By Kathlyn Quatrochi
Infusions—The weakest of preparations, infusions are useful for hydrating the skin. Steep 1 ounce of herb leaves or flowers in 1 pint of simmering (200°F) water for about 5 minutes. Do not boil. Let cool to room temperature. Soak a washcloth in some of the liquid, then apply it to the skin. You may also use an infusion as a toner, soother, or astringent.
Decoctions—A decoction is used the same way as an infusion, but is more potent. Boil 1 ounce of the chopped, dried bark, chopped roots, and/or seeds of an herb in 1 pint of boiling water for at least 15 minutes and as long as 24 hours (bark, roots, and seeds require a longer boiling time to release their active constituents).
Macerations—Like decoctions, macerations are concentrated, potent herbal preparations. Fill a sterilized jar with crushed herbs, dried or fresh, using 1 ounce of herb for every pint of liquid. Cover with vegetable oil, cider vinegar, and rubbing alcohol or grain alcohol such as vodka. Cover the jar and let the mixture stand for two weeks; shake the jar daily.
Strain the liquid into a sterilized bottle, cap, and store in the refrigerator. Warm to room temperature before using. Oil macerations may be used as massage treatments; vinegars as toners, hair rinses, or in foot soaks; and alcohols, as toners, astringents, antiseptics, or cleansers. Macerations will keep in the refrigerator for as long as two months.
Poultices—These draw out impurities from the pores. Place a handful of herbs in a cup and moisten them with water heated to about 200°F. Allow them to cool enough so they won’t burn your skin, then wrap them in cheesecloth or muslin. Apply the poultice to the skin; remove it when cool.