Equipment needed

You don't need any special equipment for making your own herbal medicines. You probably already have most of what you need. Kitchen basics like a teapot, measuring cups, saucepans, and a blender are all useful, as are jam-making supplies such as a jelly bag and jam jars.

A mortar and pestle are useful but not essential.

You'll need jars and bottles, and labels for these. It is a good idea to have a notebook to write down your experiences, so you'll have a record for yourself and can repeat successes. Who knows, it could become a future family heirloom like the stillroom books of old!

There is a list of suppliers at the end of the book to help you source any supplies or ingredients you may need.

Drying herbs

The simplest way to preserve a plant is to dry it, and then use the dried part to make teas (infusions or decoctions). Dried plant material can also go into tinctures, infused oils, and other preparations, though these are often made directly from fresh plants.

To dry herbs, tie them in small bundles and hang these from the rafters or a laundry airer, or spread the herbs on a sheet of brown paper or a screen. (Avoid using newspaper as the inks contain toxic chemicals.) You can easily make your own drying screen by stapling some mosquito netting or other open-weave fabric to a wooden frame. This is ideal, as the air can circulate around the plant, and yet you won't lose any small flowers or leaves that are loose.

Generally, plants are best dried out of the sun. A linen cupboard works well, particularly in damp weather.

Storing dried herbs

Once the plant is crisply dry, you can discard any larger stalks. Whole leaves and flowers will keep best, but if they are large you may want to crumble them so they take up less space. They will be easier to measure for teas, etc. if they are crumbled before use.

Dried herbs can be stored in brown paper bags or in airtight containers such as candy jars or plastic tubs, in a cool place. If your container is made of clear glass or other transparent material, keep it in the dark as light will fade leaves and flowers quite quickly. Brown glass jars are excellent - we have happily worked our way through quantities of hot chocolate in order to build up a collection of these!

Dried herbs will usually keep for a year, until you can replace them with a fresh harvest. Roots and bark keep longer than leaves and flowers.

Teas: infusions and decoc

The simplest way to make a plant extract is with hot water. Fresh or dried herbs can be used. An infusion, where hot water is poured over the herb and left to steep for several minutes, is the usual method for leaves and flowers.

Part of a summer's herbal harvest: (from left) St John's wort in olive oil; dried mugwort; dandelion flower oil; raspberry vinegar; meadowsweet ghee; meadowsweet, mugwort, and mint in white wne; rosehip oxymel

A decoction, where the herb is simmered or boiled in water for some time, is needed for roots and bark. Infusions and decoctions can also be used as mouthwashes, gargles, eyebaths, fomentations, and douches.

The Miracle Of Vinegar

The Miracle Of Vinegar

You may be forgiven for thinking that these passed down secrets had gone for good, washed away with time and the modern age, But they're not. You can now own three of the best traditional did you know style reports that were much loved by our parents and grandparents. And they were pretty smart too because not only will these reports save you time and money but they'll also help you eliminate some of the scourges of modern day living such as harmful chemical usage in the home.

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