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Forms of Herbs

The goal of the herbalist is to release the volatile oils, antibiotics, aromatics, and other healing chemicals contained by the herb. Herbs can be prepared in a variety of forms depending on their purpose. Such techniques include:

bulletJuice squeezed from herbs.
bulletMashing herbs into a paste.
bulletDecoction or extracting the active ingredients by boiling down the herb in water.
bulletHot infusion (like hot tea)- Herb is steeped in hot water.
bulletCold infusion (like sun tea) - Herb is steeped in cold water.
bulletHerbs ground into a powder and used as such or as compressed into a pill.
bulletHerbal wine made by adding the herb to water and sugar and letting it ferment.
bulletTincture, made by combining ground herbs with alcohol, glycerin or vinegar and used internally.
bulletLiniment - Made like a tincture except it is used externally.
bulletSalves and ointments made by adding herbs to a medium such as petroleum jelly.
bulletSyrups - Made by adding herb to a medium such as honey, sugar or glycerin.
bulletPoultice - Herb is applied directly to a wound or body part and held in place with a cloth.
bulletHerbal Oil - Usually made with common base oil, such as olive, almond, grape seed, or sesame oils. The herb is allowed to sit in the oil for a week. It is strained and bottled.

In general, delicate leaves and flowers are best infused. Boiling may cause them to lose the volatile essential oils. Roots, barks, and seeds are best made into decoctions.

Standardized vs. Whole Herb

As the herbs are getting more and more popular, more and more manufacturers are supplying standardized herb extracts. A standardized extract means that the manufacturer has verified that the active ingredient believed to be present in the herb is present in the preparation and that the potency and the amount of the active ingredient is assured in the preparation. The problem is that, the action of the herb may be from a number of constituents and not from just one or two ingredients. Thus, the standardized preparation may omit some of the ingredients and we will lose out on the effect from the complex combination of the constituents.

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