Herbal preperations

“To decoct or not to decoct?”, that is the question. Or at least, the question is more in the lines of “What herbal preparation to use, and how is it created?”

Herbalists or phytotherapists, and the home herb enthusiast, can use herbs in various ways to treat dis-ease. One herb may have many different ways of being prepared, sometimes for the same problem, but oftentimes each method of preparation is for a particular effect, and using an herbal infusion in a balm will remedy a different complaint than taking the same infusion as a tea.

Furthermore, herbs are often used singularly (herb simples), but can be combined in complex mixtures too (herb compounds). Herb enthusiasts often also tout the efficacy of “Whole Herb” medicines, and their use by herbalists are much more prevalent instead of standardized extracts of one of the constituents of a plant, e.g. Willow Bark may be used for pain relief rather than standardised salycilic acid, which is the compound in willow bark attributed with analgesic effects.

Following is a quick look at some of the different ways in which herbs can be prepared for medicines:

Herbal Tea or Tisane

The liquid extraction of herbs into water can be made by either:


This method of steeping herbs for a short while in hot water to make a tea (tisane) is very common, and normally used for soft and light plant parts such as leaves and flowers. It can be made from fresh or dried plant material and is generally made by steeping a teaspoon of dried herb in a cup of just boiled water, e.g. chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile and Chamomilla recutita) tea for calming.


This is a boiled liquid extract, where plant material is brought to the boil with water and left to simmer over a longer time period. It is generally used for harder plant material such as roots and bark, e.g. marshmallow (Althea officinalis) decoction for oesophageal inflammation.


Letting (chopped) herbs steep in cold water over a number of hours (between 7 and 10 hrs) results in a macerated tisane. This method can be used for plants that are mucilaginous, e.g. sage (Salvia officinalis) as a gargle for sore throats.

Herbal Oils

As with the water extractions, herbal oils can be made by either infusion (using heated oil), decoction (heating the herb with the oil) or maceration (herbs left in cold oil overnight or longer). Using oil is a very popular way to prepare herbs. The oil can be used directly, but herb oils often form the basis for creating herbal ointments, salves, balms, lotions and creams, e.g. Comfrey (Symphytum officinalis) cream for healing.


A liquid extraction of herbs into alcohol can be made by putting herbs in either 100% ethanol, or a mixture of ethanol and water. Tinctures are generally much stronger than herbal teas and are used in small doses (drops). A popular example of a tincture is Echinacea (Echinacea spp) tincture for colds and flu.

Herbal Syrups

Sweet herbal preparations can be made with sugar syrup or honey. Commonly the mixture of herbs, water and sugar/honey is boiled and then further macerated for a few weeks. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) in honey is soothing to sore throats.

Wines & Elixirs

Herbal wines are made by macerating herbs in wine, while herbal elixirs are made by macerating herbs in spirits.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

Herbal Vinegars

Herbal vinegars are the maceration of herbs in vinegar, e.g. stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) vinegar as a spring tonic.


Extracts are the substances made when a part of a raw material is extracted by a solvent such as water or ethanol. Herbal extracts can be dry, solid, or liquid. Liquid extracts are often made by distilling tinctures, and dry extracts through evaporation. A good example of a liquid extract is essential oil, e.g. Lavender (Lavandula spp) essential oil for calming and soothing headaches.

Pills, capsules and tablets

Many herbs can be taken in pill, tablet or capsule form, normally containing compressed vegetable drug, extracts and/or powders. Capsules may also contain oils which are unpalatable, e.g. garlic (Allium sativum) oil as an immune booster.

Suppositories and pessaries

For suppositories, herbal medicament is carried in a cocoa butter or gelatin based torpedo shape and inserted in the rectum, e.g. St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) suppository for haemorrhoids.

Pessaries are similar, but made for insertion into the vagina, e.g. a combination of Echinacea root (Echinacea spp), Marshmallow root (Althea officinalis), Yerba Mansa (Anemopsis californica) and Tea Tree (Maleleuca alternifolia ) oil for vaginal infections.

Poultices and compresses

Poultices and compresses are topical applications of herbal medicines put over the skin to treat aches, inflammations, scrapes or bruises.


Poultices are made by a soft moist mass of herbs, often heated and spread over a cloth, e.g. Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria) leaf poultice for headaches.


An herbal compress is made by soaking a cloth in an herbal tisane or oil before application, e.g. Mint (Mentha spp) for a cool compress to ease inflamed joints.


Disclaimer – Please note that the text above is for informational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment. Always consult a medical herbalist before taking herbal medicines.tisane

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