Page 95

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Tools of the Herbalist
By CinnamonMoon

This is actually just a strainer, however you do not want to use a metal one as it can create a
chemical reaction with certain herbs. It is used to separate the physical herb from solutions you
are creating. Cheesecloth used in several layers is best. Gauze works well too. Some people use
bamboo tea strainers however they do *leak* fine particles. I've even heard of people using
coffee filters (the natural ones).
Just remember that metal strainers can create toxic results and
need to be avoided.


Often you'll find teapots and steepers used along with smaller kettles to steep the herb in boiling
water. They need to remain covered so that the oils do not escape with the steam, so you want a
pretty tight seal on the item of choice. Metal containers are to be avoided so Pyrex cookware is
advised. Glazed enamel works well too.

Some infuse their herbs in a small gauze pouch, baskets, or cheesecloth expediting their efforts
and accomplishing the straining all at once. However, loose herbs release more oils. Time in the
infuser varies with the type of preparation but a rule of thumb is until the solution is drinking
temperature or 10-15 minutes.
A measure is not a precise or consistent quantity, but most people keep it a consistent amount
making it a personal decision. One part of this or that becomes the same measure liquid and dry.
If you use a spoon make it the same size all the time. In this way you can maintain the same
consistent ratio in a preparation. Avoid aluminum items.

Mortar and Pestle:

One of the most important tools is the Mortar and Pestle. It's also one of the most fun tools to
work with. The Mortar is the cup shaped container and the Pestle is the pounder/grinder. They
are seen as a blending of masculine/Pestle and feminine/Mortar energy to bring about healing
and creative desired results. It is important to grind the different parts of the herb (leaves, seeds,
roots, etc.) very well. Solvents such as water or alcohol respond better. When the herb dries it's
constituents contract into these parts and grinding releases them again. Hence the use of solvents.
Then when residue is filtered out the infusion or decoction has the maximum amount of oil from
the plant. Make sure the Mortar and Pestle are durable. Herbs are often tough to break down and
you want sturdy tools to work with them. Some people like using crank meat grinders to aid in
the process too. Some others will use wheat mills. Coffee grinders are available today and work
very well to help with speeding the process, however most herbalists prefer to have a more
hands-on approach and will use manual processes. Frankincense and Myrrh are good examples
of resins that will not grind well and plug up your tools. It's better to buy them already ground.

***Note, some herbs are toxic and it is my personal policy to have two mortar and pestles, one
for non-ingestible herbs and another for ingestible ones. Just FYI to avoid contaminating your
mixtures and misfortunate accidents that can be fatal. Herbs, while a fascinating study, are also
an area where schooling yourself on toxicity is important. Some can be fatal and it's not a
playground when looking for home or homeopathic remedies. Even when making soaps, lotions,
oils, scented candles and things along that line it's important to know what you're mixing.

Supplies recommended to have on hand:

Adhesive tape
Small bottles
Glass funnels
Hand trawl (for collecting)
Shovel (for digging)
Knife (used only for collecting)
Index card file (for recipe)

Preparation of Herbs

Preparation is often done in conjunction with magical applications where the herb is focused on
for specific purposes and meditative thought goes into the work being done. In this way the plant
will often come into channeling with the individual and teach its secrets as the person grows in
understanding it. It's wise to keep a notebook handy to jot down your insights and to tape a leaf
or diagram the root or tape a piece of the bark for later recognition. Always the water is heated to
boiling temperature and then poured over the herb. To boil them in the water itself will
breakdown vitamins and nutrients essential to healing processes.


Used for more solid herb extractions, such as that of roots or barks that cannot be ground. Here
boiling the herb is recommended, but again with a tight lid on the container you are using.
Always start boiling your water with cold water. It is recommended to use 1 oz. of the herb to
one pint water. Or 1 part herb to 20 parts water. Decoctions have a much stronger taste to the
palate and often are used with aromatics (3 parts herb to 1 part aromatic).

If more than one ingredient is used begin with the densest or hardest first. Roots first, seeds
second, stems third. After it's removed from the heat you can add leaves if they are called for.


Vegetable shortening, coconut fat, lard, various oils (including kitchen brands in a pinch).
Grocery stores and druggists are good sources of these supplies. Lanolin works well too, but it is
expensive and some people are allergic to it.


Some prefer their own work while others prefer to visit their local herbal shop. Either case is
fine, it's a matter of personal choice and your perspective on your involvement in the entire
process. It's also dependent upon availability to the regional environment as many herbs are imported.

If you gather your own you'll need digging and cutting tools that should be exclusive to your
work. Scissors and knives work well for cutting. Myths and lore vary considerably about the
process and each herb has it's own method (though often shared with other herbs) of cultivation
including time, moon phase, planetary relationships, and more. A study of the herb will address
this. This is only being addressed briefly here and really needs a post of its own that I will hope
to get to unless someone else wishes to begin it with their methods of use.


These are books written about herbs that contain recipes, harvesting information, usages,
correlations, and often bits and pieces of folklore. A variety of these are excellent resources for
gaining more knowledge and expanding your abilities. You will at times find conflicting reports
that demand further study before application while others will validate one another. Many herbs
are considered toxic and for external use only so do study the plant and its properties before
working with it. You are responsible for creating the concoctions and dispensing them. In
addition to an herbal library do keep notebooks for advice from other herbalists you meet and
talk with so you can continue to compile your notes.


Here you draw from the herb the properties for healing. Water then becomes a fixative solution.
Not all are water soluble so alcohol will need to be used instead. (I'll touch on that in a bit.)
Steeping can go as long as 30 minutes. Smaller doses are better for infusions and 1/2 oz. of an
herb can be reduced to 1/4 oz. for minor healing purposes. To drink an infusion it must rest 15
minutes first. This is the case with making teas and is a good point for beginners to begin


Used for oils and ointments, the herb is steeped in a fat substance or oil for massage, liniments,
or rubs. Olive oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil are odorless and colorless. You can macerate with
heat bringing the mixture to a gentle heat up to hot and allow it to cool several times. Filter it and
store. Or you can use the process of storing it for two weeks turning and swirling daily and
sometimes this is taken to the full month of processing.


Compressing an herbal mixture into a fixative like lanolin, vegetable fat, or petroleum jelly
creates a salve. The fixative is heated quite warmly and the herbs added then it is allowed to cool
after steeping and filtering or skimming to remove the fatty constituents. A process that can be
done more than once or twice if needed without causing harm to the resulting concoction.
Cosmetic jars that have been well cleaned are great containers for these ointments.


External application of herbs to the body is a messy process. Placing the mixture into gauze is a
good way to keep it contained. Here herbs are placed in the gauze from an infusion or dry with
boiling water poured over them depending on what your recipe calls for. Application is direct to
the affected area and the liquid is absorbed by the skin.


For long term storage these are best. It calls for 75% grade alcohol that can be safely ingested.
Brandy is often used. Using 1-4 oz. of herb to 8 oz. alcohol, and 4 oz. water, place ingredients in
a jar, seal it tightly and let it steep in a dark place for 2 weeks. Check it daily turning the bottle
and shake up the herb mixture by swirling it. The alcohol works in place of the cooking process
to extract the ingredients for healing. It is recommended to begin this on the new moon and
complete it on the full moon.


Often called simples, an herb is infused in water to make a tea or in alcohol for a rub and the
solution used to wash the affected area externally only.
Guide For Remedial Doses of Herbs/Mixtures:


Strong: 1 oz. herbs, 1 pint water, steep 20 minutes
Moderate: 2/3 oz. herbs, 1 pint water, steep 20 minutes
Weak (tea): 1/2 oz. herbs, 1 pint water, steep 15 minutes


Strong: 1 oz. herbs, 2 pints water, simmer 10 minutes, steep 15 minutes.
Moderate: 2/3 ounce herbs , 2 pints water, simmer 10 minutes, steep 15 minutes.
Weak (tea): 1/3 oz. herbs, 2 pints water, simmer 8 minutes, steep 15 minutes.


1/2 oz. herbs, 1/2 cup boiling water, steep 20 minutes


1 oz. herbs, 16 oz. fixative, heat off and on 24 hours.


Strong: 1/2 oz. herb, 1 pint water, steep until lukewarm
Moderate: 1/3 oz. herb, 1 pint water, steep until lukewarm

Storage of Herbs:

Herbs should be stored in glass or ceramic containers. Dark glass protects them from loss of
bright light and most people choose to use that along with a cupboard to keep them in. Sunlight
causes chemical breakdown of the herb once it is picked and dried.

You can have fun and make it a treasure hunt for containers which becomes quite a hobby for
some people. It's best to have a large opening for filling the containers and easy access to their
contents. Once others understand what you're looking for you can always specify you'd like more
containers when it comes time to receive gifts on holidays and birthdays too.

You're going to want to make sure that it has a tight seal on the container, and as I learned years
ago, you can always use a cork for a missing top. I began going to supply stores and buying bags
of assorted corks in various sizes. A great staple to have on hand for the herbalist. Roots are the
exception to a tight seal and they do not undergo the chemical breakdown as do the leaves and barks.

Labels are important. Jars of chopped, ground, and whole herbs need to be kept separate.
Keeping your labels the same will help you quickly distinguish your supplies and keeping them
in alphabetical order helps too. You would want to use the common name of the herb and
possibly the Latin name beneath that. It helps you learn them. Some like to add planetary
relationships to the bottles as well. If you gather them yourself then be sure to mark the date on
the label as they do have a tendency to grow weak over time.

Herbs and Their Uses:

Throughout the centuries herbs have been used in many different ways. They can be teachers,
healers, and guides to understanding many things in life. They bring a way of life to many people
while for others they are a passing interest or necessity of the moment.

Herbal practitioners come in many forms: gardeners, healers, magickal practitioners, aroma
therapists, spell-weavers, alchemists, folklorists, the list goes on and on. Whatever your level of
interest, there is something for everyone.

In understanding the nature of herbs we need to tap our sensory perceptions too. We need to sit
with the herb, hold it in our hands, meditate and journey to it so that it can teach us what is
beyond the written word. Working with them we need to understand cultivation, purchasing
qualities, storage, and usage. This means understanding tools used and their care as well. We
need to understand the different methods of preparation and how to apply the recipes we have
appropriately. We need to understand the risks and dangers of those that are toxic (some in small
doses are not while others can kill if ingested or even by skin contact).

Healing with herbs is an honorable path, but you have to be aware of what you are dealing with,
how it is prepared, and safe dispensation. There are laws against practicing medicine without a
license and you need to be aware of where you fall into that category. Home remedies are fine,
but you need to be safe there too. These are not warnings to prevent you from becoming involved
in herbal usage, but only to serve as guidelines that are worthy of note.

Dosages and mixtures are important and while some herbs compliment one and other, others do
not. Study well what works and use as many resources as you can to get a good grasp of what
you are doing.

As a magickal practice herbs are used in creating incenses, for potions, and to attract different
energies or essences into our lives. Oils and incenses are used for ceremonial, magickal, spiritual,
and religious purposes. They are used for cleansing the self and spirit, workspaces, sacred space,
temples and churches. Astrological associations are given to many of them. Elemental
associations with Air, Fire, Water, and Earth apply as well. They relate to the Tarot, consecration
of sacred tools and icons, rituals, even to gemstones. They are used to bless homes, purify space,
cense energy to enhance it, and to celebrate the cycles of change in our lives.

Mythical relationships to certain herbs reflect their usage through the centuries and many herbs
have folklore attached to them. Watch for the next couple of articles to follow this on. I'm doing
one now on astrological relationships and another on the Tarot.

Libraries are on this row
INDEX Page 1
(Divination & Dreams, Guides & Spirit Helpers)
INDEX Page 2
INDEX Page 3
(Main Section, Medicine Wheel, Native Languages & Nations, Symbology)
INDEX Page 4
(Myth & Lore)
INDEX Page 5
(Sacred Feminine & Masculine, Stones & Minerals)
INDEX Page 6
(Spiritual Development)
INDEX Page 7
(Totem Animals)
INDEX Page 8
(Tools & Crafts. Copyrights)

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