How to Prepare Herbal Medicines
a solid suppository designed to soften and melt in the rectal or vaginal cavity, acting as an internal poultice.
May be used to draw toxins out of the surrounding tissues, or to convey healing agents.
A BOLUS is prepared by adding powdered herbs to cocoa butter or other suitable base to create a thick, creamy, pliable substance. This is usually hardened in the refrigerator before or after being shaped into individual doses, which are stored in the refrigerator and brought to room temperature, if desired, before use.
A BOLUS can be used rectally, to treat hemorrhoids or cysts, or vaginally, to treat infection (including yeast infection), irritation, or tumors. The BOLUS is usually applied at night before bed, to allow the cocoa butter to melt and release the herbs for absorbtion during sleep.
Common herbs for use in a BOLUS include: astringents such as white oak bark or bayberry bark; demulcents such as slippery elm and comfrey; or antibiotics like garlic, golden seal, or chapparal. Other possible ingredients include live-culture yogurt, for treating yeast infections, or aloe, for its soothing properties.
powdered herbs, or resins, or other easily digested and absorbable form of medicinal is placed into a gelatin capsule, to be taken orally. Gelatine capsules should be taken with 8 ounces of clean water or herbal tea, to wash them down easily, and speed and ease their dissolving.
Many people prefer the ease of use allowed by gelatin capsules, or like the ability to accurately measure the amount of therapeutic material in each dose. However, many herbs are not easily released for assimilation through the digestive process, and so will not be as effective when simply powdered and placed in a gelatin capsule without pre-processing to release the active elements.
Gel-caps do provide a useful means of administering unpleasant- tasting herbs that are not well-tolerated when they can be tasted.
Stronger herbs as goldenseal, mandrake, poke, and lobelia should be taken in smaller quantities, and are usually mixed with other herbs.
Commercially made gelatin capsules are prepared and measured by trained professionals, and can be relied on to be clean, properly handled and mixed in the correct dosages and proportions. As such, they are as consistent and reliable a form of dosage administration as any other commercial over-the-counter medicinal preparation.
Gel-caps may also be prepared at home by a knowledgable herbalist, familiar with the safe dosages of the herbs being used. Empty gelatine capsules may be obtained at many health food or herb stores, in a variety of sizes.
a cloth is soaked in a mild decoction of herbs, resins, or other easily absorbable form of medicinal, and placed on the skin for topical use, or to provide a slowly absorbed dosage form for herbs that are too strong to be taken internally.
A Compress provides the advantages of a topical dosage form, and can be used to add the therapeutic action of heating or cooling the area being treated. For example, a compress may be used to add the benefits of heat to a topical treatment for arthritis, or to restore warmth to cold joints, or a chest cold may be treated with warm ginger root compresses. A compress can also be used to stimulate circulation of blood and lymph, to strengthen the immune system, to relieve colic, or to reduce internal inflammation. Warm compresses made with herbs that benefit the circulation, such as cayenne, can be particularly useful in treating joint pains resulting from poor circulation and/or chill. Cool compresses of aloe, tea, or other healing herbs may be used to help treat sunburn, sunstroke, or heat headache.
A Compress may also be used to provide a slowly absorbed dosage form for herbs that are too strong to be taken internally. This use is known as a fomentation.
When using any strong herb topically, care must be exercised in determining the patient's rate of absorption of the medicinal used, as this can vary significantly from one individual to another, thereby drastically changing the actual dose received even if the strength and quantity of medicinal are kept consistent.
The rate of absorption is determined partly by the strength of the decoction in which the compress is soaked, how often it is refreshed, and the choice of site on which to apply it. It is important to remember that while all parts of the body will absorb something of any substance with which they are placed in contact, the amount absorbed will be determined by the permeability of the skin in the area, just as the tissue into which the substance is absorbed will be determined by what lies immediately under the skin. The fastest onset of effects results from absorption directly into the blood, which can result from breathing the vapours of a volatile medicinal, or from topical use directly over a major blood vessel, such as the femoral artery on the inside of the thigh. Somewhat slower is absorption into the muscle, from which the medicinal will be more slowly released into the bloodstream as the blood flows through the tiny capillaries found throughout the muscle. The slowest release into the system, and thereby the longest lasting, is absorption into the fat. Fat has a much lower need for oxygen, and therefore a lower relative blood supply than the muscle, which is why it is slower to release the medicinal into the blood. Remember that heat increases the blood flow to the skin and treated area, and can also increase uptake of the medicinal into the bloodstream.
To make a compress, generally 1 to 2 heaping tablespoons of fresh or dried herb, herbs, or other plant-based medicinals are brought to a boil in 1 cup of water.* This mixture is then removed from the heat, and allowed to cool to a skin-safe temperature.** It is then strained, and applied by dipping a cloth in the resulting liquid; cloths used are generally cotton gauze, flannel, t-shirt knit, or other soft natural-fibre fabric, as synthetics do not absorb well, and may stick to any burned or injured tissue. Excess liquid should be allowed to drain from the cloth, which may be lightly wrung out over the container of liquid.
In most cases the cloth should be applied while it is still warm. To help keep the heat in the compress, it may be covered with a piece of woolen cloth (wool is the only fibre which retains heat when wet); this may even be bandaged in place for small children or when treating an individual who is restless or twitchy. The compress is then changed each time it cools below body temperature.
Cold compresses should generally be more tepid than truly cold, or icy; apply at room temperature, or just below. The exception is where the cold compress is being used to draw the heat out of a mild burn, in which case they should be cold but not icy.
When administering a compress, it is preferable to have a second cloth soaking, ready to apply as soon as the first one cools (or warms) to body temperature.
A safe and effective compress may be made by grating two ounces of fresh ginger root, and squeezing into a pint of hot water until the water turns yellow. The resulting liquid may be used as a compress to stimulate circulation of the blood and lymph, relieve colic, reduce inflammation, and restore warmth in cold joints.
a thick opaque fat-based emulsion, which may contain both oil-based and water-based medicinal and/or therapeutic ingredients, designed to stay in place and/or absorb into the skin and underlying tissues. Unlike an ointment, a cream is generally smooth, soft, and creamy feeling, and absorbs into the skin, or remains on the skin as a creamy or oily layer on the surface, whereas an ointment is stiff, sticky, and tacky feeling, does not absorb in as readily, and is translucent rather than opaque.
Primarily used to apply topical medicinal or therapeutic substances.
A Cream is prepared by combining a thick semi-solid (at room temperature) fat, such as cocoa butter, with an oil, to create a thick mixture of the approximate consistency somewhere between soft whipped cream and whipped butter. A smaller amount of water-based ingredient(s) may be added, and/or the semi-solid fat may be omitted if the mixture is whipped with air, and an emulsifying agent or thickener such as slippery elm may be added.
A Cream may be therapeutic, used as a skin softener or to help prevent chapped dry skin, or it may be medicinal in nature, or both. Some of the most common herbal creams are made with skin healing ingredients, and may be used as a moisturizer, or as a healing balm for minor skin injuries such as sunburn, scrapes, small cuts, scratches, bug bites, etc. Note: fat-based treatments are not recommended for use on burns, especially not while they still retain excess heat, as the fat can cause the treatment to trap heat in the flesh, impeding the heat loss which is necessary to stop the burn from growing worse.
Common therapeutic ingredients for creams include cocoa butter, almond oil, avocado oil, vitamin E, A, or D oils, lanolin, and aloe vera. Common medicinal herbs for use in creams include comfrey, aloe vera, calendula, St. John's Wort (see note). Arthritis creams comparable to such treatments as "IcyHot" and "Aspercreme" can be made using ingredients such as cayenne and wintergreen. In general, anything that can be prepared as a lotion can be prepared as a cream, by whipping it with cocoa butter.
For those who choose to use facial scrubs to remove dead skin cells while washing their faces, a gentle one can be made by adding ground almonds, ground oat meal (not rolled oats), or fine chalk powder to a mixture of a natural cleanser such as a hair and body shampoo, and a therapeutic or mild skin-healing cream. Combine approximately equal parts cleanser and cream, then add the scrubbing agent, up to approximately one-fourth as much scrubbing powder as shampoo or cream.
Like all topical treatments, a Cream should not be taken internally, unless all of its ingredients are food-safe, and/or intended for internal use. Preparation, handling, and storage for all medicinals should always be food-safe, in order to ensure the hygeine necessary for any form of medical treatment.
When using any ingredient that may irritate sensitive skin (such as cayenne), always test creams on a less sensitive portion of the body first, then test a small amount on a site such as the inside of the wrist or elbow, as ingredients that are safe for most people can cause irritation in individuals with allergies or sensitivities to the substance in question.
Anyone with nut allergies should be particularly cautious when using natural creams, lotions, salves, ointments, and other herbal extracts, as nut oils such as almond oil are commonly used in these preparations, and nut allergies can cause life-threatening reactions in susceptible individuals. Less common, and fortunately less dangerous, it is still important to note that a small percentage of those people who have allergies to sheep's wool will also show an allergic response to lanolin, though even these people often find that they can use all-natural super-fine lanolin without any negative reaction.
* Always use spring water, or filtered tap water, if possible, when preparing medicinals, in order to avoid contaminating the medicinal with chlorine or any other chemicals or heavy metals that may commonly be found in tap water. When boiling a medicinal in water, use fresh water, not water that has been previously boiled, as boiling drives the oxygen out of the water, and affects the way it interacts with the medicinal, both as solvent and as carrier medium.
** When applying a topical dosage form to the skin, always make certain that it is a skin-safe temperature by testing on the inside of the wrist or elbow. Obviously it is important not to put hot liquids or any excessively hot dosage form onto the skin, but it is also important not to put an icy cold dosage form onto the skin of a sick or injured person (except as part of certain very specific treatments, which specify how this is to be done), in order to avoid causing spasm or nerve pain. Some individuals are more prone to problems with heat and/or cold than others, so it is important to make sure that you check with the person receiving treatment, to make sure that they are not injured in the process.
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