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This post is the long-awaited (?) sequel to my previous missive, which outlined the methods for making infusions, decoctions, tinctures, etc. As a fitting segue from there to here…


How to Make a Liniment

A liniment is just a tincture that you use on the outside of your body. Some people make liniments by using rubbing alcohol instead of ethyl alcohol (vodka or gin, usually). However, purists contend that isopropyl or rubbing alcohol is toxic to cells and should not be used in herbal preparations.

Granted, rubbing alcohol has its drawbacks. A better option would be Everclear, or 190-proof ethyl alcohol, but this product isn’t available in all states. A 150-proof rum might serve as a reasonable compromise, but you may have to do some experimenting here.

That’s it. Once you’ve chosen your solvent and your herb, you prepare a liniment the same way you would a tincture.

One cautionary note: If you do opt for rubbing alcohol, clearly mark the bottle: “For External Use Only.”


How to Make a Glycerite

If you want to enjoy the benefits of a tincture without being exposed to the alcohol, you can make a glycerite using the same basic principles. If using fresh herbs, chop them into small pieces, place in a blender and cover with pure vegetable glycerin. Blend until well-mixed, pour into a jar, cover, and place in a cool, dark place to “cure” for 14 days. Shake vigorously each day during the curing process. At the end of 14 days, strain your glycerite through muslin or several layers of clean cheesecloth, place in a dropper bottle and label. Discard the herbal residue in your compost pile.

If you are using dried herbs, powder them in a coffee grinder or crush them by hand, place them in a jar and cover with a 2-to-3 mixture of water-to-glycerin. Stir well. Proceed as above.

Dosages for glycerites vary, but 15 to 40 drops daily is standard.

If you really don’t want to deal with the mess of making glycerites, remember that a tincture can be placed in a cup of hot water, and its alcohol content will evaporate within 10 minutes.


How to Make a Suppository

They may be a disagreeable way to administer herbal medications, but suppositories are a direct (!) and effective way to treat some maladies. These little bullet-shaped bundles of beneficence are typically inserted into the rectum or vagina to deal with hemorrhoids, constipation, prostate issues, yeast infections, and what-have-you.

You want your suppositories to maintain their shape and consistency at room temperature or in the fridge, yet melt easily at body temperature. Cocoa butter is one medium that meets these criteria. You can also make a viable vehicle by using glycerin and gelatin.

Before you start, make a mold for your suppositories by shaping aluminum-foil around a pen barrel and crimping the ends together. If you are using dried herbs, powder them in a coffee grinder. Melt some cocoa butter (a quarter cup or so) over low heat and thoroughly mix your herb into the cocoa butter, using equal proportions of each. Pour the well-blended mixture into the aluminum-foil mold, allow to cool, and cut into 1- to 1 ½-inch lengths. Wrap separately in foil and store in a cool place.

If you're using a liquid herbal preparation (tincture, infusion, decoction, etc.) for your suppositories, cocoa butter isn’t the ideal medium. Instead, soak 1 part (teaspoon, tablespoon, cupful, handful, etc.) of gelatin in 4 parts of your liquid extract for 30 to 60 minutes. Dissolve the herb-gelatin mixture over very low heat, then add 1 ½ parts vegetable glycerin and stir well. Heat slowly to evaporate some of the liquid, then pour the mixture into aluminum-foil molds and prepare as above. Store glycerin suppositories in the refrigerator.


Compresses and Poultices: Messy but Effective!

A compress is simply a cloth that has been soaked in a warm tincture, infusion, decoction or other liquid herbal extract. The cloth is wrung out and placed over the affected body part. Poultices are a bit more primitive, consisting of mashed, crushed, blended, pounded, or – in dire straits – chewed fresh herbs that are applied directly to a wounded area or stressed body part. Both compresses and poultices can be secured by overwrapping them with a clean cloth, plastic wrap, blankets, heating pads, or even leaves, if necessary.


There. If you are a budding herbalist, you now have what it takes to be not only your own physician, but your own compounding pharmacist as well!