Medicinal Concoctions

Poultice – The simplest method of using many medicinal plants is to mash/pulp the plant by chewing then place it on the skin. Note, some plants can only be used externally and so can’t be chewed. Those must be pounded or chopped into pulp. The poultice can be placed “as is” directly on the skin though it is usually cleaner and easier to maintain proper placement if the mashed plant is wrapped in a single layer of thing fabric such as cheesecloth. Fresh plants usually contain enough water for a poultice though a bit of warm water often helps. Poultices made from dried plants will require rehydration with warm to comfortably hot water, bringing the mash to a cooked oatmeal like consistency. Poultices are generally made with leaves but also sometimes flowers and even roots.

Tisane – many call an infusion of plants steeped in hot water that is drunk an herbal tea, however the correct term is tisane. Standard ratio is 1 oz (weight) of plant in 1 qt of water steeped 30-60 minutes. Generally made from leaves and flowers.

Decoction – plant matter boiled 10-20 minutes, removed from heat, and steeped 1 hour. Decoctions that are drunk are also called tisanes. Standard ratio is 1 oz (weight) of plant in 1 qt of water. Generally made from roots, bark, and seeds.

Syrup – adding sugar to a strong (3.2oz plant per 8 oz of water) infusion or decoction as a preservative. Use equal amounts of sugar and water, simmer 20-30 minutes to dissolve all the sugar. Generally, honey, maple sugar, or raw sugar is used.

Lozenge - boiling a syrup down until it forms a hard candy upon healing. Usually requires syrup to reach a boiling temperature of 290 Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer.

Tincture – plant matter extracted in ethanol. Standard ratio for dried herbs to ethanol is 1:5 which is about 5oz of plant in a 1 qt jar filled to the neck with 100 proof vodka. Let sit minimum of 14 days, shaking twice a day but 6-8 weeks is preferred before straining out the plant. Fresh plant tinctures are made in a similar way but using the higher strength, 190 proof alcohol to take in account for the water present in the plant.

Double Extraction
– combining equal amounts of a tincture and a decoction. Usually done with Reishi mushrooms to extract the water and alcohol-soluble components. The same chopped mushrooms can be decocted by boiling for 10-20 minutes an equal volume of water to the amount of vodka tincture. A stronger double extraction is done using equal amounts of fresh mushroom for the tincture and the decoction.

Oil Infusion – plant matter steeped in hot oil (125°F to 145°F) 8-12 hours, allowed to cool, the strained. Use dried herbs as fresh ones can spoil in the oil resulting in a potential poisonous concoction. Standard ratio is 4 oz herb to 1 qt of oil.

Salve – an ointment made by combining an oil infusion with bees wax to thicken the oil. Use 1:8 ratio (volume) bees wax to oil for softer ointments and 1:6 ratio for harder salves.

Liniment – plant matter tincture for EXTERNAL USE ONLY made using rubbing alcohol (isopropanol) rather than ethanol. Use the same amounts of plant and rubbing alcohol as in tinctures.

Elixir - creating a tincture that uses equal amounts of plant material, alcohol (usually brandy) and honey. Let sit at least six weeks in a dark location, shaking every day, before straining out the plant matter and transferring to a dropper bottle.

Infused Vinegar - plant matter soaked in warmed vinegar (usually apple cider or a wine-based vinegar). Heat the vinegar to approximately 100-120°F, pour over plant matter in a glass jar. Cover plant material by ~1/2 inch of vinegar. Seal tightly and store in a dark place. Shake daily for at least two weeks before straining out the plant matter and begin using.

Oxymel - adding 1 part honey to 1 part infused vinegar.

Smoke - drawing the smoke from smoldering herbs into one's mouth is a potent way of accessing the medicinal compounds of some plants. Traditionally, this smoke was swallowed rather than drawn into the lungs, thereby avoiding lung damage.

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