Ask the Herbalist: Methods for Using Herbs

Dawn Lusk, Owner of Raven's Moon Holistic Wellness
Ever heard of a Tincture before? No, well how about a tea? Or perhaps a poultice is your preference? 
Just like our bodies, herbs come in many forms and each herb may provide you with more benefits, 
depending on how you apply it! Often times, the biggest question is internal or external? Most herbs are 
best if taken internally, other herbs are strictly topical use only, and then there are herbs that fall on the 
fence of best if applied topically and taken internally. 
We reached out to one of our local Herbalists, Dawn Lusk owner of Raven’s Moon Holistic Wellness (AKA 
Raven’s Moon Apothecary), asking her so speak on some of her most favorite methods for utilizing 
herbs! Sometimes, you need to get creative, and that is exactly what Dawn is good at! 
"When I first started my herbal education, I had heard of two ways to use herbs: in tea, and on food. I quickly learned that herbs can be used in almost never ending applications to help support the healing process, and to help bring our bodies back into balance. Let’s talk through some of my very favorite ways to get creative with herbs:

  • Poultice – a poultice is a simple combination of fresh (preferred) or dried herbs, mixed with a little water and applied to the skin. I was recently reminded of how much I appreciate the mighty poultice when I cut my finger while preparing dinner. The cut was minor, but I tend to bleed a lot. Luckily, I had some fresh yarrow just outside the kitchen door. I grabbed some yarrow, smashed it up with a mortar and pestle, added just a tiny amount of water, applied to my skin and then wrapped it in a little bit of gauze. It always does the trick! Plantain is another handy ally if you get a splinter or bug bite. If you’re camping or otherwise not near a kitchen, you can simply chew up the herbs and then apply to your area of concern.

  •  Enema – If you’ve spent any time in the alternative health world, its possible you’ve heard of coffee enemas. They have become all the rage for folks working on detox, but have you heard of the coffee enemas less well known (and gentler) sister, the chamomile enema? If I have a sensitive client, or a client new to enemas, we will often start with a chamomile enema. Chamomile is gently soothing and cleansing, and can even be a support to those with hemorrhoids. I like to make it with 2 TBS dried chamomile and 1 quart of boiling water. I’ll allow it to steep for 10-15 minutes, strain really well, and then allow it to cool on the counter before I administer. Other herbs you might consider for an enema: catnip, burdock, or raspberry leaf. Enemas aren’t right for everyone, so be sure to discuss with your health care provider. 

  • Glycerite – You’re likely familiar with tinctures – a concentrated herbal extract that contains alcohol – but glycerites are certainly worth a discussion. Instead of alcohol, glycerin is used to extract the medicinal benefits. Glycerites are a great alternative to tinctures for folks who are sensitive to, or choosing to avoid, alcohol. They are always my go to for my child clients. A bonus: glycerin is sweet, so it is much easier for compliance purposes when working with picky kiddos. One of my very favorites is Happy Tummy, a PSB herbal formula! I use this one for both kids and adults if there are GI concerns. 
  • Herbal steams – are one of my favorites, especially this time of year! Herbal steams are a lot like teas, except the purpose is to breathe in the steam and allow the herbs to support both your skin and respiratory system. If you are dealing with a cold or have other respiratory concerns, an herbal steam with eucalyptus, peppermint, lavender and thyme might be just the trick! I like to use around 6-8 tablespoons of herbs per large pot of water. I’ll boil the water, add the herbs and then turn off the heat. You’ll want to steep the herbs and allow it to cool a few minutes, Test the steam to be sure it’s not too hot. Create a tent with a towel and breathe the herbs in for 5-10 minutes. When finished, you can repurpose the steam by pouring the pot into a foot soak or bath!

  • Pillow – have you heard of an herbal dream pillow? These are a fun DIY project that will give you a chance to get creative with your favorite sleepy time herbs! Relaxing aromas can be really supportive to help you drift off to sleep! You can keep it simple and use a mixture of lavender and lemon balm, or you can create a more complex combination and add herbs like mugwort, catnip, hops, and chamomile. You can either add these herbs to a canvas pouch with a drawstring (which makes it really easy!) or get fancy and sew yourself a special pillow with a sleepy themed fabric. These make great homemade gifts! " 
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    Dawn has shared a few of her preferred methods for using natural remedies, now it's your turn! I encourage everyone to explore new methods for incorporating herbs into their everyday life. Some of my personal favorites are herbal ice cubes, using herbs as a cooking spice, and herbal cookies (for those that won't remember to take their tincture every day, but they sure will remember to eat a cookie)!!
    In case you need some inspiration, here are a few methods to look into: 
    Foot/body soak 
    Infused oil 
    Massage or salve 
    Essential Oils 
    Cucufa (or Cucupha hat)
    Snuff, chew, or herbal cigarettes 
    Suppository (vaginal or anal) 
    Herbal flogging 
    Hair rinse 
    Eyewash/nasal rinse/ear drops 
    If you have questions about using herbs, feel free to reach out to us at PSB or Dawn directly via e-mail: or you may visit her online

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