HOW TO USE HERBAL REMEDIES
An infusion is like a tea and is used for soft, green or flowering plant parts. Place the herb or mixture in a pot or cup, add boiling water and leave to steep for 10 minutes before straining. The quantity of herb needed varies according to individual herb quality and the strength of infusion required, however the general rule is 1 - 2 teaspoonfuls of dried herb for each cupful of boiling water, or 1 tablespoon of herb for each pint of boiling water. For fresh herbs use double the quantity of herb.
Decoctions are ideal for hard or woody roots, barks, berries or seeds and are made using the same herb and water quantities as infusions above. Place the plant material in a saucepan, add water, cover, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes before straining. You may need to add a little more water if steam escapes. Use glass, ceramic or unchipped enamel pans, never aluminium.
Tinctures are an extraction of herb made using water and alcohol and are very easy to use; just add a few drops of tincture to water. The usual intake is 1 - 5ml in a wineglass of water 2 - 3 X daily. 1ml is roughly 25 drops and a household teaspoon is roughly 4ml (5ml spoons are available from the chemist). To evaporate most of the traces of alcohol just add your tincture hot water.
Herbal remedies are most often taken three times daily, although in very acute situations you can take the remedy more frequently. The standard dose is 30 - 40 drops in a little water three times a day or professionally directed. For children under 7 years herbal remedies should only be used in conjunction with professional advice.
SAFETY & CONTRAINDICATIONS
When properly used, herbs have a natural and balancing action on the body rather than a definite physiological effect and, as such, should be used with care and respect. Individual sensitivity can also vary significantly, so, if you are generally sensitive, start with a low dose and build up slowly once you have determined your level of tolerance. Most people have a fairly high tolerance for herbs such as Chamomile, and can quite happily drink 2-3 cups of the infusion per day over extended periods, however other herbs have a stronger effect on the system and must be used well within the recommended levels. If you are in any doubt seek professional advice.
Herbs should be used only when appropriate, for instance a stimulant herb might be ideal in the morning but not before bed; a herb which stimulates the uterus might be ideal for delayed menstruation but must be avoided during pregnancy. It is not recommended to use single herbs or herbal combination in therapeutic doses for more than 12 weeks, unless professionally advised. This is because the body can become habituated to a herb's action and even dependent, plus cumulative exposure to certain plant chemicals may have an irritant effect on certain body systems. Seek professional advice if there is little or no improvement after 12 weeks (maximum).
If you are taking any prescribed medication you should consult a qualified herbalist before taking herbal remedies.