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Start your Apothecary Kitchen

How to best prepare Herbs you will use in various  DIY beauty preparations.

Before starting to make your own herbal preparations is it useful to know more about the preparation of the herbs that go into these preparations especially if you want to make them as natural as possible.

Making up simple beauty recipes, uses various methods to prepare the herbs.

You can start to prepare all the potions you will use for your preparation. Some of these take time to make so best to get started with this before starting on the actual beauty creams, lotions, oils etc.   You cannot just decide today to make something that uses a tincture or maceration.  These must be planned and prepared in advance.    Some of the options only require a few hours to prepare but the best is to get your jars of potions ready in advance and then making the products really is simple.

We will cover how to use these preparations in future articles. 

Herbs for Health and Beauty will be a series of articles. 

  • How to Prepare Herbs (in this Blog) Starting your Apothecary Kitchen.
  • Facial Skin Care
  • Body Beautiful
  • Bath Time Herbs
  • Hair Care
  • Herbs used in Cosmetics



These methods will assist you to get your DIY Apothecary going.    Invest in some 1l glass jars as these make the ideal container for making and storing your base preparations. For the oils that require dark amber bottles use 500 ml Generic Bottles with screw caps.



This kind of herb preparation usually means the boiling of the herbs and is usually prepared by using roots, stems, bark, and berries.   The harder parts of a plant.

  • The herbs are boiled for +_ 15 mins and then allowed to cool. 
  • The resulting liquid is strained and used for the beauty preparations.
  • The used herbs can then be discarded onto your compost heap.



When you pour boiling water over herbs (fresh or dried) and then leave it to stand for +_ 15 mins, this is known as an infusion.   This is the same method used for making herbal teas.  It is the strained tea that is in fact used for the beauty recipe.

Cold Infusion:

The herbs are allowed to steep in a cold liquid such as vinegar, oil, wine or alcohol.  This requires a longer time for preparation and herbs should be placed into the liquid applicable and left to steep for 4 – 6 weeks.  Container should be sealed and airtight.  It is best to turn the container daily to make sure the mixture moves around and infuses well into the liquid.


Essential Oils:

Besides their healing properties EO’s  (Essential Oils) add fragrance to a beauty preparation.

You can make you own EO’s and natural ingredients will definitely enhance your beauty preparation and make the preparation so much nicer to use.

Most essential oils available commercially are synthetic by necessity.  We would not be able to afford the real oil of a flower as several tons of petals go into the making of just 1 cup ( 250 mls) of true flower oil.    This trend is changing are the plant material for making EO’s is highly in demand by EO manufacturers, but sadly prices remain high as demand exceed supply of these amazing health additives.

Here is a Recipe that is the next best thing to true flower oil and it is really quick and easy to make.

  • It is best to use fresh herbs as their fragrance and active parts are at their best. 
  • You can use dried herbs if unable to obtain the fresh ones and they are still useful but not nearly as good as the fresh option.  
  •  If making use of dried herbs halve the quantity of material  e.g  250 mls      (1 cup) fresh  to 125 ml or ½ cup dried herb.


  • 250 ml ( 1 cup) fresh chopped herbs of your choice.
  • 500 ml ( 2 cups) carrier oil  -  vegetable oil  and this can be sunflower, sweet almond, cater or any other oil you have access to.
  • 25 ml  ( 1 tbsp)  apple cider vinegar.
  • A Large Storage Jar. For making the oils. 
  • Smaller Bottles (Amber) for  final storage.


  • Put the chopped herbs into a screw top jar. 
  • Add the Oil. 
  • Vigorously shake and place the jar into the sun.   
  • Let the oil mature for 10 days to 2 weeks.    
  • Shake each day. 
  • Strain after 14 days through a sieve, coffee filter bag or cheesecloth.   Use a wooden spoon to make sure that you squeeze all the goodness out of the herb material.   
  • Repeat the process using fresh herbs until the aroma in the oil is strong enough for your liking.  
  • It might take time  -  2/3 or even more processes to get the desired result.
  • Finally strain and pour into dark glass bottle.  
  • Date and Label the bottles.  This is important because not all of the carrier oils have the same shelf life.   When choosing the carrier oil to use think about this.  If you will use the oil/ EO – quickly then all oils work well.  But if you will store the EO for sometime then better to choose something like Jojoba Oil ( it does not go off) or Moringa Oil ( this also does not appear of go off).   

The oils often found in the Indian Supermarket Shops are these kind of EO’s.  i.e. Infusions and it is for this reason they are priced so well.  However often these do not have a very strong fragrance and if left for even a short period of time the base carrier oil will go rancid.  You can smell this immediately.  The oil smells off.  It has a very bad unpleasant aroma. 

Rather make your own EO’s in small batches and use these within 6 months ( unless Jojoba/Moringa is used as the base)  then you can be assured of the quality of your NATURAL EO. 



A tincture is made use alcohol preferably ethanol as this is high proof, normally 98%  but if you do not have access to Ethanol  ( All Kinds of Everything does sell this)  you can make use of good quality Vodka.  Steep 100 gms of dried herbs  or 200 gm fresh herbs  in 1 Liter ( 4 cups) of alcohol for 2 weeks.    Do this in a glass jar with a screw top.  Shake daily.   Filter through a coffee filter before using this and always keep the bottle tightly sealed as alcohol is volatile and will evaporate.




When you need to use water in a recipe, try to use distilled water if possible.  Fresh rain water is also excellent.  Hard water, tap water - tends to be full of chemicals and not the best for our skin.  Borehole water if you have had this tested to be sure it is safe and also chemical free (Zambia has lots of Lime in the water), this can be used but distilled is better.  Bottle water is fine to use but this is not distilled.    I am not sure distilled water is readily available in Zambia so Bottled water might be the best and easiest option available.

As water is the ingredient in natural preparations what introduces the bacteria, molds and our issues it is so important to use a good and the best available water source.    Boiling your water and then filtering this can help to make your preparations the best possible and avoid you having to add a preservative.


Herb Creams:

 These can be made by simply pounding a quantity of fresh herbs directly into the cream. 

Lots of pounding required in a pestle and mortar but a liquidizer is also good and much quicker and easier.

Use a base cream and this can be aqueous because this is most easily available in shops and pharmacies.  Yes – it is petroleum based but it is often the only option.   However, you can make use of All Kinds of Everything – Natural Cream or Lotion Base.   These are made in the same way as Aqueous cream but using Sweet Almond Oil as the main ingredient.   Our bases contain a preservative already.    We have tested Grapeseed oil and Avocado oil for the base creams and all work well but cost is a factor and we have chosen Sweet Almond as the best option to keep pricing down while still offering a good option for the purpose of making cream preparations.


Herb Milk :

Milk readily absorbs the oils from herbs and preparation is very easy.  

  • Use 250 mls (1 Cup) chopped fresh herbs or 500 mls ( 2 cups) of milk.
  • Mix Well, cover and stand for about 4 hours.   ( in the heat keep the mixture in the fridge).
  • Strain using a fine sieve, but mash out the juices from the herbs with a wooden spoon. 

Rose and Calendula Petals can be used in this way, and the leaves of Rosemary, Lavender and Lemon Balm are particularly good when done this way.

The milk can be used for the cleansing and tightening  of the pores and is excellent used on sun burn.



Maceration: (Wine)

Red and White wine can be used for this process although white wine is more tender on the skin.

  • You will need 250 to 500 mls  ( 1 – 2 cups) of fresh herbs to 1 liter ( 4 cups) of wine.
  • Dried bark, seeds and berries can be used.   Bruise them with a pestle and mortar.
  • Leave for 3 days then strain.

Taking a little of this internally every now and again is good for you, particularly if you have used rosemary, elder berries, or lavender.   Using this in a beauty preparation is astringent and toning.


Maceration (Vinegar)

The ideal vinegar for beauty purposes is apple cider vinegar as this helps restore the acid mantle on your skin.

This is also good for softening rough, flaky skin and for soothing itchiness.

 Herb Vinegar is easy to make.

  • Take a bottle of vinegar and empty a little out. 
  • Press in as much herb material as you can get into the bottle. 
  • Place the bottle in the sun for 2/4 days and replace the herbs. 
  • Do this, 2 to 4 times.
  • Remove the herbs and replace with fresh ones.
  • Finally strain and pack into dark bottles.  
  • Label and date carefully.

Herbs that lend themselves really well to making vinegar are lavender, rosemary, calendula, mint, sage, eucalyptus, bergamot, cat mint, lemon thyme, lemon verbena, lemon grass , yarrow and scented geranium. 




For some healing processes or skin cleaning the compress is an ideal way of stimulating circulation to relieve muscular aches and pains.   In essence a compress is a cloth (facecloth or dishcloth)  soaked in a strong hot

decoction or infusion and then wrung out and applied to the affected area.   Best held in place for sometime and then repeated as needed.

Hot and cold compresses can be alternated.    If you have a dry skin its best to massage a little sweet almond oil into the skin and then apply the compress.

Cold compresses sooth puffiness and reduce swelling and bruises. 




Poultices are an effective treatment, directly applied to things like stubborn blackheads, boils or spots.  You can use the actual herb, warmed, softened in boiling water and applied by holding it in place for a few minutes.   This can be repeated 2/3 times using fresh herbs.  Geranium leaves, Comfrey leaves, Yarrow and paw paw leaves are all excellent for use as poultices.  All have their own specific purposes and we will cover the specifics later.  



Please get preparing your potions.  This will take up some time and you will end up with a really beautiful display of preparations ready in your own facial, Body , Hair and Bath time preparations.


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