General preparation

  • While Volatile oils are extracted by steam distillation, less volatile oils are often separated by solvent extraction. The herb to extract ratio is typically 5:1 for normal extracts, or 100:1 for a herb with 1% essential oil.
  • Preparation of herbal remedies is generally by crushing the plant parts of interest into small pieces before soaking in a given amount of water. Some are best crushed to powder before soaking in water. The aqueous preparation is then boiled for 15- 20 minutes until the water volume is halved.


  • Fill a container with water, Cover it and boil for 10-20 minutes, until water volume is halved; strain, cool and refrigerate. It is advisable to use 500 cc (1 pt) of water for every 30 grams (1 oz) of dried herb.
  • Decoctions usually keep for 2-3 days.
  • Pour hot water into plant material & allow to stand while tightly covered for about 10 minutes. Strain.


  • As in preparing tea, infusions are prepared using dried or fresh herbs. Infusions are usually prepared fresh for the immediate day’s use.
  • with personal preference, pills can be made by mixing thoroughly the dry and powdered drug with equal quantity of honey cooked to a bright red syrup.


  • Teas are infusions prepared by steeping herbs in boiling water
  • The word Tea was derived from t, the name of black tea (Camelia sinensis) in Southern Chinese Amoy Dialect. However, the word is believed to be of Cantonese and Mandarine origin has been used to refer to tea in many parts of the world including our own African Bantu language. -Other infusions are often referred to as ‘tea’ but it is important for the ethno-botanist to specify the raw material used e.g. Hibiscus tea etc.
  • Terms such as mint tea /ginger tea are ambiguous as it may imply infusions of these herbs only and as such the distinction between non-medicinal teas (used merely as pleasant hot drinks) and medicinal teas used for therapeutic purposes) is not always clear


A maceration is made by adding cold water to a required amount of herbs & allowed to soak at room temp for 6-8 hours before its strained using a fine cloth or a sieve.

Herbal Juices

  • These are often prepared by crushing freshly harvested plant parts in water and expressing the juice.
  • The resultant product has to be pasteurized/treated with ultrahigh temperatures to extend shelf-life


  • A syrup is a viscous preparation of about 66% sucrose. Syrups are mainly used as flavouring agents to mask the unpleasing taste of other ingredients.
  • Almost all saturated sugar solutions are free of microorganisms because they don’t have free water molecules necessary for microbial growth. -The mode of action of syrups is basically reversing the inflamed effect of mucus membranes when sipped


  • A tincture is best defined as an alcoholic solution usually containing 30-70% water prepared from medicinal plant materials
  • It is prepared from a herbal mixture extracted for a specified period of time after which it is pressed and strained to separate the liquid from solid.
  • Mother tinctures are the most common type of tinctures usually prepared from using 70% ethanol and the solution is diluted to a predetermined herb to extract ratio depending on the dosage and efficacy of the medicine.

Medicinal Oils

  • These are very popular among indigenous societies and have been used for hundreds of years in traditional medicines.
  • Fatty oils and liquid waxes are mixed with medicinal extracts and are often intended for internal/external use i.e. garlic oils. In modern aromatherapy, it is customary to dilute essential oils in some carrier oils e.g. avocado oil, olive oil and aloe extracts.