Health & Wellbeing

Medicinal Plants Handout

This is the handout that I gave everyone at the Medicinal Herb Class.  Click the following link for the printable version, Medicinal Plants Handout.

Medicinal Plants


Presented By Marcy Young

Southern Oregon Survival

November 8, 2014

Medicinal Plants Covered:

Mullein, Plantain, Yarrow,

Cayenne, Lavender, and Comfrey

Types of Remedies:

Teas, Infused Oils, Tinctures


The information provided in this article is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE OR REPLACE A PHYSICIAN.  If you are currently taking prescription medications, make sure to do your research and check with your doctor or pharmacist for all drug interactions before taking medicinal herbs.

The growing of herbs for use in tinctures, salves, infusions, poultices and other traditional preparations is an art form handed down through the ages. This is perhaps the simplest and truest way to reconnect to our medicinal heritage, and is the foundation of nearly every system of healing. While it may seem daunting at first due to the special needs of some medicinal herbs, with patience and persistence you will be able to generate your own remedies for use at home or in the field, and work towards a life of greater self-sufficiency.     Herbal Organics



Common Names: Mullein, Flannel Leaf, Mullein Dock, Aaron’s Rod,

Botanical Name: Verbascum spp.

Medicinal Uses: * Congestion * Cough * Ear * Pet * Sore Throat * Stop Smoking

Properties: * Anti-inflammatory * Antibacterial * AntiViral * Astringent * Demulcent * Expectorant

Parts Used: Leaves, flowers, roots

All parts of the plant offer an abundance of healing medicine. The whole plant holds mild sedative/narcotic properties. The leaves are used in treating congestion and dry coughs, as they are an excellent expectorant. A strong tea, the tincture, and even smoking the dried leaves can achieve this end. Mullein is especially good for treating dry coughs that shake the frame of the body.

Mullein tea is a traditional treatment for respiratory problems, such as chest colds, bronchitis and asthma. Mullein leaf tea is slightly bitter; a tea of the flowers is sweeter. Both the leaves and flowers contain mucilage, which is soothing to irritated membranes, and saponins, which make coughs more productive. The tea must indeed always be strained through fine muslin to remove any hairs that may be floating in the hot water that has been poured over the flowers, or leaves, for otherwise they cause intolerable itching in the mouth.

Mullein is also an excellent remedy for the lymphatic system and can be applied as a compress to any instance of glandular swellingA fresh poultice of the mashed leaves make an excellent antimicrobial, astringent first aid remedy for minor burns and insect bites.

Mullein flowers infused in olive oil are also used to ease the pain of swollen rheumatic joints. Research has shown that the herb has strong anti-inflammatory activity, and lab studies suggest that mullein flower infusions have antiviral properties, as well. An infused oil of Mullein flowers and garlic is perhaps one of the first remedies to think of in treating an ear infection.  It can ease pain and speed recovery time.

Mullein root can be used as a long term tonic for individuals with urinary incontinence and recurring bladder infections. Mullein root is also markedly effective in treating spinal injuries, prepared either as an infusion or taken in small doses as a tincture.

Preparation Methods & Dosage: Fresh mullein flowers and leaves can be made into extracts, infused in oil, or taken as a tea.

CAUTIONS: Do not eat mullein seeds, as they are toxic. Also, when taken internally in excess, mullein can be mildly toxic. The tiny hairs on mullein leaf can also be irritating, so be sure to strain mullein leaf tea before drinking. Talk with your doctor if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.


Common Names: Plantain , Broad-leaved Plantain, Ribwort, narrow leaved plantain, Slanlus

Botanical Name: Plantago major, lanceolata L.

Medicinal Uses: * Burns * Cuts & Wounds * Insect/flea Bites * Sore Throat

Properties: * Anodyne * AntiCancer * Astringent * Depurative * Diuretic * Refrigerant * Styptic * Vulnerary

Parts Used: Leaves, flowers, roots

Plantain is useful plant overlooked by many because of its abundance and reputation as a weed. You have probably seen it growing in the cracks of sidewalks, or the middle of your driveway. It is a good source of vitamins C, A, and K. Over two hundred species of plantain grow throughout the world, the two most common to North American are P. major, the broad-leaved or common plantain, and P. lanceolata, the narrow-leaved plantain, (ribwort).

Plantain has been used in inflammation of the skin, malignant ulcers, intermittent fever, and as a vulnerary, and externally as a stimulant application to sores. Applied to a bleeding surface, the leaves are of some value in arresting hemorrhage, but they are useless in internal hemorrhage, although they were formerly used for bleeding of the lungs and stomach, consumption and dysentery. The fresh leaves are applied whole or bruised in the form of a poultice. Rubbed on parts of the body stung by insects, nettles, etc., or as an application to burns and scalds, the leaves will afford relief and will stay the bleeding of minor wounds.

A decoction of Plantain was considered good in disorders of the kidneys, and the root, powdered, in complaints of the bowels. The expressed juice was recommended for spitting of blood and piles. Fresh Comfrey roots, juice of Plantain and sugar are very efficacious in spitting of blood. Plantain juice mixed with lemon juice was judged an excellent diuretic. The powdered dried leaves, taken in drink, were thought to destroy worms.

The American Indian used the abundant plant as the chief remedy for the bite of the rattlesnake, and called it “snakeweed” after this use. Our Saxon ancestors esteemed plantain highly and in the old Lacnunga (a collection of miscellaneous medical texts. Lacnunga means ‘remedies’ in Old English) the Weybroed (plantain) is mentioned as one of nine sacred herbs.

Preparation Methods & Dosage: Plantain leaves are best used fresh. The plant can be put in the blender roots and all. Mainly used in poultices and salves. Can be brewed into a tea as well. You can juice the fresh plant in the blender by adding warm water to finely chopped leaves. This will result in a gooey, dark-green soup. Store in a cold refrigerator for up to two weeks.

CAUTIONS: Do not eat mullein seeds, as they are toxic. Also, when taken internally in excess, mullein can be mildly toxic. The tiny hairs on mullein leaf can also be irritating, so be sure to strain mullein leaf tea before drinking. Talk with your doctor if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.


Common Names: Yarrow, Milfoil, Old Man’s Pepper, Nosebleed

Botanical Name: Achillea Millefolium

Medicinal Uses: * Colds * Cuts & Wounds * Dysmenorrhea * Hypertension * Menorrhagia

Properties: * Anti-inflammatory * Antibacterial * AntiCancer * Antirheumatic * Antispasmodic * Astringent * Bitter * Cathartic * Depurative * Digestive * Emmenagogue* Febrifuge * Hypotensive * Insect repellents * Nervine * Styptic * Vulnerary

Parts Used: The whole plant, stems, leaves and flowers, collected in the wild state, when in flower

Yarrow was once known as “nosebleed”, its feathery leaves making an ideal astringent swab to encourage clotting. Yarrow skin washes and leaf poultices can staunch bleeding and help to disinfect cuts and scrapes; taken as a tea it can help slow heavy menstrual bleeding as well.

Yarrow is a tonic bitter with additional anti-inflammatory, carminative and antispasmodic properties that make it useful as a secondary herb in digestive teas.  Yarrow is a good herb to have on hand to treat winter colds and flu; a hot cup of yarrow tea makes you sweat and helps the body expel toxins while reducing fever.

The chemical makeup of yarrow is complex, and it contains many active medicinal compounds in addition to the tannins and volatile oil azulene. These compounds are anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and help relax blood vessels.  The fresh leaves chewed are said to cure toothache.

In Sweden it is called ‘Field Hop’ and has been used in the manufacture of beer and is considered more intoxicating than when hops were used.

Yarrow is a hardy perennial with showy flower heads composed of many tiny, tightly-packed flowers. Their fern-like leaves are often aromatic. Yarrows are easy to care for and versatile: they are good for borders, rock gardens, or wildflower meadows. These flowers are excellent for cutting or drying.   It flowers from June to September.

Preparation Methods & Dosage: Tea can be made from both fresh and dried cut leaves and flower heads. The bitter taste can be masked with sweeter herbs and a bit of honey. Fresh leaves also can be used as a poultice to stop bleeding and chewed to relieve a toothache. Yarrow essential oil is used for external application for many of the same purposes. Yarrow can also be taken as an extract.

CAUTIONS:  Avoid in pregnancy, can cause allergic skin reactions in sensitive people who suffer from allergies related to the Asteraceae family. Moderation is the key to safe use. The thujone content can be toxic over an extended period of time.


Common Names: Cayenne Pepper, Capsicum, African Pepper, Chillies, Bird Pepper

Botanical Name: Capsicum minimum

Medicinal Uses: * Arthritis * Cardiovascular * Congestion * Digestion * Fibromyalgia * Headache/Migraine * Nerve/Back Pain * Pain Relief

Properties:  * Antibacterial * AntiCancer * Antioxidant * Antiparasite * Antiscorbutic * Antiscrofulous * Antispasmodic * Carminative * Rubefacient * Styptic * Vasodilator

Parts Used: Fruit, ripe and dried

Cayenne peppers have been prized for thousands of years for its healing power. Folklore from around the world recounts amazing results using cayenne pepper in simple healing and in baffling health problems. But cayenne pepper is not just a healer from ancient history. Recent clinical studies have been conducted on many of the old-time health applications for this miracle herb. Again and again, the therapeutic value of cayenne pepper has been medically validated.

Many herbalists believe that Cayenne is the most useful and valuable herb in the herb kingdom, not only for the entire digestive system, but also for the heart and circulatory system. Hot, stimulating Cayenne peppers are like a jump start to a cold car engine on a frosty morning. It brings welcome life into sore muscles and gets your heart beating faster, increasing the flow of blood all through the body. The heat of cayenne warms stiff arthritic joints and relaxes away low back pain. The longer you use it, the better it works.

Cayenne acts as a catalyst and increases the effectiveness of other herbs when used with them. Cayenne is a medicinal and nutritional herb. It is a very high source of Vitamins A and C, has the complete B complexes, and is very rich in organic calcium and potassium, which is one of the reasons it is good for the heart.

Cayenne for Pain relief Cayenne pepper extracts are an important part of herbal treatment for muscle pain, fibromyalgia, arthritis, and the nerve pain caused by shingles and sciatica. It appears to act by decreasing the concentration of substance P, the primary chemical used by nerve cells to transmit pain signals. It takes repeated use over a period of at least a few weeks to feel this benefit.

Cayenne is also rich in salicylates, natural aspirin like compounds, which add to its analgesic nature.  Cayenne pepper balms, oils and creams are rubefacients, which means it warms the body by quickly dilating small capillaries, and increasing circulation, which reddens, (but does not burn) the skin.

Cayenne Pepper Diet: Adding cayenne to your diet plan is a no-brainer. Cayenne, along with other peppers strengthen digestion and lessen the change of bacterial infections from unsanitary food and water.

Cayenne has been known to stop heart attacks within 30 seconds. For example, when a 90-year-old man in Oregon had a severe heart attack, his daughter was able to get Cayenne extract into his mouth. He was pronounced dead by the medics, but within a few minutes, he regained consciousness. On the way to the hospital, he remained in a semi-conscious state, but the daughter kept giving him the Cayenne extract. By the time they got to the hospital, he had fully recovered and wanted to go home and mow the lawn. The doctor asked what she had given him, as he said it was the closest thing to a miracle he had ever seen.

In cases of severe cuts, gunshot wounds, etc., cayenne can be taken internally as a tea and the bleeding will stop by the time, in most cases, you can count to ten. Cayenne goes immediately into the blood stream and adjusts the blood pressure from the top of the head, to the bottom of the feet, equalizing pressure over the whole body. This takes the high pressure, which causes rapid bleeding, away from the wound and clotting starts immediately.

Cayenne pepper is said to be unequal for its ability to boost circulation and increase heart action. Capsicum exerts a variety of desirable actions on the entire cardiovascular system. It has the extraordinary ability to enhance cardiovascular performance while actually lowering blood pressure. Capsicum has an energizing effect on the entire system. It has traditionally been used for overcoming fatigue and restoring stamina and vigor. It is a natural stimulant without the threatening side effects (palpitations, hyper-activity or rise in blood pressure) of most other stimulating agents.

Also, researchers found capsaicin exhibited anticancer activity. It induced programmed cell death to human cancer cells without affecting normal cells. Chronic headache sufferers may soon have some new alternatives. The active ingredient in cayenne peppers, capsaicin, is believed to bring headache relief by depleting Substance P, a neurotransmitter that helps send pain.

Preparation Methods & Dosage: If you want to carry something in your first aid kit for a heart attack, carry a cayenne tincture. If a heart attack should occur, it is suggested that a teaspoon of extract be given every 15 minutes or a teaspoon of Cayenne in a glass of hot water be taken until the crisis has passed. If a hemorrhage occurs in the lungs, stomach, uterus or nose, it is suggested that a teaspoon of extract (or a teaspoon of cayenne powder in a cup of hot water) be given every 15 minutes until the crisis has passed. The bleeding should stop in 10-30 seconds. The reason for this is that rather than the blood pressure being centralized, it is equalized by the Cayenne, and the clotting action of the blood becomes more rapid. For external bleeding, take cayenne internally and pour cayenne directly on the wound.

CAUTIONS:  Avoid in pregnancy, can cause allergic skin reactions in sensitive people who suffer from allergies related to the Asteraceae family. Moderation is the key to safe use. The thujone content can be toxic over an extended period of time.


Common Names: Lavender

Botanical Name: Lavandula spp, Lavandula angustifolia, officinalis

Medicinal Uses: * Acne * Anxiety * Aromatherapy * Beauty * Burns * Candida/yeast * Children* Colds * Culinary/Kitchen * Cuts & Wounds * Depression * Ear * Facial Care * Fibromyalgia * Headache/Migraine  * Hypertension * IBS * Insect Repellent * Insect/flea Bites * Lice * Lupus * Nausea * Pet * Pregnancy/Childbirth * Skin Care * Sleep/Insomnia

Properties: * Analgesic * AntiCancer * Antifungal * Antioxidant * Antiperspirant/Deodorants * Antirheumatic * AntiViral * Aromatic * Cardiac tonic Cordial * Cholagogue * Cicatrisant * Cytophylactic * Diaphoretic/sudorific * Diuretic * Emmenagogue * Hypotensive * Insect repellents * Muscle Relaxant * Nervine * Parturient * Sedative * Splenic * Vermifuge * Vulnerary

Parts Used: Flowers, leaves and stems

Lavender is an aromatic, tonic herb with a sweet scent. It relaxes spasms, benefits the digestion, stimulates peripheral circulation and the uterus and lowers fever. Lavender is used internally for indigestion, irritability, anxiety, exhaustion, tension headaches, migraine and bronchial complaints.

Quite a number of clinical trials confirm the conventional wisdom that lavender relaxes the body in the presence of pain, most likely by reducing anxiety levels. A calm mental state makes pain more bearable, lessening its impact by reducing the perception of pain. However you don’t need to depend on lab studies to gauge the effects; Lavender is so easy and safe to use, it is quite easy to judge the effects yourself as they are immediate and quite apparent. For headaches apply a few drops of lavender oil neat to the temples. Massage with lavender oil at tender trigger points reduces the pain and tension of fibromyalgia in long term sufferers. Lavender combines well with the analgesic power of rosemary to relieve all types of pain: arthritis, sore muscles, and nerve pain.

A few drops of the essence of Lavender in a hot footbath has a marked influence in relieving fatigue. Outwardly applied, it relieves toothache, neuralgia, sprains, and rheumatism. In hysteria, palsy and similar disorders of debility and lack of nerve power, Lavender will act as a powerful stimulant.

Lavender is well regarded for its skin healing properties as well. To make an all-purpose remedy for scalds, burns, and sunburns: apply a cloth wet with witch hazel, then apply a few drops of lavender essential oil directly to the burn. To treat skin abrasions first clean the affected area with warm water with 5 drops of lavender diluted in a bowl. Apply one neat drop of lavender and leave to heal.

Preparation Methods & Dosage: Lavender tea can be made from the fresh or dried flowers. Lavender essential oil should only be used externally, and can be used in massage oils, baths and aroma lamps.


Common Names: Comfrey Leaf and root

Botanical Name: Symphytum officinale, Syn. Symphytum uplandica

Medicinal Uses: * Arthritis * Bruises/sprains * Cuts & Wounds * Eczema * Gastritis/ulcer * Rheumatoid arthritis * Skin Care * Sore Throat * Sunburns

Properties: * AntiCancer * Antioxidant * Astringent * Demulcent * Emollient * Expectorant * Vulnerary

Parts Used: root, leaves

Comfrey is a marvelous herb and is one of the best-known healing herbs of all times. Well known and widely used by early Greeks and Romans, its very name, symphytum, from the Greek symphyo means to “make grow together”, referring to its traditional use of healing fractures.

Comfrey relieves pain and inflammation caused by injuries and degeneration, especially the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Comfrey creams and oils can be used in arthritic pain relieving massages.

Comfrey salves, ointments and teas are best known for the topical treatment of burns, skin ulcerations, abrasions, lacerations, flea and insect bites, and just about any skin irritation. Comfrey’s astringent tannins form a protective surface over wounds and promotes healing. You may want to try comfrey or allantoin skin creams for diabetic sores. For weeping eczema, make a tea of comfrey and apply the liquid as a compress. Comfrey relieves pain and speeds healing of pus-filled wounds, and accelerates tissue healing in cases of insect bites.

Fresh leaves can be applied to bruises, fractures, sprains, and other injuries. Many healing effects of comfrey are attributable to allantoin, a compound shown to speed cell production both inside and outside the body. Comfrey works so fast that many herbalists will add antibacterial herbs to comfrey salves to prevent sealing bacteria inside a fast healing wound.

Comfrey also has a healing effect on ulcers, and a general soothing effect on the mucous membranes, making it invaluable in soothing sore throats and coughs. Adele Dawson, a well-regarded American herbalist, considered comfrey to be “Literally a one-herb pharmacy” and a “wonder plant- healing for any kind of respiratory disease”. (Dawson, Adele, “Herbs, Partners in Life”)

Preparation Methods & Dosage: Comfrey leaf is taken as a tea. If you have access to fresh leaves, you can use them as a poultice or skin wash. Comfrey root is infused in oils and used in salves for healing skin. Fresh leaves can be applied to bruises, fractures, sprains, and other injuries. Compresses are a simple and fast way to use the healing power of comfrey on troubled skin. Soak a clean cloth in a strong decoction of the root or leaf. Apply directly to the affected skin area.

CAUTIONS:  Many herbalists limit its use internally to short term applications while some go even further and warn against any internal use at all. In the late 1970s experimental data showed lab rats fed comfrey 3 to 4 times their body weight over a long period of time developed liver damage. It would take a human drinking 3 to 4 cups of comfrey tea for 140 years to achieve the same effect. (Duke,James, Ph.D.)

Types of Remedies


Drinking a tea brewed from freshly gathered herbs is an easy way to get nature’s healing force into your body — something we all need, whether we are healthy or not. Fresh plants help strengthen the immune system and detoxify. A tea made from fresh herbs captures between 50 and 90 percent of the effective ingredients of the plant.

Tools: You don’t need anything fancy, the most important tea tool is a non-aluminum pot with a tight fitting lid. Add a strainer and a tea cup and you are good to go.

Average Dose: The average dosage is usually 3 to 4 cups in a day. Bitter medicines need only be taken in small doses, usually 1/2 cup at a time.

Variations: Spices like ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and allspice add heat and energy to the infusion. Almond and vanilla extracts, raw honey, fresh lemon, or a pinch of stevia add flavor and zest.

  1. Ratio: Two cups water to one ounce dried herb, (1 to 2 tablespoons), or 1 cupped handful of the fresh herb. Depending on the herb you will generally use hot to boiling water. Pour hot water over herb in a closed container and leave to steep:
  2. Brewing time: 10 to 20 minutes. Infusing herbal tea is unlike brewing “tea”, Camellia sinensis, which becomes bitter and undrinkable if left to infuse too long. Most herbal teas benefit from a longer steeping time, the better to extract the medicinal properties. You need not throw out the leftovers either, and may want to reuse them as a “starter” for another fresh batch. Brewing the herbs in a closed container like an enamel teapot prevents and volatile compounds such as essential oils from escaping.
  3. Strain: Or not. I often just let the herbs settle to the bottom and pour off the top, letting the herbs soak in the water. The second cup is often better than the first. With practice you will get a feeling for how strong you like your drink.
  4. Refrigerate any unused portions in a clean glass jar with a lid. Herbal teas are often better the second day.
  5. What is commonly known as “sun tea”. Put fresh or dried herbs in a glass jar filled with water and place in a hot, sunny windowsill for several hours. A Lunar Infusion is made by placing the herb in an open crystal glass or bowl. Cover the herb with fresh water and place directly in the moon light, a full moon being the best time. Do not cover. Allow to infuse overnight and drink first thing in the morning. These infusions will be subtle, and work best with fresh, aromatic herbs like chamomile, mints and balms.

CAUTION: Do not use any plants that have been sprayed with pesticides, and never harvest anything you find growing along the roadside.   Be careful to avoid poisonous greens, such as the leaves of tomato or potato plants.

infused-olive-oilInfused Oils

Medicinal Oils can be used alone, or can form the basis of salves and balms.

The general principal is simple: Oil + heat + herbs = Herbal Oil

The most versatile and easy system for measurements is the simpler’s method, because it is based on ratios, measurements are referred to as “parts”, for instance 1 parts dried herb to 5 parts oil is very common ratio used in herbal oils.

The quality and strength of your homemade herbal oils depends not so much on exact measurements, as it does on making sure you cover all the plant matter, so no spoilage occurs. There can so much variation in the strength of herbs (due to growing and harvesting conditions, fresh or dried, etc.) that each batch will still be slightly different. In my experience, the length of time the oil macerates, and the amount of heat applied are the biggest determining factors in how strong your oil becomes.

Using high quality oil such virgin olive oil, or safflower oil, is as just as important as the quality of the herbs used. You will find that making herbal oils and other preparations is not an exact science, and each batch is always a learning opportunity.

  1. Solar infusion: Using the ‘simplers’ measure, place the herbs and oil in a glass jar and cover tightly. Place in a warm, sunny window and let infuse for about 2 weeks. Add one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or white wine to help break down the plant material. Strain and rebottle. For a stronger oil, add a fresh batch of herbs and let infuse for two more weeks.
  2. Oven Extraction: Place the herbs and oil in a canning jar, or a container with a tight fitting lid. Put them in a pan with enough water to cover the bottom half of the jar. Turn the oven on the lowest temperature possible and heat for several hours. This is a good method for those days when you are going to be around the house all day. I have better luck with this than the faster double boiler method, because the oil doesn’t tend to overheat, and you don’t have to watch it so carefully.
  3. Double boiler method. Place herbs and oil in a double boiler, covered with a tightly fitting lid and bring to a slow simmer. SLOWLY heat for 1/2 hour to an hour, checking frequently to make sure oil is not overheating. The lower the heat and longer the infusion time the better quality of oil.
  4. Crockpot method. Place herbs and oils in crockpot and set on lowest possible heat. You will have to experiment with your own crockpot as the strength of the heating element can vary quite a bit, but as a general rule 2 to 4 hours will do it.

Once the herbs have been infused into the oil, strain the mixture, bring to room temperature. You may then add a few drops of essential oils such as lemon, or rosemary for even more stimulating properties as well as a nice fresh scent. Rebottle and enjoy.


Learn how to make and use herbal tinctures, which are simply herbs extracted with alcohol, glycerin, or vinegar. Preserve your own home herbal harvest in a easy to use form.

Menstruums: There are three basic menstruums, or solvents used to extract the chemical compounds of herbs in tinctures, alcohol, glycerin, and vinegar. Alcohol is the most used because it can extract fats, resins, waxes, most alkaloids, and some of the volatile oils, as well as many other plant compounds. Water is also necessary to extract the water soluble plant chemicals. Using an 80 to 100 proof alcohol such as vodka, brandy and gin provides the alcohol-water ratio you need without having to add anything. If pure grain alcohol (190 proof) is used, water will have to be added. Don’t use city tap water that contains chlorine, use either distilled or pure spring water.

Herbs: Either fresh or dried finely chopped herbs can be used. Use of one pint of menstruum to two ounces of dried herbs or about two handfuls of fresh.

The important thing is to completely cover the herbs, leaving a couple of extra inches of liquid about the herbs to allow for swelling as the herbs absorb the liquid. Leave some headroom in the jar. If using vinegar, warm first before pouring it over the herbs.

Procedure for making an easy tincture:

  1. Chop herbs finely
  2. Place in a glass jar, labeled with the current date and name of the herb
  3. Add sufficient liquid menstruum to completely cover the herb
  4. Cap with a tight fitting lid, put the jar in a dark place at room temperature, and shake at least once daily.
  5. After 2 to 3 weeks, strain the contents through several layers of cheesecloth.
  6. Allow to settle overnight in a clean jar
  7. Restrain through a filter paper
  8. Store in a labeled, amber glass bottle away from light and heat.

The Chinese macerate herbs for months, sometimes even years. For stronger tinctures a suggested time can be 4 to 6 weeks. The duration depends on the mixture and on your patience, in time you will develop your own style. I use a kitchen cupboard that I open on a regular basis, so I don’t forget the shake the bottle. Tinctures will keep for 6 months. The standard dose is one tablespoon in a wineglass of water once or twice a day.

Using vinegar to tincture herbs. Alcohol has mostly displaced vinegar as a menstruum for making liquid herbal extracts, as it is far more efficient in extracting and preserving the medicinal properties of herbs. Vinegar is however passable solvent and useful in cases where you wish to avoid alcohol.

Herbal Properties Guide


Herbs that are taken to relieve pain.


Herbs that neutralize excess acids in the stomach and intestines.


Herbs that relieve the symptoms of asthma.


Substances that inhibit the growth of, or destroy, bacteria, viruses or amoebas.  While many herbal antibiotics have direct germ killing effects, they have as a primary action, the stimulation of the body’s own immune response.  Excessive use of antibiotics will eventually destroy the beneficial bacteria of the intestines.  Important antibiotic herbs include Echinacea and Olive Leaf.


Herbs that eliminate or counteract the formation of mucus.


Cooling herbs used to reduce or prevent fevers.  Cooling may refer to neutralizing harmful acids in the blood (excess heat) as well as reducing body temperature.


Herbs that can be applied to the skin to prevent the growth of bacteria.  This includes the Astringents.  Some Antiseptics include: Calendula, Astragalus, Chamomile, Hibiscus Flower, Nettle Leaf, Olive Leaf, Rosehips, Rosemary, Turmeric, White Willow Bark, Yerba Santa, and Sage.


Herbs that prevent or relax muscle spasms.  They may be applied either internally or externally for relief.  Antispasmodics are included in most herb formulas to relax the body and allow it to use its full energy for healing.


Substances used to improve sexual potency and power.


Herbs that have a constricting or binding effect.  They are commonly used to check hemorrhages and secretions, and to treat swollen tonsils and hemorrhoids.  The main herbal Astringents contain tannins, which are found in most plants, especially in tree barks.


Herbs and spices taken to relieve gas and griping (severe pains in the bowels).


Substances used to promote the flow and discharge of bile into the small intestine.  These will also be laxatives, as the bile will stimulate elimination.


Soothing substances, usually mucilage, taken internally to protect damaged or inflamed tissues.  Usually a Demulcent herb will be used along with diuretics to protect the kidney and urinary tract, especially when kidney stones and gravel are present.


Herbs used to induce sweating. To administer Diaphoretics effectively, the stomach and bowels should be emptied by fasting and using an enema.  However, laxatives should not be used before using these herbs.  Sweating teas should be hot; when given cold, they act as diuretics.


Herbs that increase the flow of urine.  They are used to treat water retention, obesity, lymphatic swellings, nerve inflammations such as lumbago and sciatica, infections of the urinary tract, skin eruptions, and kidney stones.


Herbs that promote menstruation, usually causing it to occur earlier, and sometimes with increased flow.  These have been used in the past to induce abortions, so extreme caution is advised.  All of these, when taken in sufficient quantity to cause abortion, have other strong effects on the body.  None of these should be taken when a woman wants to be pregnant.  These are now commonly used to help regulate the menstrual cycle.


Substances that are softening, soothing, and protective to the skin.


Herbs that assist in expelling mucus from the lungs and throat.  E


Substances that increase the secretion of milk.


Substances that arrest hemorrhaging.  These include astringents and herbs that affect the coagulation of blood. Cayenne Pepper, Mullein, Nettle Leaf, and Raspberry Leaf.


Herbs that promote bowel movements. 


Herbs that help to dissolve and eliminate urinary and biliary stones and gravel.  F


Herbs that calm nervous tension and nourish the nervous system.  Herbs with nervine properties include: Chamomile, Hops, Passionflower, Rooibos African Red Tea, Rosemary, Skullcap, and Valerian.


Herbs that destroy parasites in the digestive tract or on the skin.  Parasiticides include: Chamomile, Cinnamon, Cloves, Black Walnut Bark, Nettle Leaf, and Wormwood.


Substances that increase the flow of blood at the surface of the skin and produce redness where they are applied.  Their function is to draw inflammation and congestion from deeper areas.  They are useful for the treatment of arthritis, rheumatism, and other joint problems and for sprains.


Herbs that strongly quiet the nervous system.  These will include antispasmodics and nervines.


Substances that stimulate the flow of saliva and thus aid in the digestion of starches.


Herbs that increase the energy of the body, drive the circulation, break up obstruction and warm the body.


Herbs that promote the functions of the systems of the body.  Most Tonics have general effects on the whole body, but also have a marked effect on a specific system.


Herbs that encourage the healing of wounds by promoting cell growth and repair.



Online Resources:

Book Resources:

  • Backyard Medicine by Julie Bruton-Seal & Matthew Seal
  • Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide by Rosemary Gladstar
  • Field Guide to Medicinal Wild Plants by Bradford Angier and David K. Foster
  • Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Northwest by J. Duane September
  • Medicinal Plants Pocket Guide by Waterford Press

PREPPERS101 Blog Articles:

  • 4 Native Medicinal Plants for Emergency Medicine

  • Herbal Remedy Recipe Cards

  • 15 Natural Home Remedies for Wounds

The information provided in this article is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE OR REPLACE A PHYSICIAN.

If you are currently taking prescription medications, make sure to do your research and check with your doctor or pharmacist for all drug interactions before taking medicinal herbs.


About myoung

Ben and Marcy Young are the owners of Southern Oregon Survival.


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