Ever walk past the bulk, dried herbs at Whole Foods and wonder how to use them?
Proper Use of Herbs
I would occasionally scoop out a small bagful of the chamomile flowers for a cup of tea, but had little idea of what I could do with all the other herbs. During my pregnancy, the midwife suggested drinking a quart of stinging nettle infusion every day for extra vitamins and minerals. Steeping the nettles for 4-10 hours releases lots of good nutrients, such as calcium, iron, boron, and vitamins C and K, which are easily digested and shared with baby in liquid form. She also recommended oat straw and red raspberry leaves for the last trimester, but when I mentioned dandelion root she said this one is best prepared as a tea, meaning it is only steeped for 10-15 minutes. That showed me that you don’t just pick up an herb and turn it into a tea or infusion because it seems healthy. It is very important to learn the proper use of herbs!
The point of this post is to give you a few examples and ideas, and to encourage you to do a little research into whatever herbs interest you and learn how to work with them.
A couple things to keep in mind:
- Know the risks/side effects as well as the benefits, especially if you are pregnant or have any sort of health condition. Herbs have powerful properties!
- Find out the best form to use with each particular herb. Maybe one works best topically, another is great for a cup of tea, and yet a third should be given the time to steep as an infusion. And there are several that can be used in multiple ways!
Teas vs Infusions
The terms “tea” and “infusion” are used interchangeably by some, but usually teas are steeped for short periods of time (30 minutes max), while infusions are steeped for several hours. To get the most from both types of herbal beverages it’s best to prepare and drink daily instead of brewing large batches at a time. Susan Weed, an herbalist and author of women’s health books, goes into great detail on how to brew an infusion and which herbs to use here.
Chamomile Tea and Face Wash
One of my favorite nighttime concoctions is a warm mug of chamomile tea with a spoonful of honey and a few drops of fresh lemon juice. Occasionally I make a little extra, mix in a tiny bit of almond oil or whole milk, and use it as a gentle face wash (if I haven’t been wearing makeup that day). This article shows how to make another version of chamomile toner and face wash.
Strawberry Leaves used for Astringents
Strawberry leaves have four times as much vitamin C as an orange, and make an excellent astringent as Janice Cox shows in Natural Beauty at Home. She has lots of other great recipes for how to turn herbs into beauty treatments as well.
I’ve enjoyed learning how to make these because they’re simple, gentle, and in my experience, effective. I know exactly what I’m putting into and on my body, and I find the various “earthy” smells very refreshing, especially at the end of a long day.
How to Dry Fresh Herbs
If you’ve already got your own fresh herbs from a garden, then you can save big by drying your own rather than using store bought. Learn how to dry fresh herbs step by step.
This is not meant to be taken as medical advice. As always, conduct your own research and consult your physician before use.
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Lauren spends her days with Jeff and their new baby Jasper, sneaking in a bit of yoga and horseback riding whenever she can.