Usi delle piante officinali

Uses of medicinal plants

Harvesting and conservation –
For the collection of medicinal species it is necessary to follow some simple rules:
• it must be performed by people who have a good knowledge of the species so as not to confuse them with similar plants to avoid unpleasant consequences;
• it is necessary to know the vegetative period of the species according to the parts of it to be used;
• it is advisable to collect, with the aid of a small knife, only the parts of interest, leaving the plant in place.
After harvesting, rub with a damp cloth and leave to dry in the shade in a dry and ventilated place; when they are completely dry they can be stored in tightly closed glass or earthenware jars and stored in the dark. It is always good to label the jars with the name of the plant and the start date of storage.

The preparations –
Different preparations can be obtained with all medicinal plants: some of them can also be prepared at home as infusions, decoctions and poultices.
The preparation of the infusion is suitable for all plants rich in volatile substances, which have delicate aromas and active ingredients that degrade with the combined action of heat and water.
The parts of the plants used for the infusions must be appropriately chopped and left to melt in cold or boiling water for the time indicated in the recipe. It is good practice to let the infusion rest covered with a cloth, or using the special cup available on the market; then it is filtered and, if necessary, the flavor can be corrected with honey.
Decoctions are prepared for plants whose active ingredients degrade only after boiling, with a variable time necessary for the fragmentation of the aromatic chain contained in the plant cells.
Other preparations are: maceration, obtained by simple immersion for a prolonged time, squeezing to extract juices, distillation with the obtaining of oils, gums, resins, latex etc.
They are described in more detail below.

Herbal tea –
The term herbal tea includes all those galenic preparations that extract the active substance from the vegetable. There are three methods of preparation:
• the infusion: pour the generally hot or cold liquid, depending on the case, onto the vegetable in a covered container, let it rest for an average of 10 minutes, then filter.
• The decoction: the vegetable is immersed in the cold liquid and brought to a boil for the time established by the recipe and then filtered.
• The macerate: the vegetables, usually dried, are left to macerate in cold liquid from one day to several weeks, then filtered.

Dyeing –
It is obtained by letting the crushed plant macerate in a closed vessel at room temperature in alcohol (70 ° – 80 ° – 90°). The macerate is stirred once a day for the number of days indicated by the recipe. At the end of the process, the macerate is poured, also pressing the solid part, then filtered with kitchen paper. The tincture is kept in tightly closed dark glass bottles.
Juices
They are extracted from the roots, barks, berries, fruits, flowers, well-cleaned leaves by squeezing them with a press or centrifuge. The juices must be consumed within the day; for longer-lasting conservation, add 10 g of 95 ° alcohol to 90 g of juice and store in a well-closed glass container in a cool place.

Syrup –
In a wide-mouth jar, alternate layers of medicinal plant leaves with layers of brown sugar, or honey, cover well and close the jar tightly. After three weeks, filter the vegetables left to infuse and wash the residual part of the filter with a little water; the washing water is added to the syrup. Place everything in a saucepan over low heat and let the water evaporate without boiling. Transfer the syrup into a dark bottle and store in a dark place.

Essential oils –
They are used for the preparation of essences, cosmetics, or for perfumes. The extraction of essential oils is mainly obtained by distillation using stills, by passing a current of water vapor through the aromatic plant.

Herbal oils (oleolites) –
Fill a wide-mouth glass jar with the chopped fresh herbs without squeezing them. Pour extra virgin olive oil, taking care to cover the vegetables well. Leave in the sun and at night for a variable time depending on the plant, from 20 to 40 days, shaking daily. After the time established by the recipe, filter by pressing the vegetable well and store in a dark bottle. If using dry herbs, only fill the jar halfway.

Cataplasms –
Decoction of leaves of which only the plant parts without the aqueous component are used; it is applied warm on the skin with the help of gauze.

Sitz baths and bathrooms –
Soak 100 or 200 grams of herb in two liters of cold water overnight. The next day, place the macerate on a low flame and heat, without boiling; filter and add to the bath or sitz bath water. After taking a bath, wrap yourself in a towel and lie down in bed well covered for about 30 minutes.

Maria Canzoneri

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