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Create your home made herbal remedy

Nowadays deciding to be treated only with herbal/holistic/homeopatic remedies is becoming a thing. People want to go back to the oringins, being more healthy and natural, find a way to cure themselves minimizing the risks and potential side effects. DIY is becoming generally very popular as well, maybe for the lack of trust in the health system or for feeding our curiosity and improve our own skills. No matter what are the reasons for both these tendencies, but I thought it would be interesting writing about it, combining the herbal remedies with the DIY side. Obviously you need some knowledge in order to treat yourself properly, so I suggest you to take these advices only if you have some experience or after you have spoken with a professional herbal therapist for the dosage and type of herb you may need to use.


Let’s start from the very beginning, so by collecting herbs from field or garden. For a number of good reasons you should gather your own herbs: you are assured of their freshness and potency, you also know their source, if they are clean, pure and wholesome. You will also save yourself money and gain self-sufficiency and with time you will build an increasing knowledge of plants and their medicinal uses. Although each herb is different and some may require unique handling, the following general principles can be used for gathering herbs:

  • Herbs are generally gathered according to their particular growth cycle: annuals (plants that have one growing season, the seed germinates the plant flowers and bears fruit and then dies), biennials (plants which germinate and establish a good root system during the first year, flower and bear fruit at the end of the second year, and then die ), or perennials (plants that live and bear fruit a number of years before they die).
  • Herbs must be gathered in dry weather, as those collected in moist or rainy periods are generally weaker and more apt to spoil.
  • Gather in the cool of the morning after the dew has evaporated or in the evening before the dew forms on the plant. Also before the sun is high in the sky.
  • Preferably gather wild plants from high, dry soils, exposed to clean air and abundant sunshine.
  • In all cases, gathering must be selective according to the type of plant and the part to be used (flowers, leaves, roots, etc.).

It is an excellent thing to do cultivating your own herbs in the garden, and I would encourage you to consider it, but try to be selective in the number of herbs you are going to grow. If you do not have enough time, space or knowledge, just purchase what you need from a health shop or a recognised herbal supplier. This is the most quick method to start herbalism.

Once collected your herbs, you need to know how to dry and storage them in a proper way, in order not to lose much of their medicinal value. Dry all herbs carefully outdoors (spreading a layer of herbs on a drying screen in the shade as quickly as possible), indoors (in a dust-free room, at mild temperature, on a drying screen covered away from direct sunlight) or with artificial heat (be very careful, oven drying under 38°C is difficult and often done improperly).

To store them, place them in a tight appropriate container, not made of formaldehyde or certain damaging plastic types, and seal with sealing wax to keep the air from getting to the herb. Always label and date them, and make sure they are used within a year. Never put them under direct sunlight or in room too hot or cold. If its a oil, use a brown bottle or can.

General guidelines should be also followed when starting making your own preparations, for example never use aluminium ware as it poisons with its gases and metallic acid, stainless-steel ware is the best because it does not break, although you should watch for over-high temperatures that cause burning.

It is time now to describe the most common various herbal preparations. Remember that dosages must be adjusted according to personal need.

Capsule: Take the herbal powders and other materials that, because of their nauseous taste or smell, would otherwise be difficult to administer, and place them into a soluble gelatin shell or capsule. These capsules are easy to buy and they are made in different sizes for easy swallowing, with numbers 1 to 4, 0, and 00 being the most common. To fill the capsule, simply take the two halves of a capsule apart and push these halves into the powder and towards each other, pressing the halves together again and at the same time compressing the powder. Dosage depends on the age, size, vitality, condition being treated, and the strength of the ingredients in the capsule itself.

Decoction: This is a process used with hard materials such as roots and barks, chips, etc. Decoctions are intended for immediate use within a twenty-four hour period (72-hour maximum limit when stored in a very cool place) and are generally made by pouring cold water upon fresh or dried herbs. The harder the material, the longer the simmering and extractive period will be. Consider to pulverize them first by mechanical means or pounding; next, soak the ingredients for twelve hours, then set this liquid on the fire and gradually heat to a slight boil. After the extractive period, drain off the liquid while hot and press the herb hard to make sure that all of the therapeutic ingredients are removed, then let stand until cool.

The usual preparation is 1 ounce of herb placed into 1 and half pints of cold water (the half pint will be lost in the extractive process). The herb and liquid is then brought slowly to a boil. The decoction differs from the infusion in that heat is applied and continued over a period of time, because roots and barks generally need longer heating to extract their active principles. When cool, pour off the clear liquid on top, separating it from the settlings and, finally, sweeten to taste. Add more water when decoctions are too strong. Dosage depends on age, size and temperament, but generally 2 fluid ounces to a cupful of liquid three times a day.

Infusion: An infusion extracts the active principles of herbs in water, or other fluid, without simmering or boiling;. Pour a liquid over the raw or powdered herb. The liquid may be hot or cold, but the flavour of the herb is generally much stronger and the action is much faster when made and administered hot. Generally a standard infusion is used with the lighter herbs (such as the leaves, flowers, etc.), and is made by placing one teaspoonful of finely cut dried herb or two teaspoonfuls of bruised fresh herb into a cup and adding boiling, distilled water; cover and let steep for 15 minutes; strain and drink.

Be sure to cover the vessel and stir occasionally, and then carefully strain off the clear liquid. Dosage varies according to type of herb and problem condition, but usually one cupful three times a day. Regulate the quantity to fit the patient’s strength, kidney problems, extreme debilitation, etc.

Oil: This preparation is made from the plant oils. For instance, with the mints (peppermint, spearmint, etc.), the oils come from the leaves. Many of these oils, when properly made (with olive oil), do not go into rancidity easily. The amount of herbs used depends upon the quantity of oil desired, but often a pound of fresh herbs to a pint of olive oil is used. Simmer the herbs for hours until the oil comes out of the herb. In the case of cloves, grind up fine, and simmer the powder in olive oil at a temperature of 50-65°C. Never use mineraloils. For olive oil, which is high in nutritional value, massage as much as the skin will absorb; it can be also used in small doses internally, except when for gallstones or kidney stones.

Ointment: It is a soft, semi-solid fatty herbal preparation used for a protective and emollient effect, liquefying when applied externally. Ointment bases are generally composed of various mixtures of waxes, animal and vegetable oils and the medicinal substances are mixed with them. Start with a melted base, such as olive oil and beeswax, and combine with herb. A good standard is 14 ounces of olive oil, 2 ounces of beeswax, and 1 pound of fresh or 1 and half pound of dry herbs. Place into a closed container, put into the oven and leave there at low heat (around 80°C) for 3-4 hours. Periodically, take a fork and lift the fresh herbs to see if they aregetting browned and brittle, and whether the oil has drawn the value from the herb. Vaseline as a base is generally inferior to animalor plant oils, but may be used if you do not want the preparation to be absorbed quickly into the skin.

Pill/Tablet: In this case the herbal agent is ground into a very fine powder and mixed with a mucilage of gum Arabic (made by dissolving gum Arabic in water), slippery elm, or a syrup, etc. which is then worked up into a pill mass. A portion is then cut off, sliced into small strips and then into smaller pill-sized pieces, which are then rolled into little round balls for easy administration. A small amount of powdered rhubarb or flour on the board in preparation will keep the mass from sticking, but keep the pill mass in a quite firm consistency, or else the excess mucilage or syrup will absorb too much rhubarb or flour.

Pills can be coated or uncoated, but the pearl-coated pill is a favourite and is readily soluble in the stomach. Pills are usually made so that one pill equals about 300-400 milligrams of the herbal compound. A pill differs from a tablet in that a pill needs mucilage or other substance added to keep the herbal agent in an adhesive mass, whereas the tablet will adhere by its own characteristics upon compression.

Poultrice: This herbal preparation is a soft, semi-liquid mass made of some cohesive substance mixed with water, vinegar or other substances, and used for supplying heat and moisture to an area, or to act as a local stimulant. Have the herbs ground or granulated. When using fine powder, just use enough moisture to make a thick paste, and when using the granulated form, a thick paste may be made with a mixture of water and cornmeal. If fresh green leaves are used, simply heat, bruise, triturate or chop the leaves up finely, and apply to the affected parts. Be generous in making poultices, covering the afflicted area thickly.

Spirit: It is an alcoholic or hydro-alcoholic preparation containing ordinary alcohol and a watery liquid that has been distilled from an alcoholic tincture or mash. It is a volatile prepared by distillation, whereas a tincture is prepared by infusing the volatile substance in alcohol. These are used as tonics, etc.  A few drops on up are used as specified.

Syrup: A thick, sticky liquid preparation made by dissolving sugar into distilled water, decoctions, infusions, juices, or other aqueous solution, and it is used to suspend medicinal or flavouring agents for easy administration alone, or to combine with other preparations. For making a syrup with herbs, settle out the heavier matter and pour off the clear liquid; then add to that 1 and 3/4 pounds of sugar, place into an appropriate vessel, heat until the sugar is melted, cool, and store for future use. Another formula for making a simple syrup is to pour 1 pint of boiling water over 2 and half pounds of sugar, place on a hot stove and stir until the liquid begins to boil, and then instantly remove. Dosage varies from 1 teaspoonful to 1 tablespoonful once or few times per day.

Tincture: This is technically a fluid extract, but the medicinal virtues are extracted into solution with grain alcohol or vinegar, which are better preservative for long term storage of extracts. Take approximately 4 ounces of ground dried herbs or 8 ounces of finely chopped fresh herbs and place them in a glass bottle with at least 16 ounces of alcohol or vinegar, until the herb is completely submerged under the liquid. This is tightly capped and each day for 10 days to 2 weeks the bottle is shaken vigorously at least 3 times a day or more. Extract all liquids, squeezing the herb residue thoroughly, with a regular juice press, or wring out by hand through cloth, etc.

After the liquid is extracted, place the tincture extract in dark or painted bottles, stopper thoroughly and store. When administering a tincture internally, you may evaporate the alcohol from the solution by putting it into hot water, or it can be taken as is. Dilute at least 1 teaspoonful of tincture to each cup of water.

Discover the properties of Lobelia

Lobelia (Lobelia inflata), also called Indian tobacco, has a long history of use as an herbal remedy and it is one of the greatest herbs ever given to the world. A brief history of this amazing herb starts with the Native Americans, who smoked it as a treatment for respiratory problems. In the 19th century, American physicians prescribed Lobelia to induce vomiting in order to remove toxins from the body. Because of this, it earned the name “puke weed.” After that, the belief that Lobelia was a dangerous poison began, due to the fact that Dr. Samuel Thompson was having an amazing success treting his patient with this herbal remedy, instead of using orthodox medicine.

Nowadays, scientists think an active ingredient in the Lobelia plant, lobeline, may have similar effects to nicotine. For this reason, back in the days they were using lobeline as a nicotine substitute in many antismoking products and preparations designed to break the smoking habit.

In general, Lobelia is an efficient relaxant, the best counter-irritant known to mankind! Its action is felt immediately on the serous, mucous, muscular and nervous system of our body. It is also a powerful antispasmodic, expanding at the same time the contracted parts of the respiratory system, allowing the “breath of life” (oxygenized blood) to flow freely in the whole body.

Lobelia is also commonly known as a “selective thinking herb”. This means that when a foetus is dead or in an extremely weakened condition, this herb will cause it to abort. While, if the foetus is healthy but the mother is sick, it will help the mother healing and strengthen, enabling her to carry the child until the delivery. Then during the labour, Lobelia will allay and regulate the violent pains and ease the spasms. Very effective also for menstrual disorders.

Be careful though! Bear in mind that Lobelia is a potentially toxic herb. You can safely use it in small doses (for example homeopathic doses), but moderate to large doses may cause side effects ranging from dry mouth and nausea to convulsions and even coma. As a general rule, an herbalist should always give it in combination with a stimulant as per its powerful relaxing effects. But anyway, you should use lobelia only under the supervision of your health care provider.

Preparations and Dosage (for adults, with normal weight and no medical conditions):

Decoction, fluid extract, infusion (mostly seeds crushed), pills, poultrice, powder (leaves, stems, flowers and pods), syrup and tincture (green and dried leaves). With prudence, you may give Lobelia in either small or large doses, at shorter or longer intervals:

  • Decoction: 1/2 cupful
  • Fluid extract 10 to 30 drops
  • Infusion 1 cupful
  • Powder 200-650 milligrams
  • Solid Extract 100-300 milligrams
  • Syrup 1 to 4 teaspoons
  • Tincture 1/2-1 teaspoon, or 10 to 30 drops

Syrup of Lobelia (for cough and vomit inducer):

2 and half ounces of Lobelia and 2 ints of distilled water, simmer togheter down to 1 pint. Strain and dissolve 2 pounds of raw sugar or 1 pounds of honey into it. Take 1 teaspoon for coughs or up to 1 cupful as a vomit inducer.

Decoction of Lobelia (for liver problems, jaundice):

1 part of Lobelia, 1 part of Pleurisy root, 1 part of Catnip and 1 part of Bitter root. Mix the herbs well and steep 1 teaspoon of this combination in 1 cup of noiling water for 15 to 20 minutes, then strain. Take 2 tablespoon hot every 2 hours.

Tincture of Lobelia (for relief fever, asthma and spasms):

2 ounces of Lobelia herb, steam and flowers, 2 ounces of crushed Lobelia seeds and 1 pint of apple cider vinegar (better choice than alcohol). Macerate in a tightly capped bottle for 10 to 14 days. Shake every time you walk by it, or at least once a day. Strain off the liquid and bottle it for use.

How to choose your own Bach Flower Remedy

I wrote about Dr Bach’s Flower Remedies here. This time I’m looking at how to find the right remedy for you.

Each person is an individual, with their own emotional world, fears and stresses. Rather than give patients a diagnostic label, Dr Bach suggested that discovering how each person feels should be the guide of choosing individual support and treatment when they are unwell. This is what we could call an “olistic approach” to each patient.

In treating cases with these remedies, no notice is taken of the nature of the disease. The individual is treated and as he becomes well the disease goes, having been case off by the increase in health. (Dr. Bach in The Twelve Healers and Other Remedies)

The remedy dosage

The Bach flower remedies are completely safe and natural and they work exclusively and directly on an emotional level, seeking to balance negative emotions. Their aim is to empower us to support ourselves through difficult times and to help us developing our positive strengths. For obatain the best results an adult should take 4 drops from a treatment bottle 8 times a day for chronic states. For very acute states take 4 drops every 30-60 minutes, reverting to the normal dosage when more balance has returned.

It starts with self reflection

Going into the path of identifying the Bach Flower Remedies that will be the most beneficial, either for yourself or someone else, is a simple process of self-reflection and observation. Easier to say than to do maybe. But remember that no matter what is the issue, you are simply looking for the remedies that will help you bring greater balance to how you think and feel.

Start by looking at how you are reacting to the situation that you are experiencing in a egative way, then review your general reaction to the events and conditions of your life, to identify any general trends or patterns in the way that you think and feel. For example, some people face the world with feelings of hopelessness, doubt or judgement, while others struggle to find balance in their relationships with those around them, and so on.

It is possible to mix almost 293,000,000 different bottles of remedies to suit each person’s individual emotional state. There are 38 individual flower, plus one ready mixed combination which Dr Bach called the “crisis mix”, but it is often known as Rescue Remedy. This is used for emergency help when we feel traumatised, shocked or upset. The remedies can be mixed to match the emotional state of anyone needing support and they can be easily grouped in seven families, in order to help people finding what they need quickly:

  • Fear Group:

Aspen, Cherry Plum, Mimulus, Red Chestnut, Rock Rose

  • Uncertainty Group:

Cerato, Gentian, Gorse, Hornbeam, Scleranthus, Wild Oat

  • Insufficient Interest in Present Circumstances:

Chestnut Bud, Clematis, Honeysuckle, Mustard, Olive, White Chestnut, Wild Rose

  • Over Care for Welfare of Others:

Beech, Chicory, Rock Water, Vervain, Vine

  • Over-sensitive to Influences & Ideas:

Agrimony, Centaury, Holly, Walnut

  • Loneliness Group:

Heather, Impatiens, Water Violet

  • Despondancy or Despair:

Crab Apple, Elm, Larch, Oak, Pine, Star of Bethlehem, Sweet Chestnut, Willow

If you find really hard exploring yourself and your emotions, going through this online questionnaire may help you sorting out your doubts and make a choice:

Online Bach Flower Questionnaire

Also available for purchase.

How to create your herbal pillow

Herbal sleep pillows are a wonderful way to incorporate herbs into our lives. They can help in case of headaches, insomnia, restlessness, and much more, just by releasing in the air the fragrance you need while you are sleeping. They are very simple to make, follow these quick steps in order to create your own personalized herbal pillow!

  1. First select a piece of fabric, preferably cotton or another natural fiber (this is the perfect opportunity to use leftovers). Wash and dry the fabric, and cut it into two pieces, whatever shape you wish. Each piece should be the same size as your finished pillow plus half an inch seam allowance. A six-inch square is good, but you can make it any size you choose.
  2. Place the right sides of the fabric pillow facing each other. Sew them together along three sides, leaving the fourth open for stuffing. Turn the sewn fabric the right side out and press with an iron.
  3. Now you are ready to fill the pillow with your herbal blend! But…which one choose? Obviously it depends on the type of pillow you need. At the end of the article you will find a nice list of herbs you should use considering the effect you want to obtain.
  4. Finish the pillow by sewing the open area shut. For a sewing-free option, use cotton muslin bags or scraps of fabric tied tight with twine or yarn. Leave your pillow in an air-proof bag for at least a day before you use it. This allows the scent to strengthen and enhances its therapeutic effects.
  5. At bedtime or nap-time, tuck your herbal pillow inside your regular pillowcase, or just lay it beside you.

Tips:

  • Cotton balls added to the herbal blend can help make your pillow more comfortable and soft.
  • A fixative or few drops of an essential oil will help your dried herbs retain their fragrance much longer. Fixatives may include: musk, ambergris and cive.
  • Do not sleep with your herbal pillow every night. Allow your body and mind to take their time and not get used to the fragrance very quickly.

Sleep pillows are great for all ages and for those who have a difficult time falling asleep.  For a pillow that encourages deep sleep, blend any of the following organic herbs: catnip, chamomile, hops, lavender, lemon balm, rose petals, rosemary, mint and sweet marjoram.

Dream pillows are for those who want to enhance their dreaming or wish to remember their dreams.  To create a blend that encourages dreaming, use any of the following organic herbs: balsam needles, lemon verbena, mugwort, peppermint, cloves (only 2-4 per pillow) and rose petals.

Anti headache pillows are for those who want to realease their mind from the overthinking and stressfull lives we are living nowadays. To create your natural pain relief pillow add the following herbs: eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint or spearmint, cedar tips, sage leaf, cinnamon and lemon grass.

Bach’s Flower Remedies: 7 FAQs

.Health depends on being in harmony with our souls.

-Dr. E. Bach-

Dr. Edward Bach was a British physician active in the beginning of the 20th century. He saw disease as a physical manifestation of the final stage of unhappiness, fear, worry and “negative” emotions. He looked to nature to find a natural and omeopatic treatment. Over a period of years Dr. Bach found 38 healing flowers and plants, which can be divided in seven groups. With the right preparation they can remove all negative emotional problems.

How do the Remedies work?

The Bach Flower Remedies are a natural method of healing. They gently restore the balance between mind and body by casting out negative emotions such as fear, worry, hatred and indecision. These feelings interfere with the equilibrium of the being as a whole. The Bach Flower Remedies allow peace and happiness to return to the sufferer so that the body is free to heal itself.

How are the Bach Flower Remedies made?

The Bach Flower Remedies are made 100% naturally from spring water infused with wild flowers, either by the sun-steeped method or by boiling. To be preserved, can be added in the mixture 27% grape based brandy or glycerin made from sunflowers in the alcohol-free version.

What happens if I take too much of the Remedies?

It is impossible to overdose with the Bach Flower Remedies. They are 100% natural and safe. You can drink a whole bottle of Remedies and not “overdose”. However, if you think that “more is better” you are wrong. They work best over a period of time, taken from the treatment or stock bottle at least 4 times a day.

What happens if I take the wrong Remedy?

Nothing is going to happen if you take the wrong Remedies. The Remedy will only work on the energy level that we are having problems with. For example, if you have a “known fear” (MIMULUS should be used) and take ASPEN for “unknown fear”, nothing is going to happen. Your “known fear” will stay and ASPEN will not do anything for you. When you take the wrong Remedy, nothing happens.

What are the difference between Essential Oil and the Bach Flower Remedies?

Essential Oil: As the name says it is a natural tretment based on oil from different plants and flowers. The smell is usually very strong and some of them should be avoided for people with different illnesses, pregnancy, in the sun etc. The Essential Oils comes from the whole world, and they can be taken in many different ways (as ointment, nebuliser, etc.).

The Bach Flower Remedies: They do not smell and they can never do any harm to anyone at anytime. They are made by infusion of wild plants and flowers with spring water. They take more time to actually make an improvement in the body and mind.

Can pregnant women/children/pets take the Bach Flower Remedies?

Bach Flower Remedies are extremely helpful during pregnancy, when the expecting mother goes through a wide range of emotions. The Bach Flower Remedies restore peace of mind when the mother feels her mind and body is unbalanced for any reason. Although you shouldn’t forget that all medication taken during pregnancy should be at a doctor’s direction.

As they are growing and their body and mind is in a costant change and development, children respond very well to the Bach Flower Remedies. They can help children reach a balance within them self, so that they can learn from life’s ups and downs.

Our pets also have emotions and the Bach Flower Remedies are very helpful to aid pets overcome difficult times. For example they have been very successful in calming hyperactive dogs, fearful cats, trips to the vet, moving, etc. The only difficult part is to understand well your pet and give him the right treatment for his situation and emotion, although the wrong one would not cause any harm.

What is Rescue Remedy & Rescue Remedy Cream?

Dr. Bach created an emergency combination of Remedies which he called Rescue Remedy. This is the only remedy which can really assist and makes you feel better immediately without taking time to improve your actual condition. It contains five different Remedies: Star of Bethlehem, Clematis, Impatiens, Cherry Plum and Rock Rose.

Carry it with you in case of emergencies or everyday stress, such as an exam or job interview. On occasions when you are stressed and your mind is over-active, take a dose or two of Rescue Remedy in the evening before going to sleep.