How to use Herbal Remedies

Infusions

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

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

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.

Dosage

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

General Considerations

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.

Warning: In rare cases, Black cohosh may cause liver problems. Consult your doctor if you already have liver disease or become unwell whilst using this product.

Herbs to Avoid During Pregnancy

Herbs that stimulate the uterus muscles (including abortifacients, emmenagogues and strong laxatives) must be avoided during all stages of pregnancy, indeed all herbs should be checked specifically for safety if pregnant. The following herbs should all be avoided during pregnancy;

Common Name
Latin Name
Common Name
Latin Name
Agnus Castus/Chaste Berry
Vitex agnus castus
Juniper berries
Juniperus communis
Aloe Vera
Aloe barbadensis
Kola
Cola nitida
Angelica Root
Angelica archangelica
Lemon Grass*
Cymbopogon
Aniseed*
Pimpinella anisum
Liquorice Root
Glycyrrhiza glabra
Ashwaghanda
Withania somnifera
Marigold
Calendula officinalis
Avens
Geum urbanum
Marjoram
Origanum majorana
Barberry
Berberis vulgaris
Motherwort
Leonurus cardian
Basil*
Ocimum basilicum
Mugwort
Artemesia vulgaris
Bayberry
Myrica cerifera
Myrrh
Commiphora molmol
Beth Root
Trillium erectum
Oregano*
Origanum vulgare
Black Cohosh
Cimicfuga racemosa
Oregon Grape Root
Berberis aquifolia
Bladderwrack
Fucus vesiculosus
Parsley*
Petroselinum crispum
Blue Cohosh
Caulophyllum thalictroides
Pasque flower/Pulsatilla
Anemone pulsatilla
Blue Flag Root
Iris versicolor
Pau Darco Herb
Tabebuia impetiginosa
Boldo Leaf
Peumus boldus
Pilewort
Ranunculus ficaria
Borage
Borago officinalis
Poke Root
Phytolacca decandra
Buchu
Barosma betulina
Prickly Ash
Zanthoxylum americanum
Bugleweed
Lycopus europaeus
Quassia Chips
Picrasma excels
Calamus root
Acorus calamus
Red Clover
Trifolium pratense
California Poppy
Eschscholzia californica
Rhubarb Root
Rheum palmatum
Cascara Sagrada
Rhamnus purshiana
Rosemary*
Rosmarinus officinalis
Catnip/Catmint
Nepeta catarina
Sage/Red Sage
Salvia spp
Celery Seed
Apium graveolens
Schisandra Berry
Schisandra chinesis
Chinese Angelica (Dang Gui)
Angelica sinesis
Senna
Cassia angustifolia
Cinnamon*
Cinnamomum zeylancium
Sheperd’s Purse
Capsella bursa-pastoris
Coltsfoot
Tussilago farfara
Southernwood
Artemesia abrotanum
Comfrey
Symphytum officinale
St John’s Wort
Hypericum perforatum
Cramp Bark
Viburnum opulus
Tansy
Tanacetum vulgare
Damiana
Turnera diffusa
Thuja
Thuja occidentalis
Elecampane
Inula helenium
Thyme*
Thymus vulgaris
Fenugreek*
Trigonella foenum-graecum
Turmeric*
Curcuma longa
Feverfew
Tanacetum parthenium
Uva Ursi/Bearberry
Arctostaphylos uva ursi
Ginseng
Panax notoginseng
Vervain
Verbena officinalis
Golden Seal
Hydrastis Canadensis
White Willow
Bark Salix alba
Gotu Kola
Centella asiatica
Wild Lettuce
Lactuca virosa
Ground Ivy
Glechoma hederacea
Wormwood
Artemisia absinthium
Gravel Root
Eupatorium purpureum
Yarrow
Achillea millefolium
Holy Thistle
Cnicus benedictus
Yellow Dock Root
Rumex crispus
Horehound (white)
Marrubium vulgare
 
 
Horse Chestnut
Aesculus hippocastanum
 
 
Hyssop
Hyssopus officinalis
 
 
Jamaican Dogwood
Piscidia erythrina
 
 

*Food doses of these culinary herbs and spices is acceptable; avoid in larger therapeutic doses.

Contraindications During Lactation

The following herbs should not be used by breastfeeding mothers.

Common Name
Latin Name
Common Name
Latin Name
Aloe Vera
Aloe barbadensis
Golden Seal
Hydrastis Canadensis
Angelica Root
Angelica archangelica
Gravel Root
Eupatorium purpurea
Basil
Ocimum basilicum
Holy Thistle
Cnicus Benedictus
Bayberry
Myrica cerifera
Horse Chestnut
Aseculus hippocastanum
Beth Root
Trillium erectum
Juniper Berry
Juniperus communis
Black Cohosh
Cimicfuga racemosa
Jamaica Dogwood
Piscidia erythrina
Bladderwrack
Fucus vesiculosis
Liquorice*
Glycyrrhiza glabra
Blue Cohosh
Caulophyllum thalictroides
Myrrh
Commiphora molmol
Boldo Leaf
Pemus boldus
Oregon Grape Root
Berberis aquifolia
Borage
Borago officinalis
Poke Root
Phytolacca decandra
Buchu
Barosma betulina
Sage/Red Sage
Salvia spp
Bugleweed
Lycopus europaeus
Senna
Cassia angustifolia
Calamus root
Acorus calamus
St John’s Wort
Hypericum perfor
California Poppy
Eschscholzia californica
Tansy
Tanacetum vulgare
Cascara Sagrada
Rhamnus purshiana
Thuja
Thuja occidentalis
Catnip/Catmint
Nepeta cataria
Uva ursi / Bearberry
Arctostaphylos uva ursi
Cinnamon
Cinnamomum zeylancium
White Willow Bark
Salix alba
Coltsfoot
Tussilago farfara
Wild lettuce
Lactuca virosa
Comfrey
Symphytum officinale
Wormwood
Artemisia absinthium
Elecampane
Inula helenium
Yarrow
Achillea millefolium
Garlic*
Allium satvium
Yellow Dock Root
Rumex crispus