The herbal treatments recommended in this book include teas, baths, compresses, poultices, oils, and ointments. Some require that you start from scratch, while others, especially tablets or capsules, are available ready made. The recipes and directions in this section will teach you how to prepare and use a wide variety of herbal treatments.
An herbal bath is as much of a treat as it is a treatment. There are several ways to prepare an herbal bath.
If you are using a soluble ingredient, such as baking soda or aloe vera gel, simply dissolve it in hot bath water.
If you are using oatmeal, you can either whirl it into a powder in your blender or bag it (see below). Oatmeal seems soft, but it doesn't dissolve completely unless it has first been very finely milled.
If you are using fresh herbs, you can bag them in a square of cheesecloth or a washcloth. A two- or three-thickness square of cheesecloth is ideal. The loose weave permits maximum release of the herbal essence, yet keeps the parts from floating free in the bath water. One method of bagging herbs is to stitch three sides of a cheesecloth square closed and run a drawstring through the top, or tie the bag closed with a sturdy string. An easier and quicker method is to place a suitable quantity of herbs in the middle of a cheesecloth square. Then simply pull the four corners of the square together and secure them with string. (You can do this with a washcloth or small towel, too, but cheesecloth is easier to manage.) For a full bath, use approximately 6 ounces of dried or fresh herbs.
Fill the tub, placing the bagged herbs under a forceful stream of comfortably hot water. As the tub fills, swish the herbs through the bath water. During the bath, gently squeeze an essence-rich stream of water from the herb bag directly on the part of the body you wish to treat. Your child may enjoy soaking and squeezing the bag. If you are treating an itchy skin condition, you may gently rub the bag across the affected areas. Unless you can trust your child not to rub itchy places raw, however, you may want to do this gentle scratching yourself. If you are using dried herbs, you will have to guard against rough parts, which may be irritating.
If your child is comforted and soothed by an herbal bath, you may want to be ready with a pre-prepared
herbal infusion. Soak 6 tablespoons of dried or fresh herbs overnight in 3 cups of water. Start with very hot water and allow it to cool naturally. The following morning, heat the infusion and strain out the residue. No bag is needed; just pour the strained infusion directly into the bath water.
Herbal Infusions (Teas)
Medicinal herbs are most often administered in tea form. The Chinese, who have a 5,000 year history of herbal medicine, teach that the heat of the water and the taste of the herb enhance its effectiveness. Steeping an herb in hot water draws out the therapeutic essence of the plant.
To prepare hot tea from herbs, measure out 2 heaping tablespoons of herb for every cup of tea (unless the label directs otherwise), and place them in a china or glass teapot or cup (plastic and metal containers are not suitable for steeping herbs). For each cup of tea, pour 8 ounces of freshly boiled water over the herbs. Cover the container. As a general rule, teas made with the leaf or flower of the herb should be allowed to steep for five to ten minutes; teas using roots or bark should be simmered for ten minutes and allowed to steep for an additional five minutes. After steeping, strain the tea, cool it to a comfortable temperature, and serve. If you prepare more than one cup of tea at one time, you can keep it at a comfortable sipping temperature in a thermos bottle.