Once you have identified your plant in the field and harvested it, you have to decide what type of herbal preparation or therapy you want to administer it as. This usually boils down to what you want to make, i.e. a salve, tincture, infusion tea, decoction, capsules, poultice, etc. and whether if you want to use the fresh herb directly or process the raw herb further by drying or aging. In many instances, I tend to prefer to use the fresh herb as its potency of the medicinal components are often heighten, but this is not always the case. One needs to know the plant, one is working with and how it responds to being processed fresh, dried or aged. For instance, poke root should always be processed fresh. Dried poke root is considered inferior to the fresh. On the other hand, buckeye should be only processed in a dry or aged form to eliminate toxic properties found in the fresh nut. Unfortunately, you will read contradictory references to how herbs should be processed which only adds to the general confusion. Just do your home work and know, if at all possible, you are better off harvesting your native herbs near-by and processing fresh, barring only a few exceptions.
Onward to the processing of your newly harvested herbs or store ordered dried ones. You may be surprised to learn that if your grandparents or even parents, in some cases, were formally trained as pharmacists, they would have covered all of what I am about to relate to you in their studies in the mid- to early 20th century pharmacy schools. Unfortunately, modern pharmaceutical sciences tend to put very little emphasis on these old time foundation skills, I am about to write about. Back in the mid-20th century and earlier, a large portion of our pharmacy were plant based. Not any more. Our pharmacists of today are simply shelf packers with minimal knowledge on how to process a raw herb into a useable medicine. Shame. Time marches on?
Click on the below topics for more in-depth discussion. I will concentrate only on the making of tinctures. A tincture may be defined as an alcoholic or hydro-alcoholic solution prepared from vegetable drugs or from chemical substances.