What is a Simple or Herbal Remedy?

The Healing Power of Herbs - Part Two

When making a simple or herbal remedy, it really is best to keep it simple. Study first the common herbs which are safe and from them learn to make your herbal remedies.

A herbal 'simple', according to Webster’s Dictionary, is:“an herb or other plant used for medicinal purposes, i.e., country simples.”

From another source, the Encarta Dictionary, the word ‘simple’ is called archaic and is defined as “an herb that yields medicine.”

I wish to underline this word in order to express an important issue when dealing with plants and their potential healing powers. Where herbs are concerned, it’s best to keep it simple. As a budding herbologist, study first the common herbs in the field which are safe or herbs grown in the garden, and from them learn to make your herbal remedies. Learn as much as you can on this particular herb, so that you will know if it is safe for you to take, how much to take and in what form, and when to stop taking it.

How to make a herbal infusion

An easy, simple remedy is an herbal infusion. Let’s use the Catnip plant, Nepeta cataria, for our herbal tea. Leaves are gathered when the plant is dry, preferably in the morning after the sun has dried any dew on them, and brought indoors and placed in a teacup. Just boiled fresh water is then poured over the leaves and left to steep for at least ten minutes, then sipped over a period of time. Nepeta cataria, the plant that most cats have a strong attraction to, which for them produces a euphoric reaction, is for us, as a general rule, a sedative, providing a relaxed, calming feeling throughout the body. Many people, including myself, use it as a helpful sleep inducer. A common error that gardeners make is to think that Catnip is the same as Catmint, and I have seen this even with nursery growers. Catmint (Nepeta × faassenii) is grown for its ornamental value, not for its medicinal properties.

How to make herbal medicines

Making a herbal infusion of leaves/shoots should take a longer time than making an ordinary tea. Left to steep, the plant’s phytochemicals have a chance to extract themselves fully into the water, thus enhancing their medicinal effect.

Making a herbal decoction is a method of extraction that involves boiling plant material, usually harder parts, such as roots, bark, or the twigs of the plant.

Another method that I use extensively is to make tinctures out of herbs, as they last longer and the alcohol, mixed with water, is very effective in extracting the herb’s chemicals into a liquid. Any drinkable alcohol is ok to use, but I prefer brandy. The herb’s parts are cut up or crushed, inserted in the liquid and left to stand for a week or more. Using glycerin as the extractor and preservative is a great way to make a simple for children. It will last up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

Are herbs safe? Healing Power of Herbs - Part Three

by Raymonde Savoie Johnson
Pl. Sc. Tech., Herbal Consultant

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