For centuries nature has provided holistic forms of medicine and for centuries cultures around the world have used them. Prior to the 16th century the only medical system known more or less was with the use of natural herbs.
Four prominent areas that hold traditional teachings and use of medicinal herbs are China, both Indian, and Native American cultures, and the Japanese. Two countries, Japan and China have herbal remedies included in the national health system and it is even officially promoted by a government ministry.
Herbalism is part of an ancient system called Ayurvedic medicine in India and today is still widely used. The Native Americans applied the use of herbs to their spiritual beliefs by placing emphasis on the properties of purifying and cleansing the body both on a mental and physical level.
It is believed by most herbalists that every part of the plant is essential in obtaining the full effect of the medicinal value of the herb and that each component of the elements within plays a specific role to the targeted area of the body to be healed or relieved.
Most herbs can be prepared by boiling for ten to fifteen minutes, but some require up to thirty minutes. Research the herbs your using and learn as much as you can about them before preparing or using them. Two excellent site to visit are http://mindbodyandsoleonline.com , http://mountainroseblog.com, you'll find loads of helpful information here. It's a great place to start.
As with any new regimen of treatment you should always consult your physician or herbalist before taking any natural herbs or new medications. In order to be sure there are no allergic reactions or interference with other medications you may be taking. If you are taking blood thinners or diuretics it is imperative that you consult a licensed herbalist or doctor before using any home remedies.
Decoctions – Primarily used to extract fluids from hard bark and roots, the process of brewing or boiling produces a thick dark liquid that can then be used on meats, vegetables, in stock, or even in teas and coffee. This process involves crushing and boiling the roots and bark and boiling in water to extract the chemical compounds and oils.
Tinctures – these mixtures are made by diffusing alcohol with the herbs and bringing out more of the flavonoids and quality properties needed from the herbs. Place vodka into a container with the chopped or ground herb. Leave this mixture in the container for up to two weeks in a warm place, shaking it twice a day. Strain with a cheesecloth and be sure to squeeze thoroughly. The ration of liquid and herbs by the volume should be 1:5. Should be stored in a dark glass bottle that is well sealed. Tinctures have a longer shelf life than most Decoctions and Infusions.
Infusions - There are instances when all the parts of the plants can be used but usually it is only one part. Elm Bark, Flax Seed, and Comfrey Root are widely used in Concoctions. Elm Bark can be used for skin irritations and herpes, Flax Seed has been used for coughs but remember to use the ripe seeds because the young, immature seedpods can be poisonous. Comfrey Root is an excellent choice to use if you have inflammation in the mouth or throat, bleeding gums, or laryngitis. It can be used to gargle with as a mouthwash.
For herbal coffees the preparation takes a bit longer but it's well worth it. A great recipe for herbal coffee can be found in your own back yard. Be sure only pick wild herbs if they have not been contaminated with chemical products sprayed for weeds and so forth. Dandelion root, Chicory root, and roasted barley makes a wonderful cup of herbal coffee. Collect the dandelion and the chickory root from the yard, not too close to the road either, chemicals and contaminates from vehicles are not good. Plants should be harvested in the fall, rinse the roots, hang to dry and then chop them up. Place on a baking sheet, brown in the oven on the lowest temperature so as not to burn them, allow them to cool, use a coffee grinder to grind into your powder, mix equal parts of each ingredient for a perfect blend and store in an airtight container.
Compresses and Poultices – Compresses and Poultices are used to apply herbs to the outer skin allowing the body/skin to absorb the healing properties of the herbs. Compresses are soaked in mixtures such as Tinctures, Decoctions, and Infusions and then applied to the body for a particular length of time. Once the cloth becomes dry it can be re-soaked in the liquid tincture and reapplied to the skin.
A Poultice is a thicker mixture of the herbs that can be applied directly to the site of inflammation so as to allow the wound to absorb the herbal infusion. Bee stings, bites, or cuts are an example of an injury that a poultice could be used for. Some poultices can be applied directly to the skin and others, depending on the intensity of the mixture would need to be wrapped inside a cloth or gauze and then applied to the skin, such as you would do with a compress and you can place a hot water bottle over it to maintain heat if needed.
Coffees and Teas – Herbal teas are more popular than herbal coffee but coffee is fast becoming a big time favorite. Herbal teas are highly used for easing restless nights and aiding in restful sleep. Teas such as Chamomile for instance. Teas have shorter steeping time than decoctions, infusions, and tinctures therefore they are better for making soothing, relaxing beverages. Take 1 tablespoon of your favorite dried herb, place in 1 cup of boiling water, let steep for about ten to twenty minutes, strain and drink. You can add a little honey to adjust the taste if you like. It is best to cover the cup or teapot while the tea is steeping to maintain keeping the healing components from filtering away.