Making Herbal Teas, Tinctures, Syrups, Ointments, and Powders

TEAS

Not all herbs are suitable for making tea, so become informed on each particular herb before ingesting a tea made from it. The major difference when making medicinal tea, is that more attention should be paid to covering the water pot as much as possible to trap the beneficial properties of the herb. While the aroma of the tea is part of the enjoyment for making beverages, there should be no aroma when making tea for medicinal use.

Medicinal Teas

  • Difficulty: easy
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tea

Ingredients

  • fresh or dried herbs
  • water

Directions

  1. Bring cool water to a boil.
  2. Put the herbs in a non-metallic container. (Metal containers can interfere with the purity of the tea) Add 2 tablespoons of fresh, or 1 tablespoon of dried herb (or crushed seed) to the pot for each cup of water, plus an extra 2 tablespoons of fresh or 1 tablespoon of dried “for the pot.” (For iced tea, increase to 3 tablespoons of fresh and 2 tablespoons of dried herb to allow for watering down by melting ice).
  3. Pour the boiling water over the herbs.
  4. Let them steep, covered, for about 5 minutes. This is not an exact time, and you should check at varying intervals to find the right strength for your purposes.
  5. Strain the herbs out of the water when the desired strength is reached.
  6. Finish with herb sprigs, honey, or citrus fruits.

TINCTURES

To make a tincture with alcohol, the alcohol has to be at least 80-proof (40 percent alcohol) to prevent any mildewing of the plant material in the bottle. If you can get your hands on 100-proof (50 percent alcohol) that’s is even better. This high-proof alcohol acts as a preservative, and if you store your tinctures in a cool, dark place, they can have a shelf life of 7-10 years.

To make your own tinctures:

Medicinal Tinctures

  • Difficulty: easy
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tincture

Ingredients

  • fresh or dried herbs
  • ONE of either:
    • alcohol
    • glycerine
    • apple cider vinegar

Directions

  • fill a jar about 3/4 with fresh herbs, or 1/2 for dried herbs (don’t pack it down)
  • fill the jar to the screw line with alcohol (or glycerine or organic apple cider vinegar for a non-alcoholic version)
  • screw on the lid and let it steep in a cool dark place for about 6 weeks, shaking the jar occasionally
  • after 6 weeks strain the liquid into a fresh jar or bottle.

Syrups

Syrups can be prepared with sugar or honey. For proper preservation and a shelf stable syrup, it is recommended to use a ratio of 1:1 (tea to honey). However, you can cut back to 2:1 or 3:1. If you use less sweetener to tea parts, you will need to keep your syrup refrigerated and use quickly. You can also add some tincture to help preserve your syrup longer, as well as give an extra boost.

To make your own syrup:

Medicinal Tinctures

  • Difficulty: easy
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syrup

Ingredients

  • fresh or dried herbs
  • one of either:
    • honey
    • sugar
  • water

Directions

  • First make a very strong decoction, using 1 oz of herb per 16 oz of water:
    • Warm over low heat, bring to a simmer, cover partially, and reduce the liquid down to half the original volume.
    • Strain and return to pot.
  • Add 8 oz of honey (or 1 cup of sugar).
  • Warm the mixture over low heat, stirring well.
  • Optional: Add 1 part tincture or brandy to 3 parts syrup for a boost and longer shelf life.
  • Pour into bottles and label.
  • Store in the refrigerator, where it should last for at least six months.

OILS/OINTMENTS

To make your own herbal oils and ointments:

Medicinal Oils and Ointments

  • Difficulty: easy
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ointment

Ingredients

  • fresh or dried herbs
  • ONE of either:
    • olive oil
    • safflower oil
    • other pure vegetable oil

Directions

  • combine about 4 ounces of the fresh (or 2 ounces of dried) herb with 1 pint of oil.
  • Either:
    • For the heat method: Heat VERY gently (you’re not trying to cook the herbs), for 1-12 hours. A slow cooker (or Wonderbag) can be good for a nice slow even 12 hour infusion, while a double boiler can be used for a quicker 1 hour infuse.
    • For the solar method: Leave to stand on a windowsill for 2-6 weeks. (for this method it is important to dry the plant you’re using completely, or at the very least, wilt them before combining the oil and herbs. This will insure that there is little to no moisture in the oil, which could potentially lead to the oil going rancid or molding because water is a breeding ground for bacteria.
  • Then:
    • For a simple oil, just strain
    • For a thicker ointment, add 1 to 1-1/2 ounces of beeswax to the mixture as it heats.
  • Let cool and bottle/contain appropriately, then cap tightly once cooled.

Check out this post for more details about types of oils and a few infusion ideas.

POWDERS/CAPSULES

Making herbal capsules is a good way to make use of herbs that are bitter or unpleasant tasting, making them unsuitable to drink in a tea. Capsules are also more convenient at work or school, and can be stored in bulk in bottles, jars, or dispensers for ease of use.

To make herbal capsules:

Medicinal Powders

  • Difficulty: easy
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powder

Ingredients

  • fresh herbs

Directions

  1. take fresh herb leaves of your choice (a lot of them – the volume will be reduced by at least 10 times), and wash to remove any foreign debris.
  2. Dry thoroughly on paper towels, then dry on screens in the sun or in a non-humid part of the house. The leaves will be brown and pulverize easily when fully dry. You may have to cut out thick stems that won’t reduce to a powder, depending on the herb you are using.
  3. Using a mortar and pestle, blender, coffee grinder, or whatever type of grinding device you have around, grind the leaves into a fine powder, adding a little at a time until done.

In order to make your own encapsulated medications, you will obviously need empty capsules. You can buy capsules (and capsule machines if desired) inexpensively at your local health food store.

When using home-made herbal capsules, start with a low dose to ensure that you won’t have any adverse reactions, and then work your way up. 2-3 capsules per day to begin is prudent, working your way up weekly for the most beneficial effects

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