Herbal Medications

A Guide To Herbal Treatments

Different herbs, extracts, and other parts of plants that are used for medicinal and therapeutic remedies are wide ranging, coming from leaves, flowers, roots, stems, seeds, and many other plant sources.  No two are exactly the same and so understandably the ways we prepare them and take them vary as well!  We cannot give any broad rules for how to take herbs because of this large variety and their myriad of potent effects, but in this article we will describe the different methods that are used for taking herbs so that you could more properly implement them when you come across other guides or our own descriptions here.

Firstly, it’s important to say that some herbs are as strong as any medication, so it is always important to strictly follow the dosage instructions listed by the manufacturers of your herbs or by the prescribing medical professional if you have one.  Some herbs are milder, or otherwise safe to make and take yourself, but always do your research well and ensure the individual herbs you are taking are safe and won’t interact with any medications you are on or adversely affect any disease you may have.

Tablets and Capsules

These are the simplest herbal remedy to take, with most including the dosing directions on the container.  Tablets and capsules are typically standardized extracts that have been put in a mixture (tablet) or container (capsule) that will safely get it past your gastric juices as needed and to the intestines to be absorbed.  As with all herbs, make sure you find a quality manufacturer so that the standardized extract is safe and effective.  For some herbs, capsules or tablets are the ideal form for good absorbance, though even when they aren’t they are generally the most available form, often found in many health or vitamin stores if not the supplement section of your local grocer.

Tinctures

In tinctures the effective part of an herb is taken and usually placed in an alcohol mixture and left for several weeks, with some occasional agitation, which will dissolve and remove the extract that is desired.  The end product is an extract, usually suspended in an alcohol solution.  Generally they are usually taken by adding a small number of drops to water throughout the day and drinking it.  Tinctures can be quite potent, so be cautious with the dosage taken.  It’s hard to offer any other broad rules about them as the concentration of essence to suspension can vary widely.

Teas

Just like traditional black or green teas, therapeutic herbal teas are the effective parts of plants that have been extracted and dried.  Once prepared and mixed, they are simply put into near boiling water and steeped just like a normal tea, though usually for a longer period of time (sometimes 10-15 minutes), before being consumed.  Teas are usually safer than other herbs, but it can certainly vary.  If you get your medicinal teas from an apothecary or an herbal physician then it may be just as potent as any medicine, though those found in grocery stores are usually fairly safe herb selections and combinations.  Some teas can even be made at home, grown with herbs in your own garden!  Note that dosages with teas will vary depending on if the herbs being used are fresh or dried.  When fresh you can use 1.5-2 times the quantity of dried ingredients.

Decoctions

A decoction is really quite similar to a tea, with one extra step in the process.  A decoction is a process where you take the herbs you want to use and let them soak in water for up to 2 hours as able, and then boil the solution for about 15 minutes.  Once cool enough to drink go ahead and enjoy!  For some herbs decoctions are the most effective method, while for others the boiling will either destroy the compound or just not extract it, so it’s not a method that can be used without the proper herb selection.  Don’t experiment with it, stick to well-known decoctions.  Note that dosages with decoctions will vary depending on if the herbs being used are fresh or dried.  When fresh you can use 1.5-2 times the quantity of dried ingredients.

Essential Oils

Some herbs are taken as essential oils, which are the effective element extracted in a very pure form from whatever part of the plant and is used mostly for topical treatments (though some are used in diffusers and humidifiers for other methods, but only do this when you know that oil can be inhaled!).  They are used in very small amounts, a few drops at most as they are quite potent.  Essential oils are luckily widely available with many products using these oils for fragrance for calming effects, and with therapeutic versions using the pure oils being available at most local health foods stores.

Powders

Powders, like tinctures, are hard to give broad directions on because of the wide variety of their nature.  A powder is simply a ground up version of the effective part of the herb, though it is a powdered root is perhaps the most common.  Which plant and part are used, the potency and degree of processing, and many other factors control how potent the powder will be, so we always suggest using the minimum advised dose from the manufacturer unless prescribed by a medical professional.

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