November 9, 2013

Home Pharmacy 101

Hippocrates said "Let food be your medicine." And that's how I feel we should approach healing our bodies. Start with a good diet and supplement your diet with plants/herbs in other ways. After reading this great little book, (My Home Pharmacy, Tracy Gibbs) I've outlined some essentials for our own home pharmacies.

Here is a list of the 5 main, simple ways to use herbs:

1. Teas
Liquid solutions of plants (we only use herbal infusions instead of actual tea leaves)

  • Infusion: pour boiling water over herb and let steep about 10 minutes (leaves and flowers)
  • Dedoction: boil for 20-30 minutes and simmer for 10 minutes (hard woody plants)

2. Tinctures
Concentrated extracts of plants (like "pickling" them)

  • alcoholic: generally vodka or something similar
  • non-alcoholic: glycerin or vinegar (we use these, instead of alcoholic versions)

3. Oils

  • essential oils: distilled, volatile plant oils (concentrated; extracted with specialized equipment)
  • carrier oils: solvents used to draw out active chemicals in plants. Herb or essential oils are typically combined in these to dilute potency and for applying on body via massage oil, balm or salve, soap, etc. (ex: extra virgin, cold-pressed olive oil, grapeseed oil, etc.--the least processed is the best.)
  • herbal oils: like herbal infusions, but put fresh leaves in carrier oil in glass jar completely covered and closed tightly so no air gets in. Let sit somewhere sunny for at least 2 weeks, then strain and keep indefinitely. (If the fresh herbs inside are exposed to any air then they get moldy, so be careful.)

4. Salves and Lip Balms
For rubbing easily onto skin/lips/etc. In order to make your own, melt on low in a double boiler. Check consistency by dipping wooden spoon in--add more oil to make it softer or beeswax for harder. Add essential oils at the end. Place in dark glass jars away from light.

  • Salve: 1/4 cup beeswax to 1 cup oil (herbal oil or carrier oil). 
  • Lip Balm: 3:2:1 is a rough ratio (carrier oil, cocoa/shea butter, beeswax)

5. Poultices
Warm, moist mass of powdered or cut herbs applied directly to external wounds (burns, cuts, inflammation, rashes, bites, infections, etc.).

  • Decoction: dip cotton into luke warm decoction and place on wound
  • Paste: crush or grind fresh herbs and add water/olive oil/alcohol to form paste; apply on wound and cover with warm cloth or gauze and tie/tape in place

List of most common fresh Herbs to treat most common ailments:
* antibiotic
** antifungal
**** dieuretics
***** relaxants

ginger root**/****/*****
cayenne pepper (stops bleeding)
dandelion roots****
aloe vera****
rose hips (high in vitamin C)
raw honey
lemons or limes

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