A decoction is an extract of herbs produced by boiling the herb in water.
This method is used for hard seeds, roots, and barks which require longer steeping than an infusion. It is also a method of reducing and preserving water extracts and best for children and persons with weakened constitutions. A versatile form, a decoction can be drunk on their own, made into syrups, honeys, gargles, compresses, and douches or added to baths. It can also be incorporated into oils and creams.
Crush and bruise herbs using a pestle and mortar. Put into a bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to stand overnight. In the morning, put the herb and water back on the stove and bring the liquid back up to original level as some will have soaked into the herb. Bring to a boil and turn heat down so that the mixture just simmers. Cover and gently simmer for twenty minutes. Remove from heat and strain through a jelly bag or fine cloth in a strainer. Squeeze out all the liquid and discard the herbs. This will keep for two or three days.
There are a number of slightly different ways to make a decoction, including the use of hot or cold water or allowing to stand for fewer hours rather than overnight.
It is best not to keep a batch of medicinal tea in the refrigerator for any longer than four days. To keep longer, pour into ice cube trays, freeze, and place in a plastic bag in the freezer. In this manner, it can be frozen for up to three months. Echinacea ice cubes are soothing for sore throats, for example.
This method is used for such lighter barks as willow or cinnamon and some hard leaves like horsetail or horehound. Make a decoction by simmering the herbs, covered, on the lowest heat possible for ten to fifteen minutes. Leaving the lid on the pot prevents the escape of volatile constituents like essential oils. Let the mixture steep for another ten or fifteen minutes, then strain and use or refrigerate.
This method is used for expensive herbs. After the first simmering, strain the herbs and set the strained liquid aside. Add more fresh water to the herbs, but only about one-quarter the amount used in the first simmering. Simmer for thirty minutes. Let cool for fifteen minutes and strain, squeezing out as much liquid as possible from the herbs. Blend the two liquid extractions together. A third simmering is not productive as the first two are able to obtain more than 90% of the medicinal constiuents from the herb.
- 25 g herb
- 500 ml cold, filtered water
Pour the water over the herb and let stand overnight. Strain and use like a decoction. Since heat destroys the active components of some herbs, a cold maceration is more appropriate than a decoction.