Curing With Herbs: How to Properly Prepare and Use Them

James R. Coffey By James R. Coffey, 11th Sep 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Health>Alternative Medicine

While a growing number of people are choosing natural herbal curatives over synthetic pharmaceuticals, many are unaware of the various methods by which herbs can be utilized, or how to properly prepare them. Here are the primary methods of preparation and delivery every herb user should know.


Infusion is the most common way people know to brew tea, as well as prepare healing herbs. This is done by putting a tablespoon of leaves, blossoms, or flowers in a cup and pouring boiling water over them, letting it steep for 3 to 5 minutes, then straining. Many people use a tea bell (or ball) to contain the tea so that it can easily be removed once the infusion process is complete. This can also be done in a Mason canning jar when larger amounts are needed--just increase the amount of herbs accordingly. (One word of caution, some herbs become toxic when boiled, so unless you know which herbs fall into this category, you’ll want to let the water stop bubbling before pouring it into your cup.)


Decoction is a method by which the deeper essences of harder and courser herbs such as stems, bark, and roots are extracted. This is accomplished by covering ¾ cup of herbs in a clean sauce pan (glass is preferred) with water and simmering uncovered on low heat until the water has reduced by 1/3 through evaporation (this should take between 10 and 20 minutes). If your herb(s) begin to scorch or the water evaporates too soon, discard contents, refill herbs with double the amount of water, and turn the heat slightly lower. For especially dense herbs like Valerian and Burdock, it will be necessary to simmer them in a covered pan for 10 to 20 minutes to extract their medicinal properties.


Fomentation is an external application of herb(s) generally used to treat swelling and join pain, but also colds and flu. To prepare a fomentation, soak a towel or clean cloth in the chosen herb after preparing it by one of the two extraction methods described above. While still hot, apply the towel to the affected area (as hot as can be tolerated). Next, cover the towel with a second, dry cotton or flannel cloth, to keep in the healing properties. Repeat as needed (usually when it becomes cold). For colds and flu, place the fomentation cloths on the chest or upper back.


A poultice is usually used to reduce swelling by applying a warm mass of powdered, moistened herbs directly to the skin. To prepare, add just enough hot water to make a thick paste of the chosen herb(s), then apply directly to the skin. Cover with a moist towel and leave on until it cools. Repeat as often as needed. To draw toxins out of the skin, Comfrey or Plantain work very well for many. To relieve pain in joints or muscle spasms, Lobelia, Kava Kava, Catnip, or Valerian are commonly used with great results.


A plaster is very similar to a poultice, the difference being with a plaster, the herb(s) are placed between two pieces of cloth (cotton or flannel is best) and applied to the affected area. When the skin is already suffering an irritation, this method will serve to prevent the herb from further exacerbating the condition.


To prepare a topical salve, use 2 tablespoons of powdered herb(s), 7 ounces of pure vegetable shortening, and 1 ounce of beeswax (more if the consistency turns out too thin). Blend all the ingredients in a small, clean glass pan over low heat for 1 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally with a chop stick or wooden spoon. Remove from heat, set aside and allow to congeal. When firm, it’s ready to use. To store salve, use small glass containers that have been thoroughly washed and dried or sterilized in boiling water. Store in the refrigerator.


Extracts are highly concentrated alcohol bases in liquid form derived from pure herbs. While the process is highly dangerous to perform at home (and therefore won’t be described here), extracts are readily available in a variety of health-related shops today. Expect to pay accordingly for these since they are highly concentrated and generally no more than 3 to 4 drops constitutes a dose (but as many as 15 drops of certain extracts may be called for). Be sure to compare prices, concentrations, and alcohol percentages before deciding you have what you need at the right price.


Capsules are the most common way people take their herbs. While this method does add an element of convenience, it is possible to purchase empty capsules mail-order and prepare them yourself--at a huge savings. And considering that most encapsulated herbs have not been strictly regulated as to the quality of the herb, making your own can take the guesswork out of what you’re taking, and allow you to combine herbs not commonly found together.

(Remember: Just as with pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter remedies, not all people respond to herbal remedies in the same way. It is possible for herbal remedies to have no affect whatsoever, or to trigger quite a negative reaction. Should you suffer any ill-effects from an herbal remedy, immediately cease using the herb(s) in question (whatever the form or preparation). Rest assured, however, that just because you’ve had a negative reaction to one herb, doesn’t mean there aren’t other herbs that will work quite splendidly for you. It may just take a little trail-and-error--just as with prescription medications.)

pennyarcade(dot)com (tea/infusion)
allcreatures(dot)org (decoction)
theevanoffs(dot)com (fomentation)
growingpleasures(dot)com (poultice)
farma...gspot(dot)com (plaster prep)
phisick(dot)com (salve jars)
dreamtime(dot)com (capsules)


Capsules, Decoction, Extracts, Fomentation, Herbal Medicine, Herbal Products, Herbal Remedies, Herbal Tea, Herbal Teas, Herbal Tinctures, Herbology, Herbs, Infusion, Natural Curatives, Natural Cures, Natural Healing, Natural Medicine, Natural Remedies, Plaster, Poultice, Salves

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author avatar James R. Coffey
I am founder and head writer for James R. Coffey Writing Services and Resource Center @ where I offer a variety of writing and research services including article composition, ghostwriting, editing...(more)

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author avatar siboiss
16th Sep 2010 (#)

Well, you are just a bundle of information. Thanks for the info on Herbs, it will be useful!

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author avatar James R. Coffey
16th Sep 2010 (#)

Well, I've been a researcher for 35 years, so you tend to accumulate some useful info!

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author avatar Retired
16th Sep 2010 (#)

Really great information. I love simple and to the point. Thank you :)

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author avatar dak
16th Sep 2010 (#)

Thanks for sharing; I prefer natural remedies; good information.

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author avatar Jerry Walch
16th Sep 2010 (#)

Very informative.

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author avatar Denise O
26th Sep 2010 (#)

I agree , very informative.
I started to use herbs about 10 years ago and I swear by them.
People just need to tell their doctors what they are taking, just in case they are given a man-made script, it might create a bad reaction, if the doctor does not know what kind of herbs you're taking.
Good read, thanks.

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