How to use loose herbs
The loose herbs in the jars are divided into two sections,
culinary and functional. The herbs in the culinary section may be
added to soups, dressings, sauces, stews, curries and numerous other
dishes. The use of herbs adds extra flavour, variety and nutrition
to your cooking. Many of the culinary herbs are also used for healing.
These include: sage, thyme, fenugreek, kudzu (wild arrowroot) fennel
seed and celery seed.
|Please remember that all herbs are
potent remedies. Certain herbs are not suitable for pregnant or
breast-feeding women, or for those on long-term medication. If
you are unsure ask staff for advice. It is advised that if you
use herbs regularly, that you refer to a herbal. See also recommended
The way in which you prepare a herb depends largely on the part of
the plant which you are using. Herbs may be leaves, flowers, roots,
rhizomes, barks, stems, berries, seeds or husks. The following table
gives a rough guideline as to how each type of herb may be prepared.
If you are making a blend of herbs try to keep all herbs in the blend
to a similar type. Store herbs in a cool dark place away from strong
smells. If the essential oil content is high, store in glass jars.
||Part of the plant
||Leaves, flowers, stems
||Roots, rhizomes, barks
||Seeds, berries, stems
||Powdered roots and barks
|Stir with water (hot)
||Powdered roots and barks
|Stir with water (cold)
NOTE: There are exceptions to the guidelines given in this
table. For example, valerian (a root) may be prepared as an
infusion or left in cold water for 12 hours to steep. Horsetail
(leaves and stems) should be decocted for 5 minutes to destroy toxic
constituents. If you are unsure, particularly if you take the herb
frequently, it is best to check in the herbal encyclopaedia available
upstairs at the Haelan Centre.
Infusions are the simplest method of preparation. You may use either
a teapot or an individual mug. You will need a strainer or infuser
(handy metal infusers are available by the scales). Add 1 heaped teaspoon
per cup of tea that you would like to make, and then pour on freshly
boiling water. Cover the mug with a saucer, as active essential oils
will be lost through the steam. Leave for around 15 minutes (less
or more according to taste). Then strain, or remove the infuser. For
mullein and cornsilk, use 2-3 teaspoons per cup.
Decoctions involve cooking the herb for a length of time. You will
need a stainless steel or enamel pot with a lid and a strainer. If
you are decocting seeds, particularly aromatic ones, bruise them with
the back of a spoon before using. If you are using hard berries then
crush them with a mortar and pestle. Most of the roots come already
chopped. Add 1 heaped teaspoon per cup of tea, then either add boiling
water and simmer; or add cold water, bring to the boil and then simmer.
The simmering time and amount of herb can vary according to the herb
you are using; usually one teaspoon is simmered for between 5 and
20 minutes. Check in the encyclopaedia if you are unsure.
Some of the powdered herbs (e.g. goldenseal, guarana)
may be put into vegi-caps and then taken internally. Simply put the
powder into a bowl and scoop the powder into the capsule. It is not
as tedious as it sounds! This works out a lot cheaper than buying
the herb ready encapsulated.
Some herbal powders are best taken in this way, particularly slippery
elm. To make a slippery elm drink stir boiling water with 1-2
heaped teaspoons of the herb to make a paste, leave for a couple of
minutes. Then add hot water or hot soya milk and ginger, cinnamon
and honey to taste. You cannot take too much slippery elm - it may
be taken as gruel for convalescents who are unable to eat solid food.
To prepare the gruel mix half and half with a suitable grain and cook
gently for half an hour. Goldenseal works better taken with
water, as you experience the bitter taste. Stir ¼ teaspoon into a
small amount of hot water and drink back in a gulp. Remember to use
goldenseal sparingly. It is an endangered herb, hence the price! A
more environmentally conscious choice would be Oregon Grape Root.
Goldenseal may cause problems for the kidneys and stomach if taken
on a long-term basis.
Psyllium husks are best taken in a very large glass (1 pint)
of cold water. You can use 1-3 teaspoons. It is important to drink
lots of water with these husks because the husks swell up and absorb
the liquid. They create a gel, which absorbs stuck matter and toxins
from the sides of the intestines. A good mix for constipation would
be equal parts of psyllium husk, psyllium seeds and linseeds.
Stir between 2 - 6 teaspoons into a pint of water and drink before
breakfast. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Guarana,
spirulina and wheatgrass powders can be stirred into
fruit juice, fruit smoothies and shakes (use ¼ to ½ a teaspoon of
guarana, use spirulina and wheatgrass as directed).
Many herbs may be used therapeutically in the bath. Either run the
hot water through a muslin bag filled with herbs, or make a strong
pot of tea (about a pint) and add this to the bath when it is run.
Herbs for healing include comfrey, St. John's wort and marigold.
Herbs for relaxing include chamomile (German) flowers, lavender
flowers and rosebuds or rose petals.
An eyebright eyebath can be
made by infusion of eyebright herb with purified water. The infusion
must be strained through a fine filter, a coffee filter is ideal,
to remove any irritating bits of leaf. Once cooled the eyebath will
keep in a glass jar in the fridge for three days. Eyebright is used
for irritated, sticky or inflamed eyes, but not where there is dryness.
For information on other external methods of using dried herbs, see
An Encyclopaedia of Herbal Medicine, Thomas
Bartram, (Grace Publishers; 1995)
The New Holistic Herbal, David Hoffman, (Element; 1999)
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