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Ayurvedic remedies

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Tonic wines

A daily glass of tonic wine is a delightful way to take herbal remedies. A crockery vinegar vat is best, although a large rum pot or glass jar is also suitable. Fill the vat with the chosen tonic herb-ideally using a root remedy such as ginger, licorice, or Dang Gui rather than leafy parts-then cover with a good-quality red wine (preferably organic). Leave the mix for at least two weeks before drawing the liquid off in a daily sherry-glass dose (2-3f1 oz/60-75ml). Keep the herb covered with more red wine to prevent it from going moldy. The wine will continue to extract active constituents from the roots for several months before you need to replace the herbs.

Chinese decoctions

Chinese remedies are generally dispensed by practitioners in separate bags containing enough dried herb for each dose. This is traditionally boiled in three cups of water in an earthenware or ceramic pot for 25-30 minutes until the liquid has reduced by half. The mix is then strained and taken in a single dose on an empty stomach in the morning. Sometimes the herbs need to be reheated in fresh water and then the two extractions are combined. The same herbs might be used for the following day's brew, depending on the exact mix: if it contains soluble ingredients, such as certain mineral salts, then a fresh prescription will be needed each day. The decoction (known as Tang (soup) ) is generally extremely dark brown and very strongly flavored. Chinese doses are much larger than those used by Western herbalists (often up to 3 1/2 Oz/90g ) and the resulting mix is usually rather unpleasant for Western palates.


Sugar or honey will act as a preservative for herbal infusions and decoctions, while the sweetness can be very soothing for coughs. Make a standard infusion or decoction, then strain the mixture and add l lb/500g of unrefined sugar or honey to each 1 pt/500ml of liquid. Stir this in a cast-iron or stainless-steel saucepan over the heat until the sugar or honey is completely dissolved and the mixture forms a syrup. Allow to cool and then store in clean glass bottles closed with a cork. Do not use screw-tops, syrups often ferment and tight lids will lead to exploding bottles.


Some herbs, such as Valerian and marshmallow root, are best macerated in cold water. Use the same proportions as for an infusion and simply leave the mixture in a cool place overnight. In the morning, strain the mixture and use as an infusion.


A tincture is an alcoholic extract of the active ingredients in a herb, made by soaking the dried or fresh plant material in a mixture of alcohol and water for two weeks and then straining the mix through a wine press or jelly bag. Commercially produced tinctures are usually made from ethyl alcohol. In some countries this is readily available duty-free, but in others the supply is strictly controlled by the authorities: vodka makes a suitable alternative as it contains fewer other flavorings than most alcohol. Standard herbal tinctures usually contain 25 percent alcohol in water (i.e. 1 fl oz/25ml of pure alcohol with 3fl oz/75ml of water). This is a little weaker than most commercial spirits (usually 37.5 percent alcohol), so the vodka will need diluting with water (1 1/2pt/750ml of vodka to 3/4pt/375ml of water) to make the required strength. Put 80z/200g of the dried herb into a large jar and pour over 1 1/2pt/750ml of the alcohol/water mixture. If using fresh herbs, then you need …


Herbal roots, berries, and barks need to be made into decoctions to extract the active ingredients. The usual Western dose is 1 Oz/25g of dried root to l 1/2pt/ 750ml of water, simmered in a stainless-steel or enamel saucepan until-the volume has reduced by about one-third, then strained. Stare in a pitcher in a cool place and use in three wine-glass doses during the day, reheating it if preferred. Decoctions may be flavored with a little honey.