Get our free book (in Spanish or English) on rainwater now - To Catch the Rain.
This article describes on how to make herbal medicines, use them, sell them and how herbal medicines of commercial companies can be used.
Making herbal medicine
Growing the herbs yourself
Perennial herbs such as thyme, chives, sage, oregano, savory, tarragon, hyssop, lovage, Catholic chervil, Galium odoratum, garden burnet, fennel, garden sorrel, lemon grass, mint and horseradish are propagated by sowing, divisioning, cutting, air/soil layering or by planting bulb or tuber. This propagation is done directly in full soil. However, the cutting of e.g. tarragon is best done in a greenhouse because the cuttings are then in a growth-promoting climate and will dry-out less.
Gathering and harvesting herbs from the environment
- Period of gathering
The summer is the best time for harvesting for most herbs. If one only wants young leaves (eg stinging nettle), then one can best pick these in spring when the plant is still full of energy or in late summer when it has a second growth period. Roots and rhizomes are best collected in the fall or in early spring. They then contain the winter reserves of the plant. Bark of young branches and trunks are best removed in late summer when the bark easily detaches.
- Time of harvesting
Green kitchen herbs are generally picked before blooming, when the leaves and leaf stems are still soft (eg cress, nasturtium, borage, burnet, tarragon, ...). For herbs that need to be rendered storable, the best period of harvesting is right before the blooming. The plants then have the most leaves and the highest levels of active substances, especially with plants that contain etheric oils. Pick leaves on a dry and sunny day, early in the morning when the dew has evaporated from the leaves. Herbs contain the the least amount of water in the morning. Do not gather the herbs if they are humid by the rain. Leafs of with the aroma is of importance (rosemary, sage, lemon balm, ...) are best picked around noon, when they contain the largest amount of etheric oils. Do not pick them too late in the day because due to the heat the volatile etheric oils evaporate.
Flowers can be harvested during the peak of the bloom, just before or immediately after the flower has fully opened. Also pick the flowers in the morning, when the dew has evaporated from the flowers, but when the plants have not yet been dried out by the sun.
Pick the seeds in the late afternoon or in early evening, when the plant is as dry as possible. For plants whose seeds easily fall out of the seed casings, it is best to harvest in the morning.
- Method of harvesting:
Harvest with a sharp knife so that the plant is not damaged. Young plant parts can also be picked. Avoid any possible bruising of the leaves. Remove damaged and brown leaves or flowers. When collecting seeds, we pick the entire stem and optionally bind a paper bag around the seed casings. Select plant parts that are free of animal droppings, are not eaten by insects, and appear fresh.
Leaves: Remove the lower leaves and hard leaf stems, remove dirt and insects with a moist cloth or sponge and pat it dry. Never wash the herbs, this slows down drying. Roots: The roots are dug out in their entirety and the loose soil is shaken off. The roots are then washed under cold water and patted dry. Do not peel the root, important components are otherwise lost. Bark: Bark may need to be washed to remove moss and insects.
- Drying method
Herbs contain more than 70% water. The trick is to get the water from the herbs in a quick manner, so that the oils are preserved. The drying of herbs can not be done in the sun, because this is too hot. Herbs should be dried quickly, but not at temperatures above 35°C. Dry the herbs on a dry, dark, well ventilated place at temperatures between 20-30°C. Dark, as trough too light, the colors deteriorate, and well ventilated because excess moisture should be drained.
One can tie up the herbs in loose bunches and hang them up upside down on dry walls or lines. The drying of seeds is done by hanging them up upside down on the stem with a paper bag wrapped around the seed casings so that these fall into the bottom of the bag. For delicate flowers and leaves, special drying floors can be used. A drying floor is made by stretching coarse linen between a wooden frame. Wire mesh can also be used for this. Make sure that between there is a minimum space between the grids of 15 cm. The best results are achieved when these are used in special drying closets at a certain temperature. The flowers or herbs are sprinkled 1 layer thick. Roots and bark can also be hung to dry above drying floors. It is hereby good to dry the material daily. After 4 to 14 days, the herbs should be dry. Leaves are dry if they are brittle. Petals should feel dry and be slightly brittle.
Strip the leaves from the stems and crumble them. However, do not make the leaves too fine. Rosemary, sage and thyme are not stripped and stored as stems. Dried bay leaves are also best kept in their entirety. Storage is done in an airtight container.
Seeds and flowers are stored in an airtight glass jar after drying. Herbs van not be aduquatly stored in plastic or paper objects. Paper absorbs etheric oils and plastic may promote the formation of molds. If there's moisture on the inside of the jar, it means that the herbs were not properly dry. Remove them from the glass jar and let them dry on paper.
- Shelf life of dried herbs
Most herbs have a shelf life of about 1 year. Basil, lovage, mint and marjoram are longer storable. Lemon balm, parsley, savory, tarragon and can store approximately 9 months. It is best to refresh all herbs every year.
Some herbs lose their flavor when dried. It is best to use the herbs fresh. Freezing is also a good method. Wash the herbs carefully. Then they are shaken when dry. Herbs can be stored frozen if they are used within 2 months. For a long period, bushes are made of them that are then dipped in boiling water for 1 minute and then in cold water to bleach them (blanching). They are frozen in sealed plastic bags for a longer period (up to 6 months). Herbs that can be frozen are: basil, chives, dill, parsley, chervil, marjoram, mint, fennel, sorrel, tarragon, thyme
Incomplete: for tinctures see also: Ethanol production
Selling herbal medicines
Although the herbal medicines need to be made primarily for own use[verification needed], we can opt to sell any remaining medicines. A proper package insert then needs to be made. The following headlines should be made in each package insert, and information should be introduced under the headline:
- A description of the product
- The characteristics of the product
- The ingredients of the product
- The amount of material of the product ingredient per capsule, 100 grams, ...
- The daily dose
- The duration of intake
- The method of administration
- The potential adverse effects
- The license under which the product is distributed
- The various names under which the product is on the market in several countries
- The best method of preservation
- Expiration date
- Impact on driving and using machinery
- Measures when using large quantities
Using commercial herbal medicine
In Europe, commercial medicines are sometimes distributed as "Food additives". When using such medicines, the dosage needs to be increased heavily to have any kind of medicinal effect. How this is done is demonstrated below.
1. Estimating the appropriate dosage of plant material: This can be done using books such as "Rational Phytotherapy: A Physicians' Guide to Herbal Medicine by Volker Shulz". Example: a suitable quantity of Panax ginseng is: 1 to 2 grams of root, or 1000 to 2000 mg/day for 1 month for Eleutherococcus senticosus: 2 to 3 g of root, or 2000 to 3000 mg/day for 1 month
1 capsule contains: Panax ginseng extract c.a. Meyer: 150 mg Eleutherococcus senticosus extract: 100 mg Vitamin E: 15 mg Magnesium: 75 mg
Calculation of capsules/day: Panax ginseng: 1000 mg/150 mg capsules = 6.66 capsules 2000 mg/100 mg = 20 capsules --> lowest value: 6.66 capsules
Eleutherococcus senticosus: 2000 mg/150 mg = 13.33 capsules 3000 mg/100 mg = 30 capsules --> lowest value: 13.33 capsules
Vitamin E Maximum safe dosage: 500 mg 500 mg/15 mg = 33.33 capsules --> lowest value = 33.33 capsules
Magnesium: 150 mg Maximum safe dosage: 250 milligrams per day 250 mg/75mg = 3.33 capsules --> lowest value = 3.33 capsules
If we assume that the other constituents (gelling agent, hydroxypropylmethylcellulose, tocopheryl acetate, filling agent: magnesium stearate, coloring: titanium dioxide, cupperchlorofyline) are only present in too small quantities to be able to limit the amount of capsules that can be consumed, we may take 3.33 capsules a day . If no magnesium was to be present in the capsules, we could take 6.66 capsules/day during 1 month.