The use of plant remedies to strengthen weakened body systems, control symptoms and boost the body’s own healing powers is perhaps the oldest form of medicine. Herbalists maintain that the natural balance of compounds in plants provides a more effective means of restoring health that synthesized, single ingredient drugs, as prescribed in orthodox modern medicine.
You can buy a wide variety of herbal creams, lotions and other products for external use. These can be convenient when you need a remedy for immediate use, such as a first aid. However, preparing your own can give you greater control over the ingredients. Some herbal applications are not available commercially.
Herbal baths provide an easy and pleasant way of gaining benefit from herbs. Hang a calico bag of the dried or fresh herbs under the hot tap when running the bath. Prepare herbal hand or foot bath by adding a strong infusion or decoction of the herbs to a bowl of hot water. Soak your hands or feet in the mixture until the water cools.
Steam inhalations are extremely easy to make. Steam inhalations can be made by using either fresh or dried herbs. Make a strong infusion or the herb in a ceramic or glass bowl. Place your face over the bowl with a towel over your head, and breathe in the steam.
Herbal compresses are helpful in the treatment of sprains and bruises to cool fevers or inflammation and to soothe headaches. Soak a clean cloth in a strong infusion or decoction (used hot or cold as recommended) or in a diluted tincture. After wringing excess liquid from the cloth, wrap it around the affected area. Repeat as necessary.
Poultices are commonly used to draw pus from ulcers or boils. Herbal poultices can also ease nerve or muscle pain. Make a poultice from fresh or dried herbs. Chop the herbs finely, cover with water and heat to boiling. Put the resultant paste of hot herbs between two pieces of gauze, and apply to the affected area while still hot. Secure the poultice with a cotton bandage and tape or safety pin. Use hot water bottle to keep the poultice warm. Replace the poultice when it has cooled.