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Medicinal plants: the complete guide to medicinal plants
For thousands of years, medicinal plants have been used by all civilisations around the world to prevent and cure illnesses. Even today, they are used in the composition of food supplements, medicines and a wide variety of treatments.
Although they should not be used as a substitute for medication prescribed by a doctor, it is possible to incorporate some medicinal plants into the daily routine to prevent and cure minor ailments and increase well-being. The following is some basic information on the different ways of using and applying herbs that are easy and safe to prepare yourself.
Infusions of medicinal plants
Infusions are the simplest and most foolproof way to enjoy the benefits of herbs. It is mainly the aerial parts, the leaves and flower heads, that lend themselves to this type of treatment.
To prepare an infusion properly, all you need is a teapot or cup, a filter and a lid.
For one cup, use about one teaspoon of dried plant or two teaspoons of fresh plant. For a teapot preparation, add 20 g of dried plant or 30 g of fresh plant to 500 ml of water.
Infusions for sleeping
Put the plants in the filter and add water over low heat. Leave to steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Add honey and sugar to taste.
Decoctions are used to extract the active ingredients from the harder parts of medicinal plants, such as the bark or roots, by subjecting them to a more intense treatment.
To prepare your concoction, place a large quantity of medicinal plants in a saucepan and add cold water, preferably good quality spring water.
You need about 20 g of dried plant or 40 g of fresh plant (or plant mixture) for 750 ml of cold water, reduced to 500 ml.
Cover the pot and bring to the boil. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by about one third. Remove from the heat and strain through a sieve. Once cooled, the concoction can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours. It is recommended not to exceed 3-4 doses of decoction per day - the equivalent of 500 ml of your brew.
Tonics are invigorating drinks that increase well-being and stimulate digestion.
To make them, 200 g of dried herbs or 300 g of fresh herbs or 25 g of dried bitter herbs are needed for 1 litre of white or red wine.
The recommended container for the preparation of tonics is a ceramic jug or jar with a tap at the base. Place the plants in the jar and cover them completely with the wine, as they can become mouldy in contact with air, making the wine unhealthy.
After letting the plants macerate in the wine for about 2 weeks, press and filter it and transfer it to closed bottles that have been sterilised. If stored in a cool place and in a closed container, the tonic wine will keep for 3-4 weeks. The recommended daily dose is one glass of liquor - about 70 ml - per day.
Medicinal herbal syrups
Syrups and cordials consist of adding sugar and/or honey to infusions or decoctions and thus preserving them for a longer period of time. 500 ml of infusion or decoction - see above - for 500 g of honey or unrefined sugar. To prepare your syrup or cordial, pour your infusion or decoction into a saucepan and add the honey or sugar.
Leave the herbs to infuse for 15 minutes (for infusions) and 30 minutes (for decoctions). Squeeze the plant to collect as much liquid as possible. Using a funnel, pour the syrup or cordial into pre-sterilised glass bottles, preferably using stained bottles. Close the bottles with corks and store them in a cool, dark place.
The recommended daily dose for syrups and cordials is 5 to 10 ml (1 to 2 teaspoons) 3 times a day. If stored in a cool place, the preparations can be kept for up to 6 months.
Poultices are herbal preparations that are applied directly to the skin and are intended to relieve muscle pain, sprains and fractures.
To prepare a poultice, heat the plant of your choice for about 2 minutes and then squeeze out the liquid. First cover the painful part of the body with oil, then put the still-warm plant on it and cover it with a bandage. Leave it on for up to 3 hours. Repeat the poultice every 2 to 3 hours.
Mouthwashes are a good way to treat some diseases.
Mouthwashes are another easy and safe way to apply herbs. To prepare a mouthwash or gargle, start with an infusion and let it steep for a longer time - 15 to 20 minutes - to enhance the benefits.