How to Start Using Herbs Part 10: Formulate an Effective Medicinal Herbal Tea or Tincture Using an Herbal Triangle
Have you ever wanted to formulate your very own tea or tincture blend for your health or to support an issue you’re having? But….you didn’t know quite how to go about it? Today I’m going to explain an easy, step-by-step process you can use to make your own herbal formulations, whether its a tea, tincture, or anything else.
This is Part 10 in the 12 part series, How to Start Using Herbs. You can find a complete list of links at the bottom of this article, but in case you’d like to start at the beginning, here is where you can find Part 1: How to Choose Herbs, Herbal Safety, Drying, & Storing.
Today on my Facebook Live video in the private group, Practical Herbs with Heidi, I answered one the members’ question about how to create a medicinal tea or tincture blend that works. I’d love for you to join the group and go watch it, along with all the weekly Lives on herbal studies over there.
But I’ll explain everything here in this blog post too!
If you’ve ever wanted to make your own herbal formulation but haven’t known where or how to start, here is your solution. It’s way easier than you think! :-)
I learned how to formulate my herbal preparations this way in the first long herbal course I took, many years ago. Rosemary Gladstar was my teacher at that time, and to this day, she is still one of the first people I turn to through her videos and books.
There is absolutely an art as well as a science to formulating and creating your own blends. In fact, to formulate well, there are three things you need to consider when choosing your herbs.
The Three-Point system (or Herbal Blending Triangle) originally from William LeSassier, is the one that Rosemary Gladstar teaches in her course. It definitely simplifies the process!
FTC Disclosure: There are affiliate links scattered here and there throughout the article. If you click through and make any kind of purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
There are three main steps to formulating your herbal blends:
1) Write a sentence or two about what you are trying to do with your formulation.
2) Draw it out on your triangle diagram (I’ll attach pics and also have a download you can print out at the end of the article).
3) Create and enjoy your own powerful herbal blend!
NOTE: These directions apply to any kind of herbal blend: teas, tinctures, oxymels, syrups, and more.
Now, let’s break these main steps down so you can get started making your own herbal formulas.
The Art & Science of Creating an Herbal Tea Blend or Formulation for Health
Step 1) Write about what, exactly, you want your tea or tincture blend to do for you or a client.
I used myself in my example in the Facebook live video today, and I’ll just go ahead and stick with that example here.
Like many people, one of the things I really struggle with is anxiety, nervous tension and overwhelm. And sometimes it gets so bad if I don’t keep my mind in check that it will manifest as cold sores. At that point, I know it’s a serious time to slow down and re-think the things I’m doing.
Anyway, I wanted to create a tea to help my body and mind make some natural adjustments in how I deal with anxious times.
Here’s what I wrote out: I’m designing an herbal tea to help me with nervous tension, overwhelm, and the resulting cold sores I get that are most likely caused by stress.
NOTE: I like to name the actual kind of herbal preparation in my statement because some herbs do better in certain kinds of preparations (teas, for example) as opposed to tinctures or oxymels or syrups.
Step 2) Decide on the herbs you plan to use, and diagram your herbal formulation
This is where things get fun! Now you decide what herbs you are going to use and why. In order to make these decisions, I think using this three point system is a great plan and gives you a nice general guide to make your choices by.
And by the way….it might be tempting to want to use a LOT of different herbs. Although sometimes the actions of one can enhance the actions of others, and layering herbs with similar actions can sometimes increase the strength of the formulation, it’s really not necessary—-especially if you are just starting out!
Creating a formula with just a few herbs is often more effective, or at least as effective. One thing you want to try not to do is to haphazardly use a bunch of different herbs together when you don’t have to. Choose wisely, and choose just a few. You can always make adjustments later.
So, here’s how to go about filling out your formulation diagram. Complete details using my tea example are continued on below the image.
The Three Point Herb Formulation Diagram:
Point 1: Herbs with Primary Actions in the Formula
Here is where you decide on the herbs with the main actions you want to support your body and the reason you’re making the blend.
In my case, I wanted to help my body deal with stress, as well as support my nervous system. I chose Lemon Balm as my main primary herb because it has excellent nervine properties, and it’s a very mild sedative, which leads to calm.
I also chose Chamomile for this category because I happen to love the taste and smell of it (pleasure can be part of your formulation), but mainly because it is also a calming herb.
I chose not to use nearly as much chamomile because I don’t want to be put to sleep, and also because I’m counting on the lemon balm’s ability to support my nervous system. You can find out more about lemon balm in this article: How to Make a Cold Sore Salve with Lemon Balm & Lysine.
Since the primary point #1 should be the majority of the formula, at 70-80%, I decided to use 5 parts of lemon balm and 2 parts of chamomile, for a total of 70%.
Point 2: Supporting and Building Herbs in the Formula:
These herbs are often nutritive and toning to the body. They support the body organ system the formula is for, as well as soothing and healing.
Herbs that are great in this category may include adaptogens, herbs with high levels of nutrients and minerals, and anti-inflammatory or demulcent herbs. There are others that could fit into this point as well.
In my formula, I decided to use Rose Petals because they are toning and astringent. Roses are also wonderful for soothing the heart, both physical and emotional.
At first, I planned to use them as 20% of the formula, then later decided to add an adaptogen to help my body deal with stress and achieve balance. The herb I chose for this is Ashwagandha. So, I reduced the rose petals to 10% and added the ashwagandha at 10%.
For my formulation, this point on the triangle is 20% of the mixture.
Point 3: Catalyst and Activating Herbs:
These herbs are added to the formula to help activate the actions of the main herbs in the formula. These are often stimulating, diuretic, laxative, or any other action that will help get things moving.
When I say “stimulating,” I am not talking about the energy you get from caffeine. The stimulating activity is simply an activating quality.
These catalyzing herbs can warm up the body organs, stimulate movement, help break up congested areas, and help those active herbs in point 1 really start working.
Herbs like cayenne, ginger, cinnamon (the warm spices), etc. are good choices. Often herbs can be used in different ways when you are formulating your blend. For example, licorice has laxative properties, so could also be used in this point. There are many others to choose from too.
For my blend, I chose Ginger. One, because I just love ginger. It tastes good to me, and I thought it would balance nicely with the honey taste of the chamomile and the lemon overtones of the lemon balm.
ALSO, though, and more importantly, ginger is a warming and stimulating herb, very useful to use in this point of the triangle.
Extra Tips for Formulating Your Own Blend:
Here are some additional things to keep in mind, especially if you are just beginning to learn how to make your own blends:
Tip #1) Choose herbs that are GRAS (generally regarded as safe), at least at first.
There are many, many herbs that will work for you that fall into this category. Also, be sure to do your research on the herbs you are thinking about using. I like the National Institute of Health website for information, Google Scholar, or WebMD.
I also have a ton of herbal books to choose from. Here are some of my favorites to help you in your research:
Medicinal Herbs, A Beginner’s Guide by Rosemary Gladstar
The Herbal Handbook by David Hoffman
The Way of Herbs by Michael Tierra
Making Plant Medicine by Richo Cech
and there are many others. But these will help get you started!
Tip #2) Keep things simple.
You don’t need a lot of herbs to make an effective herbal blend. Start off with herbs you are comfortable with and add others as you feel ready.
If you are touching on all three points in the triangle, it’s very likely to be an effective blend.
Tip #3) Keep compliance in mind
Using herbs effectively requires consistency in use. Therefore, you want to create formulas that people won’t turn up their noses at! Keep taste and pleasure in mind when formulating your blends.
I created a Lung Tonic blend, and I’ll be honest: It’s highly effective and safe….but it doesn’t taste very good. Adults love it because it works, but children do not care for the taste.
One thing you can do besides trying to create tasty blends is to change up the preparation. You can use an herbal blend in a number of ways. Here is an overview of herbal preparations for you to get an idea.
A good example of increasing compliance could be instead of making a tea from your formula, how about creating a tincture instead? You use the same herbs, but make it into a tincture.
A tincture requires a smaller amount of the preparation to be used, and you can easily add it to soups, drinks, etc. often without changing the taste very much!
It’s ok to get creative.
You may enjoy reading about how I sneak the Nettle Powder I make into foods. ;-)
Final Thoughts on How to Create Your Own Herbal Formulas Using the Three Point System
Once you create a few blends of your own using this method, it will become easier and easier. In fact, it may even start to come naturally for you! :-) It has for me. When I set out to diagram my tea blend I shared here as an example, it ended up looking pretty much as I had planned it.
However, with that said, I do believe using this diagram is extremely helpful all the time, and especially for creating formulas for friends, neighbors, and clients if you do work with them.
I hope this was helpful for you in your journey to creating your own blends! I’d love to know, so please be sure to leave comments in the comments section.
You may enjoy the rest of the series on How to Start Using Herbs:
Have you been wanting to take a course to get your herbal learning journey to the next level more quickly? I highly recommend the course at the Herbal Academy of New England. There are course for all levels of experience and interests too.
Be sure to leave a comment! Oh! And if you want to join a GREAT private group of helpful individuals who are learning about using herbs, take a look at my private Facebook group, Practical Herbs with Heidi. Just be sure to answer question 3. It’s the only one I require.
Hugs, Health, and Self-Reliance
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Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor. In no manner, stated or implied, is any information I share meant to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Please be sure to seek medical advice from a doctor or other licensed care giver before using herbs or essential oils. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
Study Material from The Sage Mountain School, Science and Art of Herbalism (Gladstar)
Ellis, Cat. Prepper’s Natural Medicine. 2015. Ulysses Press.
Gladstar, Rosemary. Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide. 2008. Storey Publishing.