use. Quantities of the herb/water or oil mix will vary according to the herb or how strong the infusion is required to be. A common proportion used is one ounce of herb to one pint of liquid.
A decoction is a method of extraction of herbal or plant material, which includes, but is not limited to:
Some 'teas' are decoctions. Likewise, the term is used colloquially in South India to refer to black coffee prepared by the traditional method. Decoctions, however, differ from most teas, infusions, or tisanes, in that decoctions are usually boiled.
Use in herbalism
In herbalism, decoctions are usually made to extract fluids from hard plant materials such as roots and bark. To achieve this, the plant material is usually boiled for 8?10 minutes in water. It is then strained.