Since the beginning of time, herbalists and physicians have turned to herbs for their almost magical soothing and healing properties. For centuries, herb cure were the only medicines available. But the power of herbs is more than the stuff of superstition and old wives’ tales.

Many of today’s prescription drugs are still made from common and not-so-common herbs. Using plants as partners for beauty, comfort, and health is an ancient art now enjoying a much deserved resurgence. And we don’t need medical studies to tell us that spending time in a steaming herbal bath refreshes the body as well as the spirit.

Like all work with living things, herb crafting is an art as well as a science. Although there are standard procedures for making herbal products, you’ll find variations among the herbalists who have shared their recipes. One practitioner may like to infuse herbal oils in the sun, another may use a Crock-Pot and achieve equally good results. Similarly, most herbs have a wide range of healing properties. It’s not unusual, for example, to find dandelion leaves used as a diuretic as well as a cure for skin blemishes.

Exercise caution when trying an herbal formula, especially if it’s meant to be taken internally. If you’re pregnant, ingesting some herbs may increase the risk of miscarriage. These include comfrey, feverfew, mugwort, southernwood, tansy, and wormwood. If you’re pregnant or undergoing medical treatment, consult a physician before trying any herbal formula.

Keep Things Clean

There is one hard-and-fast rule in making herbal products for both internal and external use: Be sure that all of your equipment and ingredients are clean. Sterilize storage containers or wash them well with hot, soapy water. When a recipe calls for cookware, use glass or stainless steel pans. Aluminum can react with some herbs and with ingredients like vinegar.

Most herbalists prefer to use ceramic or glass containers to mix and store herbal products. However, it’s fine to put a monthly supply of your homemade cosmetics in plastic containers to avoid the chance of broken glass. Be sure to label your homemade herbal products, including both the date and contents.