Learning how to use herbs in your home medicine kit is an age old tradition our forefathers and mothers knew. Seeing a resurgence in folks like you and me who want to preserve these old time remedies makes my heart warm like a hearth stone near a crackling fire.
7 Ways to Use Medicinal Herbs at Home
1. Herbal Tea. Some herbs are meant to be ingested and brewing a strong tea is a good way to do this, especially for cough and colds as a warm tea will help soothe an irritated throat like little else. Some of our favorite medicinal herbs and those recommend by readers for this method include echinacea, licorice root (7 herbs for natural remedies for the cautions of this herb), ginger, lemon, and sage.
There are a few ways to make your tea, you can use fresh or dried leaves.
How to prepare herbal tea at home
Fresh leaves: Rinse fresh herb leaves under cold running water and place about three large leaves in the bottom of a cup. Pour hot water over and allow to seep for up to 7 minutes.
Dried leaves: A tea ball (I use this stainless steel tea ball all the time and even have put spices in it when making jams or brines) or infuser works the best when using dried leaves. Fill your tea ball with dried leaves and pour hot water over and allow to seep for about 7 minutes, or to your desired strength.
Many people like a cup of chamomile tea at bedtime.
For therapeutic use I’ll put some raw honey in my warm tea if I have a cough, otherwise I prefer not to add sugar, but if it needs some sweetness, then I use a few drops of this Stevia Extract. I don’t detect any bitter or weird after taste and have been using it for over a year now, I even use it when making sauces… shhh, don’t tell my kids, they can’t tell the difference.
Learn how to dry your own herbs in our Ultimate Home Food Preservation Guide
2. Herbal Poultice. This is where you take the leaves (or sometimes root of the plant) and place them into a piece of gauze or muslin, apply to the affected area (feel like I’m at work typing out prescription instructions with that one) and leave it on for the preferred duration of time.
How to Prepare an Herbal Poultice
There are two ways to make a poultice, one is using the leaves and roots raw and the other is heating them.
For the raw poultice: finely chop up the leaves/roots or use your blender and make a puree. Place this into your gauze or muslin. For a case study and more in depth look at using comfrey for this method go here.
For a hot poultice: Take the leaves/roots and place them in a saucepan with a double ratio of water to herb (example 1/4 cup herbs to 1/2 cup water), bring to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes. For more information on this method check out how to make an herbal poultice and compress tutorial here.
How long to leave poultice on: The time will vary depending upon the ailment and the herb, for example, mustard poultice would not be left on for a long period of time due to its hot burning nature, where as a comfrey poultice might be left on for up to 24 hours. You need to replace your poultice regularly.
You’ll want to use gauze or a breathable fabric over your poultice to keep the poultice in place and to help protect your clothing.
3. Infusion or Decoction. An herbal infusion is simply an herbal tea fully matured… instead of allowing the herbs to seep for minutes, you let the tea seep for an hour, putting it on super strength. Confession: I’ve done this with tea simple because I forgot about it.