Project Main Details
The possible applications of herbs are many and diverse in every cultural region. The folk medicine of the indigenous forest people includes the following approaches.
Infusion: Hot water is poured over the herbs, one to two teaspoons per cup; it is left to steep for a certain amount of time (three to ten minutes) then strained through a sieve. An infusion is usually what is meant by “herbal tea.”
Decoction: First the water is brought to a boil, and then the specified herbs are added; after a brief boil, the pot is removed from the fire, the herbs are left in for a while to steep, and then the tea is poured through a sieve.
Boiling: Barks, roots, and wood, whose essence is harder to extract, are put into cold water (for about a half hour) and then gently boiled for a few moments in a covered cooking pot. Tannin-containing plants (such as oak bark, tormentil, bistort root) only need to be boiled briefly, at most three to four minutes, in order to extract the maximum amount of astringent (contracting, draining) properties. Both the field horsetail (Equisetum arvense) and the rough horsetail (E. hyemale) should boil lightly for about fifteen minutes in order to release the silicic acid. Bearberry is simmered for about twenty minutes in order to extract the arbutin from its coarse, leathery leaves. The standard amount is one to two teaspoons of herbs per cup.
Cold water extraction (maceration): The extraction happens by letting the drug macerate from eight to twelve hours covered in cold water. [Note: Most people today understand the word “drug” to mean an inebriant. However, in herbal medicine and pharmacy, it means “dry goods,” thus the dried medicinal plants. The etymology of the word goes back to the lower German droog, which means “dry.”] Herbs with mucilage, such as marshmallow and mallow, are suited for this procedure. A cold water extraction is also recommended for centaury, sweet flag, and goldenrod. Valerian root should be soaked in cold water for ten hours; afterward, it is briefly brought to a boil and left to steep for ten minutes.
Warm water extraction (sun tea): The herbs are put into a pot or a cup with a lid, about one teaspoon per cup. Then, they are placed in the sun or on the warm stove for a few hours where they are delicately heated (to about 85–105 degrees Fahrenheit, 30–40 degrees Celsius).
Plant medicine can also be made by cold and warm extractions in various oils, such as the ruby-red Saint-John’s-wort oil (Hypericum perfolatium), or as alcohol tinctures, pills from powdered herbs, salves, herbal beers and wines, compresses and poultices, herbal baths, herbal pillows, and inhalations. We will deal with these in more detail later on, but these additional methods of preparation do not play the same role, by far, in the folk medicine of the European forest people as that of the simple herbal tea—tea was always the first choice in this cultural region. In the Latvian language, it still sounds as it once did: sables, which means “herbs,” is the word for medicine in general, and sabler dfert literally means “to drink herbs” but generally means “to take medicine” even if they are pills. The standard is a cup of tea, three times a day, early in the morning about an hour before breakfast, at midday about an hour before lunch, and in the evenings before going to bed. The tea was always taken for a certain amount of time, for example, over a period of about three to six weeks.
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