Herbal medicine, also known as phytomedicine, and botanical medicine, uses the seeds, berries, roots, leaves, flowers, and or barks of a plant for medicinal purposes. Herbal medicine has been practiced for centuries by various cultures all over the world and is rapidly becoming more sought after as a reliable source of healing. In the spirit of the age old medicine making traditions, we will share some nuanced preparation techniques for your special brew.
Making herbal tea may seem fairly straightforward but to extract the greatest medicinal value from herbs we need to do more than just dunk a teabag in hot water. There are two main forms of herbal tea preparations: Infusions and decoctions.
Infusions are the commonly known form of herbal tea in which herbs are literally infused in hot water (usually one heaping teaspoon of dried herbs or one teabag per cup of hot water for 10 to 20 minutes). This is the ideal method for extracting the medicinal compounds in most berries, flowers, and leaves. You can also use fresh herbs. But because of the higher water content, you usually need to double the amount of herbal matter per cup of water (2 teaspoons per cup of water instead of one).
To extract the medicinal compounds from seeds, roots, stems, barks, or any course part of the plant, you want to make a decoction which involves boiling the herbs and allowing them to simmer for about 30 minutes to an hour. Usually around one heaping teaspoon of dried herbs per cup of water. Note that this method is less suitable for berries, flowers, and leaves because it tends to destroy many of the delicate medicinal compounds and other volatile oils.
What if you want to make a tea from some combination of roots, berries, seeds, stems, leaves, and flowers? Start by making a decoction with the roots, seeds, or stems. Bring it to a boil then reduce to a simmer to continue brewing for 30 mins to an hour. Turn off the heat and add any berries, flowers, or leaves. Allow the mixture to steep for an additional 10 to 20 minutes. Now you’ve safely and effectively extracted all of the compounds from all of the herbal components you’re using.