How to Take Herbs 101
How to Take Herbs 101
A Guide to Using Our Apothecary Goods
Words like “elixir” and “tincture” might seem fanciful – until that little amber bottle arrives in the mail and you have no idea what to do with it. So you might be relieved to hear that the first rule on how to take herbs is to start small and pay attention to your body’s response. You are your own best guide.
In every situation, honor the innate wisdom of your body. Trusting your inner knowing is going to carry you much farther along the path to health than handing responsibility over to someone else ever could.
That said, if you’re craving guidance as you establish trust with your body and learn how to take herbs, there’s likely an herbalist in your area just waiting to support you on that profound and life-changing journey. Track them down and reach out!
Beyond those general guidelines, this page answers common questions about using the close-to-the-earth products you’ll find at Loomis Hill Botanics. I invite you to return often!
Balms are a combination of fat and beeswax that soothe and protect dry or irritated skin.
Part of the magic of balms is that the fat – whether tallow, an oil, or both – reinforces the skin’s lipid-based protective layer. If the fat has been infused with herbs, the skin also absorbs beneficial constituents from plants. Beeswax further reinforces the moisture barrier, helping lock in hydration and protect the skin from external stressors.
Balms may target a specific area, like the lips or under the eyes. Others are more general purpose, for use anywhere on your body.
To Use: Using a balm is very intuitive. Apply to clean skin and allow the balm to soak in. Reapply as needed.
Bitters are a type of tincture (alcohol-based herbal extract) made with bitter herbs. Bitter flavors support healthy digestion by stimulating the production of saliva, enzymes, and bile. These, in turn, break complex molecules of food into simple chemicals the body can use to nourish cells and keep us healthy.
Because digestion is central to overall wellness, many people find bitters help with issues beyond gas or indigestion, like regulating appetite or improving the complexion.
Bitters are also an essential ingredient in many cocktails or mocktails. Use them as part of a recipe or experiment and invent your own!
To Use: A great way to start using bitters is to squeeze 1-2 droppers full on or under your tongue about 30 minutes before a meal. (One dropperful is about 30 drops, or ¼ teaspoon.) If that’s too intense, try diluting it in ¼ cup of water or tea, then drinking it. You can also use bitters during a meal, or even afterward if you’re feeling overly full or uncomfortable.
Herbs won’t work if they taste so terrible you “forget” to take them – a key takeaway for anyone wondering how to take herbs. Enter elixirs, tinctures that are lightly sweetened, in our case using raw honey. Because elixirs are delicious, you’ll look forward to taking your daily dose!
To Use: To take an elixir, squeeze 2-3 droppers full directly on or under your tongue. (One dropperful is about 30 drops, or ¼ teaspoon.) Elixirs are typically quite tasty, but if you find it too potent, dilute it in ¼ cup of water, tea, or another beverage before drinking.
When it comes to dosage, individual needs will vary depending on your size and sensitivity. Start with a small amount and work your way up until you feel the effects, which are meant to be subtle. Herbs are almost like music, gently altering the mood while you remain fully aware and in control.
If you’d like to avoid the alcohol in elixirs, see if we offer a similar formula as a glycerite or an oxymel. These use glycerin and vinegar, respectively, as solvents and preservatives rather than alcohol.
Face Masks with Honey
Honey on your face? Yep – so good. Raw honey acts as a humectant, drawing moisture to the skin to support healthy cellular regeneration.
Honey is also packed with antioxidant vitamins and phytonutrients, which neutralize the free radicals responsible for damaging skin cells and speeding the signs of age. Our face mask blends contain herbal formulas that enhance these effects for resilient, healthy skin and a radiant glow.
If you’re feeling hesitant about a sticky hairline, apply the mask 20 minutes before your regularly scheduled shower.
To Use: Stir the contents of the jar well. Cleanse your face, then spread a small dollop of mask as a thin layer over your face. Let sit for about 20 minutes. Rinse.
Glycerites are a type of herbal extract similar to tinctures, but where tinctures use alcohol as a solvent and preservative, glycerites use vegetable glycerin. Because glycerites are sweet and don’t contain alcohol, they’re are often used in children’s blends. Of course, anyone who wishes to avoid alcohol is encouraged to use them.
To Use: Take 1-2 droppers full on or under your tongue. If you wish, dilute your dose into ¼ cup water, tea, or juice. Dosage will vary depending on your size and sensitivity, as well as the formula itself.
Herb-infused oils are made by steeping leaves and petals in oil. Unlike essential oils, they can be applied directly to the skin without dilution. Herb-infused oils replenish the skin’s lipid-based protective layer as beneficial botanical nutrients soak into the deeper layers of the skin.
Because the skin is your largest organ and is loaded with nerve endings, herb-infused oils can have a surprisingly quick calming effect on the nervous system. They’re divine for massage, whether it’s self massage or an exchange with a friend or partner.
To Use: Apply anywhere and everywhere on the body. One thing to keep in mind is that oils don’t hydrate – technically speaking, only water can do that – but they do help lock moisture in. So if you’re struggling with dry skin, apply herb-infused oils when your skin is well hydrated, like right after a shower or bath.
Hydrosols are an aromatic botanical water that comes from the same distillation process as essential oils. In that process, both water and volatile oils travel through the still as gas, are turned to liquid, and finally separated from one another. Hydrosols contain the water-soluble plant constituents and are much less concentrated than essential oils.
Our hydrosols are made with spring water in small batches in an alembic copper still.
To Use: Hydrosols have a subtle scent and can be applied directly to the skin without dilution. They can be used as a light perfume, facial toner, or room spray. Try spritzing your face or body with hydrosol just before applying an herb-infused oil or balm. The first step will hydrate your skin and the second will lock in moisture – both will nourish it with beneficial plant compounds.
Oxymels are herbal extracts that use vinegar as a solvent and are sweetened with honey. They have a complex, sweet-tart flavor, and are rich in nutrients.
Fire Cider is one of the most well-known examples, though virtually any herb or spice could be used in an oxymel. If you’re new to the world of herbalism and not quite confident in your knowledge of how to take herbs, oxymels are a great place to start because they’re essentially food.
In our oxymels, acidic apple cider vinegar not only extracts herbal constituents, but is a natural digestive aid. Raw honey, soothing and sweet, brings diverse flavors together and makes pungent flavors more approachable.
To Use: Initially, try diluting ½ - 1 ounce in a bit of warm water and drink once or twice a day. Once you start to like the flavor, feel free to drink the oxymel on its own. You can also use it as an ingredient in homemade vinaigrettes, marinades, and mocktails.
Serums are packed with beneficial compounds and formulated to penetrate the epidermis, delivering moisture, antioxidant vitamins, and nutrients to the skin’s deeper layers. Antioxidants neutralize the free radicals that can damage cells and DNA. So by nourishing the skin, a serum can increase our resilience to everyday environmental stressors like pollution and UV light, leaving us with a healthy, glowing complexion.
To Use: Apply serums after cleansing or exfoliating and before applying oil-based products like whipped tallow, herb-infused oil, or a balm. This allows the skin to absorb the serum, then enjoy the protection of an oil that reinforces the moisture barrier.
Tinctures are concentrated herbal extracts that use alcohol as a solvent and preservative. They’re potent, have a long shelf life, are easy to tuck in a tote, and don’t require additional preparation – qualities that combine to make tinctures one of the most convenient ways to take herbs.
To Use: Squeeze 1-2 droppers full (approximately 30 drops or ¼ teaspoon) on or under your tongue. If the flavor is too intense, dilute your dose in ¼ cup of water, tea, or juice before drinking.
When it comes to dosage, individual needs will vary depending on your size, sensitivity, and the herbal formula. Follow directions on the label for how to take herbs in any preparation, but as a general guideline it’s good to start with 1-2 droppers full and work your way up until you feel subtle effects.
If you’d like to avoid the alcohol in tinctures, see if we offer a similar formula as a glycerite or an oxymel. These extract the herbal constituents in glycerin or vinegar instead of alcohol.
Our whipped tallows are a combination of herb-infused tallow whipped with olive oil or jojoba oil (technically a wax ester). Whipped tallow soaks into dry or irritated skin and nourishes it deeply, replenishing lipids and promoting resilience, without a greasy residue.
To Use: Use whipped tallow like you’d use lotion or balm. Apply to clean skin and allow it to soak in. Reapply as needed.