The second class was about making medicinal ointments and gels using herbal preparations.

We learned the following:

  • The differences between pharmacopeia and herbal medicine

  • How to make herbal preparations

  • How to read and adjust cosmetic formula

  • How to make topical preparations with herbs

Herbal medicine differs from pharmacopeia. Herbal extracts are complex mixtures of different active ingredients, sometimes containing hundreds. It is believed that the unique properties of herbs stem from the synergy of these actives.

Furthermore, the potency of herbs might depend on the place they grow or even on time of the day you collect them. As a result, this complex system cannot be reproduced and most likely cannot be standardized.

On the other hand, pharmacopeia deals with one active ingredient at a time. This makes it easier to be described, standardized, researched and synthesized, and therefore simpler to assure drug efficacy and safety.

Very often pharmacopeia copies the natural substance extracted from plant and synthesize it as a drug. Some interesting examples of plant-derived drugs could be found at Rain-Tree.

Both pharmacopeia and herbal medicine are ruled by the same principals – the remedy should be safe and active, and in the case of topical application, it should also penetrate the skin.

The purpose of the lesson was to learn how to make topical products from herbal extracts. To begin with, we went over the methods of traditional herbal preparation – oil and water infusions, decoctions, vinegars and syrups.

During the workshop, we made our own medicinal ointments for minor cuts, fatigued legs and dry lips from plant oils and waxes. Although they were a little heavy, this quality actually helps to serve their purpose – forming a protective film on the skin to aid the healing process.

We also made herbal gels. Gels are water-based preparation using plant gums such as Xanthan gum. They are light with cooling sensation. They are very good to apply on sun burned skin or to use them as a gommage – a type of skin exfoliation.

They also make very good basis for moisturisers.

If you would like to learn more about herb growing and collection, Dr. Hauschka has a great run-down of their approach.

Also is a great resource to learn about herbal medicine applications.