Medicinal Herb Recipes for Livestock

Cows out grazing in a pasture are constantly eating plants that have some medicinal effects.  Dandelions are a diuretic, plantain has antimicrobial compounds in it, trefoil and alfalfa contain tannins and then there are all the plants growing in the hedgerows.  Many farmers also buy and use products made from medicinal herbs and while this is more convenient than making products yourself, many herbal products are simple and economical to make yourself.

This article presents a brief overview of just a few recipe’s.  There are several books available which provide more detail on which plants to use, dosage size and specific information on the best way to prepare certain herbs.

Making your own herbal teas and infusions: After picking or digging the plant (root or leaf), dry them in a dark, dry warm location.  You can use screen racks, or simply tie plants in bunches and hang them in a pantry or cupboard. Roots usually take longer to dry and often will dry better if you slice them thin.  After they are dried, you can store them in (labeled) glass jars or bags in a dry location out of the light.

To brew a tea, just add hot water to the dry plant material.  If you are brewing larger batches you can use a bucket with the plant material in a cheesecloth bag.  You can also mix everything together in the bucket and then strain it through a sieve.

To make a stronger brew (decoction), simmer the plant material in a pot (stainless is best) and then turn off the heat and let it cool with the lid on.  This is most often used with roots but can also be used to make a stronger leaf or flower brew.

The amount of dry plant material to use varies a lot based on what type of plant you are using.  Some plants are safe to use in large doses, while others need to be used carefully in small amounts.

Pinkeye spray or eyewash.  This recipe was given to me by a nearby organic dairy farmer, and I’ve seen other versions of this recipe which also work well for early symptoms of eye irritation.  Make a strong tea or decoction of calendula flowers.  After it has cooled, strain the liquid and add to it several pellets each of homeopathic hypericum (St. Johnswort) and homeopathic Euphrasia (eyebright).  Some farmers also add homeopathic aconite.  It is easiest to administer from a spray bottle, and should be kept in the fridge when you are not using it.  Make up a fresh batch frequently.

Making your own tinctures:  A tincture is made by putting plant material in alcohol (either pure or a mix of water and alcohol.  To get started, pick or dig the plant material, cut it up or dice it and place it in a glass jar.  A wide mouth canning jar works well.  Pour alcohol (most people use vodka) over the plant material so that it is completely covered.  Put the lid on the jar and store it for about 6 weeks and be sure to label the jar.  You can either leave the plant material in the alcohol until you need it, or you can pour it through a sieve and store just the fluid tincture.  Store the alcohol tincture in glass jars or dropper bottles and compost the plant material.