The two ways to extract medicinal properties from herbs to make teas are infusing and decocting. Which process you'll want to try will be determined by the part of the plant used to make the tea. When working with the delicate parts of an herb, the leaves and flowers- you'll want to make an infusion. Making an infusion involves pouring hot water over the herbs and then steeping the herbs in the water. If you are using the tough parts of the plant - the roots, bark, twigs, seeds or berries-you'll want to make a decoction. To make a decoction, simmer the tough parts of the herbs in boiling water. The process can also be used to reduce or boil down herbs to make a stronger preparation, for example, the base of cough syrup. If a remedy combines leaves or flowers with bark or roots, make a mixed decoction/infusion for best results.
Boiling diminishes the active ingredients of some herbs, such as valerian root or dill. It is possible to process delicate herbs without heat by making a cold maceration. Place 2 tsp. of dried herbs in a glass dish. Pour 2 cups of cold water over the herbs and let stand overnight. Strain. Add honey to taste; drink 3 times daily.
Therapeutic effect : Infusions and decoctions allow you to release the healing properties of herbs into water. The value of many medicinal herbs lies chiefly in their volatile oils; in order to keep these valuable oils from being evaporated while heating, keep the beat low and cover the pot when preparing.
For dosage and safety
An average dose is about a teacup full, three times a day of an infusion or decoction. Use smaller doses for children or the elderly. Some herbs, such as feverfew, are so strong tasting that they are not always suitable for infusions or decoctions.
Note: Always verify the safety and check toxicity warnings of the herbs you are planning to use, or check with an herbalist.
You can refrigerate infusions and decoctions for about 48 hrs. always use glass or enamel containers or stainless steel and wooden spoons or steel knives. Sieves should be plastic or nylon. Never use aluminium as this element can be toxic and easily absorbed by the herbs.
Extra tip : when preparing a decoction or infusion from plants from the wild, make sure they are correctly identifies. If there is any doubt, do not use the herb.
Types of infusions
The process to extract the medicinal virtues of an herb need not be complicated. Just make sure you are familiar with the many different preparations.
For a pot infusion, add the herbs to a teapot and pour in boiling water. Cover and let it set for 10 min. strain.
Try a solar infusion for very delicate herbs, such as chamomile or mint, to keep in essential oils. Place herbs in a glass container and add water that is room temperature; cover. Let it stand in direct sunlight for several hours.
Add 2 tsp. of the herb to 1 cup of cold water. Let the mixture stand for 8-12 hr.; strain. Take it as you would an infusion.
Soak a cloth in an infusion or decoction that has been cooled. Wring out the cloth and apply it directly to injuries, swollen joints and inflammations.
Soak a cloth or towel in an infusion or decoction. Wring it out and apply hot if you need to bring heat to an area.
Herb leaves or flowers
Warm the pot, then add 1 tsp. of herbs per cup. Pour boiling water into the pot, cover and let steep for 10 min.; strain. Sweeten the tea with honey, if desired.
Roots, bark, twigs and berries
Cold purified water
Break herb material into small pieces and put 1 tsp. of herbs per cup into a saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer gently for about 10-120 min, or until the water is slightly reduced; strain through a sieve.
Fresh or dried herbs
Cold purified water
Mix the bark, berries or roots in a saucepan and add water. Bring to a boil and gently simmer 10-20 min. Place the flowers and leaves in a teapot. Strain the hot decoction into the teapot and infuse for 15 min. strain the mixture into a glass container.