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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Herbal Medicine Chest #8 - Very Personal Herbal Remedies

Wildcrafting Wednesday People’s Choice Nominee
I've been nominated!  
As one of the hosts of Wildcrafting Wednesdays, I post a link-up each week where folks can share their favorite herbal, sustainable, real food recipes, and more with like minded readers.  Often, I don't have a post of my own to share but one of my favorites is this one, part of my Herbal Medicine Chest series, with it's very personal herbal remedies.  I shared this with Wildcrafting Wednesday readers this year and they liked it enough to place it in the top 10 posts for 2012.  On Wednesday, Dec. 26th, 2012, you'll have a chance to vote for one of these top 10 posts for the People's Choice Award!  I hope you'll visit all the sites and read the wonderful information shared by some great folks.

And then I hope you'll vote for this one!  
You'll be able to vote once on each host site so be sure to visit each one and cast your vote.

Kathy @ Mind, Body and Sole,
Chris @ Joybilee Farm,
Lisa @ The Self-Sufficient HomeAcre,
And Me ~ right here @ The Woodwife's Journal
That means you can vote 4 times!!!
Thanks for your support!

Welcome to week #8 of our Herbal Medicine Chest.  We're exploring herbal preparations to help you put together your own Herbal Medicine Chest.  Don't forget to check the comments section of each week's post to read the remedies shared by savvy folks who aren't blogging.

The Herbal Medicine Chest has it's own button!  
Grab it from the side bar to share on your site.

See the Herbal Medicine Chest page (directly linked from the new button) to connect with all the articles in this series...even info pages that are not included in the hop, or visit the archives for direct links.

Suppositories, Douches and Enemas - This area of herbal medicine is one that many folks don't like to think about, let alone talk about due to it's rather intimate nature.  But these methods of herbal application can be quite useful and very effective when dealing with specific local issues and for treating folks who are unable to take an oral remedy for various reasons.  They are especially helpful when treating little ones. 

Much of the research I've shared comes from a variety of internet and book sources too numerous to mention as well as empirical evidence but a valuable book that provided a lot of indepth information and is great to have on hand is James Green's ~ Herbal Medicine-Makers Handbook.  You can purchase it by clicking on the picture below. 

Suppositories - I'm sure you've heard of them but I'll just begin as though it's a new topic. What are they?  Basically, a suppository is a single dose bolus or herbal mass made of solid oils or gelatinous semi solids containing herbs and/or essential oils that will melt at body temperature when placed in a body orifice other than the mouth.  There are lots of places to find out about administering this type of preparation so I'll just focus on how to make them at home.
Why would we want to use this type of invasive herbal remedy when we can take herbs orally in so many different forms?

Rectal suppositories can be used to deliver herbal remedies for both local and systemic applications.  Substances can be absorbed quickly by the mucous membranes of the lower rectum and enter circulation much like a remedy taken orally that passes into the system through the digestive tract.  This may be helpful when treating infants, children and adults who can't take an oral remedy or can't keep one down due to nausea and vomiting.  This is a great way to give herbal remedies for high fever or to soothe tissues or even encourage elimination in some instances.  Hemorrhoids and prostate issues can also benefit from doses of herbs delivered in this fashion.

Vaginal suppositories are the same vehicle applied vaginally to soothe tissues, treat some infections and deliver remedies that may heal a nearby location.  Astringent herbs can be used to firm and strengthen as well as reduce discharge.  These are very helpful but should be used minimally to avoid irritation.

At this point, I'll mention another invasive method that can be used vaginally.  I've talked about castor oil's amazing healing properties before.  You can read about that
here.  To apply castor oil vaginally, you can saturate a non-irradiated tampon with castor oil and insert it over night to relieve many problems from cramping to fibroids and much more.
It would be my personal recommendation that both types of vaginal remedies only be used by adults for various reasons. to make a suppository.
First, let's talk about ways to form them.  An easy way to do this is to wrap a "fat" pencil, a marker, handle of a wooden spoon or dowel in several layers of foil.  Slide the tube from the form and flatten one end.  Roll tightly to seal.  Make several of these and stand them together in a can or jar that will support them in an upright position.  Use you imagination here keeping in mind that, at the most, the diameter should not be much greater than 1/2" for adults.  Once the warm process mixture is ready, fill each tube (a small funnel is very helpful) and allow it to cool until firm or freeze for 2-3 minutes.  Remove the foil and cut into appropriate lengths.  Store in the fridge.
I might as well say now that rectal suppositories are best shaped like bullets while vaginal ones are best shaped like eggs. 
Rectal suppositories should weigh about 1 g for children and 2-3g for adults.
Vaginal suppositories should weigh about 3-4 g. 

Bases for herbal suppositories are cocoa butter (most common), coconut oil or gylcerin & gelatin.

Cocoa Butter Based - best way to prepare a suppository if using powdered herbs.  Cocoa Butter is very stable and will not turn rancid allowing them to be stored for years.

Cold Process Method - using two knives or forks or what ever tools work for you, blend the powdered herb with a small amount of cocoa butter.  A few drops of an essential oil may be added.  Then add more cocoa butter to form a putty or cookie dough like mixture.  Form into small shaped masses.  Store in the fridge but warm to room temp before inserting.

Warm Method - using a double boiler, heat water to boiling and remove from heat.  Place the top pan of the boiler, with the ingredients, over the hot water.  Stirring until just melted, add essential oils if required and remove the pan with the mixture from the heat source.  Cocoa butter may become hard to work with if heated above 92 degrees making your suppositories crumble when trying to insert them.  Pour into molds, freeze for 2-3 minutes and remove from molds.  Store in a labeled container in the fridge.  Again, warm to room temp before inserting.

Glycerin and Gelatin Based - The advantage of glycerin and gelatin as a base for suppositories is that it allows for the addition of liquid herbal extracts of many kinds, like infusions, decoctions and tinctures, as well as essential oils.  Here's the basic prep from James Green. 
Pour 1 oz. of an herbal tincture or other liquid herbal extract of your choice into a small glass or stinless steel pan. 
Add herbal powder.
Add 1 oz. of pure vegetable glycerin
Add 2 oz. distilled water  (Or substitute 3/4 to 1 ounce of witch hazel extract - great for treating hemorrhoids- for 1 oz of the distilled water)
Blend well.
Add 1 envelope ( 7 gm ) of unflavored gelatin
Over low heat, stir until gelatin is completely dissolved.
Remove from heat and pour into molds.
Let it cool a while then place in fridge to solidify.
Store in fridge. 

This type of suppository will eventually begin to dry out and should be discarded after 3-4 months.  This means a batch will probably last throughout flu season!

NOTE - one of glycerin's characteristics that is valued in other areas of herbal medicine and cosmetics is it's ability to draw moisture to itself.  Repeated use of glycerin suppositories may cause irritation because of the reverse affect of this when used internally.

Douches and Enemas - both of these methods of application are extentions of the suppository and require special equipment.  Without creating or fostering undue fear, I'd like to make a few comments.  These are very invasive and may be uncomfortable if you are unfamiliar with their proper use.  Appropriately sized equipment must be used for children.  I recommend more independent research and study before administering either of these remedies.  Great care must be used to avoid injury.  But all that aside, with a little familiarity and research, these can be a valuable tool in your herbal medicine chest.  Here's a good place to start. 
Douches - this means of irrigating the internal walls of the vaginal area brings quick application of herbal remedies directly to the source.   You can use a reusable bag and applicator made especially for this purpose or a hot water bottle and applicator. 
Herbal liquids (excluding alcohol based tinctures) can be used to soothe and heal.  A simple mix of 1/2 water (could be herbal water based liquid) and 1/2 hydrogen peroxide can be very helpful.  A little castor oil is best applied via the tampon method mentioned above.  Again, it is my personal opinion that these methods be reserved for adults.

Enemas - soothing herbal liquids, again excluding alcohol based tinctures, can be applied to relieve constipation, fevers, irritation and deliver remedies that will be quickly absorbed through the walls of the rectum without losing any of their efficacy by passing through the digestive process.  While I mentioned that the process can be uncomfortable and care must be used, these applications of our herbal remedies can be quite helpful and quick acting when oral remedies cannot be used due to illness or age of the person we're helping.  Camomile tea is a common herbal liquid used for enemas.  It is calming and soothing.  A general rule is that if you can drink an herbal remedy as a tea, you can use it as an enema.

A few tips about enemas;
The liquid should be as close to body temperature as possible.  Cold liquids can be shocking and cause chills and shivering which requires energy that is better used to heal.  Warm liquids can be painful even if only slightly warmer than body temps.  Of course, common sense tells us not to use "hot" liquids that may burn.
Gather all your "stuff" together before you begin so you can create a relaxing experience.  This will make the actual application easier for both parties.
Be sure the room is warm without drafts that may cause chills.

This post in the Herbal Medicine Chest series is the last dealing with herbal preparations.  We'll continue the series with more information about herbs and their uses, herbal terminology, herbal lore, traditional and historical use of herbs and more.  After the series ends we'll be compiling all the remedies and links that folks have been sharing with us.  The linkie will be open until that time.  I'll let you know ahead of time.

Sharing this post with:

Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth
Monday Mania
Simple Lives Thursday

Wildcrafting Wednesday
Natural Living Mamma


  1. Well i clicked on your email and wrote out an email only to have it tell me something was all messed up... long/short I re-did the pictures on my post I hope they can be seen now. let me know if there is still a problem.

    I love reading your page with the herbal health stuff. I have medical issues and always look for ways to help. Your page from it's colors to the picture/banner is so pretty with a calming comfort. love it!

  2. @Wanda Metcalf Thanks so much for your kind words...I hope that folks feel at home here. I know today's topic is a little too "alternative" for some folks but I hope someone can find benefit in the things I'm talking about here. Really, these are not new ideas...just ones that have been pushed aside for the convenience of modern medicine. (Have a problem, take a pill.)

  3. As my mom used to say - some of the old ways are the best ways!

  4. Hi there,
    This is not too alternative for me, but I am used to dealing with sensitive topics. I think it is great that you cover it.
    I am sharing two links today, one is sharing how to make a first aid aromatic compress from my LWM site. The other post is sharing a super easy facial toner recipe from my Jo's Health Corner blog.

    I tried to grab your button but for some reason I couldn't get it to work..

    Have a great week and thanks for hosting..

  5. Hello, what do you suggest for vaginal yeast infections and bacterial infections. I have a copper IUD and I get the alot and want to stop taking the medicine the DR gives me, I think my body is now immune to them.
    Thank you.

  6. hello, good ideas but actually douching is not good for you and completely unnecessary, it interferes with your natural balance of acidity and alkaline in the vagina and truly is not necessary, please google this if you want to read more about it

  7. @AnonymousHello, thanks for your comment. I'm sorry you chose to post anonymously. Under no circumstances would I recommend using a douche for routine cleansing because it is not necessary. Our bodies are designed to maintain healthy mucous membranes without any external interference. However, there are times when our defenses are not doing their job due to infection, illness or changes in diet leaving our internal terrain lacking the resources it needs to keep things functioning properly. At those times, an herbal treatment issued directly, by means of a douche, can aid in the return to healthy tissue as a compliment, and not a detriment, to our own healing fluids.

  8. I haven't tried glycerin suppositories repeatedly so I am not really sure if it can cause me irritation. But I really found it useful.

  9. I have begun using strong herbal suppositories (the herbs are prescribed by a doctor, and I make them myself using cacao butter) due to the inability to swallow pills of any kind. It has always caused diarrhea - ranging from mild to severe - 1-2 hours after inserting. Recently, my body has begun rejecting the suppositories within 5-10 minutes. Do you have any suggestions?

    1. Hi, Ann. Without knowing which herbs and why you are taking them, it's difficult to say why your body is rejecting them but if the suppositories are too strong, they may be causing spasms in the sensitive tissues causing them to purge. Have you discussed with your doctor using herbal teas or applying the herbs to the skin in various methods? You mentioned that the suppositories you are making are "strong"...could you cut the amount of herbs and possibly apply more often to avoid the strong reaction you are having to them? Also, herbs have wonderful synergy when used together but you may be sensitive or allergic to one of them and that's causing the quick rejection. There are lots of ways to use herbs for good health...check out the other methods of preparing them in the Herbal Medicine Chest series and see what your doctor thinks about alternatives to the suppositories as you are making them now. Best wishes to you. I'd love to hear how you resolve this issue if you'd care to write again.

  10. Greetings,
    I have a a question about douching. There are so many reasons circulating around why one should not douche. Is it the chemical based OTC douches that one uses after each menstrual cycle the problem, douching regularly when there's no underlying problem or the introduction of a "foreign substance" in your vagina filled with chemicals? I ask because there are several sites that boast the use of vaginal washes vs douching. I agree when you spoke on the body's inability to rid itself of impurities and having to use herbs to assist you.

    1. Yes, it's the unknown chemicals and the the big reason is because your body creates a perfectly balanced pH in the vagina that can be upset by adding foreign substances or removing the naturally occurring environment from the sensitive mucous membranes.
      I'm assuming the vaginal wash is a milder solution?
      It's not necessary to douche after each menstrual cycle. Not sure if I've answered your question.

  11. What a thoughtful blog post this is. I have had great luck using aloe - bits of peeled fresh plant!- for yeast infections. Wow! Thanks so much. I use this mold to make them. The tinfoil idea is great in a pinch but this is easier.
    Thanks for the herbal lore. Fun site!


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