External Uses of Infusions
by Susun Weed
In your herbal pharmacy you transform fresh and dried plants into herbal medicines. Learning to identify and use the common plants around you is easy and exciting, beneficial and safe. Making your own medicines saves you money if you follow the Wise Woman tradition of using local herbs, free for the taking.
Even one day's work in field, forest, and kitchen can provide you with many years' worth of medicines. When you make your own, you know for sure what's in it, where it came from, when and how it was harvested, and how fresh and potent it is.
Dried herbs are best for the infusions recommended in this book. Stock your herbal pharmacy with your own foraged or cultivated dried herbs; expand your resources and experiment with new herbs by buying dried herbs from reputable sources.
Fresh herbs are best for the tinctures and oils recommended in this book. If you can't make your own, buy from sources who wildcraft or grow their own herbs to use fresh in preparations.
Whether you buy or make your own medicines, remember, herbal remedies may not work or may work incorrectly if they aren't prepared correctly. Read this chapter carefully; it contains easy to follow instructions for every remedy and preparation mentioned in this book [Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year].
External Uses of Infusions
A soak consists of an infusion that has been rewarmed after the plant material has been strained out. The affected body part is then soaked in the warm infusion.
If you soak your feet in an herbal infusion, it's a foot bath, an excellent way to soothe and heal the entire body, and absorb herbal benefits.
A sitz bath is a big soak! Two or more quarts of infusion are usually needed to fill a shallow bowl or pan big enough for you to "sitz" in.
° A bath is an enormous soak, like steeping your body in an infusion. You can prepare an herbal bath by putting the herbs directly in the tub, but my plumber made it clear to me that herbs and drains are incompatible. Some herbals say to put the herbs in a cloth and allow the bath water to run over them but I find the resulting bath too weak. If you want a strong herbal bath, try it this way: Infuse two quarts of your favorite bath herb, strain, and add the liquid to your hot bath. Ahhhhh!
Enemas, douches, and eyewashes are herbal infusions carefully strained and inserted into the proper body cavity.
Plant material strained out as an infusion still contains healing qualities and can be used to poultice. Simply place the damp plant material, warmed if desired, or fresh plant material grated, chewed, or crushed, directly on the body. Poultices are preferred for first aid and infections.
Make a compress by putting macerated fresh or infused dried plant material into a cloth. Compressing is recommended when using hairy herbs like Comfrey leaf which irritate sensitive skin. They are less messy than poultices, and are often the choice when dealing with internal organs and growths.
For a fomentation, take a clean washcloth or a small cotton towel, soak it in a heated infusion, wring it out, and apply. Fomentations treat breast congestion, sprains, muscle aches, and the like.