How To Use The “Folk Method” To Make Herbal Preparations

How To Use The "Folk Method" To Make Herbal Preparations | Herbal Academy | Learn what the folk method is, the differences between it and the ratio method, and how to make an herbal preparation this simple herbal technique.

When it comes to making herbal preparations, one of the simplest ways to go about it is to use the folk method. The folk method is often used by beginner herbalists because it’s a simple and easy method to follow, but that doesn’t mean it’s for beginners only. Many experienced herbalists continue to prefer this method of herbal preparation, especially those that tend to rely on their instincts when working with herbs.

In this post, I’d like to explain what the folk method is, discuss the differences between it and ratio method, and walk you through the steps of making an herbal preparation using the folk method.

What Is The Folk Method?

The folk method is one of the simplest ways to make herbal preparations. As its name implies, it’s what the common “folks” would use. The folk method is simple and easy. There is no difficult math involved, you use what you have on hand, and no extra equipment is needed. As you grow as an herbalist, you will eventually rely on your instinct and knowledge to craft the folk preparations you’re going to use.

While many people may think the folk method is not of high quality because it’s too simple, this is simply not true. Many well-known and well-respected herbalists prefer using the folk method because of its simplicity and the intuition it takes to use it.

Rosemary Gladstar is one of these herbalists. Not to say she never uses the ratio method (because she may), but most times, you’ll find her putting a bit of this herb and a sprinkle of that herb in her formulas. You’ll also notice that most of her recipes call for “parts” which is another indicator of a recipe made using the folk method. Rosemary refers to this method as “the simpler’s method of measurement.”

“… simpler referred to someone who was observant and relied on intuition and an inner knowing for making preparations” (Gladstar, 2008, p. 378).

What’s The Difference Between the Folk Method and the Ratio Method

How To Use The "Folk Method" To Make Herbal Preparations | Herbal Academy | Learn what the folk method is, the differences between it and the ratio method, and how to make an herbal preparation this simple herbal technique.

As with most things, there are pros and cons of each method. Your preference and situation will determine which you will use.

Like I mentioned earlier, the folk method requires no exact measurements. You can follow a recipe that uses roughly estimated parts, or you use your knowledge, experience, and intuition to judge how much of an herb to use in your preparation. With this method, it’s rare that any two preparations will turn out the same. When it comes to determining dosages for preparations made using the folk method, again, your knowledge and intuition will come into play. Most times, though, dosages are titrated up or down based on the situation you’re dealing with.

The ratio method, on the other hand, uses exact measurements of herbs and solvents. Oftentimes, a specific amount of herb is weighed and a certain volume of solvent is measured. This is then combined, and the result will be consistent each time you make it. Dosage suggestions are based on the strength of the herb and the herb to solvent ratio. Stronger preparations will have smaller dosage recommendations while weaker preparations will have larger dosages.

Again, there are benefits to each method, and one is not better than the other.

Examples of the Folk Method

To show some preparations made using the folk method, let’s look at three recipes below. Let me encourage you to try these out for yourself so you can familiarize yourself with this method.

How To Use The "Folk Method" To Make Herbal Preparations | Herbal Academy | Learn what the folk method is, the differences between it and the ratio method, and how to make an herbal preparation this simple herbal technique.

Calendula Infused Oil

This infused oil is one of the simplest herbal preparations you’ll ever make. It’s mad with the wonderful herb, calendula, using the folk method. It can be used as is on the skin or added to other herbal recipes like this simple Calendula Salve.

Calendula Infused Oil

[recipe_ingredients]

Dried calendula (Calendula officinalis) flowers
Carrier oil of choice (olive, sweet almond, fractionated coconut, etc.)

[/recipe_ingredients][recipe_directions]

  • In a clean, dry pint jar, place enough dried calendula flowers to fill jar 1/3 of the way full.
  • Cover the herbs with carrier oil of your choice, filling the jar to 1 inch from the top.
  • Stir the mixture with a clean, dry spoon, screw on a tight lid, and allow it to sit in a dark, warm spot. Shake every couple days for good measure.
  • Strain the mixture after 4-6 weeks and store in a clean, labeled glass jar.

[/recipe_directions]

Traditional Folk Oxymel Preparation

How To Use The "Folk Method" To Make Herbal Preparations | Herbal Academy | Learn what the folk method is, the differences between it and the ratio method, and how to make an herbal preparation this simple herbal technique.

This preparation comes from our blog post on how to make oxymels, and it shows a traditional oxymel preparation made using the folk method. As you can see from the recipe below, you have no specific measurements, only parts. Therefore, when combining the ingredients, you eyeball the amount of each as you put it in your jar.

Traditional Folk Oxymel Preparation

Recipe adapted from Mountain Rose Herbs

[recipe_ingredients]

Dried herb of choice
1 part apple cider vinegar
1 part raw honey

[/recipe_ingredients][recipe_directions]

  • In a clean, dry pint jar, place enough dried herb to fill 1/4 of the way full.
  • Cover the herbs with the vinegar and honey until the jar is full or slightly less than full (strive for a ratio of approximately 1:3, herbs to vinegar/honey mixture).
  • Stir the mixture with a clean, dry spoon, screw on a tight plastic lid, then shake until well mixed.
  • Store the jar in a dark, cool place and shake every couple of days.
  • Strain the mixture after about two weeks and store in a glass jar.

[/recipe_directions]

Cumin, Coriander, & Fennel Seed Tea

How To Use The "Folk Method" To Make Herbal Preparations | Herbal Academy | Learn what the folk method is, the differences between it and the ratio method, and how to make an herbal preparation this simple herbal technique.

Another recipe made using the folk method is this one for Cumin, Coriander, and Fennel Seed tea. This tea is perfect to benefit digestion during the colder months of the year when we tend to eat heavier foods. This recipe is made using equal parts of herbs. It’s also easy to make in bulk and use whenever you need a digestive boost!

Cumin, Coriander, & Fennel Seed Tea

Recipe from Herbal Teas Throughout The Seasons

[recipe_ingredients]

1 part cumin seeds (Cuminum cyminum)
1 part coriander seeds (Coriandrum sativum)
1 part fennel seeds (Foeniculum vulgare)

[/recipe_ingredients][recipe_directions]

  • Mix all dry ingredients together and add to a glass mug.
  • Cover with 2 cups (16 ounces) of just-boiled water and steep for 20 minutes.
  • Strain and compost the herbs.
  • Sip this tea before or after meals to promote healthy digestion.

[/recipe_directions]

REFERENCES

Gladstar, R. (2008). Herbal recipes for vibrant health. North Adams, MA: Story Publishing.

Herbal Tea or Herbal Infusion: What’s the Difference?

Herbal Tea or Herbal Infusion: What's the Difference? | Herbal Academy | When should you use an herbal tea or herbal infusion? What's the difference? While the two are mostly similar, there are a couple of differences to note.

It’s finally here: the time of year when there’s not much better than a cozy fire, a snuggly flannel, and a hot cup of herbal tea… or herbal infusion.

Fall is the perfect time of year to introduce the healthful practice of enjoying an herbal tea or herbal infusion daily. Not only is this the season when our bodies crave warmth, but it’s also when herbs from a season of growing are harvested and processed for use in the kitchen. Another benefit to herbal teas and herbal infusions is the extra nutrients they provide our bodies. This is especially important when we’re facing lots of bugs and viruses that go around this time of year.

You may already be on board for a comforting mug of herbal chai tea in the morning or a warming cup of chamomile tea before bed, but what about an herbal infusion? Perhaps you’ve not heard this term before, or you have and simply don’t know the difference between an herbal tea and herbal infusion. While the two are rather similar, there are subtle differences that have earned them separate terminology.

The Difference in Herbal Teas and Herbal Infusions

Herbal Tea or Herbal Infusion: What's the Difference? | Herbal Academy | When should you use an herbal tea or herbal infusion? What's the difference? While the two are mostly similar, there are a couple of differences to note.

An herbal tea and herbal infusion are essentially the same thing—the two distinct differences being (1) the amount of herb used and (2) the steep time. Simply put: herbal teas use less plant matter and are steeped for a shorter period of time than infusions, while herbal infusions use a larger amount of herbs and are steeped for a longer period of time. Because of their longer steep time, herbal infusions may contain a higher nutrient content than herbal teas (Gladstar, 2008).

How to Make an Herbal Tea or Herbal Infusion

Herbal Tea or Herbal Infusion: What's the Difference? | Herbal Academy | When should you use an herbal tea or herbal infusion? What's the difference? While the two are mostly similar, there are a couple of differences to note.

Herbal Tea or Herbal Infusion: What's the Difference? | Herbal Academy | When should you use an herbal tea or herbal infusion? What's the difference? While the two are mostly similar, there are a couple of differences to note.

The makings for a good cup of herbal tea and a batch of an herbal infusion are rather simple—more of an art than a science. To make an herbal tea, simply prepare water as recommended for the type of tea you’re having and steep your herbs for a few minutes. Steep times will vary depending on the herbs you’re using, but the average is 5-10 minutes. After steeping, strain the herbs out or remove the tea bag, sweeten if desired, and enjoy. Herbal tea is typically prepared by the cup and is enjoyed right away. For helpful hints on making one of the best cups of tea you’ll ever have, check out this article on How to Build a Nutritive Tea.

To make an herbal infusion, you can add hot or cold water, depending on the nature of the herbs you are using. Learn more about the particulars of cold water infusions here. Since hot water infusions are more common, that’s what I’ll break down in this article. Herbal infusions are often made by the quart, so one can make a larger amount and enjoy several cups from one batch. It is commonly recommended to use about 1-3 tablespoons of herbs per cup of water or 1 ounce of herb by weight per quart of water and then steep for several hours or even overnight (Mountain Rose Herbs, 2018). You then strain the herbs, and the result is a delicious, nutritious herbal infusion! It’s recommended to drink herbal infusions within 24 hours to ensure optimal nutritive content and freshness (Weed, n.d.). You can learn more about herbal preparation shelf-life in this article, What Every Herbalist Should Know About Herbal Preparation Shelf-Life.

When to Drink an Herbal Tea or Herbal Infusion

Herbal Tea or Herbal Infusion: What's the Difference? | Herbal Academy | When should you use an herbal tea or herbal infusion? What's the difference? While the two are mostly similar, there are a couple of differences to note.

There’s really no right or wrong way to drink an herbal tea or herbal infusion; it’s really up to your personal preference. Many choose tea as a beverage to pair with a snack, have after a meal, or perhaps to sip on before bed. Herbal infusions are often enjoyed in a more utilitarian manner: as a nutritive drink taken once each day to introduce a high content of minerals into someone’s diet. If you’re someone who is short on time and wants a high return on your investment, infusions could be a great way to assimilate a variety of nutrients into your body, and you only have to make one batch a day.

While you may gravitate toward one preparation or the other, as long as you are filling your body with the benefits of herbs, it doesn’t matter which you prefer! An herbal tea and herbal infusion both have benefits for different situations and for all types of people. Bottom’s up!

Herbal Tea or Herbal Infusion: What's the Difference? | Herbal Academy | When should you use an herbal tea or herbal infusion? What's the difference? While the two are mostly similar, there are a couple of differences to note.

REFERENCES

Gladstar, R. (2008). Herbal recipes for vibrant health. North Adams, MA: Story Publishing.

Mountain Rose Herbs. (2018). Herbal infusions, tea, and decoctions. [Online Article]. Retrieved from https://blog.mountainroseherbs.com/traditional-herbal-infusions

Weed, S. (n.d.). How to make nourishing herbal infusions. [Online Article]. Retrieved from http://www.susunweed.com/How_to_make_Infusions.htm

How To Make An Oxymel

How To Make An Oxymel | Herbal Academy | A classic but often overlooked herbal preparation, oxymels have been used for ages and are a tasty and simple herbal preparation to make.

A classic but often overlooked herbal preparation, oxymels have been used for ages for a variety of respiratory and immune system issues including coughs, mucus, and difficulty breathing (Hippocrates, 400 B.C.E.). Made from vinegar and honey, oxymels are a tasty and simple herbal preparation to make.

Keep reading to learn how to make an oxymel using a few different traditional methods. Note that because oxymels use raw honey, do not give them to children under 12 months old.

Why Use An Oxymel?

How To Make An Oxymel | Herbal Academy | A classic but often overlooked herbal preparation, oxymels have been used for ages and are a tasty and simple herbal preparation to make.

You might be wondering: why use an oxymel over other herbal preparations?

Derived from the Greek word oxymeli, which translates to “acid and honey,” oxymel use has been documented since the age of Hippocrates as a means to use and extract herbs that are not so pleasant in flavor when taken through other methods (Hippocrates, 400 B.C.E.). These herbs tend to be the more pungent aromatics, such as garlic (Allium sativa) and cayenne (Capsicum annuum), that also lend a supportive role for the immune and respiratory systems (Green, 2000).

Both apple cider vinegar and raw honey are common kitchen allies that can be used to help soothe the throat, calm a cough, or bolster the immune system through colds and flu. When combined with herbs that carry complementary actions, oxymels offer a potent, yet tasty, support for times of sickness or compromised immunity.

In the words of Hippocrates: “You will find the drink, called oxymel, often very useful… for it promotes expectoration and freedom of breathing” (Hippocrates, 400 B.C.E.).

4 Ways To Make An Oxymel

How To Make An Oxymel | Herbal Academy | A classic but often overlooked herbal preparation, oxymels have been used for ages and are a tasty and simple herbal preparation to make.

At its core, oxymels are simply an herbal extraction of apple cider vinegar and honey. In essence, the simplest way to make an oxymel is to combine a vinegar and a honey herbal infusion you have previously made. Although this is not a traditional oxymel preparation, it is an easy and convenient method, especially when you have premade vinegar or honey infusions already on hand.

Time Saver Oxymel Preparation

[recipe_ingredients]

1 part herbal infused vinegar
1 part herbal infused honey

[/recipe_ingredients][recipe_directions]

  • Combine infused vinegar with infused honey in a sterilized glass jar. Mix well with a clean, dry spoon until both preparations are fully combined.
  • Label and store in a cool place free of moisture for 6 months.

[/recipe_directions]

Note: Oxymels should be stored in glass jars with plastic lids as the vinegar in the mixture will corrode a metal lid. If you don’t have plastic lids available, you can place a piece of parchment or wax paper between the jar and the lid.

There are several traditional ways oxymels can be made. Below are three different methods to prepare oxymels as a delivery for tinctures, decoctions, or as a means for extracting dried herbs.

The classic, standard oxymel recipe uses 5 parts honey to 1 part vinegar, but many modern recipes will call for more of an equal balance between vinegar and honey. Feel free to play with the proportions depending on the focus of your formula and your taste palate.

How To Make An Oxymel | Herbal Academy | A classic but often overlooked herbal preparation, oxymels have been used for ages and are a tasty and simple herbal preparation to make.

Traditional Folk Oxymel Preparation

[recipe_ingredients]

Recipe adapted from Mountain Rose Herbs

Dried herb of choice
1 part apple cider vinegar
1 part raw honey

[/recipe_ingredients][recipe_directions]

  • In a clean, dry pint jar, place enough dried herb to fill ¼ of the way full.
  • Cover the herbs with the vinegar and honey until the jar is full or slightly less than full (strive for a ratio of approximately 1:3, herbs to vinegar/honey mixture).
  • Stir the mixture with a clean, dry spoon, screw on a tight plastic lid, then shake until well mixed.
  • Store the jar in a dark, cool place and shake every couple days.
  • Strain the mixture after about two weeks and store in a glass jar.

[/recipe_directions]

How To Make An Oxymel | Herbal Academy | A classic but often overlooked herbal preparation, oxymels have been used for ages and are a tasty and simple herbal preparation to make.

Oxymel Base For Tinctures

[recipe_ingredients]

2 cups apple cider vinegar
3 cups honey
Herbal tincture of your choice

[/recipe_ingredients][recipe_directions]

  • Combine the apple cider vinegar and honey in a pot and simmer to the consistency of a syrup.
  • Remove from the heat and add in your herbal tincture using a ratio of 1 part tincture to 3 parts oxymel (Ex: 30 drops of tincture to approximately 1 teaspoon oxymel) as needed or desired. Stir well to combine.
  • The oxymel base can be stored in a dark, cool place or in the fridge. Stir or gently shake before using.

[/recipe_directions]

How To Make An Oxymel | Herbal Academy | A classic but often overlooked herbal preparation, oxymels have been used for ages and are a tasty and simple herbal preparation to make.

Oxymel Using Vinegar Decoction

[recipe_ingredients]

8 oz dried herb of choice (choose plant parts that are ideal for decocting such as barks, berries, and roots)
8 cups vinegar
3 cups raw honey

[/recipe_ingredients][recipe_directions]

  • Place the dried herb and vinegar in a pot and bring to a boil. (Be careful not to inhale the vinegar steam too much or put your face over the top of the pot!)
  • Reduce heat and allow to simmer gently until the liquid is reduced to roughly 5 cups.
  • Strain the herbs from the vinegar and allow to cool to room temperature.
  • Add the honey to the herbal decoction. Mix thoroughly to combine.

[/recipe_directions]

Time to Start Brewing

How To Make An Oxymel | Herbal Academy | A classic but often overlooked herbal preparation, oxymels have been used for ages and are a tasty and simple herbal preparation to make.

Making an herbal oxymel is a simple and convenient herbal preparation that creates an ideal balance between vinegar and honey for supporting the immune and respiratory systems. With so many different ways to prepare an oxymel, there is a bit of room for creativity and experimentation with every batch you brew!

Get started making an oxymel today with our recipe for Homemade Fire Cider — just in time for the cool months ahead. Learn more specifics on herbal extractions through our posts How To Make An Herbal Honey and Making Herbal Vinegars.

How To Make An Oxymel | Herbal Academy | A classic but often overlooked herbal preparation, oxymels have been used for ages and are a tasty and simple herbal preparation to make.

REFERENCES

Green, J. (2000). The herbal medicine-maker’s handbook: A home manual. Berkley, CA: Crossing Press.

Hippocrates. (400 B.C.E.). On regimen in acute diseases. Retrieved from http://classics.mit.edu/Hippocrates/acutedis.html.

How to Make A Homemade Flower Essence

I never understood the potency of flower essences until I made one myself — carefully picking each beautiful, delicate flower from the plant, intentionally setting it in spring water, and placing the bowl under the sun in the center of my garden. It was a magical meditation as the golden rays of the sun penetrated the petals and my skin simultaneously. In that moment, I could feel something powerful was happening.

Often times, the best way to learn about something is through experience. That’s why, in this post, we will go over five steps you can take to make your own homemade flower essence.

The Power of a Homemade Flower Essence

A flower essence is a solar water infusion of the flowering part of a plant. This type of infusion harnesses the sun’s energy to pull beneficial properties and essences (or life force) out of the plant material and into the water.

Flower essences are primarily used to support the emotional, mental, and spiritual body, and they embody the concept of self-care. You can find out more about flower essences in our post, How To Use Flower Essences for Emotional Support.

Dr. Edward Bach discovered and created the first line of flower essences in 1935. He found that when he supported the personalities and emotions of his patients, instead of their symptoms only, their emotional upsets and bodily stresses would dissipate naturally as the body shifted back into a state of balance and began to work effectively again (The Bach Center, n.d.). Dr. Bach also believed strongly in the power of self-care and was passionate about empowering everyone to tap into their ability to support themselves and others. This is why he created a simple flower essence line.

Learning how to make a homemade flower essence can be very empowering and can help to support you in your self-care journey.

How to Make Homemade Flower Essence

How To Make A Homemade Flower Essence | Herbal Academy | Here's a step-by-step guide on how to make your own homemade flower essences this year!

To make a homemade flower essence, gather the fresh blossoms of a plant you can identify as safe for human consumption. Be sure to choose a clear, sunny day to gather your blossoms, preferably in the early morning, when there may still be dew on them. The blossoms are then placed on the surface of a bowl of spring water and left outdoors in direct sunlight where they can be infused by the heat and light of the sun for several hours. This process is thought to transfer the energy pattern of the flower into the spring water, embodying the beneficial essence of the plant. This “mother essence” is preserved with brandy before being further diluted to form the “stock” bottle, which is the dosage bottle (FES Flowers, n.d.).

Below is a more detailed step-by-step breakdown of this process.

Supplies Needed:

One medium sized glass bowl
One large, clean, dark glass bottle
One or more one-ounce amber or cobalt dropper bottle(s)
Pure spring water
High-quality brandy
Labels

Step 1 – Choose Your Essence

While you may want to explore further resources on flower essences to pick the right essence for you, choosing an essence can be as simple as picking a flower that is growing in your garden or in the environment you live in that is intriguing to you. Sometimes the things we feel attracted to call to us because we could benefit from adding them into our lives. Flower essences are considered non-toxic because they contain only small traces of actual physical substance and have no direct impact upon the body’s biochemistry (FES Flowers, n.d.). However, it is still important to make and consume flower essences with care.

Safety Note: Only harvest flowers from plants that you have positively identified and know to be safe for use. Also, be sure to harvest organically grown plants and in a sustainable way.

How To Make A Homemade Flower Essence | Herbal Academy | Here's a step-by-step guide on how to make your own homemade flower essences this year!

Step 2 – Harvest Flowers

Plan to make the flower essence on a clear, sunny day, when there are no clouds in the sky. It is also important to check in with yourself as preparing a flower essence can feel like a magical experience, not a mechanical one. Tune in to your mind, body, and spirit and see if you can be completely present in the moment. Make sure you are in the right place energetically to put good intention into the flower essence making process. If astrology is important to you, you may want to consider those aspects as well when choosing the day to make your homemade flower essence.

When picking the flowers to use, it’s traditionally recommended to use a leaf from the plant to cover your fingers so you don’t touch the blossoms. Try to avoid using clippers or tools. If you find this difficult, you can wear gloves instead and/or use tools if you need. This is not required, but suggested, so that your body’s energy or other sources of energy do not transfer into the flower essence.

Make sure the plant(s) you choose to pick from are organically grown. If wild crafting, choose a place where the plants grow in abundance and are not exposed to pollution from the city. Choose fresh, vibrant blossoms from the plant, and pick flowers that grow in profusion. Only pick a few blossoms from each plant to ensure the plant can live a healthy life after your harvest.

Step 3 – Prepare the Menstruum

Fill a glass bowl with spring water. If you do not have access to a spring, bottled water is okay to use. Avoid distilled water because some believe the ionization process destroys the water’s life force necessary to hold the flower’s essence.

How To Make A Homemade Flower Essence | Herbal Academy | Here's a step-by-step guide on how to make your own homemade flower essences this year!

Step 4 – Infuse the Essence

Place the flowers on top of the spring water in the bowl until the entire surface of the water is covered. Place the bowl in direct sunlight where no shadows will cross over it (including your own) for three to four hours. During this time, the essence of the flowers will be infused into the water through the energy of the sun.

Step 5 – Strain & Bottle

After three to four hours, skim the flowers off of the water using a leaf from the plant if possible. The water left in the bowl is now called the “mother essence.” Pour this into a clean, amber glass bottle, filling the bottle halfway with the mother essence and halfway with brandy. The final mixture in the bottle should be half mother essence and half brandy. The brandy is used as a preservative and an anchor to hold the subtle essence vibrations in the water.

Don’t forget to label your bottle! Write mother essence, the date, ingredients, where it was made, and any other important information on the label. Store it in a cool, dark, dry place. If made well and stored correctly, mother essences and stock bottles should retain their potency for six to ten years (Devi, n.d.).

Note: Use brandy that is at least 80-proof alcohol. If you would like to avoid using alcohol, you may use apple cider vinegar or vegetable glycerin instead. However, it should be stored in the refrigerator, and this will shorten the shelf life to one year.

To Use Your Homemade Flower Essence

How To Make A Homemade Flower Essence | Herbal Academy | Here's a step-by-step guide on how to make your own homemade flower essences this year!

The mother essence is to be diluted and never consumed directly. To dilute it, place two to ten drops of the mother essence in a one-ounce amber or cobalt bottle with a glass dropper and fill the remainder of the bottle with half brandy and half spring water. This is called a “stock” bottle. From this stock bottle, take two to four drops under the tongue, up to four times a day, as needed.

Tap Into Your Creativity

Allow yourself flexibility and freedom when creating your homemade flower essence. As mentioned before, this is believed to be a magical experience, not a mechanical one. There is no one-way to make a flower essence. The method we detailed in this post is known as the “Sun Method” of preparation. However, some herbalists enjoy making flower essences under the full moon, or during different unique and profound astrological times. Feel free to experiment and play around with things that resonate with you!

Last year, I felt inspired to make a sunflower flower essence during the solar eclipse in North America. I used big, bright sunflowers from my organic garden, placed them in spring water in direct sunlight about an hour before the eclipse began, and skimmed the flowers off about an hour after the eclipse ended. I live in Portland, Oregon, where the solar eclipse was in 97% totality, meaning that the moon almost covered the sun completely, casting many eerie but beautiful shadows in the area.

The traditional way to make a flower essence is to ensure that no shadows will go over the bowl. However, I felt like the eclipse was a very powerful energetic moment in time that I wanted to capture in my essence. I also really feel the sunflower essence embodies the solar eclipse energy of light and shadows. The essence of sunflower, Helianthus assuus, assists in balancing the light and shadow side of the self, dissolving low self-esteem in those that need it, and welcoming in light or dissolving the self-glorified ego and welcoming in loving compassion (Kaminski & Katz, 1996).

Remember

Making a homemade flower essence should be a fun, empowering activity to support your journey into herbs traditionally used for self-care and ritual. Flower essences are strengtheners of our own soul forces, enabling us to learn and grow from life’s challenges. They are not a quick fix. They are wonderful plant allies, inviting us on a transformative journey, and can be our guides along the way.

How To Make A Homemade Flower Essence | Herbal Academy | Here's a step-by-step guide on how to make your own homemade flower essences this year!

REFERENCES:

Devi, L. (n.d.). The essential flower essence handbook. Retrieved from http://spirit-in-nature.com/learn-more/the-free-online-essential-flower-essence-handbook

FES Flowers, (n.d.). Frequently asked questions about flower essences. [PDF]. Retrieved from http://fesflowers.com/files/1714/2678/9743/FAQ.pdf

Kaminski, P., & Katz, R. (1996). Flower essence repertory: A comprehensive guide to North American and English flower essences for emotional and spiritual well-being. Nevada City, CA: Flower Essence Society.

The Bach Center, (n.d.). Our founder, Dr. Edward Bach. [Web Page]. Retrieved from https://www.bachcentre.com/centre/drbach.htm

What Every Herbalist Should Know About Herbal Preparation Shelf-Life

What Every Herbalist Should Know About Herbal Preparation Shelf-Life | Herbal Academy | Ever wondered if an herbal preparation from the back of your cabinet was still effective? Learn all about herbal preparation shelf-life in today's post.

Have you ever pulled an older herbal salve out of your bathroom cabinet and wondered if it was still effective? Or perhaps you’ve thought about making a large batch of herbal tea to store in the refrigerator and drink over the course of several days, later second guessing yourself because you weren’t sure how many days the tea would remain drinkable. What about the hydrosol that’s been sitting in the back of your refrigerator that now has a little white cloud floating in the bottom of it?

Questions about herbal preparation shelf-life are common, and while shelf-life and preparation potency will vary based on several factors such as the solvent used to make the preparation, how the preparation is made, stored, and used, and time itself, having a guideline can be helpful, especially if you’re new to making herbal preparations.

In this post we’re sharing some basic guidelines on herbal preparation shelf-life. We’ve even made a free printable for you so you can have these guidelines handy in one place. Feel free to download, print, and store this chart in your herbal journal or on the inside of your bathroom cabinet (or wherever you store the majority of your herbal preparations) so you can easily reference it the next time you have a question about herbal preparation shelf-life!

What Every Herbalist Should Know About Herbal Preparation Shelf-Life | Herbal Academy | Ever wondered if an herbal preparation from the back of your cabinet was still effective? Learn all about herbal preparation shelf-life in today's post.

How Solvents Affect Herbal Preparation Shelf-Life

Solvents are the menstruums used to extract the properties of herbs. Oil, alcohol, water, glycerin, vinegar, and honey are all examples of commonly used solvents. All solvents have a recommended shelf-life, and these recommendations determine the starting point of the shelf-life of your herbal preparation. The shelf-life of substances all vary based on how long it takes for microbes to grow in them, or in the case of oil, how long it takes for oxidation (rancidity) to occur. We’ll discuss the shelf-life of some common herbal solvents below.

What Every Herbalist Should Know About Herbal Preparation Shelf-Life | Herbal Academy | Ever wondered if an herbal preparation from the back of your cabinet was still effective? Learn all about herbal preparation shelf-life in today's post.

Water-Based Preparations

Water-based herbal preparations are those that are comprised mostly of water. While teas, infusions, and decoctions may be the first preparations that come to mind, compresses, fomentations, hydrosols, and poultices fall into this category as well.

Because microbes multiply in water rather quickly, it’s recommended to use water-based preparations almost immediately. Refrigeration and freezing can help to extend shelf-life of these herbal preparations.

We recommend using poultices and refrigerated herbal teas and infusions within 24 hours and refrigerated decoctions within 48 hours. Steeped herbal compresses and fomentations have a shelf-life of 24 hours; however, those that are decocted can be refrigerated for 48 hours. Steam-distilled hydrosols are believed to have a shelf-life of 12-24 months (Jacobson, 2015) depending on the botanical used, its pH, and distillation and storage conditions (Robbins, n.d.).

What Every Herbalist Should Know About Herbal Preparation Shelf-Life | Herbal Academy | Ever wondered if an herbal preparation from the back of your cabinet was still effective? Learn all about herbal preparation shelf-life in today's post.

Oil-Based Preparations

Oil-based herbal preparations are those that are comprised mostly of lipids, such as herbal salves and infused oils.

While microbes can multiply in oil once contaminated, microbes are not the main threat to the shelf-life of oil-based herbal preparations — it’s oxidation (rancidity). Oil rancidity naturally occurs with time, and can also occur due to improper storage and usage. We’ll discuss these three factors that affect herbal preparation shelf life later in this article. Water is another substance that can impact the shelf-life of herbal infused oils as it can lead to microbe growth within your oil. While this is normally not an issue if dry herbs are used, it is a concern for herbal oil infusions made with fresh herbs.

The shelf-life of oil-based preparations made with dried herbs varies greatly depending on the oil you choose, therefore, herbal infused oils and salves have a shelf-life that ranges from 6 months to 3 years. For infused oils that oxidize easily, you can add antioxidant products like vitamin E and rosemary oil extract to help extend shelf-life a little longer as these products have been shown to slow the process of oxidation (Riaz & Rokey, 2012).

What Every Herbalist Should Know About Herbal Preparation Shelf-Life | Herbal Academy | Ever wondered if an herbal preparation from the back of your cabinet was still effective? Learn all about herbal preparation shelf-life in today's post.

Alcohol-Based Preparations

Alcohol-based herbal preparations are those that use some form of alcohol as the solvent. Herbal tinctures and herbal liniments are both considered alcohol-based preparations even though two different types of alcohol are used (ethyl alcohol and isopropyl alcohol, respectively).

Alcohol preparations have a long shelf-life as alcohol slows decomposition of materials (Green, 2000) and bacterial growth, thus, increasing herbal preparation shelf-life, but for alcohol to properly preserve a tincture, the final alcohol percentage should be at least 25%. Herbal tinctures and liniments made using the appropriate amount of alcohol are shelf-stable and do not need to be refrigerated.

We recommend using alcohol-based herbal tinctures within two years. However, some alcohol tinctures and liniments have a shelf-life of 3-5 years, particularly those made with a high percentage of alcohol. Shelf-life can be extended with proper storage and usage as well as by thoroughly filtering the tincture to remove as much plant sediment as possible (Green, 2000).

Vinegar-Based Preparations

Vinegar-based herbal preparations are those that use vinegar as a solvent. Herbal vinegar tinctures are preparations that fit into this category.

Vinegar has long been used as a food preservative and natural household cleaner due to its acidity, which inhibits the growth of certain bacteria (Entani, Asai, Tsujihata, Tsukamoto, & Ohta, 1998; Rutala, Barbee, Aguiar, Sobsey, & Weber, 2000).

We recommend using vinegar-based herbal preparations within six months. Vinegar preparations in general are shelf-stable when made with no less than 5% vinegar (Cech, 2000; Green, 2000) and do not need to be refrigerated, although, refrigeration can help extend shelf-life. Like alcohol tinctures, vinegar tincture shelf-life can also be extended by thoroughly filtering plant sediment from the liquid.

What Every Herbalist Should Know About Herbal Preparation Shelf-Life | Herbal Academy | Ever wondered if an herbal preparation from the back of your cabinet was still effective? Learn all about herbal preparation shelf-life in today's post.

Sugar-Based Preparations

Sugar-based herbal preparations are those that are made with some form of sugar, whether that be cane sugar, honey, or maple syrup. Herbal honeys, electuaries, and lozenges are all examples of sugar-based preparations.

Sugar has been used for many years as a food preservative. Like alcohol, sugar inhibits bacterial growth through its osmotic effect of drawing water out of the cells of foods and microorganisms so that microorganisms can no longer survive; the higher the sugar concentration, the better its preservative effects (ACS Distance Education, n.d.).

Herbal honey made with dried herbs has a shelf-life of one year, is shelf-stable, and will not require refrigeration. Electuaries, because they use powdered herbs, have a shelf-life of 6-12 months when refrigerated and used properly. We recommend using herbal lozenges within six months when stored properly.

Glycerin, while sweet, is not a true sugar, but we’re including glycerites in this section based on taste alone. Herbal glycerites are shelf-stable, do not require refrigeration, and have a shelf-life of one year when they contain at least 55% glycerin (Cech, 2000).

What Every Herbalist Should Know About Herbal Preparation Shelf-Life | Herbal Academy | Ever wondered if an herbal preparation from the back of your cabinet was still effective? Learn all about herbal preparation shelf-life in today's post.

Dry or Powdered Preparations

Dry or powdered preparations are those that utilize dried or powdered herbs in the majority of the product. Loose powdered herbs, capsules, and pastilles are examples of herbal preparations that fall into this category.

Under appropriate storage conditions, dried herbs can retain their potency for 1-2 years. However, once an herb is powdered, the properties begin to degrade at an even faster rate, cutting shelf-life in half (Kress, 1997). For this reason, we recommend using powdered herbs within 6-12 months. Proper storage and refrigerating or even freezing powdered herbs can help to extend herbal preparation shelf-life by a couple of months.

Capsules have a one-year shelf life when stored properly. We recommend using refrigerated pastilles within six months.

What Every Herbalist Should Know About Herbal Preparation Shelf-Life | Herbal Academy | Ever wondered if an herbal preparation from the back of your cabinet was still effective? Learn all about herbal preparation shelf-life in today's post.

Mixed-Solvent Preparations

Mixed-solvent preparations are those that contain two or more types of solvents. Herbal syrups (water and honey), creams and lotions (oil and water), oxymels (honey and vinegar), and elixirs (alcohol and honey) are some preparations that fit into this category.

When creating preparations with mixed solvents, it’s important to know the recommended shelf-life of each solvent and to estimate your preparation’s shelf-life based on that information.

When it comes to herbal syrups, plan on using refrigerated 2:1 (decoction:sugar) syrups within several weeks (Gladstar, 2012), while a refrigerated 1:2 syrup can remain shelf-stable for up to a year (Cech, 2000). Oxymels should be refrigerated and used within six months when made with fresh plant material (Andress & Harrison, 2000); however, when made with dried material, they are shelf-stable and should be used within 1 year. Elixirs can remain shelf-stable for 1-2 years. Creams and lotions, when refrigerated, will have a shelf-life of 1-2 weeks unless some form of preservative is added (Berry, 2016).

How Manufacturing Affects Herbal Preparation Shelf-Life

Don’t let the word manufacturing confuse you into thinking this section is only for herbal businesses who sell their products to the public. It isn’t! This information also applies to home herbalists who make products to use with their families or give them away to friends.

When making herbal preparations, you want to be mindful that you are working in a clean environment and with clean materials. The cleaner your hands, surfaces, and utensils are, the less chance for bacterial contamination of your herbal preparation. Using dry herbs as opposed to fresh herbs can help decrease the chance of bacterial growth due to the presence of water in fresh plant material. Avoiding overheating of herbal preparations, particularly herbal infused oils, can increase the chance of oxidation. Also, when storing any liquid preparation for an extended period of time, shelf-life can be extended by straining the liquid through a coffee filter several times to thoroughly remove plant sediment (Green, 2000).

What Every Herbalist Should Know About Herbal Preparation Shelf-Life | Herbal Academy | Ever wondered if an herbal preparation from the back of your cabinet was still effective? Learn all about herbal preparation shelf-life in today's post.

How Storage Affects Herbal Preparation Shelf-Life

Storage also affects herbal preparation shelf-life in regards to the effectiveness of the preparation. Like herbs, herbal preparations should be stored out of direct sunlight, in a dry place free from moisture, and in a cool environment (not above 110 degrees) as light, moisture, and heat are all thought to reduce the effectiveness of the herbal properties contained in the preparation.

Refrigeration (below 40° Fahrenheit) can also help to extend the shelf-life of herbal products as bacteria grow more slowly in cold environments (United States Department of Agriculture, n.d.).

What Every Herbalist Should Know About Herbal Preparation Shelf-Life | Herbal Academy | Ever wondered if an herbal preparation from the back of your cabinet was still effective? Learn all about herbal preparation shelf-life in today's post.

How Usage Affects Herbal Preparation Shelf-Life

How an herbal preparation is used day in and day out will also be a determining factor when considering shelf-life. The cleaner you can keep the preparation by minimizing the chance of microbial contamination, the longer the shelf-life will be. For example, using your finger to scoop salve out of a tin is less sanitary than using a cotton swab, and dropping drops of tincture directly into your mouth is less sanitary than adding drops of a tincture into a small amount of water to drink.

How Time Affects Herbal Preparation Potency

Time affects all herbal preparations in terms of potency and effectiveness. The more time that passes, the less potent the preparation becomes. As soon as a plant is harvested, it and its properties begin to fade. Solvents can help extract and preserve a plant’s properties for a time, but effectiveness naturally wanes as time passes.

What Every Herbalist Should Know About Herbal Preparation Shelf-Life | Herbal Academy | Ever wondered if an herbal preparation from the back of your cabinet was still effective? Learn all about herbal preparation shelf-life in today's post.

Use Your Senses To Tell When An Herbal Preparation Has Gone Bad

In this post and in the printable below, we’ve tried to be conservative with our recommendations for herbal preparation shelf-life. However, there is wiggle room when it comes to the shelf-life of various herbal preparations. Using your five senses can help guide you as to whether something has gone bad.

Think back to how your preparation looked, smelled, tasted, or felt when you first made it. Compare that to how it looks, smells, tastes, or feels now.

Does it look different from when you first made it? Has the color changed? Do you see cloudy matter floating in the liquid? Is there mold growing on the surface?

Does it smell different? Most freshly made herbal preparations will have an herby scent, smelling similar to the herb itself, or a scent reflecting the solvent used (tinctures smelling like alcohol, oxymels smelling like vinegar).

Does it taste strange? Perhaps a little sour, fizzy, or alcoholic when it was once sweet or savory?

Does it feel different? Is it gooey or slimy feeling? Has it gone from smooth to grainy?

Using your senses can help you to guess whether an herbal preparation is past its prime and should be remade. Remember to err on the side of caution, and don’t forget to label your preparations!

What Every Herbalist Should Know About Herbal Preparation Shelf-Life | Herbal Academy | Ever wondered if an herbal preparation from the back of your cabinet was still effective? Learn all about herbal preparation shelf-life in today's post.

Guidelines Are Just That

Remember, guidelines are not a set of hard rules to follow. They’re suggestions, and like we mentioned earlier, our suggested guidelines err on the side of safety.

The more you make and use herbal preparations, the more confident and comfortable you’ll become with the process. In fact, you’ll most likely develop your own system for making preparations. This system will help you to keep track of when your preparations are past their prime and ready to be replaced whether that’s through tracking dates, using your senses, or your own intuition.

Download Our Free Herbal Preparation Shelf-Life Graphic Below

If you’ve enjoyed the information in this post and would like to keep it in an easy to recall format, we’d love for you to download this free printable below.

What Every Herbalist Should Know About Herbal Preparation Shelf-Life | Herbal Academy | Ever wondered if an herbal preparation from the back of your cabinet was still effective? Learn all about herbal preparation shelf-life in today's post.

What Every Herbalist Should Know About Herbal Preparation Shelf-Life | Herbal Academy | Ever wondered if an herbal preparation from the back of your cabinet was still effective? Learn all about herbal preparation shelf-life in today's post.

Click To Download

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What Every Herbalist Should Know About Herbal Preparation Shelf-Life | Herbal Academy | Ever wondered if an herbal preparation from the back of your cabinet was still effective? Learn all about herbal preparation shelf-life in today's post.

REFERENCES:

Andress, E.L., & Harrison, J.A. (2000). Preserving food: Flavoring vinegars. [PDF]. Retrieved from https://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/uga/uga_flavored_vinegars.pdf

ASC Distance Education. (n.d.). Sugar in food preservation. [Online article]. Retrieved from https://www.acsedu.co.uk/Info/Alternative-Living/Self-Sufficiency/Sugar-in-Food-Preserving.aspx

Berry, J. (2016). 101 easy homemade products for your skin, health & home. Salem, MA: Page Street Publishing Co.

Cech, R. (2000). Making plant medicine. Williams, OR: Horizon Herbs.

Entani, E., Asai, M., Tsujihata, S., Tsukamoto, Y., & Ohta, M. (1998). Antibacterial action of vinegar against food-borne pathogenic bacteria including Escherichia coli O157:H7. Journal of Food Protection, 61(8), 953-959. doi:10.4315/0362-028x-61.8.953

Gladstar, R. (2012). Rosemary Gladstar’s medicinal herbs. North Adams, MA: Story Publishing.

Green, J. (2000). The herbal medicine-maker’s handbook: A home manual. New York, NY: Random House.

Jacobson, L. (2015). Hydrosols, hydrolats, aromatic waters – oh my! Everything you wanted to know about hydrosols. [Online article]. Retrieved from http://www.usingeossafely.com/hydrosols-hydrolats-aromatic-waters-oh-my-everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-hydrosols/

Kress, H. (1997). Shelf life of dried plants. [Web page]. Retrieved from https://www.henriettes-herb.com/archives/best/1997/shelf-life.html

Riaz, M.N., & Rokey, G.J. (2012). Extrusion problems solved: Food, pet food and feed. Philadelphia, PA: Woodhead Publishing.

Rutala, W. A., Barbee, S. L., Aguiar, N. C., Sobsey, M. D., & Weber, D. J. (2000). Antimicrobial activity of home disinfectants and natural products against potential human pathogens. Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, 21(1), 33-38. doi:10.1086/501694

Robbins, W. (n.d.). Hydrosol shelf life and storage tips. [Online article]. Retrieved from https://www.aromaweb.com/hydrosols/hydrosol-storage-tips.asp

United States Department of Agriculture. (n.d.). Refrigeration and food safety. [PDF]. Retrieved from https://www.fsis.usda.gov/shared/PDF/Refrigeration_and_Food_Safety.pdf

How To Make Vegan Herbal Syrups

How To Make Vegan Herbal Syrup | Herbal Academy | If you’re a vegan and you’re interested in making vegan herbal syrups, you’ll find several alternatives to honey detailed in this article.

Herbal syrups are a common herbal preparation. Not only are they easy to make and tasty to use, but they require minimal ingredients that can be found in most homes. Other than herbs, all that’s needed to make herbal syrups are water and some form of sweetener. Many herbalists prefer to use raw honey to sweeten their syrups, not only because it has a great flavor but because it adds its own health benefits to the syrup.

But what about herbalists who are vegan or those who choose not to use animal products? What do they use to make vegan herbal syrups?

Many vegans consider any product that comes from a bee to be off limits. When it comes to making homemade herbal syrups in which honey is commonly used, many vegans are looking for an alternative — a honey substitute.

If you’re a vegan and you’re interested in making vegan herbal syrups, you’ll find several alternatives to honey detailed in the article below.

But First, A Note On Sugar Consumption

How To Make Vegan Herbal Syrup | Herbal Academy | If you’re a vegan and you’re interested in making vegan herbal syrups, you’ll find several alternatives to honey detailed in this article.

While researching honey alternatives for this article, I kept coming across repeated information about sugars and how they negatively impact one’s health. However, various types of sweeteners have been used for hundreds of years in herbal preparations without any report of negative effects on health.

While I’m not here to disagree with the fact that sugar is sugar and excess sugar consumption has a negative effect on the body — I would like to note that consuming sugars in herbal syrups is a bit different than consuming sugar from food sources simply due to quantity.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day for women, 9 teaspoons for men, and between 3-6 teaspoons (depending on age and caloric needs) for children (Johnson et al., 2009). The average dosage for most herbal syrups is a teaspoon or less for a 150-pound adult — less for children. While the majority of negative health effects from sugar stem from over-consumption or consuming sugars high in fructose, small doses of sugar from herbal preparations seem unlikely to impact one’s health in a negative way when used occasionally.

With that said, if you’re concerned about sugar’s negative effects on health, going with a sugar-substitute that is gentle on your blood glucose, gut, and liver and keeping your intake a low as possible is your best bet.

4 Honey Alternatives for Making Vegan Herbal Syrups

How To Make Vegan Herbal Syrup | Herbal Academy | If you’re a vegan and you’re interested in making vegan herbal syrups, you’ll find several alternatives to honey detailed in this article.

There are many alternatives for making traditional herbal syrups into vegan herbal syrups. Below, are several honey alternatives to consider, but keep in mind, this list is not comprehensive list by any means.

Keep in mind that the honey alternatives mentioned below vary in their degree of benefit to health so it’s important that you look into any you’re interested in using to make vegan herbal syrups more closely to see if it’s a good choice for you. Some of the sugars listed below contain nutrients; however, a large amount of these sweeteners must be eaten in order to obtain a significant amount of the nutrients. Obviously, this leads to too much sugar in the diet and isn’t recommended.

1. Vegetable-Sourced Glycerin

Glycerin is a thick liquid that is colorless and odorless. It is sweet to taste, soluble in water, and is metabolized in the liver (Lundquist, Tygstrup, Winkler, & Jensen, 1965), therefore, doesn’t cause insulin spikes like other sugars (carbohydrates) (Harvard School of Public Health, n.d.). While it doesn’t have significant health benefits, it also has minimal negative side effects, although large amounts of glycerin can increase fluid loss, leading to eventual dehydration (PubMed Health, 2018). Glycerin can replace honey in an herbal syrup at a ratio of 1:1. It’s typically extracted from plant or animal sources and is often used in food or skin care products. To use glycerin in vegan herbal syrups, be sure to purchase a vegetable-sourced glycerin that is certified non-GMO, as many vegetable-sourced glycerin products come from GMO foods.

2. Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar (often called coconut nectar) is another honey substitute that can be used when making vegan herbal syrups. Coconut sugar comes from the sap of the coconut tree (like maple syrup comes from the sap of the maple tree). It contains 17 amino acids as well as a variety of minerals and vitamins B and C (Philippine Coconut Authority, n.d.). It has a low glycemic index and can easily replace honey at a ratio of 1:1.

How To Make Vegan Herbal Syrup | Herbal Academy | If you’re a vegan and you’re interested in making vegan herbal syrups, you’ll find several alternatives to honey detailed in this article.

3. Stevia

Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) is a plant whose leaves contain sweet glycoside compound called Rebaudioside A (Reb A) that are present fresh or dried (Gunnars, 2013). Stevia can be used as a honey substitute when making vegan herbal syrups, but it is a little trickier to use than some other options on this list. The most important thing is to pay attention to the type of stevia you are using. Stevia can come in raw, unprocessed form, powdered form, and extract form. Each of these are processed differently and can impact health in various ways, so be sure to research to find the form of stevia that is best for you. When using stevia as a honey substitute, it will contribute different tastes and dosages to your herbal syrup so you’ll need to experiment a bit to get your syrup tasting the way you want it. The end product will basically be a concentrated sweet tea. It will not be as thick as most syrups, and it will have to be refrigerated and used within 1-3 days as stevia doesn’t provide any preservation to the product like other sugars do.

4. Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is another honey substitute that can be used to make vegan herbal syrups. Maple syrup comes from the sap of maple trees and contains minerals, antioxidants, and even omega-6 fatty acids (SELFNutritionData, n.d.). While maple syrup is higher on the glycemic index than all of the other honey alternatives on this list, it’s still vegan and can replace honey at a ratio of 1:1.

Other Honey Alternatives

How To Make Vegan Herbal Syrup | Herbal Academy | If you’re a vegan and you’re interested in making vegan herbal syrups, you’ll find several alternatives to honey detailed in this article.

While the above four honey alternatives are not the only choices you have when making vegan herbal syrups, many of the other options I found such as monk fruit, brown rice syrup, and agave, while vegan, were less than ideal simply due to their high fructose content, which has a negative impact on the liver (University of California San Francisco, n.d.).

Each of these sweeteners will vary the taste of the end product as well as the syrup’s final consistency. Herbal syrups made using honey tend to be thicker, while many vegan herbal syrups are a bit thinner and runnier.

While some of these honey-alternatives for making vegan herbal syrups will vary in price, availability, and consistency, there are options to choose from based on your needs.

Finally

While herbal syrups are great ways to take mask the flavor of certain herbs, they do have their limitations. If larger amounts of an herb are needed for a particular issue in order to maintain blood sugar balance, an active immune system, and an overall positive impact on health, it may be better to change to a different type of preparation, such as an infusion or tincture, instead of consuming larger doses of herbal syrups.

How To Make Vegan Herbal Syrup | Herbal Academy | If you’re a vegan and you’re interested in making vegan herbal syrups, you’ll find several alternatives to honey detailed in this article.

REFERENCES

Gunnars, K. (2013). 10 reasons why sugar is bad for you. [Online Article]. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-disturbing-reasons-why-sugar-is-bad

Harvard School of Public Health. (n.d.). Carbohydrates and blood sugar. [Online Article]. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/carbohydrates-and-blood-sugar/

Johnson, R.K., Appel, L., Brands, M., Howard, B., Lefevre, M., Lustig, R.,…Wyllie-Rosett, J. (2009). Dietary sugars intake and cardiovascular health: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 120(11), 1011-20. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.109.192627. Retrieved from http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/circulationaha/120/11/1011.full.pdf

Lundquist F., Tygstrup N., Winkler K., & Jensen K.B. (1965). Glycerol metabolism in the human liver: inhibition by ethanol. [Abstract]. Science, 150(3696), 616-7. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/5837100

Philippine Coconut Authority. (n.d.). Technology description. [PDF]. Retrieved from http://www.pca.da.gov.ph/coconutrde/images/cfs16.pdf

PubMed Health. (2018). Micromedex Detailed Drug Information for the Consumer: Glycerin. [Internet]. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0010489/?report=details

SELFNutritionData. (n.d.). Syrup maple nutrition facts and calories. Retrieved from http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/sweets/5602/2

University of California San Francisco. (n.d.). The toxic truth: Too much fructose can damage your liver, just like too much alcohol. [Online Article]. Retrieved from http://sugarscience.ucsf.edu/the-toxic-truth/#.Ws-MFiPMzuQ

Herbal Compresses and Fomentations: What They Are & How To Use Them

Herbal Compresses and Fomentations: What They Are & How To Use Them | Herbal Academy | Herbal compresses and fomentations are easily overlooked, however they have great potential for helping to ease discomfort. Here's how to make and use them!

Pulled muscles and painful spasms, a bad run-in with the pavement, or a nasty cough all call for a little extra loving care—a gentle touch. The somewhat lost art of topical herbal applications can offer that loving care in the soothingly useful form of herbal compresses and fomentations.

These applications are simply made by soaking a cloth in a strong herbal solution and laying it over the area needing attention. They are often applied warm. Herbal compresses and fomentations can be used to help soothe injuries and inflammation and allow the body to focus on healing. They work by helping to bring blood to the area or directing it away depending on the temperature used, while the addition of herbs can help to enhance these actions (Tilgner, 1999).

How to Make Herbal Compresses and Fomentations

Herbal compresses and fomentations are simple to make. Both preparations start with a strong herbal infusion or decoction. Herbal infused oils or vinegars can also be used. If you wish, you can even add tinctures to the blend. This can be especially helpful for using what is readily on hand, as many times we are guided by what we have available in the moment.

Basic directions for making herbal compresses and fomentations:

  • Use 3 to 4 tablespoons of herbs per cup of water.  
  • If you are using roots, barks, or berries, begin by making a decoction of this hard plant material (find instructions here). Next, add lighter plant material (such as leaves and flowers) to the finished decoction and cover with a lid to keep any volatile oils from escaping into the air. Let steep for up to 30 minutes.
  • If you are just using lighter herbs such as leaves or flowers, place the herbs directly in a heat-proof container, cover with boiling hot water, and cover. Let steep for up to 30 minutes.
  • Strain the herbs out of the liquid. Use cheesecloth to strain out any particles if making a compress for skin issues.
  • Add up to 30 drops of tincture per cup of infusion.
  • Dip a piece of clean cloth in the warm infusion and then squeeze out excess liquid.
  • Apply the compress or fomentation and feel the soothing relief!
  • When the compress cools, dip it into the warm infusion again, squeeze out excess, and reapply.  

Follow the directions above as a guideline, using the herbs that best suit your situation. You can make a large batch if you wish. This is a good idea if you have a larger area to cover or want to do repeated applications. Extra liquid will keep in the fridge for up to 2 days. It can be re-warmed as needed, making repeated applications easier.  

Applying a Compress

Herbal Compresses and Fomentations: What They Are & How To Use Them | Herbal Academy | Herbal compresses and fomentations are easily overlooked, however they have great potential for helping to ease discomfort. Here's how to make and use them!

Cold Compresses

Cooling compresses are wonderful when pain presents with inflammation and heat such as headaches, burns, bruises, bites, sore throat, and road rash (Mars, 1999). This type of compress constricts the blood vessels and eases inflammation to soothe the area (Tilgner, 1999).

To apply a cold compress, simply wait for the tea or decoction you have made to cool. Then soak a clean cloth in the solution, wring out the cloth, and apply to the area. As the cloth warms to body temperature, it should be changed out with a new clean, freshly soaked cool cloth.

Hot Compresses

A hot compress helps to bring blood to the area while easing muscle tension (Tilgner, 1999). This makes hot compresses helpful for soothing strained or pulled muscles, muscle spasms, menstrual pain, headaches, breast pain such as mastitis, sore throats, and even congested lungs (Romm, 2003).

To apply a hot compress, let the herbal brew you have made cool to a temperature so that you can safely work with it. Soak a cloth in the liquid until saturated and carefully wring out the cloth. Gently apply to the affected area. Be sure that the compress is not so hot that it will burn the skin or make the person uncomfortable. Leave the compress on until cool and repeat as needed.

Let the situation and person guide you toward the best choice of temperature to use when applying a compress. As herbalist Brigitte Mars explains, “the best indicator [of which temperature to use] is to ask the person needing treatment if they think cold or hot will give best relief” (Mars, 1999, pg. 130).

Leave the compress in place for at least 10 minutes. Longer application can be even more helpful. The cloth can be changed out as it cools (for hot compresses) or warms (for cold compresses). Repeated application 2 to 3 times per day may be especially helpful for bringing soothing relief in persistent situations.

Applying a Fomentation

Fomentations are generally very relaxing for muscle spasms, pain, and can help to ease strained muscles. The definition of a fomentation is varied among herbalists. For example herbalist James Green says that  “A fomentation (a.k.a. compress) is a form of poultice that is composed of liquids or lotions, absorbed in woolen or cotton cloths and usually applied hot” (Green, 2000, pg. 471). Rosemary Gladstar explains that a fomentation is made by rotating hot and cold compresses (Gladstar, 2012). I was taught that a fomentation is a compress that is kept hot. This definition of a fomentation will be explored below!

Fomentations are applied in the same way a hot compress is applied, with the herbal infusion-soaked cloth placed first on the affected area and then covered with a towel or even a piece of plastic wrap. Follow with a hot water bottle (not too hot please!), a hot rice pack, or heating pad. Cover this with a towel as well to seal in the heat and keep everything in place. As with the hot compress, be sure that the fomentation is not so hot that it is burning the skin or uncomfortable.

Strive to leave this whole set-up on for 20 to 30 minutes. Longer is fine, especially if it feels good!

Herbs to Choose

Herbal Compresses and Fomentations: What They Are & How To Use Them | Herbal Academy | Herbal compresses and fomentations are easily overlooked, however they have great potential for helping to ease discomfort. Here's how to make and use them!

Recently a family member took a hard fall during while going over a ski jump. He came home banged up with badly bruised ribs and a pulled muscle in his shoulder. Wanting to help soothe him as soon as possible, I made a quick visit to the herb cabinet to see what herbal allies I had on hand. A quick search yielded powdered ginger (Zingiber officinale), St. john’s wort flowers (Hypericum perforatum), and lavender blossoms (Lavandula spp.) which I made into a strong infusion. A few squirts of both Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum) and cramp bark(Viburnum opulus) tinctures also found their way into the brew. We applied this as a hot fomentation to help bring blood to the area and ease the painful muscle spasms he was experiencing.

Herbs with antimicrobial and vulnerary actions can be employed for soothing rashes, abrasions, and other skin afflictions.

To help soothe the skin and encourage healing, you might employ marshmallow (Althaea officinalis), rose (Rosa spp.), Calendula (Calendula officinalis), and lavender (Lavandula spp.) (Rose, 2007). To ease pain and encourage relaxation, consider anti-inflammatories and antispasmodics like meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria), cramp bark (Viburnum opulus), mullein (Verbascum thaspus), ginger (Zingiber officinale), and linden (Tilia spp.). Circulatory stimulants such as arnica (Arnica montana) – do not use on broken skin, ginger (Zingiber officinale), and yarrow (Achillea millefolium) are used by herbalists to help bring blood to the area and clear stagnation such as with bruising (mcdonald, n.d.).

Please keep in mind that some herbs can cause contact dermatitis and may also have contraindications for use in certain situations such as with medications or pregnancy. It is important to research the herbs you choose before use!

Herbal compresses and fomentations may be easy to overlook as an herbal preparation in our rushed modern schedules, however they have great potential for helping to ease discomfort. Keep these age-old preparations in mind for the next time you find yourself in need of that little extra touch, as a bit of herbal loving care goes a long way!

Did you know that our courses teach how to make a wide array of herbal preparations? If you want to discover more, check out our online courses and enjoy learning how to get practical hands-on use with herbs!

Herbal Compresses and Fomentations: What They Are & How To Use Them | Herbal Academy | Herbal compresses and fomentations are easily overlooked, however they have great potential for helping to ease discomfort. Here's how to make and use them!

REFERENCES

Gladstar, R. (2012). Rosemary Gladstar’s medicinal herbs, a beginner’s guide. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing.

Green, J. (2000). The herbal medicine maker’s handbook. Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press.

Mars, B. (1999). Natural first aid. Pownal, VT: Storey Books.

mcdonald, j. (n.d.). Herbs for back and joint pain. Retrieved from http://www.herbcraft.org/backpain.html

Romm, A. (2003). Naturally healthy babies and children. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts.

Rose, K. (2007). Choice Injury Herbs. Retrieved from http://kivasenchantments.com/choice-injury-herbs.html

Tilgner, S. (1999). Herbal medicine from the heart of the earth. Creswell, OR: Wise Acres Press, Inc.

Video: How To Make An Herbal Honey

Video: How To Make An Herbal Honey | Herbal Academy | If you’re interested in learning how to make your own herbal honey, we’ve made a short video that will walk you through the steps to creating your very own!

An herbal honey is one of the tastiest herbal preparations one can make. They require little time to create, and they can be used in many different ways. Plus, they’re full of healthy benefits!

An herbal honey can be made using fresh or dried herbs, but keep in mind that if you use fresh herbs, you’ll be introducing water into your honey so you’ll want to refrigerate it to extend its shelf-life. An herbal honey made using dried herbs can be left unrefrigerated for 3-6 months.

Endless combinations of herbs can be used to make an herbal honey. You can infuse one herb or a blend of herbs into your honey. Herbal honey can be enjoyed as food or to support the body during acute illness. They can be very beneficial for coughs and sore throats as well as supportive to the body when respiratory infections are present. They can also be used to sweeten herbal teas or used as the honey portion when making rolled herb pills.

If you’re interested in learning how to make your own herbal honey, we’ve made a short video that will walk you through the steps to creating your very own below. This recipe comes directly from our Introductory Herbal Course and is also one of the recipes included in our Herbal Starter Kits.

Video: How To Make An Herbal Honey | Herbal Academy | If you’re interested in learning how to make your own herbal honey, we’ve made a short video that will walk you through the steps to creating your very own!

Video: How To Make An Herbal Honey

 

Designed for students and budding herbalists craving some hands-on experience with plants, the Herbal Starter Kit includes 22 enticing herbal recipes, 14 plant mini-monographs, and up to 18 herbs (and beeswax!) you need to prepare these recipes in your home kitchen. Get a taste of our beautiful recipe cards with this free download!

Video: How To Make An Herbal Honey | Herbal Academy | If you’re interested in learning how to make your own herbal honey, we’ve made a short video that will walk you through the steps to creating your very own!

Download the Herbal Honey recipe card here.

Enter Our Instagram Giveaway!

We’ve teamed up with some great herbal businesses to offer some fun prizes all month long over on our Instagram page. Be sure to follow us there and keep an eye on our page to know when a new giveaway has started.

Video: How To Make An Herbal Honey | Herbal Academy | If you’re interested in learning how to make your own herbal honey, we’ve made a short video that will walk you through the steps to creating your very own!

Video: How To Make Rolled Herb Pills

Video: How To Make Rolled Herb Pills | Herbal Academy | Looking for an easy and tasty way to take herbs? Here's a short video that will walk you through the steps to creating your very own rolled herb pills!

Rolled herb pills (also known as pastilles) are quick and easy to make. Not only that, but they’re one of the easiest (and tastiest) ways to take herbs!

Rolled herb pills only require two things: finely powdered herbs and honey. These ingredients are combined, thoroughly mixed, and then rolled into small balls or pills which are then refrigerated for a short time to help harden them up. They are commonly chewed or sucked on until they break apart and can be swallowed. We don’t recommend swallowing pills whole as this can be a choking hazard! However, they can also be dissolved in hot water or herbal tea and consumed as a drink.

When stored in a dry place out of direct sunlight, rolled herb pills should have a shelf-life of 3 months or so. Refrigerating them can help extend their shelf-life, but keep in mind that the more time passes, the less effective the pills will be. Powdered herbs lose potency more quickly than herbs in whole form as more surface area is exposed to light and oxygen—two things that can quickly degrade herbs.

Video: How To Make Rolled Herb Pills | Herbal Academy | Looking for an easy and tasty way to take herbs? Here's a short video that will walk you through the steps to creating your very own rolled herb pills!

When it comes to making rolled herb pills, the herb combinations are endless. You can combine any herbs you choose to create blends for as many needs as you may have. We cover the topic of herbal formulation in our Intermediate Herbal Course, with a more detailed lesson in our Advanced Herbal Course.

Below we’ve made a short video that will walk you through the steps to creating your very own rolled herb pills. This recipe comes directly from our Intermediate Herbal Course and is also one of the recipes included in our Herbal Starter Kits.

Video: How To Make Rolled Herb Pills | Herbal Academy | Looking for an easy and tasty way to take herbs? Here's a short video that will walk you through the steps to creating your very own rolled herb pills!

Video: How To Make Rolled Herb Pills

 

Designed for students and budding herbalists craving some hands-on experience with plants, the Herbal Starter Kit includes 22 enticing herbal recipes, 14 plant mini-monographs, and up to 18 herbs (and beeswax!) you need to prepare these recipes in your home kitchen. Get a taste of our beautiful recipe cards with this free download!

Video: How To Make Rolled Herb Pills | Herbal Academy | Looking for an easy and tasty way to take herbs? Here's a short video that will walk you through the steps to creating your very own rolled herb pills!

Download the Rolled Herb Pills recipe card here.

Video: How To Make Rolled Herb Pills | Herbal Academy | Looking for an easy and tasty way to take herbs? Here's a short video that will walk you through the steps to creating your very own rolled herb pills!

Video: How To Make A Calendula Salve

Video: How To Make A Calendula Salve | Herbal Academy | Would you like to learn how to make salve in the comfort of your own home? In this short video we walk you through the steps to creating your very own calendula salve!

Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is an herbal staple that many herbalists include in their herbal toolkits. While this herb has a plethora of uses, one of the most common uses is as a topical preparation for the skin.

Calendula is a great herbal ally for the skin as a topical application on a wound, a rash, a burn, or an insect bite. Calendula has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, hemostatic, anodyne, and vulnerary actions (Foster, 1993), and can help to ease inflammation and support the body’s ability to heal wounded tissues. Energetically, Calendula is generally considered to be warming and drying, but can also be moistening (Wood, 2008) and can have a slight soothing demulcent action on tissues.

One of the most common Calendula skin preparations is a simple Calendula salve. Salves are not only easy to make, but when properly used and stored, they can have a shelf-life of 1-2 years.

Below we’ve made a short video that will walk you through the steps to creating your very own calendula salve. This recipe comes directly from our Introductory Herbal Course and is also one of the recipes included in our Herbal Starter Kits.

Video: How To Make A Calendula Salve | Herbal Academy | Would you like to learn how to make salve in the comfort of your own home? In this short video we walk you through the steps to creating your very own calendula salve!

Video: How To Make A Calendula Salve

 

Designed for students and budding herbalists craving some hands-on experience with plants, the Herbal Starter Kit includes 22 enticing herbal recipes, 14 plant mini-monographs, and up to 18 herbs (and beeswax!) you need to prepare these recipes in your home kitchen. Get a taste of our beautiful recipe cards with this free download!

Video: How To Make A Calendula Salve | Herbal Academy | Would you like to learn how to make salve in the comfort of your own home? In this short video we walk you through the steps to creating your very own calendula salve!

Download the Calendula Salve recipe card here.

Enter Our Instagram Giveaway!

We’ve teamed up with some great herbal businesses to offer some fun prizes all month long over on our Instagram page. Be sure to follow us there and keep an eye on our page to know when a new giveaway has started.

Video: How To Make A Calendula Salve | Herbal Academy | Would you like to learn how to make salve in the comfort of your own home? In this short video we walk you through the steps to creating your very own calendula salve!

REFERENCES

Foster, S. (1993). Herbal renaissance. Layton, UT: Peregrine Smith Books.

Wood, M. (2008). The earthwise herbal: A complete guide to old world medicinal plants. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.