Easy and effective use of medicinal herbs part 3: decoctions

Easy and effective of medicinal herbs part 3: decoctions

In the previous parts of this series, we talked about using medicinal herbs easy and effectively with water. We discussed why this is still one of the most important ways to use plants medicinally, what are the reasons for this being the case, and why you might choose a different method. We also talked about preparing cold and hot infusions. This leaves an important method of preparation undiscussed: the decoct or decoction. How do you actually make medicinal decoctions?

Infusion or decoction?

First I would like to briefly repeat why you sometimes choose infusions and sometimes decoctions. This choice depends on the plant part you are using. The following plant parts are suitable for infusion: most leaves, flowers, the softer stems, some roots.

I say “most leaves” because there are also leaves that are too tough to easily macerate below boiling point. The same goes for roots. The structure of a few roots is accessible enough to not require prolonged heating. But most aren’t. For the sake of simplicity, in this blog post we’ll stick to preparing leaves, flowers, soft stems my means of infusion and the rest – roots, berries, tough stems – through decoction.

Necessary materials

You can find most of the things you need for making a decoction in your kitchen. You’ll need some sort of container to put the water and herbs into, materials to strain the lot and, of course, something to drink it from. In the blog on infusions I already told you that I always try to avoid using metal. Metal can react with, for example, tannins in your plants and is therefore not very suitable.

My decoction pot is therefore also made of earthenware. Glass is an option as well. Make sure you at least use a pot that can be put on the fire without exploding. In the absence of such a pot, it’s always better to opt for a stainless steel pan than running the risk of a rain of shards. Choose a jar with a tight-fitting lid to prevent constituents from evaporating.

When making the decoction, I myself do not use a holder or the likes for the plant material. I just put it all in as is. I never use decoction for herbs from which I need the essential oils. The same applies to plants which  contain gum or resin. The first will simply be lost and the second will sink to the bottom of your glass in the form of unappetizing dregs. Not recommended.

Log in to read how to determine the correct herb to water ratio and how to actually prepare the decoction.