Herbal Healing Primer – Delivery Methods

Delivery Methods.

While reading my blog entries, you may come across terms you’re not familiar with. Here’s a quick primer on delivery methods.

Infusion (Tea) (for internal use)
The easiest of all delivery methods – you’re just making a cup of tea. Steep the herb (fresh or dried) in a cup of boiling water for 2-5 minutes and enjoy!

Decoction (for internal and external use)
Similar to a infusion/tea, it takes longer as the plant material used tends to be tougher. It’s the process of extracting a concentrated essence of the plants constituents (active medicinal properties).

This process requires the herbs (fresh or dried) to be steeped in simmering water for up to one hour, strain the mixture through a jelly bag, cheese cloth or a old (clean) t-shirt and strain, pour strained liquid into a clean, airtight glass container.

Can be consumed, used as a wash, in making lotions and creams.

Use immediately or store in a refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

Infused Oils (for external use)
There are two types of oil infusions: hot and cold and fresh or dried herbs can be used.

Cold: tightly pack a jar with herbs (fresh or dried) and cover it completely with oil, cover the jar with a light towel or coffee filter and sit in a sunny window for 2-6 weeks. Since the plant material can mold, it’s important to check the mixture on a regular basis and make sure the plant material is completely covered with oil. It’s also a good idea to shake or stir, once or twice a day.

Hot: (I use the same measurements as used for a cold infusion) add the herbs (fresh or dried) and oil in a glass bowl over a pan of gently boiling water and heat for 3 hours or you can (my preference) place the herbs and oil in a mason jar and place the jar in a crockpot (with a few inches of water) and warm for 12-24 hours.

For both, when the oil is ready (and cool), strain the mixture through a jelly bag, cheese cloth or a old (clean) t-shirt and strain, squeezing out as much oil as possible, pour strained liquid into a clean, airtight glass container.

Can be used to make ointments, salves, balms, creams, lotions and rubs. Some oils may be consumables. Stored in a cool, dark cabinet, they can last 6 to 12 months.

Sunflower oil, grape seed oil, coconut oil, fractionated coconut oil (fat solids have been removed) olive oil, even cooking oil can be used, though, the latter is frowned on by many herbalists; I use what I have and have had success will all these oils. 

Tincture (for internal and external use)
This is essentially an herbal extract made by steeping the herb in a consumable alcohol that is at least 100 proof. The alcohol acts as a menstruum (fancy word for solvent) which extracts the plants constituents (active medicinal properties). 

Place herbs (fresh or dried) and alcohol in an airtight jar and place in a dark cabinet, shaking the jar twice daily for 2 days to 6 weeks depending on the preparation and intended use. Once ready, strain the mixture through a jelly bag, cheese cloth or a old (clean) t-shirt and pour strained liquid into a clean, airtight glass container, preferably an amber colored tincture bottle that contains an eyedropper lid.

Can be used topically as a rub or internally by the drop (see final notes).  

Stored in a cool, dark cabinet, they can last 12 months to 2 years.

Poultice (for external use)
Plant material crushes (even chewed) and held to the body with cloth or bandage to relieve inflammation and pain.

Balms, Salves and Ointments (for external use)
These are made with the infused oils and bees wax and are prepared to various consistancies.

Balms and salves are usually thicker, and meant for use on a small area, where as ointments are a thinner consistency and are used in a larger area. They seal in moisture and protect the skin while delivering nourishment and healing to the skin.

They stable, lasting a year or more without refrigeration.

Creams and Lotions (for external use)
These are a mixture of infused oil, beeswax and oil and blended until emolsified.

Rather than seal in moisture, these add moisture too the skin and allow the plant medicine to be easily absorbed.

They can last several months refrigerated.

Final Notes: Each of these preparations has a specific ratio of herb to solution, unfortunately, I’ve not found an easy guideline. For teas, I’ve seen 1/2 teaspoon to a 1/2 cup given as a measurement and for tinctures, I’ve seen ratios of 1:1 and 2:1, herb/menstruum, for oil infusions 1:1, 1:2, 2:1, herb to oil. And, the recommended tincture dose varies as well. So, it would probably be good for you to do your own research, and find what you’re comfortable with.    

(Disclaimer: I am not a Physician nor am I Certified Herbalist. The information provided on this site has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not intended to diagnose, treat or prevent conditions, illnesses or diseases, it is purely anecdotal and stem from my own personal fascination with the natural world around me. I use the following for my research: Peterson Field Guides – Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs, The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody, books and videos by Rosemary Gladstar and Susun Weed, as well as various internet posts. I encourage you to do your own research. Before trying any herbal remedy, consult a physician or certified medical professional to make sure it is safe for you to use.)