Herbal remedies can be expensive and poor quality. Learn how to grow and make your own in this two part herbal education!
Preparing Herbs into Capsules
A common way to take herbal remedies is in capsules. It's very easy to make your own and store them so you have them when you need them. Just be sure that if you do store them, they're kept in a cool, dark place so the potency of the herbs isn't reduced by light.
Making capsules is simple: just grind up the roots, leaves, or (in some cases) blooms, and fill the capsules with the powder. You can get empty capsules from just about any health food market or organic produce store. One 00-sized capsule typically holds about 500 milligrams of most herbs, but you'll, of course, want to weigh it yourself to make sure you get the right amount.
To grind the plant, you can go old-school with a traditional mortar and pestle or do it the easy way with an electric blender or coffee mill.
For skin remedies like cuts, bruises, sunburns, or inflammation, you'll want to create a poultice to apply directly to the affected area. Making a poultice is as simple as moistening the leaves with water, putting them directly onto the affected area, and wrapping a cloth around it to make sure it stays in place.
To ensure the poultice doesn't come off, you can use sports wrap bandaging available at any pharmacy. Wrapping that around the leaves covered by a cloth allows you to keep moving and working without worrying about the poultice too much.
Drinking Herbs in Tea
A fun and relaxing way to enjoy the medicinal benefits of your new herb garden is in a tea. To make the tea, simply pour boiling water over a tablespoon or so of the herbs and let it steep for a good 15 minutes. You can strain out the leaves once it's done if you prefer.
Some herbs taste better than others, so you may want to add a bit of honey or agave to sweeten it up.
If you're looking to store your herbs for a long time (such as through the winter season), then preparing a tincture is the way to go. Tinctures are made by soaking the fresh herbs in alcohol. It requires more work but preserves the active ingredients and has a shelf life of up to a year or more.
Most of the time, tinctures are taken internally like capsules (only typically diluted with water first), but they don't have to be. You can use them in a poultice as well: directly applying the liquid to a cut, bruise, or skin irritation and wrapping it with a bandage.
To make a tincture, grind the herbs as with the capsules and put them into a quart jar. Add enough pure grain alcohol or vodka to just cover the herbs. For vodka you'll need at least 80 proof if your herbs are fresh. If you're using pure grain alcohol, dilute it with distilled or filtered water (1–1 ratio).
You'll need to let the mixture sit with the jar capped for three weeks. Also, be sure to shake the jar every day and check to be sure that the herbs remain covered with the alcohol. The plant material can rot if it's not kept submerged.
After three weeks pour the mixture through a thin, clean cloth into another jar. Squeeze the cloth to make sure you get every drop out. Let the new jar sit overnight, then the next day repeat the process. Once that's done, you can bottle and label the liquid.
Having your own herb garden can be very rewarding. You don't have to run to the market when you run low on your favorite remedies. You know that what you're getting is fresh and high quality, and in the long run you save yourself a good deal of money by growing it on your own.
Whether you live in an apartment and only have a window sill or you're in a suburban setting with a large backyard, many herbs are easy to grow and will help keep you and your family healthy for a long time to come.