Homemade Medicine

Guide to make your own simple, effective herbal remedies

Making our own herbal medicines and body care products can save money and improve our health, and it’s much easier than you may think. If you already make herbal teas, then making infusions, decoctions, tinctures, salves and poultices can quickly become part of your repertoire, too. Don’t worry if they sound confusing; you’ll soon discover how to prepare a variety of plants to make a range of simple but effective herbal medicines.

One very important note before you begin making herbal medicines: Always make sure you are using the correct plant (check the Latin name) and the correct part of the plant (flower, leaf, roots), as some parts may be toxic if used internally.

Internal Medicines

Tea Time

Making herbal tea may seem fairly straightforward, but to reap the greatest medicinal value from herbs, we need to do more than dunk a tea bag in hot water. There are two main forms of herbal tea: infusions and decoctions.

Infusions: Infusions are the commonly known form of herbal tea, in which herbs are literally infused in hot water, usually one heaping teaspoon of dried herb (or one teabag) per cup of hot water for 10 to 20 minutes. This is the ideal method for extracting the medicinal compounds in most berries, flowers, and leaves. You can also use fresh herbs, but because of their higher water content, you usually need to double the amount of herbal matter per cup of water (two teaspoons per cup of water instead of one).

Decoctions: To extract the medicinal compounds from seeds, roots or stems, you’ll want to make a decoction, which involves boiling the herbs and allowing them to simmer for about an hour, usually allowing one heaping teaspoon of dried herb per cup of water. Note that this method is less suitable for berries, flowers, and leaves because it tends to destroy many of the delicate medicinal compounds they contain. As with infusions, you can use fresh herbs, but you typically need to double the amount of herb matter per cup of water.

What if you want to make a tea from some combination of roots, berries, seeds, stems, flowers and leaves? Start by making a decoction with the roots, seeds or stems. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer to continue brewing for an hour. Turn off the heat and add any berries, flowers, and leaves. Allow the mixture to steep for an additional 10 to 20 minutes. Now you’ve extracted the best medicinal compounds from all of the herbal components you’re using.

Tinctures

Tinctures are alcohol extracts of fresh or dried herbs. They’re highly effective at preserving a plant’s active constituents. You can make a tincture from roots, leaves, seeds, stems or flowers.

To make an herbal tincture, finely chop the fresh, clean herb you are using. You can also use dried herbs. Either way, the idea is to chop the herb as much as possible, to give the alcohol as much surface area to act upon as you can. Some herbalists recommend grinding dried herbs in a coffee/spice grinder before making a tincture.

Place the chopped or ground herb in a half-quart or quart-sized glass jar. Fill the jar with as much plant matter as possible to ensure the medicinal value of your tincture, keeping in mind that you’ll need enough alcohol to completely submerge the herbal matter. Top with vodka or pure grain alcohol, making sure all of the plant matter is submerged in the alcohol to prevent mold growth. Note that different kinds of alcohol will produce different kinds of tinctures. Visit Mountain Rose Herbs for more information. Date and label the jar, and allow the mixture to sit for two weeks, shaking daily to encourage extraction. After two weeks, strain the contents through a cheesecloth-lined sieve. After most of the liquid has gone through the sieve, pull up the corners of the cheesecloth and, using clean hands, carefully wring out any remaining liquid. Store the herbal tincture in a dark glass jar or dropper bottle away from heat or sunlight to preserve its healing properties. Tinctures will usually keep for a few years. You can make an herbal tincture out of any medicinal or culinary herb that can be used internally. A typical tincture dose is 30 drops (about one dropper full) three times daily, but we recommend looking up specific dosage recommendations for the herbs you use. Avoid tinctures if you are pregnant or nursing, or if you have liver disease, diabetes or alcoholism.

Skin-Healing Medicines

Infused Oils

Infused oils are made by infusing herbs in oil, rather than alcohol as in tinctures. The infusion technique works to transfer the healing properties of herbs to oils. Infused oils are excellent for massage; as skin or bath oils; or as a basis for balms and salves, which I’ll explain in the next section. Never ingest these oils.

Infused oils are easy to make. Choose any type of vegetable or carrier oil, other than petrochemical-based oils such as baby oil or mineral oil. It is also best to avoid oils that break down quickly when exposed to heat, such as flaxseed oil. I prefer olive oil or sweet almond oil, which can be warmed to encourage the transfer of healing compounds from the herb matter to the oil.

You can make many types of infused oils, but two of the most common are St. John’s wort and calendula oils. St. John’s wort oil, made from the flowers of the plant, can be used for treating bruises, swellings, hemorrhoids, scars and sprains. It is also recommended as a topical treatment for eczema. Avoid sun exposure for a few hours after using this oil on your skin as it can cause photosensitivity. Calendula oil, also made from the flowers of the plant, aids wound healing and alleviate various skin conditions.

Making herbal infused oils is particularly suited for the delicate flowers and leaves of plants. Simply add fresh flowers or leaves to a jar and fill it with oil, such as sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil, almond oil or olive oil. You’ll want enough plant matter to ensure the medicinal value of the infused oil, but not packed so tightly that the oil cannot penetrate the plant material. The plant material must be completely submerged in the oil to prevent mold from forming. Label and date the jar, including the herb and the oil used. Allow the infusion to rest for two weeks, shaking the bottle periodically to encourage the infusion process. After two weeks, strain the herbs from the oil, squeezing out any remaining oil with clean hands. Cap and label the jar, and store away from light and heat.

Salves

Salves are basically herbal balms or ointments made by thickening herbal oil infusions with melted beeswax. Most health-food stores sell plain beeswax, which can be shaved with a potato peeler or grated with a cheese grater and then melted over low heat. You can also buy beeswax pastilles, which are ready to melt. Be sure to avoid other types of wax, as they are made of petroleum byproducts.

Allow two tablespoons of shaved, melted beeswax to one cup of infused oil after the herbal material has been strained off. Melt the oil and beeswax over low heat, preferably in a double-boiler, to prevent overheating. Stir regularly. Remove from the heat as soon as the beeswax is melted and well-incorporated into the oil. Immediately pour into small, shallow jars, tins or lip balm containers. Let cool undisturbed to allow the ointment to set. Use for skin irritations and other skin conditions, and for dry or chapped lips. Similar to herbal infusions, calendula, and St. John’s wort is excellent choices to use in salves.

Poultices

A poultice is a paste made with herbs that are applied to the skin. It is typically applied while hot or warm, except when made with herbs that are naturally chemically hot, such as chilies or ginger. To make a poultice, fill a natural-fiber cloth bag with powdered or chopped fresh herb matter. Tie it closed, and then place it in a bowl of hot water just long enough to soak and heat the herb. Remove it from the water, and apply to the affected area until the poultice has cooled and until you experience some relief. Reheat and reapply the poultice. It is best to use a fresh poultice each day.

Poultices are particularly effective in soothing aching or painful joints or muscles, as is the case with ginger. Calendula helps bruises and damaged skin, while echinacea boosts the immune system to help heal long-lasting wounds.

Some of My Favorite Healing Herbs

All of the herbs listed here are safe and effective. However, before making specific remedies of your own, make sure to research the herb you plan to use to ensure you’re using the right parts and amounts, as well as contraindications that may apply specifically to you and your circumstances.

• Calendula (Flowers): Skin healer extraordinaire
• Chamomile (Flowers): Relaxant and dental antimicrobial (use tea as a mouthwash)
• Dandelion (Roots or Leaves): Osteoporosis preventer and anticancer powerhouse
• Echinacea (Roots): Immune booster
• Feverfew (Flowers and Leaves): A headache and migraine alleviator
• Garlic (Cloves) Amazing germ buster
• Ginger: (Root): Muscle and joint pain healer
• Horsetail (Leaves): Nail, teeth and bone builder
• Juniper (Berries): Urinary tract antimicrobial
• Lavender (Flowers): Anxiety and depression alleviator
• Licorice (Root): Chronic fatigue syndrome solution
• Nettles (Leaves): Allergy remedy
• Oregano (Leaves): Antimicrobial antidote
• Peppermint (Leaves): Headache remedy and sinusitis aid
• Red Clover (Flowers): Relieves menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes
• Rosemary (Leaves): Memory booster
• St. John’s Wort (Flowers): Anxiety antidote and anticancer therapy; skin healer
• Thyme (Leaves): Cough and antibacterial medicine

Advertisements

Kitchen Cabinet Medicine ~ CCF Tea ~ Digestive Support

CCF Tea ~ Digestive Support

Long loved and cherished by Ayurvedic students and practitioners, CCF tea is a bit of an Ayurvedic staple. Simple, gentle, and tasty, this tea is easy to make and is ideal for supporting a balanced digestive system.

I was first introduced to CCF tea as a student of Ayurveda at the Ayurvedic Institute. The faculty always had a very large batch of CCF tea going throughout the day, which students were welcomed and encouraged to drink during class time. As this was a full-time and intensive program, we wound up drinking quite a lot of it. I can personally attest to its warming, soothing, and supportive effects on the digestive system.

CCF tea is recommended for those suffering from an inadequate or compromised digestion, which is to say, mostly everyone you pass by on the street. I have yet to meet the person who doesn’t need some sort of digestive tune-up from time to time.

Drinking CCF tea relieves indigestion (and prevents it from happening in the first place), decreases gas and bloating after eating, and gently kindles one’s overall digestive fire (Agni), so digestive capacity is improved over the long run.

CCF stands for the three herbs in the tea: Cumin, Coriander, and Fennel, which are common Indian culinary herbs that many people will already have in their kitchen spice rack.

Western herbalists refer to these herbs as being carminative:

“Carminatives’ main action is to soothe the gut wall, easing griping pains and reduce the production of gas in the digestive tract. This is usually due to the complex of volatile oils present, which have a locally anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic and mildly anti-microbial effect upon the lining and the muscle coats of the alimentary canal.

 

Ayurvedic medicine has paired this trio of herbs together specifically for their carminative actions. Ayurveda would call this “enkindling the digestion”.

Cumin

Cumin (Cuminum cyminum): The Sanskrit name for cumin (Jiraka) literally translates as ‘promoting digestion’. It is rich in essential oils and has an anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, and gentle diuretic effect on the body. Cumin is indicated for sluggish or slow digestion, indigestion, nausea, flatulence, and bloating.

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum): The Sanskrit name for coriander (Dhanyaka) also means ‘rich’. Coriander is a gentle appetite stimulant and antispasmodic herb that is particularly suited for the hyper, acidic, or otherwise ‘burning’ qualities of digestion. It is soothing and anti-inflammatory to the tissues, and its diuretic action removes excess heat and toxins from the body.

fennel-seedsFennel (Foeniculum vulgare): The Sanskrit name for fennel (Madhurika) translates as “the sweet one”. Fennel is particularly useful as an antispasmodic, relieving painful flatulence, cramps, bloating, indigestion, and colic in children. It is rich in sweet tasting volatile oils and assists digestive flow in its natural downward motion. It is also slightly diuretic and has the added benefit of increasing milk production in nursing mothers (don’t worry – if you aren’t nursing, you won’t start producing milk by drinking fennel tea).

RECIPE – CCF TEA

2 teaspoons whole Cumin seeds

2 teaspoons whole Coriander seeds

2 teaspoons whole Fennel seeds

4.5 cups water

Combine the seeds and water in a pot, cover with a lid, and bring to a boil on the stove top. Turn to low, and very gently simmer for 20 minutes, keeping the pot covered.

After 20 minutes, remove from heat, and let sit for 5-10 minutes. This will make approximately 3 full cups of tea.

Strain the herbs, and drink warm or hot before or after meals.

This tea can also be sipped throughout the day to keep your digestive system ‘enkindled’, and happily churning along.

Kitchen Cabinet Medicine : 3 Herbs For A Cold

Got a cold, sick in bed? Find relief and comfort with this simple tea blend using 3 common culinary herbs.

When down with a cold, a hot cup of tea can go a long way. But it can be hard to take care of ourselves when we feel lousy. Grogginess, grumpiness, and exhaustion can overwhelm our capabilities for self-care. That’s why I often recommend this totally simple (yet very effective) herbal tea that makes use of some readily available kitchen herbs.

Kitchen Cabinet Medicine – Tea blend for a cold 

  • 2 teaspoons thyme leaf
  • 2 teaspoons sage leaf
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds – gently broken up in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder

Use high quality, organic herbs. If you’re a cook, you’ll probably have these herbs on hand in your spice rack. Put the herbs into a medium sized teapot or jar. Pour 2 cups freshly boiled water over the herbs, and cover. Let infuse for 10 – 15 minutes. This tea must be covered while steeping, to preserve the medicinal volatile oils in the plants. Strain and pour into your tea cup.  Add 1/2 – 1 teaspoon honey, if desired. Re-steep the herbs with more hot water for another brew. After 2 batches, start again with fresh herbs.

thyme-teaThyme (Thymus vulgaris): Used in herbal medicine for its antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antiviral actions. Being anti-inflammatory, it helps to soothe a sore throat and inflamed tissues, and thyme is traditionally used for bronchitis, whooping cough, asthma, and upper respiratory tract infection and congestion.

sage-teaSage (Salvia officinalis): Similar to thyme, the sage leaf is antimicrobial against infection, and also anti-inflammatory. It soothes mucous membranes and particularly brings relief to a sore throat.

fennel-seed-tea-tangylife-1Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare): Soothes a cough, moistens the mucous membranes and loosens congestion, warms the digestive system, and relieves nausea. Fennel also has a soothing taste which can be comforting and relaxing during illness.

honey-lemon-tea-a-800-dmHoney: Raw, unpasteurized honey from a quality source is an excellent medicinal aid. Being antimicrobial and antibacterial, raw honey not only sweetens your tea but provides additional support to your immune system as an added benefit.

* Make an overnight infusion – If you are sick today, and know you’ll probably be sick tomorrow, make this tea in a larger quantity as an overnight infusion. In a glass jar, pour 4 cups hot water over 1 tablespoon of each herb (3 tablespoons in total). Cover, and let infuse overnight. This makes a wonderfully rich tea that only needs to be gently reheated (not to boiling point) the next day for drinking. Add honey as desired and drink throughout the day.

Cardamom Tea

Cardamom has many health benefits from detoxification, oral health, digestion. Usually its the seeds in the cardamom pods that hold flavor and you can remove the seeds and then blend to have a powder, but I felt that using the pods/ shells reduces the work, later you can sieve it to get a fine powder.
HOW TO MAKE CARDAMOM POWDER

Prep time – 10 mins
Makes – 1 and 1/4 cup cardamom powder
Storing suggestion – in an air-tight container in room temperature

Ingredients

Cardamom seeds- 1/2 cup
Sugar – 3/4 th cup

Method

Using a mixer blend the sugar and cardamom pods for 3-4 minutes giving an interval of 30 seconds every minute. This is to avoid the mixer becoming really hot. later sieve this powder to grind again, let it cool down completely. Store in an air-tight container and use as and when required.

HOW TO MAKE CARDAMOM TEA/ ELACHI CHAI / YELLAKAI TEA

Ingredients

Tea powder – 3 teaspoons ( I used Taj Mahal Gold)
Water – 1/2 cup
Cardamom powder – 1 tsp
Milk – 1 and 12 cup
Sugar – 3 tsp (as required)

Method

In a saucepan bring water to a boil, add tea powder and let it boil further for a minute, now add milk, let it boil, add the sugar and cardamom powder and switch off

Serve hot along with crisps or snacks

Cooks Wisdom

  • You can remove the shells of the cardamom and use only the seeds to make a fine powder
  • Tea can be made with boiling tea powder in milk or with water and then adding milk. Since I used full fat milk I used water to make the tea
  • Store the cardamom powder in a moisture free air tight jar for long life.

Rose Hip Tea

It’s amazing what I find on my walks around my neighborhood. I’m lucky enough to live in a place where blackberry bushes are literally everywhere and fruit trees grow on almost every street. We’re talking figs, various varieties of plums, apples, and pears. Gorgeous curbside gardens overflowing with kale, chard, and tomatoes are the norm. Artichokes are growing on street corners. Seriously people, I live in a city that’s full of incredible food! And the best part is that gardeners are willing to share it! It’s pretty freaking awesome if you ask me. Just the other day, I came home with at least eight pounds worth of fruit just picked from some neighbors’ trees.

On one of my walks yesterday, I came across a gorgeous wild rose bush that was bursting with these gorgeous ruby orbs. They’re called rose hips, and while they may not be the first to come to mind when you think of edible fruits, they certainly are a fruit that’s worth looking for. Rose hips are the fruits that develop from the rose blossoms after their petals have fallen off. Cool, right? Heck, I’d take a bouquet of rose hips over the their flowered counterpart any day!

So why should we be eating rose hips? Well, upon doing a little research, I discovered that these little red fruits are incredibly nutritious. Apparently, just a single teaspoon of rose hip pulp provides more Vitamin C than an orange, making it an excellent immune system booster. Rose hips are also incredibly high in beta carotene (thanks to their incredible reddish-orange color). Beta carotene is essential for maintaining gorgeous skin and healthy cells. It’s astonishing how high the antioxidant content of rose hips is! I even read that rose hips are clinically proven to improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Those are some powerful fruits, I tell ya.

Rose hips can be eaten fresh (after the seeds have been scooped out) or they can be dried and stored for later use. I’ve seen recipes for rose hip jams, syrups, and tinctures. In fact, there is even a traditional Swedish rose hip soup that is quite popular during the cold winter months to help fend off colds and flu. Here, I chose to make a simple rose hip tea to really enjoy their health benefits. Depending on the variety of rose, the hips will vary slightly in appearance and flavor. The rose hips I found were from a rugosa rose bush, which is known for having the biggest, most vibrantly colored rose hips. Overall, they have a mildly tart taste and remind me a bit of the flavor of cherry tomatoes.

There are a few ways to make rose hip tea. I chose to steep the rose hips in a teapot of boiling water for about 20-30 minutes, but you can also simmer them on the stove in water for the same amount of time until they break up and form a pulp. Either way works, just strain the pulp before drinking the tea. And of course, you can eat the pulp, as well!

Fresh Rose Hip Tea (makes 2 cups)

10-12 fresh rose hips, seeds removed
2 cups boiling water
1. Put the rose hips in a teapot or French press. Pour boiling water over them, cover, and let steep for your desired amount of time. (See note above).
2. Strain through a fine mesh strainer or push the plunger of the French press.  I pressed on the rose hips to release more of their goodness. Sweeten the tea with honey, if desired. And eat the rose hips, if you’d like an extra boost of Vitamin C!

Chrysanthemum

Chrysathemum morifolium

chrysanthemum-flowerAlso Known As

  • Chrysanthemum
  • Ju Hua

The western world knows the Chinese plant “Ju hua” as the florists’ chrysanthemum, primarily valued as an ornamental plant. However, the chrysanthemum is a well known medicinal herb in China, where it is also commonly drunk as an energizing tisane as well. Vision is improved by using the herbal medication made from the chrysanthemum. The floral medication is also used to soothe sore eyes as well as to bring relief from persistent headaches and to counteract all kinds of seasonal infections including the common cold and the flu. In addition, clinical research conducted on the herb and its properties shows that the chrysanthemum is a very helpful remedy for the treatment of high blood pressure problems in patients.

Commonly Used Parts of the Chrysanthemum

Flowering tops.

Recommended Use

The Chinese have utilized herbal remedies made from the chrysanthemum for thousands of years. The herb has been used as a medicine and as a beverage for centuries in China. Ancient writings confirm the long use of the remedies made from the chrysanthemum, the herb finds mention and is categorized in the Divine Husbandman’s Classic, called “Shen’nong Bencaojing”. This treatise was written down sometime during the 1st century AD in China.
Herbal remedies made from the infused floral heads are popular in China to treat reddened and sore eyes, particularly if this is brought on by long periods of time spent in work requiring intense use of the eyes – including activities like reading or working at a computer terminal. The treatment consists of placing warm flower heads over the closed eyelids, these are replaced when they become cool – this treatment supposedly brings relief to the eyes. An herbal chrysanthemum infusion is also consumed to improve eyesight by people with faltering sight.
The herbal infusion made from the chrysanthemum is also used in reducing the elevated temperature in the body affected by fever, as well as to counter infection, and in detoxifying the body in general. Remedies made from the chrysanthemum can help bring relief from mild fevers and alleviate tension headaches. These remedies help bring soothing relief from a dry mouth or dryness in the throat, and are an aid in treating bad breath in people.
An antiseptic herbal poultice is prepared from fresh chrysanthemum leaves, this poultice is used in treating problems on the skin such as acne and pimples, in treating boils, and sores on the skin. The herbal remedies made from the chrysanthemum are also used to alleviate physical symptoms that are commonly associated with high blood pressure problems, including sudden spells of dizziness, prolonged headaches, and tinnitus or ringing in the ears. These symptoms can all be relieved using the herbal chrysanthemum remedy. Children suffering from convulsions are often given an herbal mixture of the chrysanthemum with other beneficial herbs.

Other medical uses
  • Abscess

Growing Chrysanthemum

The chrysanthemum plant is indigenous to China and other Far Eastern countries – it grows in the wild in eastern Asia. However, due to its ornamental value, the plant is mostly cultivated and is naturalized in many other countries. The plant is propagated from the cuttings which are planted in the spring or in the early summer months. Gardeners around the world are familiar with the chrysanthemum flowers. During the fall, the flower heads open fully and they are usually gathered from the field at this time. Floral heads to be used in herbal medications are normally dried by exposing them to sunlight; this process is needless to say a long drawn out affair and takes many days.

Research

Chrysanthemum was extensively investigated in a number of Japanese and Chinese led clinical trials during the 1970’s. These tests demonstrated that the chrysanthemum was quite effective in reducing elevated blood pressure and in relieving the physical symptoms that accompany such blood pressure problems. These symptoms including persistent headaches, spells of dizziness, as well as insomnia. The chrysanthemum used in these trials was mixed with the jin yin hua herb. Researchers also say that chrysanthemum possesses a potent antibiotic effect and it was subsequently proven to be useful in treating angina and related cardiac problems.

Constituents

Chrysanthemum contains alkaloids, volatile oil, sesquiterpene lactones, flavonoids, adenine, choline, stachydrine, chrysanthemin, and vitamin B1.

Recommended Dosage of Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum_TeaThe herbal infusion made from the chrysanthemum may be drank three times daily at a dosage of 200 ml or 8 fl oz per dose. Dosages of this infusion recommended in Chinese medicine is about 4.5 – 15 g or 1/4 – 3/4 oz per dose per person on a daily basis.

How Chrysanthemum Works in the Body

In clinical research carried out on the active constituents of the chrysanthemum, it has been established that the herb possesses antibiotic principles which under laboratory conditions act against both the staphylococcus and streptococcus strains of bacteria. The herb can be considered to be a general remedy against infection in the body from different strains of bacteria. At the same time, the beneficial action of yellow chrysanthemum on disorders such as headache and eye problems is supported by clinical research done on high blood pressure and its causes. During the course of one study, forty six patients suffering from essential hypertension and atherosclerosis displayed an improvement in different conditions that ranged from headaches and spells of dizziness to insomnia following just one week of treatment using the herbal remedy. The elevated blood pressure of thirty five of the patients returned to normal, and continuing improvements in the condition of the remaining patients was also observed. Respiratory disorders are also beneficially affected by remedies made from the chrysanthemum; it is used to clear fevers and headaches accompanying common colds and flu. An herbal infusion made from the chrysanthemum has traditionally been employed as a tonic for the eyes, particularly in the treatment of reddened, painful, and dry eyes or in case of excessive watering of the eyes. Remedies made from the chrysanthemum are also used in treating disorders such as spots appearing in front of the eyes, blurred vision, or to quell sudden spells of dizziness in a person. In the Chinese system of medicine, the properties given to the remedies made from the herb include sweet, bitter, and slightly cold effects.