Plants and herbs are not drugs, but, on the other hand, plant-based active healing compounds work at a slower rate than allopathic medications. Plants and herbs by their complex structures create many of the same benefits as drugs, ordinarily without unpleasant side effects. Allopathic drugs are designed to attack a pathogen; plants and herbs, in addition to eliminating the pathogen, also provide additional benefits which can be called holistic.
Herbal Preparations can be taken internally or can be applied topically. The most common way to use herbs is a liquid that is drunk in the form of an herbal tea, a plant extract or an herbal dry formula packaged in gelatin capsules or compressed powders to make tablets.
Herbal teas or tisanes are the resulting liquid of extracting the herbal compounds, aroma, and taste by boiling the herbs with water; here are a few different ways:
Infusions are hot water extracts of herbs, such as green tea, black tea, cinnamon and apple tea, lemon tea, etc. Decoctions are the long-term boiled extracts, usually of harder substances like roots or bark.
Maceration is the cold infusion of plants with high mucilage content – herbs such as sage or thyme. Plants are chopped and added to cold water to make macerates. They are then left to stand; most herbs sit for 10 hours.
Tinctures are alcoholic extracts of herbs, which are much stronger than herbal teas. Tinctures are created by combining 90 to 100% pure ethanol or a mixture of 100% ethanol with water, with the herb. These are called hydro alcoholic extracts. Alcoholic based tinctures are made using commercial products such as vodka, rum, Raicilla, or sugar cane alcohol, which are excellent vehicles for this process. A completed tincture has an ethanol percentage of at least 25% and sometimes up to 90%. Herbal wine and herbal elixirs are the alcoholic extracts of herbs, usually with an ethanol percentage of 12 to 38.
Extracts include liquid and dry. Liquid extracts have a lower ethanol percentage than tinctures and are made by vacuum. Dry extracts are plant matter with all moisture evaporated. Then the plant or herb is ground and made into a powder to be further refined and packaged in capsules or tablets.
Topical Applications: Many herbs can be applied topically to the skin in a variety of forms.
Essential Oils: These extracts can be applied to the skin, usually diluted in a carrier oil.
Many essential oils are so potent they can burn the skin or are too high of a dose to be used straight. Diluting them in coconut, olive, almond or other food-grade oil can allow these to be used safely on the skin.
Creams, Oils, Lotions, and Salves are a form of liquid or semi-liquid type of topical applications Taking a food-grade oil and soaking herbs in it for anywhere from weeks to months allows certain phytochemicals to leach into the oil. This oil can then be formulated into salves, creams, lotions, or used as a topical application.
Many massage oils, antibacterial ointments, and wound-healing compounds are made this way.