Herbal Medicine Making Basics 101

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Herbalism is a traditional form of medicine that is one of the oldest forms of healing in the world. 

Since the beginning of time cultures have used the plants around them to aid in health and heal sickness. 

There has been a vocabulary, materia medica, and guidance of the use of herbs that have been passed down for generations.

By using the plants that grow around us we also learn about them and develop a deeper connection to nature which supports our healing.

It wasn’t until modern medicine, including the pharmaceutical industry, that people lost connection with the plants around them and their ability to help us heal and maintain health.

I have nothing against modern medicine since it’s an amazing and critical technological advancement that has eliminated most infectious diseases and provides life-saving emergency medical care.

I just think that it has also come with negative effects like the disconnection to nature, the lost ability for individuals to have self-reliant health care, more harmful side effects, and the false superiority of scientists and medical doctors over normal people.  

One of the main differences between herbal medicine and pharmaceutical medicine is the isolation of compounds vs using the synergy of whole plants. 

Modern pharma drugs usually isolate compounds that are designed to target specific disease areas.

When you isolate compounds you generally get stronger drugs and more potential harmful side effects. This can be good for situations that are critical and conditions that don’t respond to gentler forms of medicine. It can be bad when it’s used when not needed.

Herbal medicine is a gentler form of plant medicine that can be used effectively for normal everyday ailments with a smaller amount of side effects.

In this guide, I want to go over the basics of herbal medicine making including an example of an apothecary, a list of herbs, and how to make teas and tinctures.

Table of Contents

What is an Apothecary?

In herbal medicine, an apothecary is known as a traditional pharmacy or a medicine room where herbs are stored as well as the necessary equipment needed to create and package products.

You can see what an apothecary looks like below:

Herbs are stored in bags or jars
Tinctures are stored in dark glass bottles

List of Tools Needed to Make Herbal Medicine

To make herbal medicine on your own you will need a few tools for tincturing, weighing, measuring, calculating, and funneling solutions into containers.

  • Small scale (for weighing herbs)
  • Paper plate (for weighing herbs on scale)
  • Calculator (for formula calculations)
  • Funnel (For funneling tincture solutions)
  • Glass jars or mason jars (for macerating tinctures)
  • Graduated cylinder to measure in ML (for tincture measurements)
  • Dark glass bottles in 8 oz or less sizes (for bottling tinctures)
  • Large plastic bags (for tea storage)
  • Labels (for labeling created products)
  • Tea pot or infuser (for infusing tea)
  • Stovetop pan (for simmering decoctions)
  • Small electric grinder (for powdering herbs)

List of Herbs & Properties

When learning to be an herbal medicine maker it’s best to stick to a list of around 30 herbs and really get to know the plants and their properties.

Below I’ve created a list of herbs and organized them by the body system they have the most potent effect on. 

Just keep in mind that herbs work on a holistic level meaning they will have an impact on many different aspects of the body even though they are listed under one classification. 

Formulas are usually created using multiple herbs for the synergistic effect.

Nervous System Herbs

Ashwagandha (Withania somniferum)

Native to India it’s one of the most important herbs in Ayurvedic medicine. As a restorative and rejuvenative it is esteemed as highly as Ginseng in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It boosts strength and vitality with a calming effect on the nervous system.

Parts used– root

Constituents– Steroidal lactones, tropane alkaloids, phytosterols, saponins, iron

Actions– Sedative, antispasmodic, anticonvulsant, nerve tonic, diuretic, astringent, nutritive, rejuvenative, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, cardioprotective, hypotensive, adaptogen, antioxidant, aphrodisiac, immunomodulatory, thyroid balancing 

Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata)

This plant has stunningly beautiful flowers. It’s mainly used as a nervous system herb.

It’s an excellent relaxant and sedative for stress-related and painful conditions. It’s also helpful in stress-related digestive problems.

Parts used– flower, vine

Constituents– Alkaloids, sugar, gum, sterols, flavonoids, coumarin derivatives, essential oil

Actions– Anodyne, anticonvulsive, nervine, sedative, antispasmodic, anxiolytic, hypotensive

Skullcap (Scutellaria laterifolia)

This plant is traditionally used to treat nervous disorders and infertility and to dampen down unwanted sexual desires.

The herb is helpful in anxiety, tension, muscle pain, OCD, and panic attacks. Scutellarin enhances the production of endorphins, lifts depression, dispels tiredness and nervous exhaustion, and promotes sleep. It’s recommended for addiction or when withdrawing from tranquilizers or antidepressants. It’s also antispasmodic and used for restless legs or muscles.

Parts Used– Aerial parts

Constituents– Flavonoid glycosides, volatile oil, diterpenoids, bitters, tannins, linoleic, oleic and palmitic acids, phenols, b vitamins, minerals

Actions– Antispasmodic, nervine, anticonvulsant, anaphrodisiac, anodyne, astringent, brain tonic, diuretic, emmenagogue, febr

Oats (Avena sativa)

Oats are highly nutritious full of protein, calcium, magnesium, silica, iron, and vitamins. They are strengthening to bones and teeth and are vital to a healthy nervous system. They are good energy-giving food and bodybuilder.

Parts used– Whole plant

Constituents– Saponins, polyphenols, sterol, monosaccharides, oligosaccharides, alkaloids, flavonoids, gluten, protein, fats, minerals, vitamin B

Actions– Sedative, nervine, antidepressant, diuretic, antispasmodic, demulcent, laxative, nutritive, rejuvenative, antilipidemic

Chamomile (Chomomilla matricaria)

Chamomile is renowned for its sedative and anti-inflammatory effects. It helps with stress-related digestive issues, calms anxiety, and works as an anti-inflammatory.

Parts used– flowers

Constituents– Volatile oil, flavonoids, coumarins, fatty acids, cyanogenic, glycosides, choline, tannins

Actions– Anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, nervine, sedative, antiulcer, antihistamine, digestive, antimicrobial, diaphoretic, anodyne, diuretic, emmenagogue

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Traditionally this plant was valued to improve memory and lift spirits. It’s used mainly as a nervous system tonic for anxiety, agitation, and dull mood.

Parts used– aerial parts

Constituents– Volatile oils, polyphenols, tannins, flavonoids, rosmarinic acid, triterpenoids

Actions– Diaphoretic, carminative, nervine, antispasmodic, antihistamine, antimicrobial, sedative, antiviral, antioxidant, decongestant

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

The root is highly pungent with a smell that is disliked by many but loved by cats. It’s typically used as a nervous system tonic and sedative.

It’s excellent for anxiety, nervous tension, agitation, panic attacks, irritability, insomnia, nervous headaches and exhaustion. Also used as an antispasmodic to relax tension and spasms in stress-related issues like IBS and dyspepsia.

Parts used– root

Constituents– volatile oils, valepotriates, valerianic acid, glycosides, alkaloids, choline, tannins, resins

Actions– Anxiolytic, sedative, hypnotic, anodyne, anthelmintic, antibacterial, antispasmodic, astringent, bitter, carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic, hypotensive, nervine, restorative

Immune Herbs

Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)

Astragalus is a popular Chinese tonic herb used to increase vitality and strengthen immunity. It’s excellent for enhancing endurance, promoting weight gain when weak and underweight and relieving debility and fatigue.

Parts used– Rhizome

Constituents– Triterpenoid saponins, flavonoids, polysaccharides, asparagin, linoleic acid, linolenic acid

Actions– Immune enhancing, tonic, adaptogen, adrenal tonic, digestive, vasodilator, cardiotonic, hypotensive, diuretic, antiviral, antibacterial

Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus)

A famed tonic that grows in Siberia, China, Korea and Japan, long used for increasing vitality, improving mental and physical performance, and protecting against stress. It’s a common adaptogenic herb.

Parts used– root

Constituents– Triterpenoid saponins: eleutherosides, polysaccharides, glycans

Actions– Adaptogen, antioxidant, immunostimulant, hypocholesterolemic, anti-inflammatory, rejuvenative

Cat’s Claw (Uncaria tomentosa)

A climbing vine native to the Amazonian jungle, where it has been famous as a remedy for infections and inflammatory conditions as well as contraception for centuries.

It’s a helpful aid to strengthen the gut in Crohn’s disease, IBD, and leaky gut. It stimulates immunity by enhancing the activity of phagocytes, macrophages, lymphocytes, and leukocytes. 

Parts used– bark, root, leaf

Constituents– pentacyclic and tetracyclic oxidole alkaloids, triterpenes, phytosterols, tannins, quercetrin, rutin, proanthocyanidins, catechin, polyphenols

Actions– Immune enhancing, anti inflammatory, hypotensive, antioxidant, antitumour, antimicrobial, depurative, diuretic, vermifuge

Pau D’Arco (Tabebuia impetiginosa)

An evergreen flowering tree native to Brazil and Argentina, famous as a strengthening tonic and immune enhancer, for fighting infection and preventing cancer.

It’s a strong antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral herb helpful in herpes, flu, and colds. It also shows activity against candida and is a powerful immune tonic for any infectious issue.

Parts Used– Inner bark

Constituents– Quinine compounds, anthraquinone tabeuin, furonaphthoquinones

Actions– Immune enhancing, antitumour, antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiparasitic, laxative, antimalarial, antischistosomal, anti-inflammatory, anticoagulant

Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia)

This plant was traditionally valued as a blood cleanser for wounds, burns, insect bites, and joint pains. Research has demonstrated its efficacy in combating infections.

 Parts used– root

Constituents– Echinacosides, chlorogenic acid, alkylamides, echinacein, isobutylamides, polyacetylenes, d-acidic arabinogalactan polysaccharide

Actions– Alterative, antibiotic, diaphoretic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immunostimulant, antimicrobial, decongestant, antitumour, diaphoretic, vulnerary

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)

This plant is a powerful antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. It has been used for ulcers, wounds and acute infections, including cholera, giardia, and amoebic dysentery

Parts used– root

Constituents– Alkaloids (hydrastine and berberine)

Actions– Bitter tonic, anti-inflammatory, laxative, stomachic, anticancer, astringent, mucosal tonic, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antifungal, antispasmodic

Respiratory Herbs

Elecampane (Inula helenium)

This bitter aromatic root was traditionally used for coughs and catarrh as well as other respiratory infections. It’s a warming decongestant and expectorant as well as antibacterial and antispasmodic.

Parts used– root

Constituents– Volatile oils, polysaccharide inulin, sterols, resin, pectin, mucilage, calcium, magnesium

Actions– Antimicrobial, expectorant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, biter, aromatic digestive, antispasmodic, bronchodilator, carminative, decongestant

Marshmallow (Althea officinalis) 

An abundance of mucilage makes marshmallow the most soothing of medicines, cooling irritation and inflammation which is ideal for treating sore or inflamed mucous membranes.

Parts used– root

Constituents– Mucilage, tannins, pectin, sterols, coumarins, phenolic acidasparagin, flavonoids

Actions– Emollient, demulcent, vulnerary, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antiseptic, antitussive, expectorant, diuretic, immune enhancer, galactagogue

Slippery Elm (Ulmus fulva)

The inner bark which is collected from trees was used by Native Americans to soothe an irritated digestive system and as a poultice for wounds and ulcers.

It moistens and reduces heat irritation and inflammation in the throat and chest which relieves catarrh and dry coughs. It’s also a great herb for inflamed digestive systems, a laxative, and prebiotic.

Parts used– inner bark generally as powder

Constituents– Mucilage, tannins, calcium, chromium, zinc, iron, manganese, procyanidins, antioxidants

Actions– Demulcent, emollient, nutritive, antitussive, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, expectorant, laxative, rejuvenative, vulnerary, prebiotic

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

Coltsfoot is famous as a remedy for respiratory problems, traditionally used in cough syrups or candied and sucked as a sweet.

It’s a soothing anti-inflammatory and expectorant for colds, catarrh, sore throats, tonsillitis, dry coughs, bronchitis, and asthma. Rich in zinc it promotes tissue repair.

Parts used– leaf, flower

Constituents– Flower: mucilage, triterpenes, carotene, and other flavonoids, tannins, arnidiol, taraxanthin, pyrrolizidine alkaloids; leaf: zinc, magnesium, potassium, glycosidal, sitosterol, inulin

Actions– antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, emollient, bronchodilator, demulcent, antitussive, diuretic, astringent, diaphoretic, expectorant, digestive

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

An intensely aromatic small evergreen shrub native to the mediterranean which has powerful antiseptic properties.

Helpful in colds, sore throats, flu, and chest infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. The volatile oils have strong antibacterial and antifungal effects which support the fight against infections. Also great for aiding digestion. 

Parts used– flowering aerial parts

Constituents– Tannins, bitters, essential oil, terpenes, flavonoids, saponins

Actions– antispasmodic, astringent, digestive, antiseptic, antibacterial, decongestant, circulatory stimulant, relaxant, immunostimulant, antioxidant

Digestive Herbs

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

A wonderfully pungent herb native to South Asia. Its warming and energizing properties were mentioned in the writings of Confucius as early as 500 BCE and Chinese and Indian medical texts written 2000 years ago.

Parts used– root

Constituents– Volatile oils (zingerone, gingerol, camphene, borneol, phellandrene, citral)

Actions– Circulatory stimulant, carminative, digestive, expectorant, diuretic, aphrodisiac, antiemetic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, diaphoretic, antispasmodic, immune tonic, antimicrobial

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

Fennel is a plant that is used for aiding in digestion and to ease spasms. It has a slight licorice taste to it. 

Parts used– seed

Constituents– vitamins, minerals, essential oil, fixed oil, phenolic acids, flavonoids, coumarins

Actions– Anesthetic, antibacterial, antiemetic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, carminative, digestive

Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

It has a refreshing taste and stimulating action peppermint has been traditionally used as a digestive, analgesic, and decongestant for headaches and colds. It’s also a brain tonic increasing blood flow to the brain and enhances concentration.

Parts used– aerial parts

Constituents– Volatile oil menthol and derivatives, flavonoids, phytol, carotenoids, rosmarinic acid, tannins

Actions– Diaphoretic, carminative, nervine, antispasmodic, antiemetic, antiseptic, digestive, circulatory stimulant, analgesic, antimicrobial

Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus)

The whole plant has been valued for cleansing toxins and aiding digestion. It’s used as a liver tonic and laxative type of digestive aid.

Parts used– root

Constituents– Anthraquinone glycosides, tannins, iron, bitters, chrysarobin, rumicin

Actions– Alterative, antiscorbutic, astringent, antitumour, cholagogue, depurative, laxative, tonic

Dandelion Root (Taraxacum officinale)

The leaves and roots of Dandelion are used as a bitter detoxifying tonic to cleanse the body of wastes from heavy clogging food and sedentary habits.

It’s mainly used as a bitter digestive and liver tonic that acts as a mild laxative. It increases the elimination of toxins and wastes through the liver and kidneys.

Parts Used– Leaf, root

Constituents– Terpenoids, acids, carbohydrates, vitamins a c b complex, minerals, phytosterols, flavonoid glycosides

Actions– Digestive, bitter tonic, diuretic, mild laxative, cholagogue, depurative, anti-inflammatory, antilithic

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)

Meadowsweet is an analgesic that has similar benefits to aspirin as well as being an anti-inflammatory and astringent which is beneficial in digestive problems.

Parts used– aerial parts

Constituents– Essential oils, salicylic acid, spireine,  gaultherin, flavonoids, vanillin, coumarin, glycoside, mucilage, tannins

Actions– Analgesic, anodyne, antacid, antibacterial, antiemetic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, astringent, cholagogue, diaphoretic, diuretic

Blackberry (Rubus villosus)

Blackberry is astringent especially for the digestive tract. It helps with excess fluid loss from diarrhea and when medical intervention is not available it may help save lives. It’s also hemostatic- stops bleeding of the GI tract.

Parts used– leaf

Circulatory Herbs

Cayenne (Capsicum minimum)

This fiery plant excites the palate and enhances digestion. It is a great warming remedy for warding off coughs, colds, and poor circulation.

Parts used– fruit

Constituents– Alkaloid (capsaicin), carotenoids, vitamins A and C, flavonoids, volatile oil, steroidal saponins, salicylates

Actions– Circulatory stimulant, vasodilator, hypotensive, rubefacient, analgesic, diaphoretic, digestive, carminative, antioxidant, antibacterial, expectorant 

Gingko (Ginkgo Biloba)

Gingko is a popular brain circulatory tonic which has shown beneficial for slowing aging, poor memory, hearing loss, and stroke.

Parts used– leaf

Constituents– Terpenesditerpene ginkgolides, sesquiterpenes, proanthocyanidins, vitamin c, flavonoids, organic acids, essential oils, tannins

Actions– Antioxidant, circulatory stimulant, neuroprotective, antibacterial, anticoagulant, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, brain tonic, cardiotonic, decongestant, rejuvenative, vasodilator

Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum americanum)

Prickly ash has warming and stimulating effects and was well known among Native Americans for relieving arthritic pain and toothache.

Great herb for increasing circulation and aiding in moving the digestive tract along. It’s a strengthening stimulant used for debility and nervous exhaustion.

Parts used– bark

Constituents– Alkaloids, lignans, resins, essential oils, xanthoxyllin, alyklamides, tannin, coumarins, penol

Actions– Circulatory stimulant, diaphoretic, sialogogue, alterative, analgesic, anthelmintic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, astringent, emmenagogue, immunostimulant, nervine, digestive

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)

C cassia is native to southern China while C zeylanicum grows in Sri Lanka. This sweet and aromatic spice is a warming remedy for warding off infections and improving digestion.

Parts used– inner bark

Constituents– Volatile oils, tannins, mucilage, gums, resin, coumarins

Actions– Antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antioxidant, tonic, immunostimulant, nervine, adaptogen, circulatory stimulant, antispasmodic, digestive

Other Great Herbs

Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

This plant has an affinity with the endocrine system. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is said to harmonize the effects of other herbs. 

It’s a soothing digestive aid that can help lower stomach acid and also works as a mild laxative. It’s an adaptogenic strengthening tonic that improves resistance to physical and mental stress and it’s also a major anti-inflammatory herb.

Parts Used– Peeled root

Constituents– Glycyrrhizin, triterpenoid saponins, polyphenols, flavonoids, glycymarin, phytoestrogens, asparagin, volatile oil, coumarins, tannins

Actions– Demulcent, expectorant, tonic, laxative, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, diuretic, adaptogen, antacid, antitussive, adrenal tonic, antiviral, antiallergenic, hypocholesterolemic

Ginseng (Panax Ginseng or Korean Ginseng)

For a long time in the east top-grade ginseng roots were valued more highly than gold. It is a general all-around strengthening herb used to improve digestion, the immune system, increase energy and chi, adrenal function, and sexual function.

Parts used– root

Constituents– About 30 hormone-like saponins (ginsenosides), volatile oil, sterols, starch, pectin, vitamins b1 b2 b12, choline, minerals

Actions– Tonic, nervine, adaptogen, alterative, stimulant, immunostimulant, rejuvenative


Mugwort is a bitter tonic and foremost digestive stimulant. It is an antioxidant, cholagogue for liver aid, nervine tonic, and antidepressant. It also stimulates lucid dreaming if taken around bedtime.

Burdock (Arctium lappa)

This is a root that is respected for its detoxifying and antiseptic properties. The root is generally used while the seeds are also used in Asia.

This root has a positive impact on the digestive system as a mild laxative and aids in indigestion and gas. It can be used for bacterial and fungal infections and it has a prebiotic effect from the fructooligosaccharides. It’s also used for chronic skin diseases such as acne.

Parts Used– Root

Constituents– Root: inulin, mucilage, pectin, polyacetylenes, volatile acids, sterols, tannins, bitters, aldehydes, flavonoid glycosides (quercetin and kaempferol), asparagin, polyphenolic acid

Actions– Alterative, diaphoretic, demulcent, diuretic, astringent, bitter tonic, digestive, mild laxative, antimicrobial, hypoglycaemic, antitumor, prebiotic 

Herbal Tea Making 101

Herbal teas consist of infusions and decoctions. 

Infusions are water infusions of the more delicate aromatic parts of plants.

Decoctions are slow simmers of harder parts of plants (barks, roots, fruits).

The difference between an herbal tea you would get at a restaurant or in a tea packet compared to a medicinal-grade tea is the amount of herb used to water ratio. A medicinal-grade herbal tea is more potent than a typical tea bag you would buy at the store. Commercially available tea bags usually contain less than a teaspoon of herbs.

It’s usually recommended to use loose organic herbs you can find online or in a natural foods store to make your medicinal-grade herbal tea.

Infusion Directions (For 1 Month Worth Medicinal Tea):

  • Prepare 12 oz of herb for a month supply
  • Use blend of 4-6 herbs in parts to sum of 12 oz
  • Gather, measure, and weigh the herbs in correct portions and place into ziplock bag
  • Label the ziplock bag with the herbs and instructions
  • Use ½ oz per day in 2-3 cups of hot water, steep for 15 mins, strain, drink

Decoction Directions:

  • Prepare 8 oz of roots and barks for a month supply
  • Label the bag with herbs and instructions
  • Put 1 tablespoon in 1 liter of water and simmer for 20 minutes on stove
  • Strain and drink throughout day

Decoction-Infusion Directions:

  • Add 1 tablespoon of decoction mix to liter of water
  • Simmer for 20 minutes on low heat
  • Take off heat and add lighter herb mix (2 tablespoons or ½ oz) and infuse for 15 minutes
  • Drink 2-3 cups throughout the day

Below you can see the medicinal grade herbal tea mixture I created for a one month supply using a scale and plate, herbs, and a ziplock bag:

Herbal Tincture Making 101

Herbs macerating in alcohol and water menstruum

Herbal tinctures are herbs that are soaked in alcohol or a mixture of alcohol and other liquids to create a medicinal liquid. 

Alcohol tinctures extract a wider range of chemical constituents compared to water extractions. 

They also extract different constituents from the plants.

One of the benefits of tinctures is they last for years when stored properly in bottles out of sunlight and they are quickly absorbed for faster action compared to teas.

Below are some of the common terms used in tincturing:

  • Menstruum: Liquid used for extract, such as alcohol, vinegar, glycerin, water
  • Maceration: Process of steeping an herb in a menstruum for extraction
  • Marc: Waste herb material left over after extraction
  • Proof and Percent: Proof of alcohol is 2x the percentage of the alcohol content measured by volume. 80 proof vodka is 40% alcohol and 60% water.

How do you know what solvent to use? 

The best solvent to use depends on the plant constituents you are trying to extract from the herbs, so it will vary based on the plant being used. 

You can easily find the menstruum ratio for each specific plant online or in an herbalist materia medica. 

Water extracts only water-soluble constituents like vitamins, antioxidants, sugars, polysaccharides, starches, and minerals.

Alcohol extracts alkaloids, sugars, enzymes, volatile oils, resins, some minerals, and vitamins but precipitates out mucilage.

The most common alcohols used are vodka, gin, and grain alcohol.

Folk Method Tincture Process:

  1. Place herbs in a wide mouth glass jar and fill half full
  2. Add enough alcohol to cover the herbs by an inch (plant material should stay below)
  3. Seal the jar
  4. Shake the jar
  5. Label and store in a cool dark location and shake every few days
  6. Let macerate for 2-3 weeks
  7. Strain mixture through cheesecloth into dark glass jar
  8. Label and store

Mathematical Tincture Process:

  • Need scale and graduated cylinder
  • Better consistency and chemical extraction using this method
  • It uses a weight to volume ratio

Weight to Volume Ratio Method:

Below are the basics that are important to know when creating a tincture using the mathematical formula method for exact weight to volume ratios.

  • Herb:Menstruum Ratio: first ratio in a given formula such as 1:5 which compares the weight of the herb to the volume of total liquid menstruum. Weight is in grams while volume is in ML. For example, a 1:5 using 10 grams of herb would be 10 grams of herb and 50 ml of menstruum.
  • Alcohol:water ratio: this is the ratio that determines what the menstruum is made of to extract the right constituents. It is shown as 50A:50W or 50A:40W:10Gly. This means 50% alcohol and 50% water in however much total menstruum you are using with the herb to menstruum ratio.

Grain or 95% alcohol is best but usually, something like vodka is easiest to get. If you are using alcohol that is not 95% you will most likely have to calculate the exact amount of that proof of alcohol to fit in the correct alcohol to water menstruum ratio.

The below formula shows how to calculate the right amount of spirits to use in your menstruum based on the proof of the spirits being used and the amount of alcohol needed in the menstruum.

  • Formula to make a menstruum of a specified absolute alcohol content from alcoholic spirits other than grain alcohol: 
    • D=desired % of absolute alcohol in menstruum
    • C= absolute alcohol content of spirits
    • S=% of spirits used in making the menstruum
    • D/C x 100 = S
    • If the S= 50% then you would use 50% of the spirits and 50% water for the menstruum

You can see some finalized tinctures I bottled below:

Herbal Actions Vocabulary

Below are the basic terms used in herbal medicine to describe herbal actions.

Adaptogen– An action concept unique to herbal therapeutics. Adaptogenic or hormonal modulating action increases the body’s resistance and endurance to a wide variety of adverse influences from physical, chemical, and biological stressors, assisting the body’s ability to cope and adapt.

Alterative– Gradually restores health and vitality to the body by helping the body assimilate nutrients, eliminate waste, and restore proper function.

Analgesic– Relieves pain when administered orally or externally

Antacid– Neutralizes excess acid in the stomach and intestinal tract

Anticatarrhal– Counteracts the build-up of excess mucus and inflammation in sinus or other upper respiratory parts

Antidepressant– Helps relieve or prevent depressed states of mind

Anti-emetic– Relieves nausea and vomiting

Anti Inflammatory– Combats extensive or too-painful occurrence of inflammation. A degree of inflammation is a necessary process in healing

Antimicrobial– Helps the body’s immune system destroy or resist the proliferation of pathogenic microorganisms

Antioxidant– Protects the body against free radical damage

Antiseptic– Prevents or eliminates sepsis

Antispasmodic– Prevents or eases spasms or cramping in the body

Aperient– A gentle stimulant to digestion, having a very mild laxative action

Aphrodisiac– Increases sexual excitement and desire

Astringent– Contracts, firms, and strengthens body tissues by precipitating proteins and can reduce excess secretions and discharge

Bitter– Stimulates the normal secretion of digestive juices, benefiting digestion. This stimulating action helps counteract physical and emotional depression

Carminative– Rich in aromatic volatile oils having a sweet, spicy, or fragrant aroma which can lend a pleasant flavor to other herbs, excite peristalsis, promote the expulsion of gas, and soothe the stomach, supporting healthy digestion

Cholagogue– Promotes the discharge and flow of bile from the gallbladder

Demulcent– Mucilaginous herbs which relax, soothe, and protect tissue

Derivative– Draws blood and other fluids from one part of the body to relieve congestion in another

Diaphoretic– Induces increased perspiration, dilates capillaries, increasing elimination through the skin

Diuretic– increases the flow of urine

Emmenagogue– Increases menstrual flow

Emollient– Applied to the skin to soften, soothe, and protect

Expectorant– Supports the respiratory system by assisting it to remove excess mucus

Febrifuge– Assists the body to reduce fever

Galactagogue– Increases the flow of mothers milk

Hemostatic– arrests bleeding

Hepatic– Strengthens and tones the liver, stimulating its secretory function

Hypnotic– Has a powerful relaxant and sedative action and helps to induce sleep

Hypotensive– Reduces elevated blood pressure

Immune stimulant– Helps stimulate the immune response

Laxative– Promotes evacuation of bowels

Lymphatic– Supports the health and activity of the lymphatic system

Nervine– affects the nervous system; having either a relaxing, stimulating, or tonic effect

Rubefacient– Generates a localized increase in blood flow when applied to the skin

Sedative– Calms the nervous system by reducing stress and irritation throughout the body

Sialagogue– Promotes the flow of saliva

Simulant– Warms the body, quickens the circulation, breaks up obstructions and congestion

Stomachic– Stimulative tonic to the stomach

Styptic– Reduces or stops external bleeding by astringent action

Tonic– Stimulates nutrition by improving assimilation which improves systemic tone, giving increased vigor and strength to the tissues of body organs

Vasodilator– Expands blood vessels, allowing increased circulation

Vulnerary– Assists the body to heal wounds


There you have it. A very basic guide to herbal medicine making including how to make teas and tinctures.

Herbal medicine is a very effective form of medicine for everyday common ailments that don’t require stronger drugs.

I personally think learning the basics of herbal medicine and being able to create natural medicine on your own is a very liberating process.

It helps you create a stronger connection to nature and an improved ability for medical self-care.

I’d recommend it to anyone interested in learning or experimenting. If you’re interested in plant medicine feel free to reach out!

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Josh is a writer and entrepreneur who runs a small digital content publishing business. His main interests are in topics related to developing personal and financial freedom. When not working he enjoys reading, yoga, surfing, being outdoors, meditating, exploring, and hanging with friends.