How To Take Herbs

How to Take Herbs & Spices

There are various ways to take herbs and spices. They can be taken internally or used externally in various ways. Knowing how to use or prepare herbs and what dosage to take is vital to ensure safe and effective use.

Herbal Teas

One of the most popular ways to take herbs is as a tea. Herbal teas are readily available to buy in large supermarkets or health food shops, but you can also very easily make your own infusion or decoction. Often, many of the ingredients you need to make the tea can be found in your back garden, and may include leaves, flowers or common weeds. You can adapt the ingredients you use to suit your specific requirements.

Making herbal tea involves steeping or cooking the herbs in water in a pot, and straining the liquid, which you drink. The advantage of taking herbs in this way is that they’re quickly absorbed by the body, so the results may be immediate. You may need to take the tea several times per day, over a period of time, however, to notice long-term results.

Despite the ease and effectiveness of herbal teas, they can have a strong taste and odour that can be unpleasant for some people to drink.

Herbal Capsules and Tablets

If you find herbal teas unpalatable, you may prefer to take herbal medicines in a capsule or tablet format. Containing finely ground herbs rolled into a pill, herbal tablets have been used in Chinese medicine as far back as the 12th century.

Unlike teas, herbal capsules and pills take longer to be absorbed by the body, so you might not notice immediate results. Many people choose these over herbal teas as the dosage is easier to control, and they can be stored and transported with ease. They can also be taken when hot water is not available, such as when travelling.

Herbal Tinctures

When the active components of herbs are extracted and mixed with water or alcohol, this is known as creating a tincture. Taking herbs as tinctures is popular by many who prefer natural medicines, but since it is in a very concentrated form, only a small amount is required. Knowing how much is safe to take is vital.

The benefit of tinctures is that since you only need a few drops, a little can go a long way. Drops can be added to a drink or taken sublingually (under the tongue), where they are absorbed into the bloodstream through the mucous membranes.

Some people believe that different moon cycle stages may influence the effectiveness of tinctures, but we haven’t been able to find any reliable studies to back this up!

Herb Powders & Ground Herbs

Many traditional cultures prefer to ingest herbs and spices in powder form, which basically means they have been ground down. The herbs and spices may be cooked, smoked or dried first, but no extraction or evaporation is involved, so you get the benefit of taking the complete herb.

Herbal powders are usually taken by adding them to food and drink, as they are not soluble in water so can be very dry to ingest on their own. For example you wouldn’t take a spoonful of turmeric! You would sprinkle it on your food.

Herbal powders should be as fresh as possible, and should be stored in a cool, dry place. This may limit how long you can store them for. They can be stored in airtight containers to preserve them for longer. Powders and ground herbs are often a cost-effective way of taking them as they can be purchased from most supermarkets, and you are not paying for costly extraction methods or encapsulation.

Herbal Lotions and Salves

Topical medicines containing herbs are commonly applied to the skin as lotions, creams or salves. They are especially suited for calming down inflamed skin or easing painful muscles. Calendula is often used to help heal wounds, for instance, and comfrey and arnica, applied as creams and cooling gels, are well known for healing bruises.

Herbal creams are readily available to buy, but it is important that you choose a good quality brand that contains the right amount of active ingredients to do their job. Some inferior products may include a whole host of additional ingredients and very little of the actual herbal product. Herbal lotions, cooling gels and salves aren’t easy to make yourself at home, so purchasing them from a reputable health shop or herbalist is recommended.

Herbal Washes, Compresses and Poultices

Herbs that have been infused or made into a decoction can be applied to the skin as a wash. This can be used directly on a specific area or added to a hot bath for whole-body benefits.

To make a more concentrated infusion, a compress can be used. A compress involves soaking a cloth in a herbal infusion and placing on the affected part of the body. Compresses are useful for healing wounds or skin rashes.

Similar to a compress, a poultice uses the whole herb, not just the liquid infusion to ease irritated or inflamed skin. A moistening agent such as honey or egg white is mixed with the herbs and spread on cloth, which is then applied to the affected area for several hours.

Smoking Herbs

Although we don’t really focus on this method of taking herbs, many cultures around the World take their herbs by smoking them, especially in a ritual or ceremonial way.

Herbs can be smoked using various methods, each offering a unique experience and flavor profile. Here are some common ways to smoke herbs:

Rolling Papers: One of the most common methods is to roll dried herbs into rolling papers, similar to how one would roll a cigarette. Simply grind the dried herbs, place them in the rolling paper, roll it up, and seal it. This method allows for a convenient and portable way to smoke herbs.

Pipes: Smoking pipes come in various designs and materials, such as glass, wood, or metal. To smoke herbs using a pipe, fill the bowl with the desired amount of dried herbs, light them with a flame, and inhale through the mouthpiece. Pipes are popular for their simplicity and ease of use.

Water Pipes or Bongs: Water pipes, also known as bongs, use water filtration to cool and filter the smoke before inhalation, resulting in a smoother smoking experience. To smoke herbs with a water pipe, fill the base with water, pack the bowl with dried herbs, light them, and inhale through the mouthpiece. Some water pipes also include additional features like percolators for added filtration.

Vaporizers: Vaporizers heat dried herbs to a temperature below the combustion point, producing a vapor that can be inhaled. This method is often preferred by those looking for a smoother and potentially healthier smoking experience, as it avoids the harmful byproducts of combustion. Vaporizers come in various types, including portable handheld devices and desktop units.

Hookahs: Hookahs, or shisha pipes, are traditional smoking devices that use charcoal to heat a mixture of flavored tobacco and herbs. To smoke herbs with a hookah, fill the bowl with the herb mixture, light the charcoal on top, and inhale through the hose. Hookahs are popular for their social aspect and the ability to customize flavors.

When smoking herbs, it’s essential to use caution and moderation, as inhaling any type of smoke can pose risks to respiratory health. Additionally, always ensure that the herbs being smoked are safe and intended for consumption, as some herbs may have adverse effects when smoked.

See also our article on Where to Buy Herbs Online.

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