Homemade Healing

Maybe you're the type of person who thinks everything's better when it's homemade. Maybe you love to cook and experiment with recipes. Or maybe there's just no decent herb shop in your town. Whatever the reason, you're ready to take the plunge into the world of home-based herbalism.

Rosemary Gladstar, a leading herbalist and educator and director of the International Herb Symposium, offers the following suggestions — and recipes — to get you started.

Tools of the Trade

To make most herbal remedies, you'll need a short list of supplies. It includes:

  • Big canning jars for storing herbs and making tinctures

  • Cheesecloth or muslin, for straining herbal preparations

  • A grater (for grating beeswax)

  • A large, double-mesh, stainless steel strainer

  • Measuring cups

  • Non-aluminum cooking pots with tight-fitting lids

You might want to set aside a coffee grinder to use for grinding the tough spices like licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) root and cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum, C. aromaticum) bark that you'll use in your remedies. Just don't use the same grinder that you use for coffee — neither your remedies nor your morning cup of Joe will benefit from that blending of flavors.

You should keep your pantry stocked with a few of the staples that are used in many herbal remedies. They include:

  • Aloe (Aloe vera) gel, for creams

  • Apricot (Prunus armeniaca), almond (Prunus dulcis), and grape (Vitis vinifera) seed oils, for facial creams

  • Cocoa (Theobroma cacao) butter, for infused oils and creams

  • Coconut (Cocos nucifera) oil, for infused oils and creams

  • Honey, for syrups

  • Lanolin, for creams

  • Natural beeswax, for ointments

  • Olive (Olea europaea) oil, for infused oils and ointments

  • Sesame (Sesamum indicum) oil, for infused oils

Here are a few things to keep in mind when making your own remedies:

  • Herbs and herbal preparations do best when they're stored in airtight glass jars, out of direct light, in a cool area. Light, oxygen, and heat can degrade them.

  • Never use aluminum pots or containers — aluminum can react with the herbs. Stick to glass, ceramic, stainless steel, or cast iron.

  • Store all remedies and ingredients — especially essential oils and alcohol-based tinctures — out of children's reach. Many essential oils are extremely toxic, even in very small doses.

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