A part of the art of herbal medicine is to know how to best prepare an herb in order to release the best medicinal properties. Herbs can be used for internal and external use. They are normally more effective when used internally.
Decoctions, infusions, tinctures as well as dry preparations are the four main internal preparations.
Compresses, washes, salves and poultices are the four main external preparations.
Internal preparations of Herbs
The most common preparations are infusion and decoctions which are both water based. Most infusions are made of flowers and leaves while decoctions are made with barks, roots, seeds and berries. An infusion is one of the simplest form of herbal preparation known to many. A god example of infusion is making a cup of tea. The procedure is very similar: take a teapot, pout dried herbs, pour a cup of boiling water and let it sit. It is recommended to drink infusions when they are hot. The decoction uses a lot more heat so as to extract the active constituents from the hard parts of the plant. You are required to put a teaspoon of the plant matter in a saucepan. It should be powdered, broken or crushed into very small pieces. Then add a cup of water and bring to boil. Make sure it reaches the boiling point and turn the heat down and simmer for about 15 minutes. You should strain and drink while the mixture is still hot.
Tinctures are highly concentrated forms of medicinal herbs. They are usually made by extracting the active consistent with a mixture of alcohol and water. This is by far, the most common form of herbal medicine used by most naturopaths and herbalists. It is quite easy to make at home but most people do not use this technique. The procedure is to start by putting finely chopped dried matter into a glass jar. Then pout half a liter of alcohol over the plant matter. You should keep the container in the dark for about 4 to 6 weeks and shake the mixture periodically. Then after which, you should strain the tincture through the fine mesh strainer. Tinctures are always stronger than the infusions and decoction so should be used in smaller doses.
Dry Preparations of Herbs
Most of the herbs are sold while dried and in powdered form. There are two main ways to take the powdered herbs; as capsules or as tea.
External Preparations of Herbs
The topical remedies are best used for the localized skin or the muscle complaints.
You can simply use the infusion method or the decoction to make a herb that will used to wash the affected area. A compression is a more concentrated application but used to accelerate the healing of the skin. It is mainly used for fungal skin infections, muscle aches as well as wounds, rashes and eczema.