Infusion:  The original form of a potion, an infusion is not unlike a tea in quality.  Pour boiling water over the herb in the proportions of one-ounce herb to one pint water (although you may need much less for herbs that infuse quickly in water).  Steep for fifteen to thirty minutes until a tea is formed.  Use as directed.  This method is most appropriate for stems, leaves and flowers, but bark, roots and seeds may also be used.  Seeds should be “bruised” (gently pounded with a mortar and pestle), while bark and roots should generally be powdered first.  To make an infusion:

1.        Place ½ to 1-½ teaspoons of the dried herb in a container.

2.        Pour a cup of boiling water over the herb.

3.        Cover and allow to brew for 10 to 15 minutes.

      The infusion may be drunk hot (usually best for medicinals) or cold.  A bit of honey, brown sugar or licorice root may be added to make the infusion more palatable, if necessary. 

      If you wish to make slightly larger quantities, be sure to refrigerate them.  Even refrigerated, they should not be kept more than two days, since they are often so rich that bacteria may thrive and multiply. 


Decoction:  Place one ounce of herb in one pint of water.  Make certain that roots are put in to boil before leaves.  Once the water has come to a boil, simmer for about 30 minutes covered then leave to cool completely.  Strain and use as directed.  When dealing with roots, bark, seeds or hard dense pieces of herbs, a decoction is usually the better choice.  Pieces should be small.  If using more than one ingredient, add the hardest and toughest materials first, then work down from there.  To make a decoction:

1.        Place about 1 teaspoon of dried herb (or 3 teaspoons of fresh) in an enamel or glass saucepan.  While stainless steel is marginally acceptable, you must never use aluminum.

2.        Add a cup of water.

3.        Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce temperature and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, covered to avoid losing any volatile oils.

4.        Strain into a cup, then sweeten and drink as you would an infusion.

5.        Refrigerate any you are not going to drink right away.    


Macerate:  To steep an herb in fat, such as done with salve and ointments.  Best oils to use are almond, walnut, apricot kernel or sesame.  Warm one cup of oil over a low flame and place one-half ounce herbs wrapped in cheesecloth to soak.  Continue until the herbs have lost their color and the oil is rich with their scent.  The resultant oil may be used much like a salve or ointment, though in many cases they are simply used as skin softeners, fragrances, etc.


Ointments or Salves:  These are generally semi-solid, and used externally, applied to the skin.  A fatty substance such as vegetable shortening (lard was commonly used in earlier times) to which herbs are added.  Some herbalists swear by petroleum jelly as a base, even though it is non-organic. Cocoa Butter is also frequently used, but more commonly as a base for making a bolus.  Choose herbs according to the effect you desire, or enchant them, or both.  For healing ointments, choose according to physical ailment.  Three teaspoons of herb to one cup of fat, steeped and heated several times should prove very nice.  Vegetable shortening will work very well, especially almond and saffron.  All ointments should be kept cool and in airtight containers for best results.  For magic, ointments work best when applied to pulse-points or Chakras.  To make an ointment:

1.        Simmer 2 to 3 tablespoons of the herb or desired herbal blend in 7 or 8 ounces of your chosen fixative base for 10 to 15 minutes.

2.        Pour through a fine mesh strainer and press out all you can of the liquid while still molten.  Be careful not to burn yourself.

3.        Pour into a jar or other container.

4.        Cool until semi-solid.


Poultice:  For a Poultice, a portion of herbs is placed in enough water to cover them.  Allow the herbs to steep.  Once herbs have been fully dampened, strain the water. Apply the herbs directly to the affected area.  This can be a little messy, so have a towel handy.  It works fairly well, especially for rashes and other mild skin disorders.  If desired, cover the skin with a light layer of oil before applying the poultice.  This can help lubricate the skin, and also make removal of the poultice a little easier.  Also, the herbs can be placed between layers of in gauze or cheesecloth.  Note:  If dried herbs are used, they must be moistened first.


Bolus:  Mix finely powdered herbs with Cocoa Butter, to the consistency of stiff dough.  Roll into finger-sized cylinders.  The Bolus is then inserted either rectally or vaginally.  With the proper herbs, the Bolus can be effective for constipation, yeast infections, etc.


Compress:   Make an infusion or decoction, then soak a piece of clean cloth or gauze in the liquid.  The cloth or gauze is applied directly to the affected area.  Keep the compress as hot as can be tolerated.  To keep it hot longer, you can cover the compress with plastic wrap.  When the compress cools, change it.  Do not re-use the first cloth.  The compress is especially good for drawing toxins out of the body, and they frequently soak into the fabric. 


Tincture:  These are used when long term storage is required. Four ounces of dried herb steeped in eight ounces of alcohol for about two weeks gives a reasonable tincture. (Water, glycerin or vinegar may also be used for tinctures, but alcohol makes for a stronger and more effective one, as well as a longer lasting one.)   The bottle should be sealed and left in a dark area, and the liquid strained when the tincture is ready.  To make an alcohol tincture:

1.        Place 1 to 4 ounces of finely chopped or ground dried herb into a glass or ceramic bottle or jar.  (If using fresh materials, double the quantity.

2.        Pour a pint of grain alcohol or vodka (at least 80 proof, and preferably stronger) over the herbs.  Close jar tightly.

3.        Keep the jar in a warm location.

4.        Shake the jar gently, or swirl it about, twice a day for two weeks.  Make sure the mass of herbs inside the jar are loose.

5.        Strain the tincture through a muslin cloth, then wring out any remaining liquid.

6.        Pour the tincture into a dark bottle and keep tightly closed until ready to be used.

7.        This process is best begun on the new moon, and completed on the full.


Wash:  A tea or infusion meant only for external use.  A mild form of a wash would be ¼ ounce of herb to one pint of boiling water, steeped until lukewarm, then applied.  Washes are generally used for purification, cleansing, etc., but are also used to prevent infection in cuts or wounds.  In this case, take care to select only those herbs known to be non-toxic.



Always keep a detailed record of the work you do.  Keep a log of the proportions of herbs used, the simmering or steeping times, and any other information you might want to use as a reference at a later time.  When using herbs for healing, remember:  You are not a doctor.  (Unless, of course, you are!)  Use the herbs as adjuncts to, not replacements of, any program of medical treatment you may be following.  The traditional herbalist will meditate on the work, both before and after completion.