Herbalry is a critical need of both the Dragonhealing and the Healing Crafts. Many
holders and cotholders will also have knowledge of the herbs of their area, especially if there is
not a resident healer. Herbalry entails far more than simply knowing which herbs are
poisonous. An herbalist on Pern would have an extensive knowledge of how and when to harvest
the herbs, preparing them for use, the properties of each plant, as well as treatments for ailments,
tissue damage, and miscellaneous problems.
Specializing in herbalry is a choice open to both Dragonhealers and Healers. For an Herbalist,
part of their responsibilities would include maintaining a stockroom in addition to collecting
herbs and plants and preparing them. While not every healer specializes in herbalry, all
healers and dragonhealers will have some background in the use of herbs, the depth of which depends
on the rank and turns of study.
This section contains a basic guide to herbalry on Pern from harvesting to herbal remedies.
- Bark: The bark of a tree should be harvested in mid-autumn whilst the sap runs most
freely; this means that the tree will heal itself more quickly. Bark must not be taken from the
entire circumference of the tree as this will kill it; bark that has moss or fungus should not be
used. Inner bark is gathered by removing the outer bark and scraping portions of the inner away;
this should not be done too deeply as it can permanently damage the tree.
- Bulbs and Roots: These should be dug out of the ground just after the top has wilted and
before they can sink too deeply into the ground; this is best done when the weather is dry as they
will sink with wet soil. they must be cleaned before use. Make sure any roots gathered are good,
with no rotten or worm-eaten spots.
- Fruits and Berries: These should be taken only when fully ripe, although discarded if
they are blemished.
- Flowers: These are harvested as they reach full-bloom; for some this will be in spring,
for others in summer or even the fall. Only the clean and fullest blossoms should be gathered;
beware of impurities and discolorations that can indicate insect contamination or disease.
- Leaves: They should be gathered at the mid-point of the herb's growing season; the best
time of day is just after the dew ha dried. No more than one third of each plant's foliage should
be taken, nor should any blemished leaves be gathered. Pick only the freshest and greenest leaves,
because wilted ones will weaken the healing power of the fresh ones. Be careful not to bruise them
while gathering, as premature release of the properties will affect the strength when they are use
- Compresses: Also sometimes known as plasters, this is a method of applying herbs to the
skin without letting them directly touch it. A moist warm mass of the herb is prepared by steeping
the dried herb in warm water, or by crushing the fresh herb with a little liquid and then warming it
in a bowl over a pot of boiling water. This warm mash is then sandwiched between two pieces of thin
cloth, and applied to the affected area of the body.
- Clarifying: Clarification is the process of clarifying a substance after processing. In
the case of honey, syrups, etc, this is done by melting the substance and then skimming or filtering
through a suitable material.
- Decoctions: This is the less used form of herbal tea and is a method of preparing roots
and stems. About a teaspoonful of herb is added to one and a half cups of boiling water; this is
then simmered for around 20 minutes, by which time the liquid will have reduced by a third. As with
infusions, decoctions are best drunk after a meal, but can be taken at any time.
- Drying: When sunlight is unavailable, there are 3 ways to indoor drying:
- Plants are placed on a screen made by stretching a light material over a frame and securing it,
then placing it in a well ventilated room.
- Plants can be spread out on a warm, dry shelf. They must be turned frequently and kept at 65-70
- Plant can be tied in small bunches, head down, in a dry room. Make sure they cannot get wet or
they mildew! You can protect them with a 'sleeve' of muslin. After dried, all herbs can be stored in
water tight containers such as jars with tight fitting lids.
- Electuaries: These are prepared by mixing bitter-tasting herbs with something more
palatable such as ambersap, and are the best way of encouraging children to take medicine.
- Filtration: Filtration is the process by which liquids are separated from substances
mechanically suspended in them. The easiest method is by using filter paper.
- Fomentations: This is another method of applying herbs to the skin; an infusion or
decoction of the required herb is prepared, or else juice can be used; a cloth is dipped in this and
then laid directly on the affected area.
- Infusions: An infusion is the more common form of herbal tea, used for leaves and
flowers. About a teaspoonful of the herb - generally dried - is steeped in a cupful of boiling water
for around 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the strength of infusion required. Sweetening can be added
to taste. Infusions are often drunk after meals, except where intended to stimulate the appetite,
but can be taken at any time. For best results in long-term treatment, the infusion should be taken
three times a day.
- Liniments: This is a general term used for oils and tinctures and other preparations that
involve steeping the herb in liquid (oil, vinegar, alcohol) for at least several days. Liniments are
then rubbed onto the skin, for reasons as diverse as improving circulation or easing rashes,
depending on the herb they are made from.
- Oils: These are prepared by packing as much herb as possible into a small jar preferably
of dark glass, and then completely covering the herb with oil. This jar should be kept in a cool
dark place for around a month, by which time the oil will have darkened in colour and the herb be
infused into the oil. This preparation can be used externally and stroked or massaged onto the skin;
it is a good way of preparing rubifacents such as cayenne.
- Percolation: Percolation is the most perfect method of obtaining the soluble parts of
remedies. It consists of allowing menstruum to trickle slowly through a column of material.
- Pills: These are a good way of storing herbs that need to be dispensed over a period of
time. The herb should made up with one part powdered slippery elm to nine parts powdered herb.
Enough water is added to make a dough, then small pills can be formed and left in a warm place to
- Poultices: Poultices are used in the case when herbs can be applied directly to the skin
(if this is not possible, as with open wounds, then a compress is used). A moist warm mass of herb
is prepared either by steeping the dried herb in warm water, or by crushing the fresh herb in a
little liquid and warming it in a bowl placed over a pot of boiling water; the herbs are then placed
directly on the affected area and can be bandaged on temporarily if required.
- Powdering: Comminution is the reduction of herbs to small particles. Herbs must first be
thoroughly dried, then crushed to a fine powder with a mortar and pestle.
- Salves/ointments: These are made by preparing an oil and then adding warm melted fat of a
kind that is solid at room temperature. Alternatively, the ground or pulped herb (as in the case of
numbweed) can be added to oil and then mixed in with the fat. The resulting concoction should be put
in an airtight jar and left to cool before use.
- Syrups: Syrups are prepared by adding a handful of herbs to 4 cups of water, and allowing
to simmer down to half the quantity. The mixture should then be strained and ambersap added whilst
still warm to give the right consistency. The syrups can then be bottled - their shelf-life depends
on the herb used.
- Teas: There are two forms of herbal tea: infusions, which are used to prepare leaves and
flowers; and decoctions which are used for roots, bark and stems.
- Tinctures: These are made by steeping the herbs in neat alcohol. The bottle should be
shaken daily for two sevendays, then any solids should be strained out. Water can be added to
tinctures to dilute them, as in the case of hamamelis.
- Alterative: Their function is to restore the natural health of the body.
- Anesthetic: This, if applied to the skin or injected into tissues (not a common practice), will
cause insensibility to pain.
- Analgesic: This is a pain killer, also known as an anodyne.
- Anti-emetic: An anti-emetic will reduce nausea and help prevent vomiting (emesis).
- Anti-inflammatory: This will reduce redness and inflammation.
- Antiseptic: An antiseptic will cleanse and prevent unseen disease.
- Astringent: This is a substance with a constricting or binding effect. I.E., it will check
bleeding or other secretions and will reduce swelling and redness.
- Carminative: These are remedies that will reduce stomach pains and flatulence.
- Demulcent: Demulcent remedies are ones that form a protective coating, thereby soothing the
tissue they are in contact with, for instance the stomach or the skin.
- Diaphoretic: This will rid the body of excess fluids by promoting sweating.
- Digestive: This will aid digestion after a meal.
- Diuretic: A diuretic will promote urine production and thus rid the body of excess fluids.
- Emetic: This will induce vomiting (emesis) which can be beneficial in cases of poisoning.
- Emollient: These are preparations that will soothe, soften and protect the skin.
- Expectorant: An expectorant will help produce and expel mucus from the lungs, thereby 'loosening'
- Febrifuge: A febrifuge is a herb that will reduce fever
- Haemostatic: The function of these herbs is to stop bleeding.
- Laxative (purgative): A laxative will loosen the bowels.
- Narcotic: A narcotic generally acts as a painkiller as well as a sedative. Fellis is the classic
- Nervine: These have a calming effect.
- Rubifacent: This is usually a 'warm' herb such as cayenne, rubbed on parts of the body for an
effect such as eased joints or improved circulation.
- Sedative: A sedative is used to strongly quiet the nervous system, causing sleep in large doses.
Some sedatives, such as fellis, can be addictive with prolonged use.
- Stimulant: These are herbs that 'warm' the body and excite or increase its functions.
- Tonic: These are remedies that help nourish, stimulate and strengthen the different functions of
the body, for example, the circulation or the digestive system.
- Vulnerary: These are herbs which promote cell growth and repair - useful for wounds, bruises,
broken bones and the like. Comfrey is one of the best-known vulnerary herbs.