Tea/Tisane: A water-based preparation which involves soaking plant material in boiling or almost boiling water and allowing it to steep for a relatively short period of time. Herbal teas are often referred to as tisanes to distinguish them from black tea (Camellia sinensis.)
Infusion: Similar to a tea but the steeping time is longer and more plant material may be used. May be made with cool instead of boiling water in which case it is called a cold infusion.
Decoction: A preparation which involves simmering the plant material in water for a period of time. This method is usually used for more fibrous material such as roots and bark.
Compress: A cloth soaked in herbal infusion and/or decoction and applied externally. It may be hot, warm or cold. It is also called a fomentation, although some herbalists only use fomentation to refer to a cold compress.
Poultice: Mashed, moistened plant material is applied externally, either directly or sandwiched between thin layers of cloth such as cheesecloth.
Tincture: A preparation which involves soaking plant material in a solvent, usually alcohol (in particular brandy, gin or vodka) for extended periods of time (2-6 weeks or even longer) in order to extract the plant’s constituents. It is also sometimes called a herbal extract. Glycerites or glycerin tinctures use vegetable glycerin in place of alcohol. Herbal vinegar is sometimes referred to as a vinegar tincture.
Elixir: Similar to a tincture but honey takes the place of part of the alcohol, usually 30-50%.
Liniment: A tincture which is for external use only. Rubbing alcohol or witch hazel extract may be used in place of other kinds of alcohol for these preparations.
Herbal Vinegar or Infused Vinegar: A preparation similar to a tincture but vinegar is used in place of alcohol. Herbal Vinegars are sometimes used medicinally but are usually used as vitamin and mineral tonics.
Infused Honey: Plant material is soaked in honey to extract the plant’s constituents. May or may not be strained.
Infused Oil: Plant material is soaked in oil (usually for 2 weeks but sometimes up to 6) to extract the plant’s constituents before being strained. Usually used for preparations intended for soothing and healing, especially externally.
Salve/Ointment: This preparation is made from herb-infused oil and a thickening agent such as beeswax.
Essential Oil: Highly concentrated liquid containing volatile oils of a plant. Is usually extracted by steam distillation but may sometimes be extracted using chemical solvents. Essential oils will not dissolve in water but may be diluted in oil.
Part/Parts/Pts.: A way of writing proportions in herbal measurements. A part can be any unit of measure---ounces, cups, handfuls, etc. The important thing is to use the same measure for each part. For example, if a recipe calls for one part chamomile and one part catnip you could use a tablespoon of each or a cup of each, depending on how much you wanted to make.