Understanding Herbal Preparations

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There are many ways to invite herbs into your life. Sometimes it can get confusing reading about the different ways you can administer them. Here’s a run-down of major preparations and how they are made.

Herbal Teas/Infusion – A tea or infusion can be a mixture of herbs which include leaves, stems, and flowers. Steeping herbal teas for at least 10 minutes in boiling water allows for most benefits.

Decoction – This also is steeping plants in boiled water, but decoctions include bark, nuts, roots, and seeds steeping from 20 minutes to overnight.

Syrup – A syrup is infused herbs in boiling water mixed with honey and may or may not include alcohol. The end result is a thick, syrup.

Elixir/Tonic – An elixir is similar to how a syrup is made, but it is not heated  to make a thick syrup. Herbs are infused with an alcohol and honey and left to sit for several weeks similar to how a cordial might taste.

Poultice – Ground herbs mixed with a liquid to become a paste to spread on a cloth over wounds or infections.

Extract – Herbs are infused in 80% alcohol for a long period of time (usually 2 months and longer). Either fresh herbs are used in 1:2 ratio or dried herbs used 1:5 ratio.

Tincture – A tincture is taken by diluting an extract in boiling water or juice.

Capsule – Most herbal supplements are taken by a capsule form full of powdered herbs.

Liniment – Herbal extract used for exterior use. (i.e. sore muscles)

Lozenge/pastilles  – A paste of powdered herbs and honey are hardened into a lozenge.

Salve – Used on the skin, usually made with beeswax, infused oils, and sometimes essential oils. Ingredients are heated and then left to cool into a solid.

Cream/lotions – Also used on the skin made with beeswax, infused oils, a butter (like Shea) essential oils and distilled waters. Depending on ratios a cream can be thicker than a lotion.

Infused Oils – Carrier oils infused with herbs and set for at least a couple weeks in the sun (or in a double boiler for quicker infusions)

Diffusions – Using hot or cold steam to diffuse essential oils into the air.

Hydrosol – Steam condensation left over from infusing floral waters. Used mostly as toners.

Essential Oil – concentrated liquid containing volatile compounds from the plant. This is the true aroma essence from plants.

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