There is no “best” kind of medicine to make - every kind of medicinal preparation has its advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the key tradeoffs that we make:
- Time and mess: Making vs Using We can store dry comfrey leaves, and use them to make a poultice when needed. All we need to do is dry them (simple and not messy), but making a poultice can be a bit of a bother and mess. Alternately we can infuse an oil, then process it into a balm. That takes more time up front requires cleanup… but then when we want comfrey medicine we can open a tin and have instant, clean access to the medicine.
- Shelf life: short and less processed versus long and more processed Some medicines can be stored for a year or more dried, but some will lose much of their potency. Most medicines are stable for years in tincture form.
- Expense vs other factors The cheapest medicine we can make involves only the thing itself: a tea, decoction, powder, or such. If we are processing into some additional kind of medicine, we may need to buy alcohol, or oils, or glycerin, or beeswax. If we are making medicine to support a lot of people in our family or community this can add up. We should be ready to consider the other tradeoffs to wisely decide if the advantages of additional processing are worth the money. In addition, if we need money to make a medicine that typically means we are relying on an ingredient we cannot produce ourselves (high-proof alcohol, wax, glycerine, refined oils, etc), and we should understand the loss of local resilience that involves.
- Whole medicine vs Single extraction vs Multi-extraction Extracts (such as tinctures or infusions) can be incredibly convenient, but the act of extracting does not necessarily get all the constituents out of a medicine. We can use multiple extraction techniques and mix them together to get a broader spread of constitutuents, but that requires a greater investment of time. Making bioavailable powders, capsules, or using the medicine as an ingredient in food can get the full spectrum of medicine, but can involve a shorter shelf life or more hassle.