Sharon Hubbs-Kreft, Herbalist - Amazing Grace Herbals LLC

  (Keyport, New Jersey)
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Herbal Preparations and loose herbs for tea

I have been asked by many if any of my teas (which are really herbal infusions and decoctions) could be used loose instead of in a tea bag. The answer to this, of course, is yes!!!

I choose to place the herbs in a tea filter because of the ease of clean up and convienence. I know many folks, including myself, enjoy steeping the herbs as loose and you can do so with any of my blends. Should you purchase a blend in a tea filter, simply cup open the filter and use the herbs in your tea pot, diffuser or add directly to boiling water or whichever herbal preparation you are doing.

I do offer all of my herbal teas and topicals as loose, I can't list everything in my Local Harvest store or the seems would burst but if you contact me directly I would be happy to help you and if you wanted loose herbs, I would be happy to send it to you.

All of herbs are fresh and naturally grown, no pesticides, no chemical fertlizers, no nothing - just plain plants and natural occuring vitamins, minerals and constituents!!

Which brings me to another topic - many people also ask me what type of "tea" leaves do I use in my blends? Well, the answer is, I do not use "tea" leaves in any of my blends. Then, the second question follows, well then why do you call your blends teas? I call them teas because that is how most relate to them. I actually offer herbal infusions and decoctions and what these words means is whether or not the herbs are added to boiling water (infusion) or whether the herbs, usually roots, barks, stems, seeds and berries are boiled with the water from the start (decoction).

To explain this - I have some herbal preparation definitions here to help answer any questions:

Infusions are a simple way of extracting the active principles of herbs through the action of hot water. The preparation of infusions is similar to the way we prepare tea. This method is used to extract the volatile components of the dried or green aerial parts of herbs and plants, like flowers and leaves. Infusions may use single herbs or a blend and are drunk hot or cold. Hot infusion is recommended for the harder parts of the plants, while cold infusion is more suitable for flowers and leaves. Certainly this is the most common and cheapest method of extracting the medicinal compounds of herbs.

Roots, barks and fruits being thicker and less permeable than the aerial parts of medicinal plants, do not liberate their active principles by simple infusion. It is necessary to simmer these parts in boiling water in order to extract their medicinal constituents. The material should be cut or broken into small pieces. In order to avoid loosing volatile constituents, use a lid over the simmering pan. Decoctions can be taken hot or cold.

To make, pour 500ml of cold water over 25g of herb and leave to stand overnight. Then strain and use as you would a decoction.
Massage Oils
Use 5 drops essential oil to 20 ml carrier oil. Sweet almond, jojoba, avocado or grapeseed make good carrier oils. You can also used infused oils.

Ointments are prepared like hot infused oils, the difference being that herbs are simmered in waxes or fats containing no water. After separating the simmered herbs by squeezing and cooling, the result is a solid mixture of the wax or fat with the medicinal constituents of the plant. Petroleum jelly, soft paraffin wax and beeswax are some common bases used. Ointments form an oily barrier on the surface of injuries and carry the active principles to the affected area.

Wrap the chopped or boiled herbs, or a paste made from them, in cheesecloth or muslin before applying to the affected area. This is good for herbs that might irritate the skin, such as mustard.

Boil herbs in a little water for a hot poultice, or bruise or chop slightly for a cold one. Smooth a little oil on the skin to keep the herbs from sticking, apply the herb, and wrap with muslin or gauze strips.

Steam Inhalants
Place a few tablespoons of the dried herb in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Drape a towel over your head and breathe in the steam. AKA: Herbal Facial Steam!!

With some rare exceptions, such as peppermint which is a familiar flavoring agent in toothpaste and chewing gum, infused or decocted herbs are not palatable, especially for children. In order to disguise their taste, infusions and decoctions can be mixed with honey or unrefined cane sugar. These syrups combine the soothing action of these solvents to the medicinal properties of the infusions and decoctions, resulting in additional benefits - especially for treating cough and sore throats.

Most of the volatile components of medicinal plants and herbs are soluble in apple cider vinegar and alcohol to name two as well as the strongest. By immersing dried or fresh parts of plants in either menstruum, the active principles are easily extracted at concentrations that exceed those that can be achieved by infusion or decoction. Highly concentrated solutions that will last for one to two years are a convenient way to store and use medicinal plants constituents. Ideally tinctures should be made using pure ethyl alcohol distilled from cereals or pure apple cider vinegar (preferrable organic). However, since this product is not available to the public, good Vodka with 35-45% alcohol can be used. The extraction is fairly quick. Never use methyl alcohol, methylated spirits, isopropyl alcohol or any other kind of unknown spirit to make tinctures. Tinctures made from apple cider vinegar and alcohol will keep for many years; while those made of vegetable glycerin, aloe ver juice/gel, apricot kernel oil or other menstruums may only keep for up to year but may keep longer if refrigerated.

Tonic Wine
Pour 2 liters good quality wine, preferably red, over 500 g. dried herb, making sure all the herb is covered by the wine. Cover and leave for 2 weeks. Strain and take in 1/3 cup doses.

A tea or infusion meant only for external use. A mild form of a wash would be 1/4 ounce of herb to one pint of boiling water, steeped until lukewarm, then applied.

Soak a soft cloth in a hot infusion, decoction, or 5-20 ml tincture in 500 ml hot water. Squeeze out excess water and hold pad against affected area.

Creams are mixtures of oils or fats with water. Since water and oils are not miscible, it is necessary to add an emulsifying agent that prohibits their separation. Creams are therefore stable emulsions of oils or fats. Medicinal properties are added to creams when they used with or are made with tinctures, infusions, oil infusions, essential oils or decoctions. Creams are permeable, allowing the skin to breathe and sweat. Their water content and some additional hydrophobic agent like Glycerin promote the hydration and cooling of the skin.

Essential Oil
Essential oils are the volatile oily components of aromatic plants, trees and grasses. They are found in tiny glands located in the flowers (neroli), leaves (eucalyptus), roots (calamus), wood (sandal) and resins (frankincense). Essential oils are extracted by four main methods: steam distillation, expression, solvent extraction and effleurage.    In the first method, the oil is extracted by the action of hot steam and then selectively condensed with water from which it is separated. In the second method, the oil is extracted by pressure or centrifugation. In the third method, the oil is dissolved in a volatile solvent that, when evaporated, leaves a heavy natural wax substance called concrete. When separated from the wax, the resulting liquid is called an absolute, the most concentrated form of aroma available. Effleurage is a longer process involving the dissolution of the oils in animal fat and its separation using alcohol. Although essential oils’ main usage is in cosmetics and perfumery, many of them do have proven therapeutic properties.

Infused Oils
Pure vegetable oils like sunflower, almond and olive oil are easily found at grocery stores. They have the property of dissolving the active, fat-soluble active principles of medicinal plants and herbs. This process is called infusion and can be carried out at room temperature or higher. Infusion is a slower process than alcohol extraction but has the advantage of resulting in an oil based solution of medicinal constituents that can easily be used to make creams, skin soothing topicals, tinctures and ointments.

I hope this helped explain more about various herbal preparations- these are the basic ones as there are other which can get quite detailed.

All the best and green blessings on this gorgeous spring day!!!!                  Sharon

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