The idea of making medicine can feel intimidating. I am certainly no doctor, but with a deeper understanding of myself and the herbs I am working with, experimenting with herbal extractions has lost it’s initial “scariness”, and has evolved into a more empowering and fascinating experience. Let’s keep it real, it’s just plain fun! Those of us who start down the road of herbal practice, often find ourselves inspired with a deep hunger to know more. And it’s no wonder that herbology is the primary source of medicine for 80% of the world’s population (Smithsonian Institute, 2015). It just makes sense! Exploring holistic and less invasive alternatives to allopathic treatment (or standard western medicine), allows us to make healthier, life-giving choices, that work with our bodies, vs against them. Although allopathic medicine certainly has its needed place, our hope is that the two begin to coincide with one another, providing the best care for the individual. This relationship would start with the least invasive, herbal treatment first, only to move forward with more invasive, allopathic treatment if needed.
Here are some basic, easy to do at home herbal extractions. We will make a common decoction and a vitamin rich cough syrup. Please remember to consult with a doctor if you are pregnant, nursing, or have any health risks or concerns (these are called, constraints, in the herbal world).
Basic Decoctions and Infusions (Herbal Teas)
Decoctions are simmered teas that are perfect for the extraction of hard roots, dried berries, barks, and seeds. These are best used for long term, chronic health problems. They insure gradual, but steady results. Basic Method. ~ Place 6-8 tablespoons of dried herb into a small sauce pan. ~ Cover the herbs with a quart (32 oz, or 4 cups) of cold water. ~ Slowly heat the water to a simmer and cover. Simmer for 25-45 minutes. For stronger decoction, simmer on low for 20-30 minutes. Strain in a cheesecloth, tea ball or strainer.
Today I am making an herbal cough syrup which will begin with a basic decoction of Marshmallow Root, Licorice Root and Echinacea (licorice should not be consumed if pregnant or nursing).
Step 1: Follow directions above for decoction (6-8 tsp of herb per quart of water). In this case, I used 3 tsp of Marshmallow, 3 tsp Licorice and 8 tsp of Echinacea, so therefore, 2 quarts or 8 cups of water.
Step 2: Simmer your decoction to about half of the original volume (low heat, 25-45 mins, slightly covered).
Step 3: For each pint of liquid add 1 cup of honey or other sweetner. I used ½ a cup of honey, and ½ a cup of molasses, as I do not like the sweet flavor too much! But, there are good living enzymes in there, so they are important for immune support.
Step 4: Warm the mixture over low heat, stirring well.
Step 5: Add a fruit for flavor and vitamins and continue to simmer for about 30 minutes, or until desired consistency. Here at Zoe Farms, we have lots of elderberries! I added one 2 cups of elderberry juice to the syrup. In just one cup of elderberries, you will get nearly 90% of your Daily Vitamin C (a much needed vitamin for immune support). It is also a good source of iron, calcium, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin A.
Step 6: Remove from heat, and store in bottles.
I hope you enjoyed learning how to make Herbal Decoctions and Medicinal Syrups! The Marshmallow root will aid in reducing inflammation, and due to its mucilage properties, will coat the throat if it is sore. Echinacea has a long history of immune boosting wonderfulness, and Licorice adds sweetness while helping in the recovery of upper respiratory infections. Elderberry packs the vitamin punch mentioned above. Have fun!
*For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.